It was mixed fortunes for Jazeman Jaafar and ISR Racing in the opening round of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series at Monza, Italy this weekend. An innocent victim of a horrific crash in the early laps of the first race ended Jazeman’s chances of a points finish. The talented young driver bounced back with a strong qualifying and seventh place finish in the second race of the weekend.
Jazeman arrived in the Italian city full of determination and after a productive first practice session, he continued his preparations for the races ahead, posting third fastest time in the afternoon session. The qualifying session for the first race produced a fifth row grid slot for Jazeman. It was a hectic session with the inevitable traffic issues which contributed to the young Malaysian’s lap times.
Jazeman, a PETRONAS Talent Development driver, was confident that he would be able to improve on his grid slot in the opening race, but his ambition couldn’t be realised after a dramatic incident in the opening laps of the race. Jazeman had quickly established a strong pace after the start and had passed Will Buller for eighth place by the end of the first lap. Maintaining the momentum Jazeman had the speed to move alongside seventh placed driver, Marco Sorensen, as the duo raced down the front straight, but the Danish driver moved over into Jazeman, sending him into a spin. Marco’s car was catapulted into the air, then slid along the pit wall on its side. Thankfully both drivers were uninjured in the accident and although Marco was penalised with a five place grid penalty for causing the accident, this was a small consolation to Jazeman, whose race had been ruined.
Returning to the track on Sunday morning for the qualifying session for the second race Jazeman put the first race behind him and focused on salvaging as much as he could from the weekend. The talented driver proved his determination and resilience with an impressive third fastest time to take a slot on the second row of the grid for the afternoon’s race.
Jazeman did not have the best of starts, slipping back a few places in the first lap. Jazeman was lying in sixth place behind Pierre Gasly, but with a better pace than his rival Jazeman hounded him until he was able to pass him on lap four, only to have to use the run-off area, which left the Malaysian having to let Gasly retake the position, while also resulting in car handling issues for Jazeman. In addition, the bodywork on Jazeman’s car came loose, with broken sidepod screws on one side causing the sidepod to flap and hampered his straight line speed. From this point Jazeman was unable to race to his full potential and was defending hard to maintain his position. With just a few laps remaining Nikolay Martsenko made a challenge on Jazeman and unable to match his pace, he was relegated to seventh place and crossed the finishing line in this position.
Jazeman said at the end of the race weekend, “The weekend began well, then went downhill rapidly in race one. I was gutted to have been taken out in a move which was really unnecessary and I can look back now and just be thankful that neither of us was hurt. The biggest disappointment is that I had good pace and should have been able to have had a points finish.
“I didn’t let the events of Saturday affect my approach for the second qualifying and showed that we have the car with third quickest time. I got off the line okay for the second race, but then had wheel spin which lost me ground and into the clutches of the pack behind. I knew I had a better pace than Pierre Gasly and thought I had the move on him, but I was told that I hadn’t and after having to concede the place, along with some bodywork issues, I wasn’t able to challenge for a better finish position. Still, seventh place is a respectable finish after all the ups and downs of the weekend. I always say that every point is important, so I’m happy to leave Monza with a few on the board.”
Reviewing the weekend Jazeman added, “Despite the disappointment of the first race, there were a lot of good points at Monza – we had a strong pace, could turn on the speed for qualifying and had a car which we could challenge with in race trim. It’s been my first races with ISR Racing, but we’ve gelled so well so quickly that I felt very comfortable all weekend and I’m sure that we’ll have better fortunes next time out.”
Jazeman returns to the race track in two week’s time for the second event in the nine rounds of the Formula Renault 3.t Series, which will be held at Motorland Aragon in Spain.