The first two rounds of the Formula 3 Italia Championship got underway at Italy's Franciacorta Circuit. And, following up on his extremely successful preseason testing efforts on the track, American Michael Lewis found the podium in only his second race. Lewis' strong times from preseason testing, carried over first into the practice sessions, where he recorded excellent times in the two free practice sessions, and then into race two on Sunday. After the 30-minute contest Lewis crossed the finish line in third place, nearly two car lengths ahead of the fourth place driver.
K&N sponsored driver Michael Lewis is currently in second place in the rookie championship battle.
Lewis contested for second place briefly in Race 2, but his front wing damage created too much under steer.
"Every time we visited Franciacorta, we were always setting the pace," Lewis told K&N Race News. "Honestly, the Prema Powerteam and I were able to make the car work for me during each test prior to the race weekend. There are many slow corners and you need to turn the car quite hard, rear traction exiting the turns is extremely important as well. So we found a solution to turn the car, and exit well, without creating additional problems."
Going into his first ever Formula 3 Italia qualifying experience Lewis said his goal was to qualify in the top three. He came up short of his goal by just one-tenth of a second. "I knew that I would have to push hard in Race 1 to run up front with the leaders after that," Lewis said.
Race 1 earned the "wet track" designation requiring all the competitors' to use "wet" tires. Running in his sixth place starting position, with only five laps remaining, Lewis got tagged from behind, and as a result he made a one half spin, losing several positions. He finished Race 1 in tenth position.
Race 2 brought out the sun and a completely different race scenario, with Lewis starting third on the grid this time. After a frenzied start exiting turn one, Lewis and another driver collided as they raced side-by-side and Lewis' left front wing got damaged. However, the damage did little to affect his progress as he exited turn one in third place.
Finding the podium in only his second race of the season was a tremendous boast for the young California racer.
During the early stages of the race Lewis challenged for second place briefly, but because of the increasing loss of function of the front wing, the car developed a tremendous under steer condition that lasted the entire race. Lewis worked hard to keep his position and fend off the challenges of the fourth place driver.
"The Prema Powerteam has given me fast racecars this year and we work very well together," Lewis commented. "I feel as if the team is a part of my family. My engineer Fabio Zilio and the team principals Rene Rosin, Angelo Rosin, and Grazia Troncon have created an atmosphere that allows me to succeed. I enjoy driving and being around those people. For the remaining events, the team and I are continuing to develop the car in order to set the pace."
Angelo Rosin, Prema Powerteam Team Principal, spoke about his team's three drivers, Michael Lewis, Raffaele Marciello, and Andrea Roda, after the race.
"I'm satisfied with how the first weekend of the 2011 Formula 3 Italia championship ended up for us. Our drivers finished on the podium in the two races and they captured good points in the standings. Marciello went really close to record his maiden formula 3 win, but despite committing a mistake, he showed that such results are clearly in his frame. Lewis scored a podium finish too, despite a front wing problem that certainly hit his car's potential. I feel for Roda, who was unable to get to the results he deserved, but I'm sure he will in the next round of the series at Misano."
After the race in Misano, Lewis told K&N Race News, "I was more nervous than normal in my first qualifying effort, and it's not the best to be on edge while driving. The second race weekend in Misano, I approached qualifying as I normally approach any session, in a calm manner. As a result I was nearly on pole and ended up P3, in Misano. Basically, just doing what I had to do, and concentrating on nothing else is the way."
With his second and sixth place finishes during rounds three and four at the Misano Circuit in Italy this past weekend, Lewis, from Laguna Beach, California now claims third place in the Formula 3 Italia Championship points standings, and second place in the rookie championship battle.
"I am pushing to win the rookie championship," Lewis said. "That is my goal, and I will do everything in my power to achieve that goal."
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