Shanghai, May 26 (IANS) India’s Raj Bharath posted his first win of the 2013 Formula Masters championship in the third and final race at Shanghai International Circuit here Sunday.
Backed by Bangalore-based Embassy Group and driving for Meco Motorsport, Raj, the 18-year old who had finished second in the second race Saturday, started fifth on the grid, but went on to win in mixed weather conditions ahead of Afiq Yazid and Akash Nandy.
In the minutes leading up to the race, there was a faint drizzle but the entire field with exception of Raj decided to stay on slick tyres as the rain was expected to ease off in a couple of laps.
However, the team decided to put Raj on wet tyres hoping that Raj’s pace advantage in the opening laps would help him get in the lead and build up a big gap by the time the rain eased off and drivers on slicks would be quicker once again.
The start didn’t turn out as planned though, since the race direction decided to go for a safety car start at the last minute, something which Raj wasn’t aware of as he didn’t have a radio in the car.
“I was thinking it was the formation lap when I suddenly saw everyone take off at the penultimate corner. Only after I came into the final corner that I realised it was a rolling start, but I had already lost a place by then,” said Raj.
Having gone backwards already, Raj began to charge hard and three laps later, he was firmly in the lead and pushing further to build up a gap before the rain subsided. The rain stopped soon after and the track dried up quickly, rendering his wet tyres gripless.
Lady luck seemed to be in his favour though, as another faint drizzle came down two laps from the finish, cooling the tyres and disrupting the rhythm of his opponents behind as they had to be cautious on slicks.
“That shower gave me some much needed some room to breathe and we were only two laps from the finish, but I knew it was going to be tight,” he said.
However, with the rain stopping again and the track drying, his opponents began to gain on Raj who had to defend heavily on the final lap as his opponents were significantly quicker an their slick tyres offered better grip than Raj’s worn out wet weather tyres.
“I could see two cars filling up my mirrors, but I kept focussed and made sure that I didn’t make any mistakes, as that would’ve put paid to all the hard work till then,” said Raj who crossed the line 1.1 seconds ahead of Yazid with Nandy in third.