Everyone in Formula 3 had been looking forward to the Pau Grand Prix - and it didn't disappoint. Not only is it a fantastic setting for a race, and a crazily-anachronistic circuit, but it was the first of the really big get-togethers of the British and Euro Series teams in F3's new spirit of entente cordiale.
There were 24 cars - 14 from the British championship and 10 from the Euro Series - on track. The Euro teams were using the British-spec Cooper tyres on their new Dallara F312s for the first time in competition, but you'd never have guessed it. Just as the mini-contingent of Brits who went to the Hockenheim Euro Series round proved competitive on the Hankooks used there, the Euros were straight on it with the Coopers.
The Euro Series' switch from Kumhos to Hankooks hugely favours this new spirit of cooperation in F3. While the Kumhos were nothing like the British Cooper/Avons, the Hankooks are much closer in nature, so it's a relatively small adaptation of set-up and driving style. The main difference seems to be that the Hankooks tend to have a longer peak operating window so, bearing that in mind, Euro Series/European Championship points leader Daniel Juncadella was hugely looking forward to using a fresh set of Coopers in qualifying, anticipating a window of only a couple of laps to set a good time.
It's fair to say that Juncadella, after his Pau-dium (groan...) at the track last year, was the pre-weekend favourite. That looked even more likely when he went fastest in opening free practice but, as temperatures continued to rise on Friday, drivers began to make mistakes.
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Marcus Simmons is the deputy editor of Autosport magazine. As a child he was a regular on the chalk banks of Thruxton, before becoming an MSA timekeeper at the age of 17. Shortly afterwards, he started reporting for Motoring News and joined the staff in 1990.
After abandoning a parallel Formula First career – which had been as incident-packed as his childhood equestrian exploits – he moved to Autosport in 1996. Since then he has had two stints as a freelance and a brief spell as editor of Motor Sport magazine, during which the revered green cover was revived, before rejoining Autosport in 2008. He lives in Twickenham with his partner, two daughters, cat and guitars.