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Top 20 for Nazim Azman in Tricky Conditions
Nazim Azman's maiden FIA F3 campaign continues to provide the young Malaysian with a steep learning curve, with treacherous conditions at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola affecting the round two double-header.
After a promising, if ultimately frustrating, debut in Bahrain last month, Nazim at least had the benefit of further testing under his belt as the series headed to Imola for the very first time in support of F1's Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. However,, heavy rain throughout Thursday night left the track surface unpredictable and while, unlike the accompanying F2 session, F3 practice began on time, it suffered a surfeit of red flag interruptions that denied drivers the opportunity to set competitive laps.  After the first such break, only a few drivers were able to improve their mark, but Nazim was among them, eventually securing a confidence-boosting 11th in his Hitech entry.
With F2 practice also being delayed due to a flooded circuit, F3 qualifying was pushed back to nearly 4pm local time but, despite the rain having eased, wet weather tyres remained the rubber of choice throughout the field. Again, there was a red flag interruption, after which conditions improved sufficiently for lap times to improve but, unfortunately for Nazim, the amount of traffic on track as the remains of the 29-car pack jostled for position, and an officiating mix-up with the chequered flag at the end of the session, meant that he was restricted to a disappointing 17th spot on the grid.
"We had good pace in practice to be P11 and I was feeling pretty confident in the rain," Nazim reported, "Going into qualifying, we had high expectations and I think we should have had P12 and the reverse grid pole, but the double chequered flag issue hindered us quite a lot and we had to start P17 — which was still my best qualifying so far. "
With only the top 12 being reversed for Saturday's sprint race, Nazim would line up on the inside of row nine for both of the weekend's events, but at least the sun was shining by the time the grid formed up, allowing the majority of the field to fit slick tyres to their cars for the first time. Once again, then action on track was far from clean, with a rash of safety car and safety car interruptions and, while there was a frantic end to the race, Nazim found himself back in 21st spot once the dust had settled.

With F3's main event set to open the Sunday card ahead of the grand prix, there was little time for returning overnight rain to dissipate and the track surface was again slippery as the grid formed up, forcing the drivers into the tricky choice of taking wet weather tyres or gambling that it would dry quickly enough to benefit the use of slicks. The majority of the field opted for the latter tactic, Nazim included, but the wet tyre runners were the ones on the move in the early laps. An early safety car — one of several to punctuate the race — then provided an ideally-timed opportunity for those drivers to switch to slicks, altering the look of the order and leaving Nazim 19th across the line at the chequered flag.
The weekend, overall, wasn't too bad,” Nazim reflected. "In terms of wet weather performance, I'm quite happy with my performance and pace, and I think we can be fighting for position going forward. We're definitely not just fighting at the back — I think that we're top 15 and, hopefully, we can soon be battling for some points.
"In the races, I don't think I showed enough aggression at the start, which cost me a lot of positions. I also made a few mistakes because Imola is an unforgiving track without much run-off, so it was quite hectic, especially as we went straight from wet conditions to a dry track without any dry practice at all. In race two, we started on slick tyres in wet conditions, which was very tricky, but the pace was good. We were catching [Alexander] Smolyar quite quickly towards the end and were probably among the top ten fastest cars. However, without the DRS, it made it impossible to overtake and I made a mistake on the lap which cost a few positions.
"Despite that, there are a lot of positives to take from the weekend, and I'm really looking forward to the next round in Barcelona. We've obviously tested there, and the Hitech car seems to have good pace and be okay with the tyre degradation, so we're looking to put on a good show.”
The 2022 FIA F3 season continues in support of the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona over the weekend of 20-22 May. Each event is aired on television around the globe, including Astro Sports in Malaysia and SkySportsF1 in the UK, as well as the dedicated F1TV channel online.

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