QUICK-THINKING Charlie Robertson managed to salvage his sixth podium finish of the BRDC Formula 4 Championship season at Brands Hatch over the weekend, after a gear-shift problem robbed the youngster of victory in round 13.
For the second race meeting in succession, the Whyteleafe teenager encountered all sorts of misfortune.
Despite the rostrum finish in the opening race on Saturday afternoon, which he sealed even though stuck in fifth gear, the return to Robertson's 'home' venue wasn't an altogether happy one.
His pace was expectedly strong from the off, with the HHC Motorsport driver setting the second fastest time in free practice, then lapping third quickest in qualifying for the opening race – just a couple of hundredths of a second shy of the front row of the grid.
Making a terrific getaway from the inside of the second row, Robertson climbed into second place and ran close behind pole-qualifier Jake Hughes for the first three laps before then making his intentions clear with the fastest lap of the race on the fourth tour.
Into lap five, just 0.068 seconds split the pair across the line and Investigo-backed Robertson continued to apply pressure.
However, any hopes he had of challenging for the lead were thwarted when a recurring fault with the steering wheel-mounted paddle-shift resulted in Robertson being unable to shift up the box. Stuck in fifth gear, the 16-year-old wisely chose not to down-shift and instead nursed the car home to an eventual third place.
Early race leader Jake Hughes, also blighted with technical issues, finished fourth.
"Although taking another podium was good, it was really disappointing to have more problems," said Robertson.
"It's the second race weekend in succession we've lost crucial points due to car failures of some kind which is pretty frustrating. The team did a fantastic job with the set-up though and we definitely had the pace to win."
During the first of Sunday's two encounters, round 14, the MSA Academy driver lined-up in sixth place on the 'reverse' grid but a troublesome getaway meant he slipped to tenth position and faced a tough challenge thereafter.
On lap four though, an unfortunate excursion at Sheene Curve dropped him down to 19th place. He eventually ended in 18th.
As well as losing a potential win in Saturday's race, the knock-on effect of the troubles meant Robertson was unable to post quick lap times when the Yokohama tyres were at their best.
This impacted his starting position for race three of the weekend – round 15 – with the grid order for the final outing formed from each competitor's best race lap across the previous two encounters.
Robertson therefore started in fifth place and he quickly made progress into the top four part way around lap two. On the subsequent tour, however, he again ran off the circuit at Sheene, while chasing down a possible podium, but this time the excursion resulted in retirement.
"I've only got myself to blame really for the non-finish," he said. "The car did feel a bit loose at the rear but I made the mistake. It's been a bad weekend for the championship, we just need to put it behind us."
The results saw Robertson slip to fifth in the Championship ahead of the next three rounds at Silverstone (August 17-18).