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“FIA F3: Giovinazzi “wins” rain halted race”

Antonio Giovinazzi took his fifth FIA European F3 race win of the season, albeit without running a single lap under anger.

In torrential rain, the race ran three laps under the safety car, before race director Sven Stoppe threw the red flag.

After a delay of seventeen minutes, the race restarted for a single lap, only to be red flagged for the second and final time.

As a result, the final order matched the starting order, with Antonio Giovinazzi “winning” ahead of Felix Rosenqvist and Sérgio Sette Camara.

Also taking points were Markus Pömmer (4th), Lance Stroll (5th), Charles Leclerc (6th), Jake Dennis (7th), Alexander Albon (8th), George Russell (9th) and Callum Ilott (10th). Kang Ling pulled into the pits to retire after two laps, while Julio Moreno spun going through turn six a lap later.
Two laps were completed ensuring half-points were awarded.

“FIA F3: Rosenqvist takes Red Bull Ring success”

Rosenqvist won to close on Giovinazzi in the points standings. © FIA F3 Media Services.

Rosenqvist won to close on Giovinazzi in the points standings. © FIA F3 Media Services.

Felix Rosenqvist secured the 22nd Formula 3 victory of his career at the Red Bull Ring today, with a commanding performance.

Driving for Prema Powerteam, the Swede fought off the advances of Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam Carlin), while rookie Lance Stroll took his first podium of the season.

From the outside, it was all plain sailing for Rosenqvist, as he led off the line from the battling Giovinazzi and Stroll, building a gap of over two seconds in the first few tours. “I learned a lesson from race one and got a better start – a quite good one actually!” said the victor. “Initially in the race, my car was very strong and I managed to pull a bit of a gap to Antonio.”

Once clear of the improving Stroll, Giovinazzi piled on the pressure and notched up some four fastest laps over the course of the race as he closed to within eight-tenths of the lead; however it was not quite close enough to topple the dominant Rosenqvist. “Mid-race [Giovinazzi] seemed to pick up the pace a bit and I had to respond. We kept around one second and then it went out to 1.2s – it was moments like that for the whole race.”

At times, the race seemed more like an extended qualifying stint as opposed to a twenty-four lapper and eventually it all became a bit much, as Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer Ryan Tveter discovered on lap eighteen. Pushing hard, Tveter ran into the gravel at turn five, where his tyres dug in, beaching the American. With the 21-year-old locked in a precarious position, race control had little choice but to call the safety car.
Initially the situation left Rosenqvist worried, but the Swede regained his ground after the lap twenty-two restart. “You never know what happens after the safety car. Sometimes you have tyres that are not working and luckily this time, we pulled ahead of Antonio in the last two or three laps, so it was good.”

For Giovinazzi, it was a positive result, despite losing seven points to his title rival; however the Italian had to fight for that 2nd place in the opening laps. “I had a bad start from P2 – I lost a position with Lance and after that, I took it back at the hairpin,” said Giovinazzi; however his difficulties continued into lap two. “Lance tried to take back my 2nd place, but I closed a bit the door and after turn three when I was free, I started to up my pace and it was really good.”
Despite his mid-race push, Giovinazzi could not press Rosenqvist into an error and while the safety car offered the Carlin man an opportunity, Giovinazzi could do little to force the issue. “After the safety car, I had a really good restart, but I was a little bit far [behind] so I had no possibility to overtake him. I think we did a good race for the points.”

Stroll took a first F3 podium. © FIA F3 Media Services.

Stroll took a first F3 podium. © FIA F3 Media Services.

It was a good day for Lance Stroll who finally took his first podium following a season of numerous ups-and-downs. The Canadian dropped several seconds behind the leading pair, but managed to hold Charles Leclerc at bay for the duration. A good effort from the teenager.

Leclerc made the best of a so-so qualifying, by climbing 4th from 6th on the grid. The Monegasque racer took George Russell on the opening lap and then pick a way by Sérgio Sette Camara a lap later. Thereafter Leclerc followed in Stroll’s wheeltracks, but could not do anything to break the Canadian ahead.
Alexander Albon also made an excellent start to jump from 8th to 6th on lap one and then get by Camara on lap three. It stayed like that for several laps, until Camara was penalised with a drive through penalty on lap six for jumping the start, dropping him out of sight.
Russell settled into 6th and was looking to stay there, until Markus Pömmer slipped by just after the safety car. It was yet another recovery driver for the German, who once again got off the line badly. Russell collected 7th as the chequered flag came down.

Jake Dennis enjoyed a quiet race to finish 8th, comfortably ahead of Mikkel Jensen (9th) and Gustavo Menezes, who took 10th from Raoul Hyman two laps from the end. Menezes had started 14th and was 11th at the end of lap one and spent the following twenty-four laps battling with Hyman, during which the pair swapped positions on several occasions.

© FIA F3 Media Services

© FIA F3 Media Services

“FIA F3: Maïsano splits from Prema Powerteam”

© Prema Powerteam.

© Prema Powerteam.

French racing driver Brandon Maïsano has split from Prema Powerteam following race one of the eighth round at the Red Bull Ring.

Maïsano has thus far endured a torrid 2015 season, with the 22-year-old sitting 12th in the standings, some way adrift of his teammates Felix Rosenqvist, Jake Dennis and Lance Stroll.

Following a difficult opening race, where Maïsano finished 26th, the Frenchman came to an agreement to end his Formula 3 campaign with immediate effect.

Prema Powerteam team principal René Rosin commented, “We are saddened for the end of the long-time relationship with Brandon, who scored brilliant results with us in the Italian Formula 3 Championship and in the Italian Formula 4 Series last year.” Rosin added, “I wish Brandon a successful future in his next career endeavours.”
Maïsano has yet to release a statement.

After some success initially, Maïsano’s career had hit something of a brick wall in recent seasons. A champion in Formula Abarth in 2010, Maïsano was taken on by the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2011. Having secured 4th and 3rd respectively in his 2011 and 2012 campaigns, Maïsano was dropped by the FDA, leaving him without a drive in 2013.
Maïsano returned to action in 2014 by entering the Trophy Cup of Italian F4 Series (for drivers over the age of 18 years) with Prema Powerteam – a category that he dominated.

Graduating to European F3 has been troublesome for the Frenchman. Maïsano has scored a best race result of 4th at Spa, but has spent much of the season either in the lower reaches of the points or out of the points altogether.
In a championship where much was expected, Maïsano has shown glimpses of speed, but has often failed to deliever.

© Prema Powerteam.

© Prema Powerteam.

“FIA F3: Dennis storms to victory at Red Bull Ring opener”

Jake Dennis (GBR, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312 – Mercedes-Benz), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 8, race 1, Red Bull Ring (AUT) - 31. July - 2. August 2015. © FIA Formula 3 Media Services

Jake Dennis (GBR, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312 – Mercedes-Benz), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 8, race 1, Red Bull Ring (AUT) – 31. July – 2. August 2015. © FIA Formula 3 Media Services

Jake Dennis took his fifth FIA European Formula 3 victory in style at the Red Bull Ring today.

The Briton headed fellow championship challenger and poleman Felix Rosenqvist and points leader Antonio Giovinazzi by a narrow margin, but rarely appeared under threat from the chasing duo.

Former championship leader, Charles Leclerc, could do no better than 6th place behind Lance Stroll and George Russell.

Without doubt, it was Dennis’ stellar start from 2nd on the grid that gave him the lead and the victory. From the line, the Prema Powerteam racer outdragged his more experienced teammate to first edge alongside and then complete the move into the turn one Castrol Edge.

Thereafter Dennis led, but could not relax as Rosenqvist shadowed for the following twenty-four laps. “I had a really good start; it was one of my best of the season,” said a delighted Dennis after the race. “Felix’s was good, but I just had the edge and I tried to push and try to get away, but Felix was very quick – as he has been all weekend – so I knew it was going to hard to pull away.”

Despite getting out in front, the race was not plain sailing for Dennis, as he began to suffer from set-up conditions for a different kind of race.
Assuming that he may not jump into the lead at the start, Dennis and his team set the Mercedes-powered machine with a large portion of front downforce, which is good when following someone in dirty air, but can become troublesome if driving in the open.

The nature of the Red Bull Ring, with just nine corners at 2.6 miles, usually means the gap between the cars over a lap is relatively small and it was no different this weekend, yet that also means it is somewhat harder for a driver to make a significant enough of a difference to push up the order.
For much of the distance, Dennis had the race sown up, but an error two laps from the end almost changed everything. “I got a massive oversteer moment through the last corner and I went completely on the astro [turf], so from then on, the car was just undriveable. I just lost all grip,” commented Dennis.

With Rosenqvist having closed from seven-tenths to just two-tenths behind, Dennis drove the final few miles extremely defensively. “I had to pull out karting maneuvers to try to keep Felix behind, where I slowed it down in the middle of the corner and tried to get a fantastic exit out of turn two and that is exactly what happened. Then it brought Antonio into the equation…” It made for some extremely close action late on, with Rosenqvist clipping the rear of Dennis in turn two toward the end.
As Giovinazzi closed back to with half-a-second of both Dennis and Rosenqvist, the Swedish Rosenqvist switched from attack to defence, gifting Dennis with some much needed breathing room, yet there were still nerves. “My engineer said that I had another lap after that one, which I didn’t exactly want, but then I crossed the line and saw the chequered flag and that was a big relief. I needed it after [qualifying] 2, where I’m starting 10th, so I needed to push like mad. I’m extremely happy.”

Dennis edged to the inside of Rosenqvist in turn one to lead. © FIA Formula 3 Media Services

Dennis edged to the inside of Rosenqvist in turn one to lead. © FIA Formula 3 Media Services

Rosenqvist was reasonably happy to take the points for 2nd place, but with both Giovinazzi and Leclerc in arrears, the Swede also felt dropping behind Dennis represented a lost opportunity.
Giovinazzi, on the other hand, was happy, but admittedly quite conservative. Having taken Stroll just after turn one on the opening lap, the Italian held a solid 3rd place, while Rosenqvist trailed Dennis. After dropping back by approximately one second mid-race, the Italian drew back to the leaders in the final miles; however was not as inclined to risk his car in an unclear manoeuvre.

Stroll maintained 4th for the duration, as held a solid gap to Russell throughout, while Leclerc’s 6th place finish sees him lose more points to the title protagonists. Alexander Albon held 6th for a time for Signature, until van Amersfoort’s Leclerc passed him on lap thirteen.
Gustavo Menezes climbed from 10th to finish 8th and claim four points. The American battled early on with Mikkel Jensen, with the pair swapping 9th and 10th places twice on lap three, only for Menezes to finally slip by on lap nine. Menezes then went after Sérgio Sette Camara and passed the Brazilian for 8th on lap sixteen, leaving Camara to take 9th and Jensen to take 10th.

Markus Pömmer made an awful start, as he dropped from 9th on the grid to 32nd by turn one. The German then ramped up the order to finish 17th; however that meant the German still took no points, despite the effort.

Giovinazzi took Stroll at the start to secure 3rd place. © FIA Formula 3 Media Services

Giovinazzi took Stroll at the start to secure 3rd place. © FIA Formula 3 Media Services

“I Did Not Know Jules Bianchi”

Jules Bianchi scored points for Marussia. © Marussia F1 Team.

Jules Bianchi scored points for Marussia. © Marussia F1 Team.

I did not know Jules Bianchi.

In acknowledging that, it is the case that I had met him on a few occasions, but at no stage did I ever know him – there is quite a difference.

Over the years, there was plenty of stumbling along as I shadowed a few steps behind the young Frenchman on the motorsport ladder.

Upon making my start as an F3 journalist around late-2010 / early-2011, Bianchi had already moved up to the GP2 Series, having won the Euro Series in 2009 with ART Grand Prix.

Bianchi stayed with ART for the next two seasons and while he did not attain the success many expected of him, he did put in some wonderful performances and battles, not least against Christian Vietoris with whom Bianchi enjoyed a wheel-to-wheel tussle at Silverstone in 2011.

By 2012, Bianchi had moved on to Formula Renault 3.5 Series, just as I was making my first forays into GP2. It was a key year for the Frenchman – just as the leading category of the World Series by Renault gained stature; Bianchi fought an intense title fight with Robin Frijns and Sam Bird, with the Dutchman Frijns winning out in controversial fashion.

Bianchi moved on to Formula One with Marussia in 2013, but it was not until a year later that I was granted working access to the F1 paddock.

Thereafter we nodded a couple of times and I grabbed a few words from him at the occasional post-session media debrief, but that was it.
At no stage was there an opportunity to pull together a long form interview with Bianchi. Truth be told, by the time of my last European Grand Prix at Monza, the Lewis/Nico battle was really hotting up and a tale of Bianchi fighting away at the rear of the field would always destined to be a hard sell.

From what I gathered, he seemed like a nice chap, but come my final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi last year, Bianchi had already suffered his accident and the Marussia team had – temporarily – disappeared from the grid. The opportunity to do something had passed.

And life went on.

As much as it pains me to say, but Bianchi’s eventual passing did not come as a shock. Given the nature of his injuries and then length of time he was in a coma, his death – when announced early on Saturday morning – had been robbed of its immediacy.
That horrific jolt in the arm had already occurred on a grey Sunday morning in London, as I watched the Japanese Grand Prix in my flat. Don’t get me wrong – Bianchi’s death is a sad, tragic end to a young life, but it did not come a significant shock. Mostly it was a sense of resignation. A finality.

One cannot begin to imagine the horror with which the Bianchi family, his girlfriend Camille Marchetti and his friends had felt through those nine months since the crash at Suzuka and I would not even try.
It would be arrogant to presume that I could ever touch the grief felt by those close to Bianchi; arrogant to believe that I could ever sense that mourning. That grief could never be mine.

Tomorrow morning in Nice, the world says goodbye to Jules Bianchi. Mostly I feel sad that I barely got to say hello.

I will miss Bianchi’s abilities behind the wheel of a racing car, no matter how ungamely the machine; I will miss Bianchi’s desire to fight, no matter how small the reward; I will miss viewing the joy upon success and pain in defeat. Most of all, I will miss a future robbed of a potential star.

No one will ever know the heights that Bianchi could have reached and in this, I will not presume Grand Prix victories or possible World Championships were his to be had – we will never know. From this vantage point, I can only say “what if…?”

Jules Bianchi

It has been confirmed today Marussia Formula One driver Jules Bianchi passed away at the Le Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice.

He was 25.

Bianchi had been in a coma since crashing out into a recovery vehicle during a safety car period during last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Bianchi’s passing means that Formula One’s 21-year spell without a fatality has sadly come to an end.

The Marussia racer secured what would be the best result of his career at Monaco last season, when he was classified in 9th position (having finished 8th on the road), earning the Anglo-Russian team their first and only points.

This is sadly not the first tragedy to hit the Bianchi family – Jules’ granduncle Lucien Bianchi, also a former F1 driver, was killed at Le Mans in March 1969 during an early season test session.
Ironically, Lucien also scored his best Formula One result at Monaco – a podium in 1968 with the Cooper BRM in what was their final season in Grand Prix racing.

There really is precious little more to add, except that my sincerest thoughts go out to the Bianchi family, his friends and team.

Below is a piece tapped out shortly after Bianchi’s Suzuka accident. Even though some of the facts have changed since, it still feels somewhat relevant now.

Rest in peace Jules.

‘The Silence of it All’
October 5th, 2014

“Mercedes racer Lewis Hamilton may have won this morning’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, but the accident suffered by the Marussia of Jules Bianchi on lap 43 prior to Dunlop Curve rendered that mute.

Dampened celebrations – if they could be called celebrations – followed, as Hamilton with runner-up Nico Rosberg and 3rd place man Sebastian Vettel solemnly went through the motions upon a brightly lit stage.

As news spread, so did the strain upon the faces of those underneath the podium – the reality of the situation etched in line and brow.

The seriousness of Bianchi’s predicament was not immediately known; such was the positioning of the Adrian Sutil’s already stricken Sauber and location of the camera crew.
According reports from the on site media, Bianchi suffered a serious head injury when he went off track and collided with a tractor. Thereafter he was transferred to Mie General Hospital not far from the circuit, but has since come out of surgery and is breathing on his own.
Throughout his extraction, the Frenchman was said to have remained unconscious.

The reappearance of the red flag was a relief – it had already been an exhausting race by this point, but as more solid information began to filter through from the scene, a lifetime caught up with Formula One.

Such moments make a mockery of sport’s self importance, bringing to the fore the triviality of the pursuits of fast men in fast machines – these matters hold little standing of import now and amidst all of the chatter and debate, what stands out the most is the silence of it all.
Naturally there will be analysis; there will be accusations; there will theories; there may be answers, but for the moment, there is just waiting.

At this point, my only thoughts are with Jules Bianchi, his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.

“Speed Amongst the Tribunes”

© Leigh O'Gorman

© Leigh O’Gorman

The Norisring is an odd place. As a circuit, its layout is not up to much. As a place, one could write books…

From the start, there’s a curving straight leading to a tight first gear hairpin, the a short chute into a quick right/left chicane, followed by another long curving straight, a 2nd hairpin and then brief blast to the line.

At just over 2km, it is easily the shortest track on the European F3 calendar. Its bumpiness – visible from the suspension travel from quite a long way away – makes it one of the more remarkable courses on a season packed with historic names and venues of significance within the culture of motorsport.

But one cannot avoid the history of this area, of the whole city; for the city – Nuremberg – was where Germany’s National Socialist Party – the Nazi Party – began to gain a foothold in the 1920s.

The tribune, which now hosts the grandstand on the start/finish straight was at one time where Adolf Hitler delivered many a pronouncement. This too is also the site of the infamous Nuremberg Rallies and a catalyst for the nightmares that followed.

These structures remain as a reminder and a warning of the dangers of what can happen when totalitarian regime takes hold. It’s probably still happening today around the world, only with fewer outlandish monuments, but with just as much will to coerce, destroy and control.

“FIA F3: Giovinazzi returns to top step at Norisring”

Press conference, 3 Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312 - Volkswagen), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 6, race 1, Norisring (GER) - 26. - 28. June 2015 *** Local Caption *** Copyright (c) FIA Formula 3 European Championship / Thomas Suer

Press conference, 3 Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312 – Volkswagen), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 6, race 1, Norisring (GER) – 26. – 28. June 2015 *** Local Caption *** Copyright (c) FIA Formula 3 European Championship / Thomas Suer

Antonio Giovinazzi returned to winning ways in the final FIA European F3 race at the Norisring this morning.

While the Italian continued to build small gaps amidst a number of safety car periods, George Russell, Alexander Albon and Charles Leclerc fought for podium honours.

For a time, Dorian Boccolacci and Jake Dennis were also involved in the fight, but 2nd and 3rd would eventually go to Russell and Albon respectively.

From 3rd on the grid, Giovinazzi jumped to the start of the field following sluggish starts by front row pairing Albon and Russell, allowing the Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer to slip through a gap in the middle to shoot into an early lead.

Amidst this, Dennis also fed his way through into 2nd place, only to overshoot the first hairpin, dropping behind Russell – but only for a moment. Under acceleration, Dennis pulled back past Russell as they entered the chicane to secure a temporary 2nd, while a quick thinking Leclerc pushed Albon down to 5th.

It would prove to be significant for Giovinazzi, as almost instantly the race was neutralised by the safety car when a stalled Matt Solomon was rear-ended by the blindsided Sam MacLeod on the grid.
Back in the pack, Lance Stroll hopped over the first hairpin kerb and touched the side of Carlin’s Callum Ilott, resulting in a broken front wing and right front puncture for the Prema Powerteam man.

On the lap five restart, Giovinazzi continued to head the field, but it was Leclerc who made a big move as he dived down the inside of the turn one hairpin, only to immediately slip wide and drop back to 5th, delaying Dennis who also fell to 4th – Albon, meanwhile, reclaimed 3rd from the manoeuvre as he filtered in behind the promoted Russell.

The race would not stay green for long. Seeing a (small) gap, Gustavo Menezes threw his Volkswagen-powered Jagonya Ayam Carlin machine down the inside of the hairpin on the sixth tour, collecting race two winner Maximilian Günther – both retired on the spot.

A long safety car period followed, but again Giovinazzi made the most of the restart (lap 13) as he edged a 1.0s lead over the chasing Russell and Albon. Behind the leading trio, Leclerc took Dennis for 4th around the outside of the hairpin in a brave, but perfectly judged move.
Things would get worse still for Dennis. Under the microscope of Dorian Boccolacci (Signature), the Englishman would be shoved out of the way by a slightly out-of-control Boccolacci. As wheels locked together, both ran wide, with Dennis losing two spots as both Boccolacci and Santino Ferrucci (Mücke) collected 5th and 6th places.
Boccolacci lost out on lap 23: the Signature man slowed significantly, allowing Dennis, Ferrucci and Mikkel Jensen through; however he would soon be with Dennis once again when Jensen passed the English driver for 6th spot.

This was too good to last unfortunately. On lap 26, Nabil Jeffri found a non-existent gap into the turn one hairpin and slammed into the side of Matt Rao, taking both out on the spot. Safety car number three.

It would give Russell, Albon and the attacking Leclerc a final opportunity to attack Giovinazzi for the lead, but it was not to be – the Carlin driver escaped with haste and eventually drew a gap of 1.4s as the chequered flag flew on lap 38. In what may prove a key win for Giovinazzi, he took the maximum points in a race where championship rivals Dennis and Felix Rosenqvist di not score – but more on that in moment.

Russell secured an excellent 2nd place to secure his third podium of the year, although Albon and Leclerc made him work hard for it. Looking for top end speed, Carlin dialed in a low downforce setting for this race, while Albon ran the more stable – but slightly slower – medium downforce settings. Back in 4th, Leclerc could do nothing about either of the two ahead, as he dropped a mere 0.32s behind Albon come the final lap.

The fight for 5th and 6th was a touch more feisty in the final laps. A charging Jensen trailed teammate Ferrucci for a time, forcing his way by the younger Mücke driver on lap 33, leaving Ferrucci open to attack from Boccolacci and Ilott.
Taking what could be best described as an adventurous line from the hairpin, down the back straight and through the final corner, Ferrucci defended hard and managed to hold 6th place – but only just.
In Ferrucci’s mirrors, a hassled and held up Boccolacci fell victim to Ilott’s late race rise, with the Red Bull junior taking both Boccolacci and the ailing Dennis on successive laps, allowing Ilott to claim 7th.

Boccolacci would assume 8th place ahead of Alessio Lorandi (9th) and Brandon Maïsano (10th, after starting 7th); however the slowing Dennis could not hold onto any scores, leaving the championship contender with no points from the weekend.
Outside of the points, Rosenqvist made an awful start, dropping the Swede from 8th to 18th off the line. The Prema Powerteam racer would climb back to 13th, but he will rue yet another “lost” weekend.

In the championship, the result means Leclerc leaves the Norisring with a 42.5 point lead over the new 2nd place man Giovinazzi, with Rosenqvist falling to 3rd, some 66.5 points behind the Monegasque racer. Dennis’ dire weekend ensure he now has an 80.5-point deficit to Leclerc.

The next round takes place at Zandvoort in two weeks time – a very different circuit, but critical and one that Rosenqvist and Giovinazzi have plenty of F3 experience on.

“Closing Time”

© Leigh O'Gorman.

© Leigh O’Gorman.

Sunday evening following the 74th Grand Prix de Pau and come 8.15pm, it is time to leave.

From a rather pleasant, if windy day, the clouds ahead began to thicken and gaze. Picking up further still, the now tumultuous draft necessitated zipped and buttoned jackets, while those lucky (or clever) enough to have brought hats began to pull the rims down over now cold ears.

The escape was reasonably quick though. Based partially underground, the easy access car park provided a rare warmth and cover from whistling winds.

Soon, we pulled away from the scene of one of the world’s most enigmatic temporary racing circuit’s – now back to living as a regular street. Thereafter it was a long, but quick drive to Toulouse and to another airport hotel and eventual flight.

We missed the rain though – just. Had the clouds opened only a few hours earlier, who knows how different the race could have developed…

“FIA F3: Günther takes shock win at the Norisring”

Maximilian Günther took a shock fist FIA European F3 victory at the Norisring today.

The German took advantage of a feisty battle between Alexander Albon, Charles Leclerc and George Russell, when the trio ran wide and side-by-side into the turn one hairpin, allowing Günther to sweep from 4th to 1st in one move.

Behind Günther, Albon claimed 2nd place ahead of Leclerc (who led for approximately twenty metres into the hairpin) and Russell, the latter of whom had swapped the lead with Albon twice prior to Günther’s rise.

After taking the lead, the race did not merely end for Günther, who was pressured by Albon right to the flag, with the Mücke man eventually winning by just 0.4s. Leclerc completed the podium, while Lance Stroll saw an opportunity to slip past Russell amidst the hairpin melee.

The race had been peppered with safety cars throughout, with the 36 lapper interrupted no less than four times. The first neutralisation began when Ryan Tveter (Jagonya Ayam Carlin) clashed with Alessio Lorandi (van Amersfoort) in the hairpin on lap three.
That was followed on lap fifteen by scary incident between Michele Beretta (Mücke) and Matt Solomon (Double R) at the hairpin, when the latter clipped Beretta at low speed, but an angle that tipped Beretta into a roll, leading the Italian to clattering the outer wall at an upturned angle.

Restarting on lap 20, there was third safety car three tours later when Santino Ferrucci divebombed Antonio Giovinazzi for what was then 3rd place into the hairpin. Giovinazzi could do nothing to avoid Jake Dennis, who took damage to his left rear wheel – this resulted in the trio blocking the track.
Finally on lap 28, an over ambitious Pietro Fittipaldi ran into the back of Fabian Schiller and while Schiller continued, the stalled Fittipaldi was collected by the innocent Kang Ling.

Aside from the stoppages, Albon led almost throughout and apart from occasional noises by Leclerc and Dennis, it was always Russell chasing the Thai racer.
The Signature man did lose the lead very temporarily at the very start, as Russell outdragged his way to the front. Albon retook the lead at the hairpin on lap two, but by the time the pairing had reached the second hairpin at the far side of the circuit, Russell had retaken the point, only for Albon to finally secure the lead before the emergence of the safety car on lap three.

Thereafter Albon kept a narrow gap over Russell, with the distance never expanding beyond 1.7s, although the constant safety car negating opportunities for the Volkswagen-powered Albon to pull away. Time and time again, Albon edged away from the Englishman, only to be drafted back toward the Carlin man under the guise of the safety car.

It all changed at the front after the lap 32 restart when both Russell and Leclerc came alive to scythe past Albon at the two hairpins respectively. On the next tour, Leclerc had drafted alongside Russell on the way to the turn one hairpin; however Russell squeezed the Monegasque race to the inside line and onto the excessive bumps.
This destabilised Leclerc forcing him and Russell out wide, while Albon also ran long with them, allowing the stalking Günther to take a narrow line into the hairpin and escape into the lead in what was one of the most intelligent pieces of driving witnessed in F3 this year.

As the corner unfolded, Leclerc pulled alongside Albon, but could not make the move into 2nd place stick. It meant a run of Günther, Albon and Leclerc to the flag, with Günther gladly accepting his first European F3 victory.
There was extra luck for Günther though. Starting 12th, the Mücke racer climbed to 8th by the end of lap two, only to be collected by teammate Ferrucci on lap three, costing Günther one position and plenty of time.

Having run the furthest wide in the Russell/Leclerc/Albon melee, Russell was also susceptible to Lance Stroll, who had quietly risen up the order with a clean drive from 15th on the grid – no heroics or last action moves; just avoiding the mistakes and unsuccessful manoeuvres.

Russell ended the day a disappointing 5th, just ahead of Mikkel Jensen (Mücke, 6th), while Gustavo Menezes took 7th, despite overshooting the hairpin on the opening lap. Dorian Boccolacci could not hold onto his teammates pace today, with the Frenchman ending the day 8th ahead of Lorandi (9th) and Brandon Maïsano (Prema Powerteam).
Championship challenger Felix Rosenqvist was running 5th early on, but took a drive through penalty when he was adjudged to have missed his gridslot at the race start.


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