Charles Leclerc extended his lead in the FIA European F3 Championship today, with a controlled victory at the Norisring.
Behind the Monegasque racer, Antonio Giovinazzi reinvigorated his championship challenge with a drive to 2nd, Felix Rosenqvist jumped to 2nd in the points as he climbed to the final podium spot.
Under teeming rain, the race both started and ended under the safety car, due to considerable spray around the short layout.
It was not until the fourth lap that the race was allowed to run, from which point Leclerc drew away from the chasing pack. Initially Maximilian Günther followed, but the German was quickly taken by Signature’s Alexander Albon.
Albon closed to the tail of Leclerc by lap 11, only for the Thai racer to run wide at the turn one hairpin and drop to 5th, allowing Günther back up to 2nd, albeit 6.7s shy of the lead.
The Mücke racer would not hold the position for long. Running wide at the hairpin on lap 14 allowed Giovinazzi to assume the position. The battle between the Jagonya Ayam Carlin man and Günther would last an additional lap, with the duo swapping positions twice before Giovinazzi stamped his authority on the battle.
It marked a positive middle stint for Giovinazzi, who had only the lap before done the same to Rosenqvist. The Swede would within another two laps be back into 3rd, having eventually demoted Günther further still.
However by 20, the race was neutralised, as a spate of minor offs and incidents forced the stewards to call for the safety car. In amongst the minor scuffles, Jake Dennis collected the lapped Arjun Maini at the hairpin; a corner that would also claim Santino Ferrucci and Matt Soloman.
Amidst the mess, the safety car was called, slowing the pace and effectively ending the contest. Although the rain had subsided, the heavy spray remained, ensuring the race would not restart.
Behind the leading trio, Günther had little choice but to accept 4th spot, ahead of Albon (5th). Dorian Boccolacci made it two Signature Volkswagen cars in the top six, while Gustavo Menezes (Jagonya Ayam Carlin) drove a quiet race to 7th.
Lance Stroll climbed the order to record 8th for Prema Powerteam, but Pommer continued to drop down the order as the race aged, taking only 9th in his Motopark machine. Carlin’s George Russell rounded out the top ten for Carlin.
Giovinazzi and Russell collected lingering carbon fibre wreckage strewn about the section. Giovinazzi was under investigation immediately following the race, as it is understood he may have overtaken the safety car just after its release.
The hairpin proved a difficult tight bend throughout, with Markus Pommer, Sergio Sette Camara, Michele Beretta, Alesio Lorandi.
There has been much mirth surrounding the subject of Formula Three since my last visit to the series on the streets of Pau last month.
While accidents at this level are to be expected – this is a learning category after all – the level of chaos and destruction witnessed at Monza a few weeks ago unnerved even the hardest supporter of the category.
That was followed this weekend by some equally astonishing manoeuvres at this weekend’s round at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium – manoeuvres that left Formula Three stalwart Felix Rosenqvist fuming after he had been collected in all three races by Antonio Giovinazzi, Lance Stroll and Markus Pommer.
The on track behaviour at these famed circuits was nothing short of abysmal, with a number of moves and accidents leaving Stefano Domenicali (President of the FIA Single-Seater Commission) and FIA President Jean Todt very angry indeed.
These were not accidents born of slight missteps or minor misjudgements, but rather incidents steeped in the very definition of incompetence. The clash between Stroll and Giovinazzi toward the end of Curve Grande at Monza was shocking mainly because of its violence, but when Brandon Maisano blocked and then chopped Gustavo Menezes on the approach of Les Combes at Spa on Saturday, the consequences could have been far worse.
In that incident, Menezes flew into the air, landed on the Armco on trackside, breaking his rollhoop bar in the process, rendering his helmet the main point of contact as he slip upside-down toward the run-off area. The heavy scratch marks across his helmet bore the marks of heavy evidence.
The lack of awareness, acknowledgement of rivals and the track limits only served as a red flag – but maybe this can be turned into a good thing. It is no secret that driving standards across the entire route of junior motorsport have been rather lacking in recent years. Whether it GP2, GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 or the plethora of Formula Renault 2.0 series’, the manner in which some of the ‘talent’ have conducted themselves has left much to be desired.
Even categories as high as the FIA Formula E Series and the Verizon IndyCar Series has played host to some dreadful, amateurish driving at times this year, so it is clear that this is not a Formula Three problem alone. This is made all the more disappointing when the actions of some truly talented individuals at the front of these categories lose out on top results, because someone in their mirrors has failed to grasp onto the fact that life does not possess a restart button.
Yet surely this is the catalyst – the moment where standards of race driving are flagged for what they are; an opportunity to teach young drivers about the importance of not chopping, weaving and mindlessly dive-bombing; a chance to make sure those behind the wheel know that the white lines around the circuit are not merely decorative.
And this is where the likes of the FIA really need to make things happen and really stamp down.
For his clash with Rosenqvist (and other frontrunner Mikkel Jensen), Stroll was banned from taking part in Race 3 at Spa this weekend – good. Perhaps we should see this action more often and if Stroll (et al) commit another brainless infraction this year, then bar them for an entire race weekend.
If that is what it takes, then do it and if after that, they still have not learned, then the problem really is in the hands and minds of the driver.
Meanwhile, I will leave you with Rosenqvist’s thoughts following this weekend and of the coming race meeting, which takes place at the Norisring. “To be perfectly honest, I think these are the worst driving standards I have ever experienced. It is just impossible to race among some of the guys out there, and it doesn’t matter how cautious you are; I was extremely careful in the final race and still got spun around by a driver who had just been handed a drive-through penalty. It’s such a shame this is happening, because the championship is fantastic and the organisers are trying their best to address the issues.”
Rosenqvist continues, “Some of the new kids seem to think we’re in a video game, and if it goes on like that at the Norisring we are in real trouble. It’s a wall-lined circuit with lots of slipstreaming and heavy braking zones, and I have to admit I’m feeling concerned going there. It is possible to race at a high level and to do it in a respectful manner; I think Charles (Leclerc) is a good example of that. Let’s hope for a more sensible weekend in Germany.”
There is little doubt the start of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship has proved a stern test for Audi Sport Team Joest racer Oliver Jarvis.
Yet as Jarvis approaches the 83rd 24 Heures du Mans, the Englishman reveals that rather than be disheartened with early season form, he is excited for the challenge ahead.
Recently, TheMotorsportArchive.com caught up with Jarvis to hear his thoughts on Le Mans, teammates and finding his path.
“I’m now living a dream,” states an enthusiastic Oliver Jarvis. By the time we get to talk, the Englishman may be on his way to French shores, but the thrill in his voice rings through as clear as day.
There were times where it seemed the almost-nomadic 31-year-old would struggle to settle into a position worthy of his talents.
Finishing runner-up in the British Formula 3 Series in 2006 would take the Cambridgeshire all the way to Japan, with his efforts eventually culminating in victory at the prestigious Macau Grand Prix at the tail end of the following year.
Yet, like for so many drivers, the Formula One train failed to pick up on the affable Jarvis and with his first major success in his pocket, the former Carlin and TOM’s racer was drafted back to Europe by Audi for a shoot-out with what would become a DTM race seat with Team Phoenix.
It would be the beginning of a lengthy relationship with the German marque – a relationship that has only blossomed further in the time since. “I moved into DTM and had two fantastic years […] and then was promoted to the new car,” Jarvis recalls.
Although Jarvis enjoyed a relatively positive experience in DTM – taking three podiums overall – his sights were higher still. Having tasted the experience of Le Mans for the first time in 2010 with Kolles Racing’s LMP1 effort (alongside Christijan Albers and the late Christian Bakkerud), Jarvis wanted more.
Driving a one-off entry for Audi Sport North America, he returned to the top class in endurance racing in 2012 and was promoted to the Audi factory squad a year later – albeit only the rounds at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, as Jarvis explains further. “For the first couple of years, I was involved purely with Le Mans itself and Spa for the build-up. Then [I] had an opportunity to move across to the LMP squad and I jumped at the opportunity.”
The chance came when the legendary Tom Kristensen decided to hang up his helmet at the end of 2014, creating a vacuum in the #8 Audi entry. “Late on last year, I had a meeting with Dr [Wolfgang] Ullrich [Head of Audi Motorsport] and became aware that the seat to replace To [Kristensen] was available. I put my case forward and fortunately they felt it was the right decision to promote me.”
Admittedly, the start of the season has not been a perfect one for Jarvis. Despite the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro being down on top speed of its rivals at Porsche, the German manufacturer has taken both of the first two races in this year’s World Endurance Championship; however Jarvis and his teammates – Loïc Duval and Lucas di Grassi – were not on the podium for either.
Indeed finishing four laps down at Silverstone and eight adrift at Spa-Francorchamps was probably not exactly the start Jarvis had in mind for his LMP1 career with Audi Sport Team Joest. An early crash in the British round and electrical issues in Belgium humbled the #8 Audi and left trio well adrift in the Drivers’ Championship and while Jarvis remains positive, he is keenly aware of just how important this weekend is at La Sarthe – especially as the big race counts as double points for the championship. “[Le Mans] is hugely important – not just as a single race, but also in terms of the championship; it requires a different approach.
“Before the world championship, it was all about winning this big race, but now you also have to take on board that it can also be so valuable for the championship. There’s a lot to play for and it has a big impact on who wins the championship at the end of the year.”
That teammates André Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler have won both races in the #7 Audi only served to underline the potential lost in the opening pair of six-hour enduros.
Changing the Guard
With a history of competing in categories such as Super GT, DTM, A1GP and the now defunct GT1 World Championship, Jarvis is finally serving his first full season with Audi, but with the shadow of Kristensen still apparent, there are big shoes to fill in the #8 machine. “I can’t wait,” beamed Jarvis. “I’m just really looking forward to getting into the car. I think we have got a great car, but only time will if that is enough to recapture Le Mans and go on to reclaim the world championship.”
Roles have changed drastically within the Audi squad in recent years. Gone are Kristensen aided by cohorts Allan McNish and Dindo Capello, all of whom retired from LMP1 in steps between 2012 and 2014. Meanwhile Jarvis, Duval and di Grassi have stepped up, alongside the now established Lotterer/Tréluyer/Fässler party in the #7 machine. Waiting in the wings is the third Audi are Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi and René Rast…
Such has been the change, Jarvis feels this is a pivotal moment for both he and the Audi Sport Joest team. “I really believe now if you look at the driver line-up, there are a couple in their mid-to-late 30s, but you could see them continue for another ten years, whereas in the last five years, there has been discussion about who is going to retire and they never did,” says Jarvis, before adding with a chuckle “…unfortunately for us younger drivers.”
He has hit a point in his assessment of the current Audi line-up. Of the leading two entries for Audi in LMP1, the average age across the six drivers has dropped to 33 years – down from 39 years in 2012. There is plenty of speed in the sextet – with the added bonus of maturity and experience – however he was also keen to point out that age is by no means a barrier to speed or aggression, as anyone who had witnessed McNish in his later years can contest.
But times have changed and as Formula One has all but closes doors to those without government support, long held brand partnerships or manufacturer backing, endurance racing has become a more attractive proposition for those seeking to become top level professional racing drivers.
Jarvis believes now more than ever that sportscars has become a viable alternative to Formula One for those earlier in their racing careers and it is a factor that is also serving to lower the median driver age in endurance racing, although a now laughing Jarvis also notes that ‘Capello had ten years in a row when he was going to retire.’
The time for change was perfect though. With new LMP1 regulations debuting last year, the game at the top level of endurance racing was changing too. Despite claiming another Le Mans 24 Hour race win last year – as well as a win in the rain-affected Six Hours of COTA – Audi did not have a stellar time in the category’s other six-hour events. Although the Lotterer/Fässler/Tréluyer entry ended the season as championship runners-up, they were a long way adrift of eventual title holders of Toyota’s Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi.
Keen to avoid a repeat of the 2014 hic-cough, Audi needed to make a step-up and have moved from the category’s 2mJ class to the 4mJ class – it is a move that has proved effective for the manufacturer so far. “At the end of every year, the team work extremely hard to make a step forward and this year, the engineers were coming up with some quite impressive figures.”
Silverstone showcased the stark differences between the Audi and Porsche LMP1 machines. With its huge downforce numbers, the R18 was stunning around the Northamptonshire sweeps, yet Porsche’s prowess down the Hangar and Wellington Straights – thanks in part to their placement in the 8mJ class – astounded even the most ardent of Audi supporters. Come the Spa 6 Hours, a new “low downforce” aero package allowed the #7 Audi beat the #18 Porsche in a straight fight, albeit only by 13 seconds.
Yet Le Mans is an animal all its own and Jarvis knows Audi cannot afford to relax for a moment, as performance takes a temporary backseat to reliability. “The number one thing at Le Mans is reliability; number two is to stay out of trouble and number three is performance – if you don’t have number one or number two, your performance has very little effect.
“We would hope from what we have seen at past races that Audi has fantastic reliability and drivers who can stay out of trouble and keep the car on track, because when you are pushing so hard for each tenth-of-a-second, it is possible to make mistakes. There are also factors that are out of your control, especially with many drivers on track and many who are less experienced, so you do have to be cautious, but you also have to have some luck.”
Like Porsche – but less so Toyota – Audi improved drastically and were having been running significantly quicker than last year; however the team based in Ingolstadt is still looking closely over its shoulders.
Pre-season comments of a three second gain at the Prologue in Paul Ricard seemed almost too good to be true, leading to claims that Audi and Porsche were ‘running light on fuel’, but the opening pair of contests have proved otherwise. The at Le Mans pole lap – a 3’16.8s; set by Porsche’s Neel Jani at Le Mans this week – is already six seconds quicker than the pole from two years ago.
The two leading LMP1 teams have also taken chunks out of their pace from last year, much to the astonishment of Jarvis and others. “You listen to it and think ‘3 seconds [improvement]; that sounds like a hell of a lot’ and what’s fascinating is what they estimated is what we achieved in Paul Ricard, so we are where we feel we should be. The big question mark was where our competitors are at.”
In the cockpit however, the changes have not been quite so drastic. “The way you drive the car is very similar, because it is the same concept, but you do feel that extra boost of power,” comments Jarvis. “To achieve the 4mJ of power, you have to harvest more energy or retrieve more energy, so it does have an influence during the braking phase, but the driver technique required is almost identical to last year.”
There is little doubt that the WEC has enjoyed an increased profile in recent years and with Nissan (finally) joining the fray from Le Mans onward, the manufacturer fight may intensify further.
For fans, this can only be a good thing. For competitors like Jarvis, it is gold and it would only serve to make victory at La Sarthe taste just that bit better. “This is the big one – we want to win it. To come away with a podium would be satisfactory, but we wouldn’t be jumping for joy with a 2nd or 3rd. Going into the race, from what we have seen so far, we are going in to win it. We say that about every race, but Le Mans is the big one – it can change your year and even your whole career.”
Jarvis starts this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hour Race from 4th place.
While much of the post-race talk of the Monaco Grand Prix focussed on Mercedes’ strategic mix-up that cost Lewis Hamilton the race win, one highly successful run went largely unnoticed in the melee.
Starting from the pitlane, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz slipped serenely up the order to eventually take home 10th place and one point come the final order.
Of course it could have been much more. Sainz loses some small credit for not stopping at the weigh bridge during the season’s most pivotal qualifying session; however it was an error he readily acknowledged following Saturday’s session. “I was actually quite satisfied and happy with a P8 in my debut in Monaco, but the stewards’ decision for me to start from the pit lane for not stopping at the weighing bridge in Q1 is very disappointing.”
The Spaniard is not the first driver to have made that error and he certainly won’t be the last either.
On Sunday, Sainz made a good start and was 16th by the end of lap two, before a retiring Pastor Maldonado promoted him to 15th at the five lap mark. On another day, that might well have been that; however having begun the race on used super soft Pirelli’s, the team executed a bold strategy to pull Sainz up the order, but it necessitated some sensitive driving from the 20-year-old.
Stopping to change to a new set of softs on lap 12, Sainz stayed out for the remainder of the race, eventually clocking up 66 laps on the Pirelli rubber, while maintaining a solid pace. “It was a very good race from the team in terms of strategy and tyre management. We worked for it very hard and completed a super long stint on the Soft tyre. This finally paid off and we managed to score a point.”
Admittedly, Monaco is not the hardest when it comes to tyre preservation, but it does present numerous other challenges – the precise nature of the circuit and the closeness of the barriers being just two examples. To be successful at the streets, a driver needs to push, but not so far that they go over the edge.
Yet the seeming gripless nature of the track appeared to catch a number of drivers and teams out. Certainly Williams were in no-man’s-land and as others fell behind amidst developing tyre stints, Sainz continued to climb the order – all the while keeping respectable pace.
Initially lapping in the mid-1’21s, Sainz began to regular break into the late-1’20s as fuel burned off, with a best of 1:19.816s coming on lap 48 (set while just behind Hamilton), before dropping back into the 1’20s,
Sainz had been helped to a degree when strategies for other competitors, such as Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean began to crumble, with the Toro Rosso man taking chunks out of the pairing, despite already run approximately 40 laps on the softs. With times also tapering off for others around the field, the final third of the race would prove critical.
And then help came from an unlikely source. When Max Verstappen clattered into the rear of Romain Grosjean on lap 64, Sainz broke into the top ten and Race Control engaged a safety car period, allowing drivers some slow laps to allow their Pirelli’s to breathe.
However approximately one-third of the remaining entrants took this time to make one final stop, but with the safety car trundling around at a sluggish pace, tyre pressures dropped making the race end tricky for a few. Upon the restart, Sainz was quickly back into the 1’21s and then again the late 1’20s and able to keep the charging Nico Hulkenberg at bay.
Crossing the line 10th, Sainz was clearly ecstatic. “What an amazing race, I’m very happy with the result! To start from the pit lane in Monaco, on my debut, and to cross the line in P10 feels like a victory,” beamed the Red Bull junior.
He continued, “It was a very good race from the team in terms of strategy and tyre management. We worked for it very hard and completed a super long stint on the Soft tyre. This finally paid off and we managed to score a point. I was really enjoying it out there, I was quick and enjoying this unique track, I didn’t want the race to end!”
While so much talk has – deservedly – been cast toward his Toro Rosso teammate Verstappen, Sainz has played a very good hand in the opening stage of his debut season and drives like this show clearly why he deserves his place in Formula One.
Despite what the Internet will tell you, simple human error and confusion cost Lewis Hamilton the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
If nothing else, it was a timely reminder that at the heart of our sport lay not just computers, but banks of people making split-second decisions – and sometimes they get it wrong.
“We simply got the calculation wrong. We thought that we would have a bigger gap – a couple of seconds more – but we didn’t.”
It would be fair to say that Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff has endured a difficult couple of days following this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.
When Max Verstappen misjudged the braking distance of Romain Grosjean into St Devote on lap 64, the resulting crash caused Race Control to, first, initiate a Virtual Safety Car period (VSC), before assigning the real safety car approximately thirty seconds later.
Amidst a cacophony of radio noise, confusion, misreading’s and changing circumstances, the Mercedes Formula One team and Lewis Hamilton conspired amongst themselves to blow a significant advantage at the front, eventually costing Hamilton the race.
Mercedes still won – although the victory was celebrated by Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel taking 2nd spot – but for a dominant weekend’s performance, Hamilton would be rewarded with just a 3rd place.
The reigning champion tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve and the shock on the Briton’s face palpable, but let us please dispense with the nonsensical conspiracy theories – those meandering thought bubbles really are not worth the time of day.
Shortly after the race, the first piece fell into place courtesy of Hamilton just as the safety car had been called. Glancing up to one of the big screens, Hamilton noted, “I saw the team out in the pit-lane […] and thought Nico was pitting,” before adding, “I came in with full confidence that the others had done the same.”
In reality, Rosberg had not stopped and the Mercedes crew’s presense in the pitbox was a sign of readiness in case Ferrari chose to stop, yet the red team had no intention of pitting Vettel, as revealed by Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene. “In the key moment of the race Inaki Rueda, our race strategist, told everybody to keep calm and stay out on track, while the Mercedes came in for fresh tyres.”
As far as the Scuderia were concerned, stopping would have done little to improve their situation – tyre wear was still solid, and although pressures were dropping behind the safety car, track position is king at Monaco.
Just prior to the safety car, Vettel was still lapping in the late 1’19s–early 1’20s range while in clear air, with Rosberg running to a similar pace. It is highly unlikely that fresh rubber would improve Vettel’s chances – something that Hamilton would later find out for himself.
Out front, Hamilton, was clearly enjoying himself and was stretching his gap to Rosberg by approximately half-a-second to one second per lap. The race had long since been bagged by the Englishman.
By the time the race had been neutralised on lap 64, Hamilton’s lead was a pretty 19.1s; however during the initial changeover from Virtual Safety Car to the actual safety car, that gap extended to 25.7s – and this is where Mercedes engaged a sort of fuzzy logic between the driver and pitwall.
Fearing dropping tyre pressures and under the assumption that Rosberg was stopping or had already stopped, it appears Hamilton triggered an impression that his tyres were badly degrading. According to Wolff, “There was the information that the temperatures dropped and that there was no grip any more on the prime tyres – the numbers just added up.”
Come the 65th tour, the leader had caught the safety car in the final sector, slowing significantly as he lined up behind Bernd Mayländer. In this short period, Hamilton lost twelve seconds to this field, with Wolff acknowedging that the lack of a GPS system around Monaco served to mask just how much time Hamilton had surrendered to the rest of the field.
“We’ll analyse and work out what went wrong, but we’ll do that collectively and try to improve for the future,” said Wolff. “We we’re in a situation of waging common sense against data. Common sense is okay, but it doesn’t win races in the long run. You have to rely on data – and now we have to find out why we got it wrong today.”
As Hamilton emerged out of the pitlane, Rosberg had long since gone through, while Vettel pipped the Mercedes man to the pitlane exit timing line by only a couple of metres. For all his pushing on supersofts in the later tours, Hamilton could not break through back into at least 2nd place and indeed had to fight a minor rearguard action from Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) too.
In all the noise, a mistake was made and contrary to popular opinion, these happen from time-to-time. For this one mistake, Mercedes have also taken twenty-one race wins, as well as a Drivers’ and Constructors’ title since the beginning of 2014 and they will win many more Grands Prix this year.
For now, the championship lead has had another chunk removed from it and the gap between Hamilton and Rosberg is just ten points. The biggest question is ‘will this galvanise Hamilton again or will Rosberg emerge stronger?’
Antonio Giovinazzi won the 74th Grand Prix de Pau today following a hectic battle with Jake Dennis that lasted much of the race.
Maximilian Günther achieved his first FIA European F3 podium; while van Amersfoort’s Charles Leclerc assumed his third top three finish with a drive to 3rd.
The win only came to Giovinazzi late on. Having started on new tyres, Giovinazzi chased polesitter Dennis closely for much of the race.
An early safety car period kept the field artificially close, but upon the lap five restart, the Briton seized control for much of the event. At the two-thirds mark, Dennis began to struggle with a damaged steering, offering the feisty Giovinazzi a golden opportunity – the Volkswagen-powered man was not about to let this slip.
Despite this, Dennis fought bravely and continued to manage the gap to Giovinazzi with each corner; however as the Italian pressed harder, Dennis’ problems became more and more apparent.
From lap 17, the gap shrank from 1.3s to just 0.2s with Giovinazzi forcing Dennis to defend harder. Amidst all this, Dennis’ laps times were beginning to struggle as his pace fell from the late 1’10s to the late 1’11s over the course of the next four laps and then down to 1’12”3s on lap 23.
Sensing the opportunity, Giovinazzi looked down the inside of the first bend, only to be denied. Thereafter, the Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer continued to push Dennis harder – dancing left and then right – until eventually Dennis ran out of luck and ran wide in the Descente Poeymirau, allowing Giovinazzi through into the lead.
Thereafter the 21-year-old pulled away from the increasingly struggling Dennis, with the Briton falling out of contention quickly as the end of the race neared. Running to the flag untroubled, Giovinazzi became the 10th Italian driver to win the prestigious event.
“Being able to win the Grand Prix de Pau, a race that so many great drivers such as Lewis Hamilton have won, is fantastic. Of course, I am happy that I have made it onto the podium again in the ninth race of the season,” said the delighted victor. He added, “The race wasn’t easy for me. After the start, I was second, but I didn’t want to take too many risks. After about 15 laps, I tried to put more pressure on Jake Dennis in front of me. When he had a technical problem, I overtook him and I was in the lead.”
Unfortunately for Dennis, the 19-year-old could only fall further backward as the race aged, but did so in dramatic fashion. With his times dropping to the 1’16s range, Günther and Leclerc were quickly on Dennis’ rear and were through on lap 24 to complete the podium.
It was another positive drive for Günther, who – after several close attempts – finally secured his maiden F3 podium, although Leclerc did not make it an easy ride. “I am really delighted with this 2nd place after having just missed out on a podium finish a couple of times already. My start was good and my speed was better than in the first two races here at Pau as well. This time, I was also able to control the gap to Charles, who was behind me.”
Following a good start, Leclerc clung the back of Günther and while it could be argued that the Mücke racer was slightly slower than Leclerc’s van Amersfoort entry, there was little the Monegasque Leclerc could do to force a path through to 2nd place. After the finish, Leclerc was rather resigned to the fact there was little else that he could have done to beat Günther. “First of all, I am happy that I didn’t lose any positions at the start for the first time this weekend. I tried to put Maximilian under pressure, but he drove a good race and didn’t give me any opportunity to overtake.”
Another big winner late on was Lance Stroll. After the safety car period, Stroll lost two positions in quick succession, falling to 10th; however the Canadian took Felix Rosenqvist on lap six and capitalised five laps to take Alessio Lorandi when Alexander Albon balked the Italian Lorandi.
Instantly Albon too fell buy the wayside, when it became clear his car had been damaged in the interchange, promoting Stroll to 6th. That became 5th place when Markus Pömmer was made to serve a drive through penalty for not lining up in his grid slot correctly.
Stroll would eventually climb to 4th when Dennis’ problems saw his fall through the field in the final two laps, with Dennis taking the finish in a disappointing 23rd place. “From the second lap, I had to deal with a steering issue which was caused by a damaged suspension, but it wasn’t that bad at first. I was still pulling away from Giovinazzi. Then after about 10 laps the car was undriveable but I managed to keep a half second gap. Eventually though, it wouldn’t turn left anymore. It is quite frustrating cause there was nothing I could do.”
In the shuffling of the order, Arjun Maini came home 5th – another good result for the Indian rookie. Maini was running 7th entering the final lap; however Lorandi was held up by the ailing Dennis, allowing Maini through to the top five.
Rosenqvist scored a 6th place finish, giving the Swede ten vital points in the championship, while Lorandi had to settle for 7th. George Russell battled hard against Sam MacLeod much of the running and would come home in 8th position. MacLeod received damage when he clattered Dennis on the final lap, promoting Mikkel Jensen and Santino Ferrucci to 9th and 10th respectively.
As expected at Pau, there was some chaos at the start when Kang Ling went over the top of Tatiana Calderon on the climb up to Pont Oscar, with Ling left stranded on the rear of Calderon as the came to a halt. It was a completely unnecessary incident that should have been avoided by Ling and yet another dent in what has been a difficult start to the year for Calderon.
This is a victory that allows Giovinazzi to extend his lead in the European Formula 3 Championship to 15 points over Leclerc. In two weeks time, the field visits a very different but equally historic venue, when they move to Monza for the 4th round of what has been an enthralling season thus far.
Jake Dennis claimed his 2nd FIA European F3 race win of the weekend at Pau, although chaos reigned behind him.
The Briton led for the duration, initially from Maximilian Günther and then later from eventual runner-up Charles Leclerc, but never looked challenged.
Antonio Giovinazzi completed the podium placing’s – his eight podium in a row.
Dennis made a very good start from pole, while Leclerc’s sluggish getaway allowed Günther through into 2nd.
The Briton would have little opportunity to escape from his pursuers though – the first safety car emerged on only lap two, when Matt Soloman clattered into the barriers at Pont Oscar.
From the third lap restart, Dennis immediately pulled a gap on Günther, eventually stretching it out to 3.5s by the fourteenth tour; this too came to nothing when Julio Moreno stopped on track causing another stoppage.
The delay was shortlived, with the restart coming on lap 17. This was Günther’s best opportunity – a great restart allowed him to hook onto the rear of Dennis; however when the move did not materialise, Leclerc attempted, unsuccessfully, to take 2nd spot in the Virage de la Gare. As the pair came out together, Giovinazzi saw a gap down the inside of Leclerc, but the Italian was unable to complete the move, ensuring Dennis escaped and that Günther continued to lead the 2nd place battle/
However this green flag stint lasted less than a lap when an overeager Alessio Lorandi attempted to dive down the inside of Michel Beretta in the hairpin, causing a third neutralisation.
This would prove crucial for Günther – in one sense, the Mücke racer was offered yet another opportunity to grab the lead from Dennis; however as the group were about to restart, Günther clipped the rear of the Prema Powerteam man, damaging his front wing in the process.
Restarting on lap nineteen, Dennis again pulled away from Günther, but Leclerc stuck to the rear of the German and forced a way by in the Curbe des Tribunes.
This additional delay for Günther opened the door for Giovinazzi, who dived down the inside of the Lycée hairpin, only for the pair to touch slightly as Günther could not defend any further. Giovinazzi escaped the incident without damage; however Günther stalled by the kerb, partially blocking the road.
Behind them, George Russell had almost completed a pass on Lance Stroll, but the pairing were squeezed into Brandon Maïsano when they came upon the stranded Günther. This caused a minor pile-up, which involved approximately a dozen cars forcing the stewards to bring out the red flag.
After a nine-minute delay, the race restarted with Dennis leading Leclerc and Giovinazzi; but there was nothing that either follower could do to displace the leader and even Giovinazzi fell away from Leclerc after a time.
For Dennis, this was not just a 2nd win of the season, but his 2nd win in Formula 3 as a whole. Now 4th in the standings, the British racer is in a great position to jump up to 3rd in the championship, should his run of form continue tomorrow.
Despite taking three points back off of Giovinazzi’s lead, Leclerc appeared disappointed. A difficult start cost the Monegasque racer a shot at the lead and placed him in 3rd place once for the second time today.
Although the van Amersfoort racer recovered the 2nd spot – unlike in today’s Race One – Leclerc is a young man looking for victories in order to grab the top spot in the championship.
Giovinazzi’s move on Günther solidified the Italian’s eighth podium from eight races, but crucially signposted his new found aggressiveness and confidence. Previous years may have seen the Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer either make rash decisions in the car, or spend too long hiding in traffic; however this year a far more mature Giovinazzi getting on with the job of winning or scoring big points.
The big surprise of the race came from Arjun Maini. The Indian rookie quietly went about his race and was sitting in a credible 5th, when the retired Günther gave him 4th.
Maini spent much of the event under the scrutiny of Felix Rosenqvist, who made moves from 8th and was running 6th, when he forced a way by Alexander Albon before Virage de la Gare on lap 21. Albon would then lose out to George Russell two laps from the end, demoting the Thai tracer to 7th place at the finish.
Markus Pommer ended the race in 8th having also been taken by Russell (lap 22). Sam MacLeod surprisingly scored his first points of the year when he came home 9th, while Lance Stroll followed the British racer home in 10th place – both MacLeod and Stroll lost out to Russell on the red flag restart.
Jake Dennis swept to a stellar first FIA European F3 race victory in style at Pau this morning.
In a race twice interrupted by the safety car, the Prema Powerteam driver led from the start, heading a close Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc for the duration.
Although Dennis’ lead was never more than 0.8s over Giovinazzi, the Briton rarely looked like losing this race, such was his prowess around the French streets, despite the 19-year-old claiming he was suffering from a car issue in early stages of the competition.
Yet at the same time, Dennis was never in a position to relax. If anything, this race was more about the top three drivers pushing hard for the fastest laps throughout – a accolade eventually claimed by Leclerc – with the trio settling into laps around the late 1’10s and early 1’11s for much of the running.
For each occasion the race was halted, Dennis did more than enough to gap to Giovinazzi when the race restarted and while the Italian regained the gap to Dennis, Giovinazzi was also watching his mirrors for the feisty Leclerc.
Indeed Dennis was most under threat from Leclerc at the start. Although a decent start, Dennis’ van Amersfoort rival enjoyed an even better getaway initially with Leclerc drawing close through Courbe des Tribunes; however Leclerc was forced to withdraw as the bend tightened up, allowing the super fast starting Giovinazzi through to take 2nd position prior to Virage de la Gare, after which Giovinazzi’s chase began.
Come 27 laps, Dennis claimed his first European Formula 3 victory and with an additional two pole positions in his pocket for Races 2 and 3, the Mercedes-powered man is in a good position to add to that tally this weekend.
Giovinazzi was a winner to a degree too. By taking Leclerc, the Italian extended his lead at the top of the championship standings to 8 points, with fellow contender Felix Rosenqvist falling off the radar somewhat thanks to a 13th place finish.
This race was no thriller by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a joy to watch three young drivers of quality pushing to the maximum within such tight confines.
Behind the leading trio, Maximilian Günther continues to showcase his talents with drive to 4th place, while holding Alexander Albon at bay, while Alessio Lorandi picked up his first points of the year with a drive to 6th.
Lorandi’s top six came after an incident with Callum Illot took the Red Bull driver out of contention. Mikkel Jensen claimed 7th ahead of George Russell, although Russell did his best to force his way around the Dane and almost lost a place to 9th place Lance Stroll as a result. Stroll initially followed Prema Powerteam teammate Brandon Maïsano, but took the Frenchman just prior to the second safety car period on lap 15 – the pair came home 9th and 10th.
Both safety car periods were caused by cars hitting barriers. The first was when the then 15th placed Dorian Boccolacci stopped after the Chicane du Croisement on lap 12. After a brief neutralisation, the race was live for less than a lap when Michele Beretta crashed under Pont Oscar on lap 15.
The timing of the first safety car period caused some confusion between Gustavo Menezes and Felix Rosenqvist, with the latter seemingly having believed he had passed Menezes before the yellow flags emerged. Rosenqvist was later ordered to give the position back, although it came to nothing when Menezes dropped down the order on the final lap anyway – however it is unlikely Rosenqvist will be in any way happy with 13th position when there is a title to fight for.
One of the more curious elements of motorsport is that, sometimes, the quickest driver is not necessarily the one who is flashiest on track.
Indeed, being smooth and calculating more often than not proves to be fastest way to transverse a circuit, as drivers maximise the limits of a layout without going overboard.
Or even without needing to go overboard.
Those in complete control of their machines rarely ever need to be flashy, or constantly on the ragged edge. The tales of drivers being the absolute fastest while throwing their car around violently are a sort of Hollywood invention.
All that serves to do is waste time and when the gaps in modern motorsport are so often covered by tenths, hundredths or even thousandths, it does little good to throw them away by being flashy.
It might look impressive on television, but it is less like to garner top results and impress those who need to be impressed.