Felix Rosenqvist may have won the final FIA European Formula 3 championship race of the season at Hockenheim, but it was Daniel Juncadella who took the real spoils.
The Spaniard came home 4th behind Rosenqvist and other podium visitors Pascal Wehrlein (2nd) and Alex Lynn (3rd) to take the FIA championship by 33.5 points from Raffaele Marciello.
Juncadella also claimed the Formula 3 Euro Series crown by 14 points from the persistent Wehrlein.
Out front, Rosenqvist initially led Juncadella from the start, although the Swede found it difficult to escape the clutches of his Prema Powerteam rival.
With gaps reading just under two seconds for the duration, Rosenqvist was certainly being pressed, yet at the same time, his lead was never under urgent threat during the first half dozen tours.
That changed when Wehrlein slipped by the nervous Juncadella, although it was eased thanks to an overly soft steering arm in the Spaniard’s championship winning machine.
Juncadella had a right to be nervous though. Following yesterday’s catastrophic engine failures (which were never pinpointed), the Prema Powerteam engineers changed virtually everything in Juncadella’s car.
Engine components, linkages, electronic connectors – and yes, the steering – were all changed overnight, but once something fails twice…
Meanwhile, a focussed Wehrlein reeled in Rosenqvist as the grip from the latter’s tyres began to peel away. From 1.9 seconds, the F3 rookie closed the gap to half-a-second, while dodging in the mirrors of the front-running Swede, but soon Wehrlein would also begin to struggle for precious grip.
As the final eight tours unravelled, the pace of the leading pair plateaued, ensuring Rosenqvist of his third win in four races. While Rosenqvist was happy to take the win, there was also a feeling of disappointment after dropping a large number of points mid-season.
Wehrlein ended the year as top rookie, but the 18-year-old felt a title had slipped through his fingers. That’s debateable – the German has been quick and consistent, but one can’t help but feel his ultimate speed has yet to develop.
Some drivers require that extra year to build on the foundations – a bit of time may yet still deliver a very different driver come October 2013.
The final third of the race also saw another bright young thing rise to the podium. Like Wehrlein’s earlier move, Lynn sauntered past Juncadella at the hairpin to assume 3rd as the Spaniard continued to hold onto his Mercedes-powered machine for dear life.
Lynn – who has impressed in British F3 this year – is looking to move to the European Championship next year (whatever that actually becomes) and even recently tested with the Prema Powerteam squad.
From here, Juncadella held station, despite the best intentions of Felix Serralles. As the final tours counted down, Serralles sought advantage, although the Puerto Rican was also wary of not disturbing the title fight.
Both of them saw of the intentions of Tom Blomqvist, who appeared threatening for much of the event, only to lose pace in the closing stages, eventually falling behind Sven Müller on lap 21.
Müller was in no position to challenge either Juncadella or Serralles, instead taking a solid ride to 6th place ahead of Blomqvist and Marciello.
This was not the weekend that Marciello wanted either, but the young Italian has displayed some very impressive traits this year and garnered enough experience and knowledge to challenge for the front in 2013.
The Italian was the victim of a first lap punt when William Buller momentarily lost control of his Carlin machine on the exit of turn one. Despite the significant whack, Marciello continued, but Buller – his suspension damaged – pitted and never rejoined.
Emil Bernstorff ran well to take 9th overall, just nine-tenths clear of Michael Lewis. Bernstorff’s run came with a touch of luck – the Englishman barrelled into the rear of Lucas Wolf on the fourth lap, which in turn flicked Wolf into the innocent Dennis van der Laar.
Both Wolf and van der Laar pitted and rejoined, although they would circulate a lap down on the rest of the runners.
Just outside the top ten was Carlos Sainz Jr, whose finally race was quite typical of this year – Euro Series debutante Lucas Auer punted him roughly at the first corner. Sainz continued, albeit delayed and eventually climbed from 17th to 11th; however Auer’s day was done on the spot.
Luis Sá Silva took 12th, with Jo Zeller Racing pair Andrea Roda and Sandro Zeller ending the day 13th and 14th respectively, while Wolf (15th) and van der Laar (16th) continued to tick timing beams.
Pipo Derani’s retired after eight laps due to a mechanical failure, while Felipe Nasr never started the race.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Merc 39m35.604s 2. Pascal Wehrlein Mucke Dallara-Merc + 1.325s 3. Alex Lynn Fortec Dallara-Merc + 6.457s 4. Daniel Juncadella Prema Dallara-Merc + 9.382s 5. Felix Serralles Fortec Dallara-Merc + 10.018s 6. Sven Muller Prema Dallara-Merc + 10.641s 7. Tom Blomqvist Ma-con Dallara-VW + 13.693s 8. Raffaelle Marciello Prema Dallara-Merc + 17.524s 9. Emil Bernstorff Ma-con Dallara-VW + 26.042s 10. Michael Lewis Prema Dallara-Merc + 26.933s 11. Carlos Sainz Jr Carlin Dallara-VW + 37.137s 12. Luis Sa Silva Angola Dallara-Merc + 52.530s 13. Andrea Roda Zeller Dallara-Merc + 54.425s 14. Sandro Zeller Zeller Dallara-Merc + 1m10.311s 15. Lucas Wolf URD Dallara-Merc + 1 lap 16. Dennis van de Laar Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW + 1 lap Retirements: Pipo Derani Fortec Dallara-Merc 11 laps Will Buller Carlin Dallara-VW 1 lap Lucas Auer Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW 0 laps Felipe Nasr Carlin Dallara-VW 0 laps
2012 FIA European F3 Championship (Final standings) Pos Driver Points 1. Daniel Juncadella 252 2. Raffaele Marciello 228.5 3. Felix Rosenqvist 192 5. Pascal Wehrlein 179 4. Carlos Sainz Jr 161 6. Will Buller 137 7. Tom Blomqvist 117 8. Sven Muller 109 9. Michael Lewis 101 10. Emil Bernstorff 66
2012 Formula 3 Euro Series (Final standings) Pos Driver Points 1. Daniel Juncadella 240 2. Pascal Wehrlein 226 3. Raffaele Marciello 219.5 4. Felix Rosenqvist 212.5 5. William Buller 182.5 6. Sven Muller 172 7. Tom Blomqvist 157.5 8. Michael Lewis 127 9. Carlos Sainz Jr 112 10. Emil Bernstorff 91