Prema Powerteam’s Raffaele Marciello took first blood at Monza today with a dominant performance at the opening round of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship.
Racing at his home circuit, the Italian launched from 3rd on the grid to force his way into the lead prior to the Rettifilo chicane on the opening lap, ahead of the sluggish starting Mücke Motorsport’s Pascal Wehrlein.
From there, Marciello held the lead with relative ease, edging ahead ever so slightly, garnering a two second gap by the end of the tenth lap.
And the margins the race leader gained were small. Every tour saw the gap stretch by a tenth here and a tenth there; Marciello in control all the time. When Wehrlein was quicker, it would invariably only be by a hundredth or a thousandth…
When one hears Marciello speak, it is clear that his English is still relatively weak, but no language barrier was ever going to hide his obvious joy. “It started very well – I got one second on the 2nd car and this was good because of the a difficult slipstream.”
Beaming still, Marciello noted “the car was fantastic. It’s great because it is my home race and it’s my second year here [in F3], so I want a good year and this way is very great.”
Lucas Auer (Prema) also headed Wehrlein briefly through the opening turns, only to lose the spot exiting Curva Grande, but Auer – nephew of Gerhard Berger – closed back to Wehrlein, eventually taking his Mücke rival on the tenth tour.
Pressing Wehrlein over the course of several laps, Auer eventually drove around the outside of the DTM-bound racer; however the 18-year-old was keen to press that it did not feel like the most spectacular of overtakes, even if it did look somewhat special on screen.
Reflecting on the move Auer commented, “We had a great car in qualifying and a couple of laps I had a bit more pace than Pascal and I had a good slipstream and I could make an east overtake – it wasn’t anything special.”
The disappointed Wehrlein concurred. “The Prema cars were very good and it was really hard to follow them and after ten laps, I had some problems and had to let Lucas pass, because I thought maybe I could follow them and in the end overtake.”
Despite the small gap to the leader, Auer quickly understood that catching Marciello would be a quite different story. “There was a guy who got lapped – that was a big help for Raffaele, so he also had a slipstream and then three laps to go Pascal made a little mistake, which was good for me to drive home.”
Wehrlein’s mistake – on lap 16 – came as the German began to push once again, only this time, the 18-year-old drove the car beyond its means. He was lucky to emerge unscathed, “I didn’t want to lose a lot of time, because the 4th place [driver] would also catch. It was a very hard race and in the end, I did a little mistake, but it was still OK. We have to improve a bit, because it was really hard to follow them in slipstream.”
Will Buller also enjoyed a commanded a strong drive, with the Northern Irishman rising from 12th on the to finish 4th. The T-Sport racer made a solid start, jumping to 8th in the opening lap and then taking Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke) and Dennis van der Laar (van Amersfoort) on the second tour.
Buller made that 5th four laps with a keen move down the inside of Parabolica (!) on the grip-less Blomqvist (EuroInternational), before pressing passed Carlin’s Harry Tincknell ten tours later.
While happy with the result, Buller knows there is still plenty to do. “We had a bad qualifying – made some improvements overnight; the tyres and the track temperature caught us out a bit yesterday, but the main thing was we improved and I think we’re still not there yet. There’s definitely room for improvement.”
Along with his teammate, the T-Sport racer is the only Nissan-powered racer in the field full of Volkswagens and Mercedes units, but the 20-year-old is confident that it makes little different. “I think all the engines are quite similar, because we have had them for this long. The Nissan is strong – in qualifying, we were in it without a tow and were a couple of tenths off, so I’m happy with the Nissan.”
While Buller and Tincknell fought it out, Blomqvist fell toward the recovering Rosenqvist, who was also keeping Felix Serralles (Fortec), Jordan Kind (Carlin) and Lucas Wolf (URD) in check.
The quintet drew together occasionally, but the fight was mostly between Blomqvist and Rosenqvist; however it would come to nought for both at the halfway point. Drafting by Blomqvist after six laps, the Mücke runner defended vigourously against his rival, who continued to threaten.
They came together on lap ten when Blomqvist went long into the Rettifilo, clipping Rosenqvist, sending him into a spin. His engine dead, Rosenqvist was left beached, his race over. “From what I heard, he was just behind me and ran into me,” said the downbeat Swede. “We had a battle on the straight and I went to the right, he stayed on the left and I braked and I think he was just behind me and couldn’t stop quick enough and he went into me. It’s quite sad and a waste of good points.”
Naturally, Blomqvist saw it slightly differently. “I was a bit closer to him and got the tow, but we had two cars behind, so my intentions were to work with him and get on with it, because the pace was getting better and it looked like we were slowly catching the guys in front.”
Elaborating, Blomqvist said, “I just wanted to keep going, but he pulled to the inside and went back under braking to the outside, I couldn’t slow down and he stopped on the corner. I gave him the smallest nudge, but the angle was enough to ease someone around – there’s no damage on either of the cars.”
Regardless of their respective situations, it was a disappointing end to the day for both. Rosenqvist mulled over lost points, noting, “In the beginning, [the car] was really good – I really felt like I had some pace, but then I had a battle with Tom, so I lost some time to guys in front and in the middle it seemed like Tom was getting quicker than me. It’s always hard at the first race – you never quite know the tyre pressures and how they will work. The start was good – I managed to go from 11th to 6th on the first lap with a really aggressive approach.”
Blomqvist thoughts drifted along the similar paths. “I really struggled at the beginning and couldn’t get any grip out of the car, especially at the front. I was losing so much through the two Lesmo’s and just lost a tow pretty straight away, because I had no grip there. That’s was just a bit frustrating.”
In a light Kiwi-drawl, he continued, “I was trying to focus on the exits when I had someone behind, but it was slowly getting better and better, but I had so much understeer that I was losing time though there. We need to have a think, because it is the same characteristics I was struggling with for a while. We need to get to the bottom of it. It’s a long championship, but not an ideal way to start”
The race was characterised by some stunning action in the midpack as cars shuffled amongst eachother in a desperate fight for position.
As one might expect, there were occasional collisions with drivers using opponents for physical buffers – a strategy that rarely delivered good results. The main site of contention came toward the end of the race when Lucas Wolf, Jann Mardenborough and Mitch Gilbert all squeezed into eachother exiting the Rettifilo.
The clash spun clumsily Wolf into the Armco, while Gilbert slid out with a puncture and damaged wheel at the Roggia chicane. Mardenborough continued only slightly further than Gilbert, as his Carlin began to shed numerous parts.
It was not a good start for Fortec, as Josh Hill misjudged a gap on the opening lap, crashing into the rear of Mucke’s Roy Nissany, taking the latter out. Hill pitted for a new wing, but finished one lap adrift.
2013 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 1, Race 1) Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Raffaele Marciello Prema Dallara-Merc 33m27.878s 2. Lucas Auer Prema Dallara-Merc + 2.079s 3. Pascal Wehrlein Mucke Dallara-Merc + 5.200s 4. Will Buller T-Sport Dallara-Nissan + 13.956s 5. Harry Tincknell Carlin Dallara-VW + 15.855s 6. Felix Serralles Fortec Dallara-Merc + 23.933s 7. Jordan King Carlin Dallara-VW + 24.316s 8. Alex Lynn Prema Dallara-Merc + 27.867s 9. Dennis van de Laar Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW + 34.768s 10. Eddie Cheever Prema Dallara-Merc + 35.304s 11. Pipo Derani Fortec Dallara-Merc + 36.399s 12. Sven Muller Ma-con Dallara-VW + 45.153s 13. Tom Blomqvist Eurointernational Dallara-Merc + 55.303s 14. Sean Gelael Double R Dallara-Merc + 56.183s 15. Spike Goddard T-Sport Dallara-Nissan + 56.694s 16. Nicholas Latifi Carlin Dallara-VW + 57.796s 17. Dmitry Suranovic Fortec Dallara-Merc + 59.794s 18. Sandro Zeller Zeller Dallara-Merc + 1m00.737s 19. Tatiana Calderon Double R Dallara-Merc + 1m04.155s 20. Andre Rudersdorf Ma-con Dallara-VW + 1m31.679s 21. Michela Cerruti Ferraris Dallara-Merc + 1m33.147s 22. Antonio Giovinazzi Double R Dallara-Merc + 1 lap 23. Josh Hill Fortec Dallara-Merc + 1 lap 24. Gary Thompson Ferraris Dallara-Merc + 1 lap Retirements: Mitchell Gilbert Mucke Dallara-Merc 16 laps Jann Mardenborough Carlin Dallara-VW 16 laps Lucas Wolf URD Dallara-Merc 16 laps Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Merc 10 laps Roy Nissany Mucke Dallara-Merc 0 laps Mans Grenhagen Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW 0 laps
2013 FIA European F3 championship (Rd 1, Race 1) Pos Driver Points 1. Raffaele Marciello Prema Dallara-Merc 25 2. Lucas Auer Prema Dallara-Merc 18 3. Pascal Wehrlein Mucke Dallara-Merc 15 4. Will Buller T-Sport Dallara-Nissan 12 5. Harry Tincknell Carlin Dallara-VW 10 6. Felix Serralles Fortec Dallara-Merc 8 7. Jordan King Carlin Dallara-VW 6 8. Alex Lynn Prema Dallara-Merc 4 9. Dennis van de Laar Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW 2 10. Eddie Cheever Prema Dallara-Merc 1