Felix Rosenqvist triumphed in the opening FIA European Formula 3 Championship race of the weekend at Hockenheim to keep his title hunt alive.
The Swede made a masterful start to jump ahead of key rival Raffaele Marciello prior to the opening corner, going on to gently extend his gap to 5.9s at the chequered flag.
The Mücke race had no choice but to win to keep the championship alive and his good start and run to the flag has brought the gap to Marciello down to 38.5 points ahead of this afternoon’s race. “I tried to make as good a start as possible; [Marciello] made a good start as well, but I was able to beat him to turn one.”
For a few brief period, Rosenqvist had hoped Marciello’s start was much worse than it was; however the team extinguished such hopes. “At the start, it looked like he was battling with others – I thought it might have been Lynn [in 2nd], but heard on the radio that it was Marciello,” commented the 21-year-old, before adding, “Disappointed by that, but I’m happy about my performance.”
Rosenqvist held a narrow lead through the opening few tours – the somewhat cool morning weather ensured the Hankook tyres took a touch longer to pick up temperature around the seventeen-turn Hockenheim course.
There were threats too from the stewards, who were kept busy during the race by drivers taking advantage of the turn one kerbs, including the two title rivals; however beyond a single warning, neither driver faced serious sanction. “When on the limit, you have to push a bit, but in the beginning, I had a bit of understeer, because the tyres were cold and it’s quite hard to get around turn one without using too much,” said Rosenqvist.
Initially, Rosenqvist worried Marciello may grab an advantage in Hockenheim’s lengthy bends, but the Italian wasn’t convinced he could take the Mücke man on sheer pace alone. “[Rosenqvist] was fast in the first ten laps, but [after that] it was the same. We lost a lot of time in the first laps.”
With the first dozen laps in the books, Rosenqvist had built a gap of 3.8s, but from there, growth slowed as Rosenqvist drew out just 1.4s over Marciello come the end of the penultimate tour. The Italian driver explains further: “It was quite boring. Felix was really fast compared to me; he did a really good start. I just needed to finish 2nd and that’s good for the championship, so it’s important to make points and not make stupid moves.”
While it may not make for the most enticing of contest’s on screen, Marciello’s race to solid points puts on display some of the maturity gained by the 18-year-old.
While Rosenqvist and Marciello massaged their top two positions, Sven Muller secured his first podium finish of the season and Van Amersfoort’s first ever podium in European F3 competition.
Muller made a solid start – jumping from 6th to 5th – and spent the opening portion of the race lingering behind Harry Tincknell (Carlin) and Alex Lynn (Prema Powerteam), until an over eager move by Lynn into and out of the hairpin on lap seven took both briefly off track.
According to Muller: “They were really close and I thought it cannot be too long. I was patient and then I saw them touch and go off – I was sure that they would touch each other, so I stayed behind.”
For a moment, Muller jumped both, only for Tincknell to retaliate and attempt to re-pass in the Arena section, only to run wide, solidifying Muller’s 3rd place. “My pace was really good; the car was better than in qualifying. The team did a really good job,” said the Van Amersfoort man.
He added: “My start was really good – I was 6th and before the hairpin, I was P5. This is my first podium of the year and this was my goal – maybe this afternoon, I can go higher on the podium.”
In the melee, Antonio Giovinazzi and Dennis van de Laar also got involved in the battle for what was now 4th place, with Lynn emerging at the head of the group in front of Giovinazzi, Tincknell and Muller.
Within a lap, Giovinazzi had pitted, bringing Tincknell back up to 5th, while Jordan King and Pipo Derani emerged to steal 6th from Van de Laar. Muller would eventually finish down in 8th (only seven-tenths behind Derani, who had started 13th!) – a poor reward for what was looking like a positive result only a few laps earlier.
Eddie Cheever took 9th, despite a poor start. A move on Felix Serralles – aided by the pitting Kevin Korjus and Giovinazzi – brought Cheever back into the points, where he finished ahead of EuroInternational’s Tom Blomqvist.
GP2 Series racer Stefano Coletti endured a horror race. A collision with the lapped Lucas Auer on lap ten broke the Monegasque racer’s nosecone, before he received a drive through penalty for exceeding the track limits repeatedly.
2013 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 10, Race 1; 22 laps) Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Mercedes 34m42.654s 2. Raffaele Marciello Prema Dallara-Mercedes +5.940s 3. Sven Muller Van Amersfoot Dallara-VW +10.813s 4. Alex Lynn Prema Dallara-Mercedes +14.396s 5. Harry Tincknell Carlin Dallara-VW +17.373s 6. Jordan King Carlin Dallara-VW +18.565s 7. Pipo Derani Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +22.014s 8. Dennis van de Laar Van Amersfoot Dallara-VW +22.728s 9. Eddie Cheever Prema Dallara-Mercedes +25.311s 10. Tom Blomqvist Eurointernational Dallara-M/cedes +26.436s 11. Felix Serralles Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +28.602s 12. Nicholas Latifi Carlin Dallara-VW +30.010s 13. John Bryant-Meisne Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +30.655s 14. Mitchell Gilbert Mucke Dallara-Mercedes +33.941s 15. Michael Lewis Mucke Dallara-Mercedes +34.554s 16. Jann Mardenborough Carlin Dallara-VW +41.522s 17. Antonio Giovinazzi Double R Dallara-Mercedes +43.424s 18. Roy Nissany Mucke Dallara-Mercedes +47.126s 19. Lucas Wolf URD Dallara-Mercedes +51.318s 20. Andre Rudersdorf Ma-con Dallara-VW +52.025s 21. Tatiana Calderon Double R Dallara-Mercedes +54.500s 22. Spike Goddard T-Sport Dallara-Nissan +59.995s 23. Sandro Zeller Zeller Dallara-Mercedes +1:02.335s 24. Nick Cassidy Carlin Dallara-VW +1m10.780s 25. Sean Gelael Double R Dallara-Mercedes +1m22.496s 26. Lucas Auer Prema Dallara-Mercedes +1 lap Retirements: Stefano Coletti Ma-con Dallara-VW +5 laps Kevin Korjus T-Sport Dallara-Nissan +20 laps