Raffaele Marciello won the final race of the FIA European Formula 3 championship in torrid conditions at Hockenheim.
The Italian led from start-to-finish in a race twice neutralised by the safety car, as puddles gathered at the famed German circuit.
Behind the victorious Marciello were series runner-up Felix Rosenqvist, while series rookie Lucas Auer completed the podium.
Such were conditions; the race was started behind the safety car with the field tiptoeing around the 2.84 mile track, although that did not stop backmarker Lucas Wolf from crashing out.
When the race did finally get going on lap four, the lead yo-yoed from 0.3-1.2s, as Rosenqvist closed up to the rear of Marciello, only to have to pull back as the spray from the Prema Powerteam’s tyres intensified.
It was only a brief period of green before the next safety car intrusion. Six laps in, Pipo Derani and Eddie Cheever collided in the hairpin, with the Brazilian Derani receiving front left damage.
Cheever, meanwhile, was spun around and appeared to stall for a moment, but kept the engine alive long enough to escape retirement. Elsewhere on track, Nicholas Latifi took rear end damage, dropping his rear wing on track and ending his race prematurely.
Things were slightly calmer upon the lap eight restart, although the leading battle continued with the gap growing and shrinking each time around, as noted by Rosenqvist: “The vision was difficult, especially when I got very close to him and then I lost a bit, because I couldn’t really see.”
Out front, Marciello was even having trouble on the straights, as water continued to gather within Hockenheim’s dips and creeks; however the 18-year-old took it in his stride, as he remembered the poor conditions that hampered the start of the season. “We adjusted. At the beginning of the year, it was wet, so I had some confidence, but today it was really, really wet and it was difficult to go flat in the straights.”
The Prema racer was also good enough to admit that being out front helped his cause considerably. “There was a lot of rain on the track through the race and it was difficult to control the car. I was lucky, because there was no traffic in front of me. It was nearly undrivable and it was easy to make a mistake,” said Marciello, before adding, “It is nice to have won the championship and take this victory.”
The Swedish Rosenqvist thought for a moment that race might be stopped early, but in the end, it mattered little. Despite the conditions, Marciello confident had more than enough in hand to stay out front and win, although Rosenqvist made his presence felt, as he closed to just 0.2s of the Italian at the finish line.
It marked a solid finish to a good year for Rosenqvist, who takes 2nd in the championship. “It was like that for the whole race and in the middle of the race when it started to rain more, it made me think that they would stop [the race], because even in the straights it was hard to go flat.”
Rosenqvist concluded, “I think it was a nice way to end the season. It was a shame that we had to start behind the safety car, because I wanted to take him at the start, but it was a good battle until the last lap and I am quite happy with my race.”
Auer took his ninth podium of the season and his second of the weekend, although the Austrian racer was certainly given a helping hand when Carlin’s Harry Tincknell ran wide and off track at the Stadium entry on lap 12.
The young Prema racer was pleased with his efforts today: “It was a really good race and a good battle with Tincknell. At the end, he made a little mistake and he went off – after that I could see something, which was quite good.”
Tincknell’s error also promoted EuroInternational’s Tom Blomqvist to 4th place – a tidy reward for the Red Bull junior driver, after he had also battled passed Antonio Giovinazzi (lap 4), before entering into a lengthy battle with Nick Cassidy.
Blomqvist took Cassidy for 6th just before the second safety car emerged and was helped further when Jordan King spun on lap nine. Tincknell’s minor off was the icing on the cake for Blomqvist who has endured a tough second half of the season.
Giovinazzi claimed 6th place – his best finish of the season – when Cassidy’s pace trailed off in the second half of the race. In what has been his best weekend of the season, the Italian has looked confident and somewhat more mature, especially alongside his Double R teammates Sean Gelael and Tatiana Calderon.
Sven Muller took more points for 7th ahead of Alex Lynn – the latter of whom fought bravely from 20th on the grid. King’s spin dropped him down to 13th place; however the British F3 champion made hay in the final laps, as he climbed his way back up to 9th place.
King’s last scalp was Michael Lewis, whom he passed on lap 14, dropping the American to 10th place.