Carlin’s Tom Blomqvist grabbed the opening race of the FIA European F3 Championship season this morning.
It was also the first international F3 victory that the Cambridge-born racer has taken since his graduation to the category in 2012.
Blomqvist ended the race with a 2.1s advantage over the battling Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam), while the fast starting Jordan King (Carlin) and Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) finished close behind.
The 20-year-old Blomqvist enjoyed a strong start from the line and immediately drew a solid lead over the Ocon / King pairing. “Of course, I am delighted with this victory,” said the Carlin man. “I intended to make a good start and pull a gap during the first few laps. I succeeded very well.”
However the gap would be annulled come the third lap, when the clashed, broken and stricken Michele Beretta and Alexander Toril proved extremely difficult for the marshal’s to safely move.
Following the green flag on lap seven, Blomqvist pulled to over one second clear of Ocon, who was in turn fighting off the intentions of King.
Where Blomqvist routinely pumped in consistent laps, securing the life of his Hankook tyres in the process, Ocon proved unable to challenge as he resisted pressure from behind. According to the Frenchman: “My re-start after the safety car went pretty well, but then, I was too closely behind Tom Blomqvist and Jordan King was able to overtake me. Fortunately, I managed to counter successfully a few metres later. After that, I consistently drove my laps until the finish.”
From there, Blomqvist gently pulled away as each tour ticked over, with the Anglo-Kiwi extending the lead to 2.3s come the thirteenth tours, but there really was no need to push any harder than that. Continuing, the race winner noted: “After I had built a little advantage, I was able to control the race until the end. I am very happy with such a start into the season.”
King’s presence faded somewhat as the race aged, bringing the Briton back toward Fuoco and giving Ocon the freedom to claim the runner-up spot. For a time, Fuoco began to threaten King, but the Italian youngster had left it too late make any real difference to the order.
With the podium secured, King commented: “My start and the first few metres were very good. I immediately made up two places and I gained another one in the third corner. At the re-start I even was past Esteban Ocon for a while, but I wasn’t able to hold on to second place for very long. I am still happy with third place, but I would have been slightly happier with second.”
Beyond the top four, Lucas Auer (Mücke) drove an impressive and aggressive race to climb to 5th after starting in 10th place. The Austrian claimed four places off the start as the field bled through the opening turns; however Auer really made his mark just after the restart, when he won a four corner battle with Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam) that saw the pairing swap places and run side-by-side from the Village through to Brooklands.
Latifi would continue through to 6th place, ahead of Felix Serralles (Team West-Tec), who lost several places off the start. From the third row, Ed Jones lost one place at lights out, only to lose another when the recovering Serralles took 7th from him on lap 7.
Felix Rosenqvist made something of the weekend, by climbing the order to 9th. Starting mid-pack, the Swede made an emphatic start, jumping to 10th, before passing Felipe Guimaraes on the 10th lap, solidifying the top ten.
Spike Goddard won an intense battle for 14th in the final laps, beating Sean Gelael, Gustavo Menezes, Jake Dennis, John Bryant-Meisner and Jules Szymkowiak to the flag, although both Goddard and Dennis were hampered by broken front wings on the opening lap.
Max Verstappen retired with damaged after the opening lap. The Dutch racer appeared to lose out in a tussle when his Van Amersfoort machine bogged down off the line.
FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 1, Race 1, April 19th) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Tom Blomqvist Carlin Dallara-VW 36m31.379s 2. Esteban Ocon Prema Dallara-Mercedes +0.490s 3. Jordan King Carlin Dallara-VW +1.361s 4. Antonio Fuoco Prema Dallara-Mercedes +1.661s 5. Lucas Auer Mucke Dallara-Mercedes +2.849s 6. Nicholas Latifi Prema Dallara-Mercedes +3.328s 7. Felix Serralles West-Tec Dallara Mercedes +4.238s 8. Ed Jones Carlin Dallara-VW +4.347s 9. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Mercedes +5.214s 10. Felipe Guimares Double R Dallara-Mercedes +5.490s 11. Dennis van de Laar Prema Dallara-Mercedes +6.885s 12. Antonio Giovinazzi Carlin Dallara-VW +6.885s 13. Mitch Gilbert Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +7.411s 14. Spike Goddard T-Sport Dallara-NBE +7.726s 15. Sean Gelael Carlin Dallara-VW +8.235s 16. Gustavo Menezes Van Amersfoot Dallara-VW +8.381s 17. Jake Dennis Carlin Dallara-VW +8.753s 18. John Bryant-Meisner Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +9.229s 19. Jules Szymkowiak Van Amersfoot Dallara-VW +12.309s 20. Roy Nissany Mucke Dallara-Mercedes +12.521s 21. Riccardo Agostini EuroInternational Dallara-Mercedes +1 lap 22. Hector Hurst West-Tec Dallara Mercedes +1 lap 23. Tatiana Calderon Jo Zeller Dallara-Mercedes +1 lap Retirements: Max Verstappen Van Amersfoot Dallara-VW +17 laps Alexander Toril T-Sport Dallara-NBE +18 laps Michele Beretta EuroInternational Dallara-Mercedes +18 laps