Esteban Ocon claimed his first international Formula 3 victory at Silverstone today; in what was only his fourth ever race in the category.
The French youngster showed his class with a fabulous start, destroying the field in the opening few laps, ahead of fellow podium sitters Nicholas Latifi and Antonio Fuoco.
Indeed so good was Ocon’s opening few tours that the Frenchman pulled a clear three seconds clear in the first half-dozen circulations. From there, Ocon managed the race with ease, maintaining his Hankook tyres, while keeping Latifi at a reasonably safe distance.
Once the gap between Ocon and the chasing Latifi had grown to three seconds, the leading Prema Powerteam racer held steady, eventually winning by 3.8s after 18 laps. “I am really delighted,” exclaimed the first-time winner. “In this race, my start was better than in the first one and I managed to hold on to first place. Initially, I tried to pull a gap. Later, my goal was to save the tyres, to drive consistent lap times and to bring victory home safely.”
Latifi charged home to his first podium in the European Championship, while Fuoco – a further 1.5s in arrears – made it three Prema Powerteam entries in the top three. While lamenting the early gap to Ocon, the Canadian Latifi was delighted with his podium success. “My second place is making my very happy. In the early stages of the race, Esteban was faster, which was his great advantage later on. He was able to benefit from his margin in the second half of the race and turned it into victory.”
Like Ocon, Fuoco also made a good start; in this instance passing race one victor Tom Blomqvist on the approach into turn one. “I am very happy for being on the podium for the first time after my second race in Formula 3 already. My start was really good, I managed to overtake Tom Blomqvist right away and I came 3rd.”
For a brief period, the Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer kept close to the rear of Fuoco; however Blomqvist would fall back after a time, bringing the Anglo-Kiwi racer toward the clutches of the chasing Jordan King and Max Verstappen.
Starting back in 7th, King made another good launch off the line, jumping both Verstappen and Jones in one swoop, before laying pressure into Blomqvist come the seventh tour. With King under the rear wing of Blomqvist, Verstappen drew into the battle, as the trio pressurised each other into an error.
Alas, it would come from King on lap 16 – an attempted move on Blomqvist, saw the Carlin man momentarily fall off the circuit at Maggots, gifting 5th to Verstappen; however the Dutch rookie would not have enough time to steal 4th from Blomqvist.
Jones enjoyed a quiet race to 7th spot, although it is less likely that Antonio Giovinazzi and Dennis van de Laar could lay to such a claim.
Both Giovinazzi and van de Laar battled for much of the running, starting with Giovinazzi slipping by into 8th on lap two. From there, the pair were rarely split by more than one second, yet van de Laar was unable to make up the deficit.
John Bryant-Meisner held off a late charge from Felipe Guimaraes to collect the final point for 10th position. Where Bryant-Meisner rose one spot to 10th off the line, Guimaraes’ climb was more than impressive.
From 17th, the Brazilian had taken three drivers on lap one, before sweeping by Gustavo Menezes (lap 1), the mechanically disabled Felix Rosenqvist (lap 2) and Lucas Auer (lap 6).
The race was not without its clumsiness. Lower down the order on lap three, Roy Nissany ran off track exiting Stowe, allowing Spike Goddard an opportunity to pass for position. Unfortunately Nissany disagreed with this notion, deciding instead to punt Goddard into a spin, with the latter retiring on the spot.
Hector Hurst too had an off, with the Team West-Tec driver clouting barriers close to the end.
2014 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 1, Race 2, Silverstone) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Esteban Ocon Prema Dallara-Mercedes 33m53.215s 2. Nicholas Latifi Prema Dallara-Mercedes +3.678s 3. Antonio Fuoco Prema Dallara-Mercedes +5.148s 4. Tom Blomqvist Carlin Dallara-VW +9.264s 5. Max Verstappen Van Amersfoot Dallara-VW +11.237s 6. Jordan King Carlin Dallara-VW +11.914s 7. Ed Jones Carlin Dallara-VW +19.293s 8. Antonio Giovinazzi Carlin Dallara-VW +20.649s 9. Dennis van de Laar Prema Dallara-Mercedes +21.877s 10. John Bryant-Meisner Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +23.533s 11. Felipe Guimares Double R Dallara-Mercedes +24.078s 12. Lucas Auer Mucke Dallara-Mercedes +24.548s 13. Gustavo Menezes Van Amersfoot Dallara-VW +30.106s 14. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Mercedes +31.293s 15. Felix Serralles West-Tec Dallara Mercedes +32.009s 16. Mitch Gilbert Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +32.766s 17. Jake Dennis Carlin Dallara-VW +33.362s 18. Alexander Toril T-Sport Dallara-NBE +40.060s 19. Tatiana Calderon Jo Zeller Dallara-Mercedes +46.004s 20. Sean Gelael Carlin Dallara-VW +48.528s 21. Michele Beretta EuroInternational Dallara-Mercedes +49.158s 22. Roy Nissany Mucke Dallara-Mercedes +1m01.985s 23. Riccardo Agostini EuroInternational Dallara-Mercedes +1m02.208s 24. Jules Szymkowiak Van Amersfoot Dallara-VW +1m03.172s Retirements: Hector Hurst West-Tec Dallara Mercedes +3 laps Spike Goddard T-Sport Dallara-NBE +16 laps