Antonio Fuoco claimed his first FIA European Formula 3 Championship victory at a cold and windy Silverstone this morning.
The Italian teenager fronted an all-rookie podium; alongside runner-up Max Verstappen and 3rd place man Esteban Ocon.
Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) jumped teammate and poleman Ocon off the line and led a close gaggle of four cars through the Village-Abbey-Arena section.
As the quartet poured onto the Wellington straight, taking care not to collide, Fuoco filtered into the lead ahead of Ocon, who led Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam Carlin), who led Verstappen (van Amersfoort).
For a time Ocon pressed Fuoco; however the new leading man – with two new tyres – held sway, while Ocon – on used Hankook rubber – began to struggle as the race aged somewhat.
Blomqvist too was beginning to lose precious grip in the early stages, allowing Verstappen to pass into the Loop, but the feisty Blomqvist fought back briefly, only for Verstappen to solidify the position shortly thereafter.
The move was investigated for a time following suspicions that it had been completed under yellow flags; however the race stewards would conclude that it was a clean move.
Verstappen’s move for 3rd cemented one segment of the race. Seeing 2nd place just ahead, the Dutch racer zeroed in on Ocon, allowing Fuoco more freedom to drive away in the lead.
As Ocon mirrors and concentration began to fill with Dutch youth, Fuoco drew away, eventually building a lead on 4.7s come the chequered flag. This would be Fuoco’s first Formula 3 victory and it was done in style. “My race start was fantastic,” said the victor. “I managed to overtake Esteban right away. I believe that was the key to success. This was my first weekend in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and I am really delighted that I can already celebrate my first win.”
Behind Fuoco, the slowing Ocon held Verstappen at bay – for a time – but the move was inevitable. The decisive move came on lap 11, when Verstappen played a dummy on Ocon through Abbey, before diving inside for the runner-up spot. Ocon played aggressive for a few corners in an effort to retake his position, but Verstappen had sealed the deal.
The Dutch racer commented that: “I made a good start and I was able to battle for the top positions right away. Towards the middle of the race, my tyres started to degrade but I still maintained a good pace.”
With the two positions escaping, Ocon held his final podium place with little threat from behind, ensuring the rookie maintained the points lead prior to the next round at the Hockenheimring. For Ocon, the race was a mixture of positive and negative elements. “Antonio’s start was better than mine so that allowed him to overtake me for the lead. In the first two laps, I was faster, but I couldn’t overtake him. Perhaps, I was running too closely behind him at that time and ruined my front tyres while doing so.”
Nicholas Latifi made it three Prema Powerteam entries in the top four, following a long and forceful battle with Blomqvist. The Canadian lost his 4th place off the start, but pushed the Carlin man for several laps; a battle that saw the pair swap position twice during the fifth lap.
Latifi would finally complete the job on lap nine, when he made a stellar pass around the outside of Blomqvist in Copse.
The slowing Blomqvist would lose out further still when teammate Antonio Giovinazzi passed for 5th on lap 14. Admittedly, it was the end of an intriguing journey for Giovinazzi, who fell from 6th to 11th at the start, before passing Jordan King and John Bryant-Meisner (both lap 2), Felix Rosenqvist (lap 9) and Lucas Auer on lap 11.
The spinning Ed Jones gave Giovinazzi another position – also on lap 11 – bringing the Italian to the rear of the struggling Blomqvist.
For Blomqvist, 6th would be the best he could muster, although had there been another lap, he may have fallen behind the recovering Rosenqvist.
It had been a disastrous weekend for the Mücke team. Mechanical and set-up issues had left the German squad struggling and it saw Rosenqvist’s title challenge stutter badly at the first hurdle – again.
The Swede had made a good start. From the seventh row, Rosenqvist had jumped to 9th on the opening tour and was 8th a circulation later, although he would lose two places at the halfway point. Jones’ spin and difficulties for Auer and King brought Rosenqvist up to 7th, but that was the best he could manage following a frustrating weekend.
A disappointed Rosenqvist later noted: “We were a little bit stronger after making some set-up changes for the final race, but we still obviously can’t be happy. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we need to improve the situation quickly, but I’m confident we’ll be able to fight back. It’s still very early days in the season and we’ll do absolutely everything to turn this around sooner rather than later.”
Auer would claim 8th on the final lap, when he passed the damaged King; the latter having partially broken his front wing a few laps previously. Indeed despite the removal of front end grip, King held on remarkably well irrespective of the pressure coming from behind.
Felix Serralles could not pass King and thus settled for 10th and the final point. It marks a positive result for the Puerto Rican, who started on the eighth row and passed Bryant-Meisner and Dennis van de Laar on his way to the top ten.
2014 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 1, Race 3, Silverstone) Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Antonio Fuoco Prema Dallara-Merc 34m13.614s 2. Max Verstappen Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW +4.731s 3. Esteban Ocon Prema Dallara-Merc +9.325s 4. Nicholas Latifi Prema Dallara-Merc +17.322s 5. Antonio Giovinazzi Carlin Dallara-VW +21.667s 6. Tom Blomqvist Carlin Dallara-VW +25.945s 7. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Merc +26.266s 8. Lucas Auer Mucke Dallara-Merc +32.033s 9. Jordan King Carlin Dallara-VW +33.437s 10. Felix Serralles West-Tec Dallara-Merc +33.814s 11. John Bryant-Meisner Fortec Dallara-Merc +34.027s 12. Dennis van de Laar Prema Dallara-Merc +34.448s 13. Hector Hurst West-Tec Dallara-Merc +35.474s 14. Alexander Toril T-Sport Dallara-NBE +35.792s 15. Ed Jones Carlin Dallara-VW +38.021s 16. Roy Nissany Mucke Dallara-Merc +39.821s 17. Michele Beretta Eurointernational Dallara-Merc +42.527s 18. Gustavo Menezes Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW +43.205s 19. Tatiana Calderon Jo Zeller Dallara-Merc +45.972s 20. Jules Szymkowiak Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW +48.697s 21. Spike Goddard T-Sport Dallara-NBE +1m16.767s Retirements: Riccardo Agostini Eurointernational Dallara-Merc 16 laps Sean Gelael Carlin Dallara-VW 15 laps Mitchell Gilbert Fortec Dallara-Merc 1 lap Jake Dennis Carlin Dallara-VW 0 laps Felipe Guimaraes Double R Dallara-Merc 0 laps
2014 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 1) Drivers' Championship (Pts) 1. Esteban Ocon 58 2. Antonio Fuoco 52 3. Tom Blomqvist 43 4. Nicholas Latifi 38 5. Max Verstappen 28 Rookie Championship (Pts) 1. Esteban Ocon 65 2. Antonio Fuoco 61 3. Max Verstappen 33 4. Jules Szymkowiak 30 5. Jake Dennis 27 Teams' Championship (Pts) 1. Prema Powerteam 104 2. Jagonya Ayam with Carlin 72 3. Van Amersfoort 37 4. Mucke Motorsport 35 5. Carlin 29