Prema Powerteam racer Esteban Ocon took a stylish victory in the second FIA European F3 race at the Hockenheimring today.
Following yesterday’s late race disappointment, where a fuel pump issue lost him a podium, Ocon responded in style to stay ahead for the duration; however Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam Carlin) refused to let the Frenchman cruise to the flag.
While not directly threatening the leader, Giovinazzi maintained a gap of 0.7s-1.0s for much of the running, occasionally appearing in the mirrors of his leading rival.
Ocon had an easier start than normal. Original poleman Max Verstappen stopped on the way to the grid with a mechanical issue, while Tom Blomqvist – the fastest man in qualifying yesterday – lost ten places due to an engine change. At the start proper, a feisty Ed Jones kept Giovinazzi honest through the opening few turns, allowing Ocon to settle into an early advantage.
For a time, Giovinazzi held the gap to Ocon at 0.7s of a second, but as the race entered its middle phase, the gap opened by a few more tenths. Come the halfway point, Giovinazzi began to close back in on the leader, plying more pressure on the young Frenchman; however Ocon had the lead covered.
A brief safety car toward the end of the race (to remove a stranded Michele Beretta) neutralized the gap, but with only two further laps under green, Ocon held the front of the field to take his second win of the season.
Giovinazzi managed the gap to 3rd place Ed Jones in the final two laps, although it was more of a close run thing going into turn one, when the Italian cut across his quick starting teammate.
Knowing that Giovinazzi had a slight advantage, Jones played a softer hand to keep the podium place. The Dubai racer eased away from West-Tec’s Felix Serralles in the opening half of the race, only to come under pressure when Lucas Auer (Mucke) and Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam Carlin) passed the ailing Puerto Rican.
As Jones defended supremely, neither Auer nor Blomqvist could force the issue, allowing the F3 Open champion to claim his second podium of the weekend and season.
Auer edged Blomqvist over the line for 4th and 5th places, with the latter making quite a save from the sixth row. Both had passed Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam) on laps 6 and 7 respectively, after Latifi had made a storming start from 9th on the grid.
The Italian-Canadian racer was responsible for one of the most spectacular moments of the race, when both he and Serralles battled side-by-side for 6th and 7th places for half-a-lap through the 18th tour. From the hairpin through to the Sachkurve, the pair were linked to each other, before Latifi finally edged ahead.
Eventually Serralles would fall further behind, as Mucke’s Felix Rosenqvist passed for 7th. Jordan King enjoyed a stellar race, as he climbed from 19th on the grid to 12th on lap one, before taking Gustavo Menezes (lap 4), Jake Dennis (lap 12) and Mitch Gilbert (lap 22) to claim 9th.
Dennis would follow his fellow Brit to close out the top-ten.
[results to follow…]