Felix Rosenqvist claimed the 73rd edition of the Grand Prix de Pau today, following a duel with Esteban Ocon.
The 22-year-old became the first Swede to claim the prestigious race since Reine Wisell in forty-two years ago.
It was also Rosenqvist’s first victory of the FIA European F3 championship season, after what has been an incredibly difficult start for last year’s runner-up.
Realistically, Rosenqvist won the race at the start. From the front row, the Mücke Motorsport man made a fantastic start, while polesitter, Ocon, swung to the right of the track to defend again the aggressive Max Verstappen.
Rosenqvist did not run away from the Ocon by any stretch – if anything, the Frenchman stayed close to Rosenqvist’s tail, but only once – through the Virage du Buisson on lap 14 – could Ocon do anything to disturb the leader’s concentration.
The final third of the race was interrupted by a brief safety car period, but upon the lap 21 restart, Rosenqvist drew away again and held the front of the race to the end, winning by 0.8s after 29 tours.
Apart from losing the lead at the start, Ocon drove another excellent race. The championship leader trailed Rosenqvist for the duration, but despite his best efforts, the lead was always out of his reach.
However, the teenager maintains his run of eight podiums in nine races so far this season and extends his lead over Tom Blomqvist in the standings by a further three points.
Blomqvist had something of a battle for a portion of the race. The winner of this morning’s second race jumped Verstappen at the start and then had to keep Carlin teammate Jake Dennis at bay, only for the latter to drop off slightly when he came under pressure from behind.
From there, Blomqvist eased the car to the final podium place, aware that while he would lose some points to Ocon, it was also necessary to bring his Volkswagen-powered entry home.
Behind the podium, Dennis faced a huge battle in the second half of the race. As Blomqvist made a gap, Dennis was forced to fight off the intentions of Mitch Gilbert (5th), Lucas Auer (6th), Dennis van de Laar (7th) and John Bryant-Meisner (8th). Such is the nature of the Pau street circuit; the group crossed the line in that order – all covered by 3.6s
For a time Jordan King and Antonio Giovinazzi were attached to the rear of the group, but both dropped slightly behind as the race came to its conclusion, with the Carlin-run pair claiming the final two points finishes, with King leading his teammate by 1.09s.
It was not the cleanest of starts for those toward the rear of the field. On the approach to Pont Oscar on the opening lap, Spike Goddard ran into the rear of Jules Szymkowiak, rendering Goddard too damaged to continue. Goddard’s T-Sport teammate Alexander Toril was out of the running a few corners later, when he clipped Tatiana Calderon entering Lycée.
The struggling Max Verstappen crashed out on lap two, after his already damaged front wing offered no downforce through Pau’s twists and turns. Later Riccardo Agostini crashed out in the Virage de la Gare, while his EuroInternational teammate Michele Beretta spun on the first lap, but continued as far as lap 18 when he crashed Foch bringing out the safety car for three laps.