“FIA F3: Leclerc heads Rosenqvist at damp Hockenheim”
Charles Leclerc took his 2nd FIA European Formula 3 win today with a stellar performance at a wet and dour Hockenheimring.
With light fading, the Monegasque teen made the best of the conditions to beat Felix Rosenqvist to the flag after 18 laps, while Antonio Giovinazzi came home 3rd to make it six podiums finishes from six races.
Such were the damp conditions; the race began under the safety car, with poleman Rosenqvist leading the way. The green emerged on lap two ensuring only a brief neutralisation, allowing the 2nd place Leclerc to chase his experienced Swedish rival.
Although Rosenqvist initially stretched the gap to 1.5s by the fourth lap, Leclerc quickly came upon the rear of the leading Prema Powerteam entry and began to closely track Rosenqvist in a battle that lasted almost ten laps.
The fight for the lead was a tight one in
As Leclerc closed in on Rosenqvist, the sector times closed together and on numerous occasions the van Amersfoort man looked to be edging toward taking Rosenqvist in the hairpin, only for the Prema Powerteam racer to hold him at bay.
The battle was at its most fierce on lap 12. Crossing the line just 0.5s shy of the front man, Leclerc proved almost too close to Rosenqvist at the hairpin, as the tip of his nose gently touched the rear of Rosenqvist’s machine, although no damage was reported.
Leclerc stayed with the leader though and brought the gap down to just 0.2s at the next time of asking, before finally forcing the issue on lap 14. A look down the inside of Rosenqvist – again at the hairpin – unsteadied the leader, causing the Prema man to stutter upon acceleration and allowing Leclerc to sweep ahead.
The new leader would not have much time to steady – within half-a-lap, Martin Cao and Pietro Fittipaldi tangled in the stadium section, with Fittipaldi’s Fortec entry becoming stuck by the edge of the track.
The safety car emerged for two laps, bringing the field back together, but it would not stop Leclerc who merely pulled away from Rosenqvist at the lap 16 restart, eventually to win by 2.9s after 18 tours.
Although beginning to struggle for grip, Rosenqvist was still able to pull a four second gap over the Giovinazzi / Maximilian Günther battle; a fight decided in favour of Giovinazzi when Günther spun in turn one on the penultimate lap. Once again, Günther’s performance proved noteworthy, as the rookie again spent much of the running holding steady against his more experienced rival.
Both Giovinazzi and Günther would have further adventures on the final tour when first the Italian almost lost his Jagonya Ayam Carlin machine in the stadium section, while the recovering Günther was punted by Santino Ferrucci in Mercedes. Ferrucci had earlier forced Lance Stroll off the road at the hairpin and these actions would result in a 20-second time penalty, dropping the Fortec teen from 5th to 28th.
Amidst the bumping and grinding Mikkel Jensen moved up to 4th – easily his highest finish in his rookie year – ahead of Günther and Stroll.
Markus Pömmer battled with Jake Dennis over 7th and 8th for much of the running, with the final German F3 champion emerging ahead of the Briton, while rookies Alexander Albon (9th) and Callum Ilot (10th) assumed the final points places. It was a less than ideal result for Ilot, who was punted out of 5th place on lap two by an overeager Jensen.