Jake Dennis took his fifth FIA European Formula 3 victory in style at the Red Bull Ring today.
The Briton headed fellow championship challenger and poleman Felix Rosenqvist and points leader Antonio Giovinazzi by a narrow margin, but rarely appeared under threat from the chasing duo.
Former championship leader, Charles Leclerc, could do no better than 6th place behind Lance Stroll and George Russell.
Without doubt, it was Dennis’ stellar start from 2nd on the grid that gave him the lead and the victory. From the line, the Prema Powerteam racer outdragged his more experienced teammate to first edge alongside and then complete the move into the turn one Castrol Edge.
Thereafter Dennis led, but could not relax as Rosenqvist shadowed for the following twenty-four laps. “I had a really good start; it was one of my best of the season,” said a delighted Dennis after the race. “Felix’s was good, but I just had the edge and I tried to push and try to get away, but Felix was very quick – as he has been all weekend – so I knew it was going to hard to pull away.”
Despite getting out in front, the race was not plain sailing for Dennis, as he began to suffer from set-up conditions for a different kind of race.
Assuming that he may not jump into the lead at the start, Dennis and his team set the Mercedes-powered machine with a large portion of front downforce, which is good when following someone in dirty air, but can become troublesome if driving in the open.
The nature of the Red Bull Ring, with just nine corners at 2.6 miles, usually means the gap between the cars over a lap is relatively small and it was no different this weekend, yet that also means it is somewhat harder for a driver to make a significant enough of a difference to push up the order.
For much of the distance, Dennis had the race sown up, but an error two laps from the end almost changed everything. “I got a massive oversteer moment through the last corner and I went completely on the astro [turf], so from then on, the car was just undriveable. I just lost all grip,” commented Dennis.
With Rosenqvist having closed from seven-tenths to just two-tenths behind, Dennis drove the final few miles extremely defensively. “I had to pull out karting maneuvers to try to keep Felix behind, where I slowed it down in the middle of the corner and tried to get a fantastic exit out of turn two and that is exactly what happened. Then it brought Antonio into the equation…” It made for some extremely close action late on, with Rosenqvist clipping the rear of Dennis in turn two toward the end.
As Giovinazzi closed back to with half-a-second of both Dennis and Rosenqvist, the Swedish Rosenqvist switched from attack to defence, gifting Dennis with some much needed breathing room, yet there were still nerves. “My engineer said that I had another lap after that one, which I didn’t exactly want, but then I crossed the line and saw the chequered flag and that was a big relief. I needed it after [qualifying] 2, where I’m starting 10th, so I needed to push like mad. I’m extremely happy.”
Rosenqvist was reasonably happy to take the points for 2nd place, but with both Giovinazzi and Leclerc in arrears, the Swede also felt dropping behind Dennis represented a lost opportunity.
Giovinazzi, on the other hand, was happy, but admittedly quite conservative. Having taken Stroll just after turn one on the opening lap, the Italian held a solid 3rd place, while Rosenqvist trailed Dennis. After dropping back by approximately one second mid-race, the Italian drew back to the leaders in the final miles; however was not as inclined to risk his car in an unclear manoeuvre.
Stroll maintained 4th for the duration, as held a solid gap to Russell throughout, while Leclerc’s 6th place finish sees him lose more points to the title protagonists. Alexander Albon held 6th for a time for Signature, until van Amersfoort’s Leclerc passed him on lap thirteen.
Gustavo Menezes climbed from 10th to finish 8th and claim four points. The American battled early on with Mikkel Jensen, with the pair swapping 9th and 10th places twice on lap three, only for Menezes to finally slip by on lap nine. Menezes then went after Sérgio Sette Camara and passed the Brazilian for 8th on lap sixteen, leaving Camara to take 9th and Jensen to take 10th.
Markus Pömmer made an awful start, as he dropped from 9th on the grid to 32nd by turn one. The German then ramped up the order to finish 17th; however that meant the German still took no points, despite the effort.