Felix Rosenqvist secured the 22nd Formula 3 victory of his career at the Red Bull Ring today, with a commanding performance.
Driving for Prema Powerteam, the Swede fought off the advances of Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam Carlin), while rookie Lance Stroll took his first podium of the season.
From the outside, it was all plain sailing for Rosenqvist, as he led off the line from the battling Giovinazzi and Stroll, building a gap of over two seconds in the first few tours. “I learned a lesson from race one and got a better start – a quite good one actually!” said the victor. “Initially in the race, my car was very strong and I managed to pull a bit of a gap to Antonio.”
Once clear of the improving Stroll, Giovinazzi piled on the pressure and notched up some four fastest laps over the course of the race as he closed to within eight-tenths of the lead; however it was not quite close enough to topple the dominant Rosenqvist. “Mid-race [Giovinazzi] seemed to pick up the pace a bit and I had to respond. We kept around one second and then it went out to 1.2s – it was moments like that for the whole race.”
At times, the race seemed more like an extended qualifying stint as opposed to a twenty-four lapper and eventually it all became a bit much, as Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer Ryan Tveter discovered on lap eighteen. Pushing hard, Tveter ran into the gravel at turn five, where his tyres dug in, beaching the American. With the 21-year-old locked in a precarious position, race control had little choice but to call the safety car.
Initially the situation left Rosenqvist worried, but the Swede regained his ground after the lap twenty-two restart. “You never know what happens after the safety car. Sometimes you have tyres that are not working and luckily this time, we pulled ahead of Antonio in the last two or three laps, so it was good.”
For Giovinazzi, it was a positive result, despite losing seven points to his title rival; however the Italian had to fight for that 2nd place in the opening laps. “I had a bad start from P2 – I lost a position with Lance and after that, I took it back at the hairpin,” said Giovinazzi; however his difficulties continued into lap two. “Lance tried to take back my 2nd place, but I closed a bit the door and after turn three when I was free, I started to up my pace and it was really good.”
Despite his mid-race push, Giovinazzi could not press Rosenqvist into an error and while the safety car offered the Carlin man an opportunity, Giovinazzi could do little to force the issue. “After the safety car, I had a really good restart, but I was a little bit far [behind] so I had no possibility to overtake him. I think we did a good race for the points.”
It was a good day for Lance Stroll who finally took his first podium following a season of numerous ups-and-downs. The Canadian dropped several seconds behind the leading pair, but managed to hold Charles Leclerc at bay for the duration. A good effort from the teenager.
Leclerc made the best of a so-so qualifying, by climbing 4th from 6th on the grid. The Monegasque racer took George Russell on the opening lap and then pick a way by Sérgio Sette Camara a lap later. Thereafter Leclerc followed in Stroll’s wheeltracks, but could not do anything to break the Canadian ahead.
Alexander Albon also made an excellent start to jump from 8th to 6th on lap one and then get by Camara on lap three. It stayed like that for several laps, until Camara was penalised with a drive through penalty on lap six for jumping the start, dropping him out of sight.
Russell settled into 6th and was looking to stay there, until Markus Pömmer slipped by just after the safety car. It was yet another recovery driver for the German, who once again got off the line badly. Russell collected 7th as the chequered flag came down.
Jake Dennis enjoyed a quiet race to finish 8th, comfortably ahead of Mikkel Jensen (9th) and Gustavo Menezes, who took 10th from Raoul Hyman two laps from the end. Menezes had started 14th and was 11th at the end of lap one and spent the following twenty-four laps battling with Hyman, during which the pair swapped positions on several occasions.