“FIA F3: Stroll takes maiden F3 victory”
Lance Stroll controlled proceedings at Hockenheim this morning to claim the first victory of his Formula 3 career.
The Canadian headed a Prema Powerteam 1-2-3-4 finish, with Stroll leading Jake Dennis, Felix Rosenqvist and Maxi Günther across the line.
Stroll got a good start off the line, but teammate Rosenqvist was quicker away from pole position, with the Swede slotting into a comfortable lead through turn one.
Despite the initial advantage, Rosenqvist held steady, allowing Stroll to close up at the exit of the hairpin and as the duo took to the Mercedes corner prior to the stadium section, Rosenqvist drifted wide, leaving the door wide open for Stroll.
Having taken the Formula 3 title in Nürburgring a few weeks ago, Rosenqvist was open to playing the ‘team game’ for the closing round of the season. Afterward both the race winner and Rosenqvist admitted that there was little interest in the Swede mounting too tough a defence.
Stroll would not have much of an opportunity to stretch his legs. A series of clashes and bumps in the lower reaches of the field involving Matt Soloman, Andy Chang, Raoul Hyman and Peter Li, ensured an early safety car period, although thankfully this lasted only two laps.
Thereafter, Stroll continued to lead, but still made occasional errors, such as going wide at the hairpin on lap five. Behind him, Jake Dennis – battling for runner-up in the championship – also found his way by Rosenqvist, setting up an all-Prema top four with the unchallenged Günther falling to 4th at the start.
Dennis struggled to get close enough to Stroll to put him under pressure, with the gap hovering between 0.5s-0.7s for much of the running, before extending to 1.1s-1.5s in the final quarter of the race.
And so it stayed, with Rosenqvist continuously dropping back and then re-catching Dennis, but with orders in place, there was not to be any further movement at the front, as the trio crossed the line covered by 1.6s.
Günther assumed 4th some three seconds adrift of Rosenqvist in what was a promising first drive for the Prema Powerteam squad, following his late departure from Mücke. That Günther took that result so soon after joining the team – he only had his seat fitting on Monday – ensured some positive noise for the German racer.
Alexander Sims enjoyed an interesting first race, with the Hitech racer spinning after he overcooked his rears in the final corner on the way to the grid. From the start, Sims lost two spots to the fast starting Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc, although Sims would take advantage of the safety car restart to pass Leclerc for 6th on lap six.
That would become 5th when a four-lap long battle between Giovinazzi and Sims was settled in favour of Sims on lap fifteen. It was almost done two laps earlier, when Sims and Giovinazzi swapped places twice in Mercedes – first on entry and then again on corner exit – but the Briton solidified the place, again in Mercedes, to push Giovinazzi back to 6th. It matters little in the championship stakes – being a guest driver this weekend means Sims scores no points for his top five effort.
Giovinazzi took 6th, but the Italian had to fight off late pressure from George Russell, who had climbed his way up from 10th during the race. Russell gained places when Gustavo Menezes took a drive through penalty for a jump start on lap four and then passed Markus Pommer three tours later.
Russell also made his way by Leclerc on lap sixteen, when – preoccupied by pressurizing Giovinazzi – the Monegasque fell back toward the Briton. Leclerc would eventually claimed 8th, but it is a far cry from the big points he needed in order to press Giovinazzi and Dennis for the series runner-up spot.
That mean Pommer finished 9th, just ahead of Santino Ferrucci – who had started 21st – and Alexander Albon who took the final point in 11th. There were positive signs from Callum Illot who finished 15th after started 32nd. Meanwhile, both ArtLine machines finished the race, with ADAC F4 champion Marvin Dienst and Harald Schlegelmilch finishing 27th and 28th respectively.