“FIA F3: Stroll takes race and championship at Imola”
Prema Powerteam’s Lance Stroll claimed both race two and the FIA European Championship crown at Imola this afternoon.
Joel Eriksson continued his solid run to finish 2nd, while George Russell extended his lead over Nick Cassidy in the battle for 3rd in the standings.
Starting from pole, the Canadian teenager eased into a comfortable lead early lead from Russell, who had initially edged ahead of Eriksson.
Thereafter Stroll built a gap of approximately 2s, but as soon as Stroll got into a rhythm, the race was punctured by a safety car period, with three in total neutralizing the race.
The first came on lap three when Callum Ilott spun into the gravel at Rivazza and became beached in the sand. This came moments after another incident in which Ilott fell from 6th place, solidifying what has been a tricky weekend so far for the young Briton.
From the lap six restart, Stroll again build a lead of over 2s, only for that to be truncated when title rival Maxi Gunther binned his Prema Powerteam machine exiting the final bend, pitching him hard into the barrier from 12th spot.
Although Günther’s lowly position would have given Stroll the championship, this non-score confirmed Stroll’s crown.
On the lap 11 restart, Eriksson locked onto the rear of Russell, eventually retaking 2nd from the Hitech racer a tour later, but despite the charge, the Motopark man had nothing for Stroll and settled into a 2nd position a couple of seconds adrift of the lead but also comfortably ahead of Russell in 2rd.
There was one final stoppage when David Beckmann crashed at Tosa from 6th place, but come the lap 18 restart, Stroll continued to press his confidence and dominance on the race, again pulling away from the field and winning with sublime ease, as if he were in a different class.
Eriksson ran home a welcome 2nd ahead of Russell who doubtful have few complaints following that result.
Ralf Aron propped up what has been an inconsistent year with a drive to 4th, having taken both Harrison Newey and Ilott off the line. From there he stayed, although he fought hard to keep Guan Yu Zhou at bay in the latter tours.
Zhou enjoyed a good run up the order. From outside the top ten, he passed Günther, Anthoine Hubert, Cassidy and Newey, but also benefitted from offs by Sergio Sette Camara, Ben Barnicoat and Mikkel Jensen, all of whom fell from points playing positions.
Hubert came home 6th, thanks in part to a late race contretemps between Zhou, Newey and Cassidy. From 8th in the final few laps, Hubert took Cassidy and Newey, when Cassidy attempted an unlikely move down the inside of Zhou at Tamburello, inadvertently blocking Newey as he rejoined the track.
From there the Frenchman stayed ahead of Cassidy and Newey to maintain 6th, 7th and 8th across the line. Both Newey and Cassidy will be a touch disappointed with their final positions having run 5th and 6th at various points in the race.
Yesterday’s race winner Niko Kari came home 9th, despite starting 18th. The Finn calmly closed up the order, while also taking advantage of the misfortune of others.
Nikita Mazepin took the final points finish, when the resurgent Camara suffered another incident two laps from the end, which took him out of the race.