2014 FIA F3 European Championship, Round 2 – Race Report

FIA F3 European Championship
Round 2, Silverstone, Great Britain, April 18th/20th 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Weather: Cool, cloudy.

Race Report – Round 2 (Race 2):
There have been rumblings about the FIA F3 European series rookies this year, and about how good some of them are, none more so than Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam). Based on this afternoon’s performance, the young Frenchman could be something very special given the ease with which he won the second of today’s FIA F3 European Championship race. He was followed home by two of his team-mates, Nicholas Latifi and fellow-rookie Antonio Fuoco, in what amounted to a Prema lockout.

From the start Ocon seemed to be completely at ease and in charge. The chasing pack behind was a little messy, when Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) stalled at back, though everyone else got away cleanly, and Gelael lost a lot less ground than he could have done.

Just behind the leader, meanwhile, Jordan King (Carlin) was attempting to drive round Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) for 4th, while Ocon had to hold off a strong challenge for the lead from Latifi. A somewhat desperate Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) was trying to find a way round Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) in a yet another character building weekend he could have lived without. 11th was not a position the Swede could reasonably have expected to be in at this stage of the weekend, not after he ran last year’s champion Raffaele Marciello such a close second last year in this series.

Battling for a points place, Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam) was all over Edward Jones (Carlin) for 7th, and was trying all sorts of things as he looked for a way past his team-mate. Somewhere, Trevor Carlin was probably having kittens! He likely wasn’t the only team principal whose nerves were stretched, because it was getting desperately lairy in the middle of the pack as well, and several people had clearly decided that if they were going to make a move they’d best do it early.

Max Verstappen went for it, the van Amersfoort boy going through on Jones for 5th, the Englishman unsettled by Giovinazzi and unable to hold his place. Further back, Rosenqvist’s race was going from bad to very much worse after Auer demoted him and he started to drop back. In fact it seemed to be a bad day to be called Felix, as Felix Serralles (Team West-TecF3) was also having problem, being warned for driving standards as he struggled to recover ground lost after a poor qualifying session.

Having an even worse day was Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport), the Australian clashing with Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) when the Israeli rammed him amidships and put him out of the race after just three laps. Some things never change it seems. Nissany survived and dived back into the fray with undiminished enthusiasm, the guys at the back again setting about each other with somewhat more aggression than might have been expected of drivers for whom points were not at stake!

At the front Ocon continued to edge away from Latifi, but the real entertainment was in watching the lunatics further back. It wasn’t too much of a surprise when Jules Szymkowiak (van Amersfoort Racing) got shown the black and white warning flag, and Hector Hurst (Team West-TecF3), Nissany, Szymkowiak and Riccardo Agostini (Eurointernational) all came under investigation. Just for good measure, after Goddard went off, there was a yellow flag at post 16 for quite some time (or it might have been full course yellows depending on which part of the timing screen you chose to believe)!

As Ocon squeezed another fastest lap, elsewhere John Bryant-Meisner (Fortec Motorsport) edged into the top 10, getting away from the chasing pack. Ahead of the Swede, King was now closing on Blomqvist for 4th, but Verstappen was also quick behind the Englishman and was determined to make up for his non-finish in Race 1 with as many points as possible from this one.

Things began to look a bit calmer as Agostini and Hurst were both slapped with drive through penalties. Agostini came in quite quickly, returning to battle with Nissany, just as Jake Dennis (Carlin) also pitted, and Michele Beretta (Eurointernational) was shown the black and white flag. Hurst showed no inclination to come in. No doubt he would have some explaining to do later… It was also getting a bit hairy behind Bryant-Meisner with Felipe Guimaraes (Double R Racing) and Auer scrapping for 11th and Rosenqvist losing another place to Gustavo Menezes. This was just not a good day for him.

The race finally settled down – and in fact became decidedly dull from this point, with Ocon continuing to open the gap each lap, the only point of interest being King and his attempts to unseat Blomqvist from 4th. He finally thought he saw a way through, went for it and was blocked by Blomqvist. As a result he slipped back into the clutches of Verstappen. The Dutch teenager wasted no time when presented with such a gold opportunity and claimed the place from King.

And then it got a bit messy when Hurst got onto the rumble strip at Chapel and found himself a passenger as his Dallara speared off nose first into the barriers. It looks painful, and Hurst confirmed that he was feeling pretty bruised afterwards, especially around the hands and knees. While he was being rescued, Serralles and Menezes had a bit of a moment and Menezes demoted the Puerto Rican a place. To add insult to injury, Serralles also found Rosenqvist nipping past to push him down to 15th.

The race ended with more of a whimper than a bang, the closing stages proving very dull. At the end Ocon was a delighted winner from Latifi, Fuoco, Blomqvist, Verstappen, King, Jones, Giovinazzi, Dennis van de Laar (van Amersfoort Racing), and Bryant-Meisner. Guimaraes was 11th ahead of Auer in the first of the Mücke cars, Menezes, Rosenqvist, Serralles, Mitchell Gilbert (Fortec Motorsport), Dennis, Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing), Alexander Toril (ThreeBond with T-Sport) and Gelael.. In 21st it was Beretta, from Nissany, Agostini and Szymkowiak.

Fastest lap was set by Ocon.