FIA F3 European Championship
Round 20, Moscow Raceway, Russia, July 11th/13th 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
Weather: Sunny, dry.
Race Report – Round 20 (Race 2):
Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) remained firmly in control of events at the Moscow Raceway this morning, again winning from pole to consolidate his season-long points lead and moving ever further away from the competition with three more meetings to go after the trip to Russia. Second went to Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) after a race long battle with Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), which at least provided some entertainment as Ocon drove away from them all.
At the start Ocon made no mistake and was swiftly away into the lead while Fuoco was left to hold off the challengers, Blomqvist getting on his case immediately. As Ocon started to open out a gap, gaining almost a second in the course of the first lap, it was all kicking off in the pack. Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing) was in 4th at this stage, from Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Jordan King (Carlin), Jake Dennis (Carlin), Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam) and Dennis van de Laar (Van Amersfoort Racing), the latter coming under pressure from team-mate Gustavo Menezes. In the latter part of the pack, Michele Beretta (Eurointernational) was awarded a drive through for jumping the start, and Hector Hurst (Team West-TecF3) was out of the race, unnoticed by most.
While Ocon continued on his lonely way to the finish, Fuoco was busy with Blomqvist all over him, and Verstappen, Auer and King all looming large in his mirrors. It was going to be a somewhat fraught half hour or so for the tiny Italian. Beretta, meanwhile, came in to serve his drive through and promptly earned himself a second drive through for speeding in the pit lane on the first one. He followed this up with a spin before pulling into the pits to retire, probably much to the relief of the officials!
Fuoco was beginning to pull away from most of the pack now, shaking Blomqvist off temporarily as the Carlin driver fell back into the clutches of Verstappen, while King and Auer was scrapping over 5th. Rosenqvist was looking for a way past Dennis, and Menezes had got the drop on van de Laar for 10th. Just to add to the fun, Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) managed to tangle with Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), Gelael having to pit for a new tyre as a result,
And then, as if 6 wins from 6 races (7 if you include the Zandvoort Masters last week) was too much luck for anyone, Verstappen was warned for track limit infringements, just as he suddenly slowed out on the circuit, limping back to the pits to retire with a broken alternator. It was particularly cruel as Verstappen is probably now one of the few drivers with a realistic hope – however slim – of stopping Ocon in his seemingly irresistible charge to the 2014 title. That left Blomqvist free to get back on terms with Fuoco, something the 2nd placed man could probably have happily lived without.
By the halfway point Ocon had built his lead to nearly four seconds and seemed comfortable at the front. Fuoco was again under pressure from Blomqvist, while Auer and King were settled in 3rd and 4th respectively. Dennis was fending off Rosenqvist, as the latter scrabbled for purchase and looked for a way past the rookie. Latifi now had Menezes breathing down his neck as van de Laar dropped away a little. Antonio Giovinazzi had just served a drive through penalty for the inevitable track limits and lack of respect thereof, which dropped him out of contention for any places at all.
The race settled from this point, with the main interest being Blomqvist’s attempts to deal with Fuoco, though Rosenqvist was still trying hard as well, as witnessed by his warning over track limits which came in the latter part of the race. Meanwhile, Ocon’s lead was now over four seconds, and nothing was going to stop him taking win number 7 and his second of the weekend. Fuoco brought it home in 2nd despite everything Blomqvist could throw at him, and Auer was 4th from King, Dennis and Rosenqvist.
The battle for 8th went down to the wire, with Latifi losing out to Menezes, only for Menezes to go very wide and enable the Canadian to reclaim the place. To add to the fun Menezes was warned for an “infringement of code of driving conduct” with two laps to go. Shortly afterwards, van de Laar set about the American on the final corner of the final lap. Menezes resisted, van de Laar edged through to come home 0.004 seconds ahead of his team-mate and Menezes was later awarded a 20 second penalty in lieu of a drive through for his efforts. That promoted Felix Serralles (Team West-TecF3) to 10th.
11th was Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing), from Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing), Santino Ferrucci (Eurointernational), Nissany, Menezes, Giovinazzi and Gelael.
Fastest lap went to Ocon in the end to no one’s surprise.