FIA F3 European Championship
Round 28, Imola, Italy, October 10th/12th 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
Weather: Hot, dry, sunny
Race Report – Round 28 (Race 1):
At Imola this morning Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) edged closer to the 2014 title claiming a lights to flag victory over Jordan King (Carlin) and Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin). However, the story of the race was Max Verstappen’s (Van Amersfoort Racing) recovery drive. With a 10 grid place penalty for an engine change at the Nurburgring, it was always going to be a tough job for the Dutch teenager, especially on a circuit where it’s almost – though not quite – impossible to overtake. From what happened over 20 laps of this superb circuit, no one had told Max that!
However, first there was the start to get out of the way. Under brilliant sunshine the 27 cars lined up to start the first race of the weekend. The lights stayed on for some considerable time, to the detriment of many as engines started to overheat. When they finally got going, Ocon streaked ahead of King, and was a good car’s length ahead as they reached Tamburello for the first time.
We were already a car down by then as well as Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam), suffering some sort of mechanical issue pulled into the pits and stayed there. In addition, William Buller (Signature) also pulled into the pits and out of the race which left 25 cars.
To add to the fun, Fortec Motorsport had wiped themselves out when Hongwei “Martin” Cao and Santino Ferrucci tangled before the race was a lap old, Cao ending up stranded on the track while Ferrucci limped back to the pits – it was getting busy in there! That necessitated a Safety Car period which went on for several laps. Despite only getting one racing lap, Verstappen had gained six places and was up in 9th. Clearly you can overtake at Imola, or at least you can if you’re as talented as Max.
At the restart, Ocon was in complete control, with King unable to quite close the gap to the leader, and the pair of them settled in to a pattern where King would edge closer, Ocon would pull the gap back out, and this would repeat all the way to the chequered flag. Blomqvist held a watching brief back in 3rd, waiting for a mistake that never came, while in 4th Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) was enjoying one of the better days he’s had this season, eventually setting the fastest lap of the race despite claiming that Italy in October is “too hot for Swedish people”.
However, the main interest was in watching Verstappen, as he passed Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) and Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam), before he came up behind Jake Dennis (Carlin). The latter had a bent wishbone after a first lap clash with Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), but it didn’t stop him mounting a fierce defence against the RedBull driver.
Finally, on lap 13, Verstappen made what could best be described as an over-optimistic overtaking attempt into Tamburello, bounced off the kerbs, was briefly 6th, shot through the gravel, was passed by Dennis, and they both lost out to Auer who was ideally place to take advantage of the situation. That left Verstappen to the mercies of Antonio Fuoco, the Prema Powerteam driver eventually hitting the back of Verstappen’s car and earning himself a drive through penalty that dropped him to the back of the field.
That may have been the final straw for Verstappen, who then tangled with Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), putting both of them out of the race. Afterwards Verstappen was given a 1 race ban for causing a collision, suspended for the remainder of the season, which was not the end to the morning he had been hoping for. Meanwhile, at the front Ocon continued to hold off King, and Blomqvist and Rosenqvist were just far enough apart not to be able to mount challenges. Giovinazzi was a lonely 5th, and Auer was 6th, which was how they would stay for the rest of the race.
Behind Auer, Dennis was hanging on despite the odd handling, and Felix Serralles (Team West-Tec F3) was minding his own business in 8th. Behind him, Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing) got the better of Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) for 9th, while Nick Cassidy (ThreeBond with T-Sport), who had been looking increasingly frustrated as he tried to find a way past Dennis van de Laar (Van Amersfoort Racing) was now streaking away from the Dutchman, having finally got past.
The upshot of all of this was that Ocon now leads the series by 97 points from Blomqvist, while Verstappen has slipped back to third, mostly as a consequence of the engine change and the resulting three-race 10 grid place penalties. In effect all Ocon now needs to do is score 4 points in the second race of the weekend to put the title beyond anyone else’s reach. It’s highly unlikely that that will not happen.
Afterwards Ocon was pretty confident: “Being on pole helped a lot but I also got a good start. The first two laps I was quicker and had new tyres. At the restart again I pulled away and took no risks. It’s all thanks to Prema. We had two good days of testing where we kept working on the car.”
King was resigned to second: “I couldn’t get close to Esteban at the start. They held the lights a long time and I got clutch slip. Then I couldn’t close the gap enough to pass him. After the safety car I thought I had a chance as the gap closed a bit but it was never quite enough.”
Blomqvist, having missed a day of testing after sustaining concussion on his way to the airport, was hoping for a change in the weather: “My start was ok. I came close with Jordan but was not quite good enough. Felix challenged me at the restart but I managed to hold him off but Jordan and Esteban were a bit quicker than me. I missed the first test day, so the first race was like a test. It all settled down after the first few laps. It might rain later and the car is relatively quick so…”
In 4th was Rosenqvist, from Giovinazzi, Auer, Dennis, Serralles, Calderon and Gelael. 11th was Cassidy, from van de Laar, with Ed Jones (Carlin) in 13th ahead of newcomer Sergio Sette Camara (Eurointernational), Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport), Fuoco, Michele Beretta (Eurointernational), and Wing Chung “Andy” Chang (Team West-Tec F3) in 18th.
The fastest lap was set by Rosenqvist.
Race 1 Result:
1st – No. 2, Esteban Ocon*, FRA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 20 laps, 35:57.565
2nd – No. 5, Jordan King, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 1.509
3rd – No. 31, Tom Blomqvist, GBR, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 2.981
4th – No. 27, Felix Rosenqvist, SWE, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 5.556
5th – No. 19, Antonio Giovinazzi, ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 7.287
6th – No. 3, Lucas Auer, AUT, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 12.158
7th – No. 28, Jake Dennis*, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 14.038
8th – No. 21, Felix Serralles, PRT, Team West-TecF3, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 18.161
9th – No. 18, Tatiana Calderon, COL, Jo Zeller Racing, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 22.746
10th – No. 20, Sean Gelael, IDN, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 23.766
11th – No. 32, Nick Cassidy*, NZL, ThreeBond with T-Sport, Dallara F312, NBE, gap 30.024
12th – No. 26, Dennis van de Laar, NED, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 33.607
13th – No. 6, Edward Jones, UAE, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 37.142
14th – No. 29, Sergio Sette Camara*, BRA, Eurointernational, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 44.367
15th – No. 11, Richard (Spike) Goddard, AUS, ThreeBond with T-Sport, Dallara F312, NBE, gap 44.846
16th – No. 25, Antonio Fuoco*, ITA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 51.985
17th – No. 8, Michele Beretta*, ITA, Eurointernational, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 53.135
18th – No. 22, Wing Chung (Andy) Chang, MAC, Team West-TecF3, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 58.071
No. 4, Roy Nissany, ISR, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, lap 18
No. 30, Max Verstappen*, NED, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, lap 18
No. 16, Gustavo Menezes, USA, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, lap 17
No. 12, Alexander Toril, ESP, ThreeBond with T-Sport, Dallara F312, NBE, lap 17
No. 15, Jules Szymkowiak*, NED, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, lap 8
No. 1, Nicholas Latifi, CDN, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, lap 1
No. 9, Hongwei (Martin) Cao, CHN, Fortec Motorsports, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, lap 1
No. 10, Santino Ferrucci*, USA, Fortec Motorsports, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, lap 1
No. 23, William Buller, GBR, Signature, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, lap 1
No. 27, Felix Rosenqvist, SWE, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:36:733, lap 15, 113.520mph, 182.693kph