FIA F3 European Championship
Round 29, Imola, Italy, October 10th/12th 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
Weather: Hot, dry, sunny
Race Report – Round 29 (Race 2):
At Imola this morning Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) capitalized on being promoted to pole position for Race 2 of the weekend with a lights to flag win, while behind him Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing), who would have started from pole if he had not had a 10-grid place penalty for an engine change, started 11th and stormed through to finish 2nd, just pipping Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) to the place on the line. As a result both Blomqvist and Verstappen are still in with a mathematical chance of preventing Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) from taking the 2014 title, though it’s unlikely unless Ocon has some extreme bad luck.
The start of the race was clean despite the track conditions (there were still damp patches after heavy overnight rain) and Blomqvist got away well to claim the lead. Championship leader Ocon seemed to be on a mission to take no unnecessary chances, but even so Giovinazzi passed him easily to nab 2nd place before they reached Tamburello. Meanwhile, Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam), looking slightly haunted by his fan club who were here en masse, was in 4th, ahead of Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam), William Buller (Signature), Jake Dennis (Carlin), and Verstappen who had made short work of both Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) and Nick Cassidy (ThreeBond with T-Sport) and was clearly a man on a mission!
It wasn’t long before he had Dennis in his sights, while Fuoco was through to claim 3rd from Ocon to the rapturous cheers of the red-t-shirt clad fans occupying a solid block of the pitlane grandstand. Dennis quickly fell victim to Verstappen, and then found he had Auer and a hard charging Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) looming in his mirrors. He was having an interesting morning and quickly found he couldn’t hold Auer off for long.
Verstappen meanwhile continued on his way relentlessly carving his way past Buller for 6th. That put Latifi and then Ocon next on his hit list. He really needed to pass Ocon to keep his own title hopes alive, and the sheer speed the Dutch star was displaying suggested he’d do it sooner rather than later. He was helped in his endeavours by what happened next. Rosenqvist had a narrow escaped when he went off track and lost two places, just missing clipping a wall, but then Alexander Toril (ThreeBond with T-Sport) went off and ended up stranded in the gravel.
The Safety Car had to be deployed, thus negating Blomqvist’s efforts and cutting his 3 second lead to nothing. The order, then, was Blomqvist, from Giovinazzi, Fuoco, Ocon, Verstappen, Buller, Auer, Dennis and Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport). 11th was Felix Serralles (Team West-Tec F3), ahead of Rosenqvist, Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), Dennis van de Laar (Prema Powerteam), Cassidy, Gustavo Menezes (Van Amersfoort Racing), Ed Jones (Carlin), Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing), Santino Ferrucci (Fortec Motorsport) and Jordan King (Carlin). 21st was Michele Beretta (Eurointernational), from Hongwei “Martin” Cao (Fortec Motorsport), Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport) Sergio Sette Camara (Eurointernational), Wing Chung “Andy” Chang (Team West-Tec F3), Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing).
And that was how they lined up behind the Safety Car for several laps. At the restart Blomqvist was careful to get the procedure right, having made a mistake at the Nurburgring that had cost him dearly. He need not have worried. He controlled it nicely and almost immediately started to open up a new gap over Giovinazzi while behind them Verstappen was back on the offensive again. He was soon all over Latifi and the Canadian was able to offer no resistance. That put Verstappen 5th with Ocon now a sitting duck.
Buller, meanwhile, had lost out to Auer who was also on something of a charge, though it didn’t compare to what Verstappen was doing. Buller’s life was becoming difficult in fact, with Dennis taking 8th off him. The car was clearly not right, and Buller would eventually retire with clutch failure. Closer to the front, Verstappen drove round Ocon to move back into contention in the 2014 title chase, just as Fuoco pulled into the pits to have a punctured tyre replaced. That put Verstappen 3rd, and earned Fuoco a drive through penalty after he exceeded the pit lane speed limit. His fan club was noticeably silent now!
Elsewhere Ferrucci found himself in the barriers, though thankfully with no apparent damage to the driver and no need for a second Safety Car period. The race continued unabated as Blomqvist opened the gap to almost 4 seconds, and Verstappen began his pursuit of Giovinazzi and second place. Meanwhile Fuoco came in once again to have the left rear tyre replaced, rejoining in last place. It wasn’t his morning.
As Blomqvist came round for the final time to take a well-deserved victory, Verstappen was all over Giovinazzi, the Italian blocking him effectively as they came out of Rivazza for the final time, but then simply unable to hold him off to the line. Verstappen claimed 2nd by 0.019 seconds from Giovinazzi, while Ocon finished 4th. 5th was Auer who had overtaken Latifi by going round the outside of the Prema driver into Tamburello a couple of laps previously. 7th was Dennis, from Serralles, Rosenqvist and Menezes. 11th was van de Laar, ahead of Cassidy, Jones, Calderon, Szymkowiak, Gelael, Beretta, Goddard and King. In 20th was rookie Sette Camara, from Nissany, Chang, Zeller, Cao and Fuoco.
Afterwards, Blomqvist declared himself pleased: “I’m extremely happy with the result, with such a good result. I can’t complain. The first few laps were a bit unsure as it was not completely dry. I pulled out a gap after the safety car and I made sure I didn’t make a silly mistake like at Nurburgring. It‘s a great car, thanks to the team at Carlin.”
Verstappen too was very happy: “I made a good start. During the two test days we tried to focus on speed on the straights so I could get past people in the races. The first few laps the track was quite slippery in some spots. But I had to get past Auer and yesterday I made a silly mistake when I maybe got too greedy, so I took opportunities where I could lap by lap as it got drier. I’m really happy with this place. I made a mistake the lap before and Antonio was really pushing on the last corner. He went wide and I think there was some confusion with the finish line so I kept going to be sure.”
Giovinazzi was slightly more subdued: “It was a good race and a good start. I got past Esteban in the slippery conditions but I couldn’t try to pass Tom. It was all good until the last lap when Max was right behind me on the last corner. Max was just faster than me on the straights.”
Fastest lap of the race was set by Blomqvist.
Race 2 Results:
1st – No. 31, Tom Blomqvist, GBR, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 20 laps
2nd – No. 30, Max Verstappen*, NED, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 4.263
3rd – No. 19, Antonio Giovinazzi, ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 4.282
4th – No. 2, Esteban Ocon*, FRA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 7.743
5th – No. 3, Lucas Auer, AUT, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 10.029
6th – No. 1, Nicholas Latifi, CDN, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 12.497
7th – No. 28, Jake Dennis*, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 13.624
8th – No. 21, Felix Serralles, PRT, Team West-TecF3, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 17.388
9th – No. 27, Felix Rosenqvist, SWE, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 19.089
10th – No. 16, Gustavo Menezes, USA, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 19.746
11th – No. 26, Dennis van de Laar, NED, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 22.246
12th – No. 32, Nick Cassidy*, NZL, ThreeBond with T-Sport, Dallara F312, NBE, gap 23.867
13th – No. 6, Edward Jones, UAE, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 26.250
14th – No. 18, Tatiana Calderon, COL, Jo Zeller Racing, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 26.979
15th – No. 15, Jules Szymkowiak*, NED, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 32.283
16th – No. 20, Sean Gelael, IDN, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 32.689
17th – No. 8, Michele Beretta*, ITA, Eurointernational, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 34.096
18th – No. 11, Richard (Spike) Goddard, AUS, ThreeBond with T-Sport, Dallara F312, NBE, gap 35.384
19th – No. 5, Jordan King, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 35.533
20th – No. 29, Sergio Sette Camara*, BRA, Eurointernational, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 37.902
21st – No. 4, Roy Nissany, ISR, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 37.932
22nd – No. 22, Wing Chung (Andy) Chang, MAC, Team West-TecF3, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 37.949
23rd – No. 17, Sandro Zeller, SWI, Jo Zeller Racing, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 42.918
24th – No. 9, Hongwei (Martin) Cao, CHN, Fortec Motorsports, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 43.106
25th – No. 25, Antonio Fuoco*, ITA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1 lap
No. 23, William Buller, GBR, Signature, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, lap 14
No. 10, Santino Ferrucci*, USA, Fortec Motorsports, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, lap 13
No. 12, Alexander Toril, ESP, ThreeBond with T-Sport, Dallara F312, NBE, lap 7
No. 31, Tom Blomqvist, GBR, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:36:484, lap 19, 113.812mph, 183.164kph