Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, BF3 Correspondents
At the Norisring this morning in blistering heat Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) came out the on the road winner of a chaotic race that finally ended with a red flag behind the Safety Car and the exclusion of the Spaniard from the results. That handed victory to William Buller (Carlin), somewhat surprised to be gifted the win. 2nd place was claimed by Emil Bernstorff (ma-com Motorsport) and 3rd went to Pietro Fantin (Carlin). Fantin was also British F3 International Series winner after a race long scrap with Bernstorff, while Felix Serralles survived the self-destruct mode that impacted the rest of Fortec Motorsport to finish 4th overall and Harry Tincknell (Carlin) snatched the last podium step. The National Class winner was Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport) despite a late race spin while trying to avoid the race leaders who were coming up to lap him.
This tight street circuit has a reputation for chaos and it certainly lived up to that reputation this morning with crashes a plenty, and two Safety Car periods in the 40 minutes that racing was scheduled to run. Predictably enough it all started on the first lap as they tore off the start line towards the Grundig hairpin with some individuals seeming to forget just where they needed to brake if they wanted to get round. Both Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) and Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin) got caught up in it all, as did Lucas Wolf (URD Rennsport), with Jaafar clashing with team-mate Jack Harvey, and needing to pit for a new nose at the end of lap one. Harvey would get a drive through penalty for that one.
Sainz Jr didn’t get away so lightly, banging into the wall and damaging the suspension. He’d made a good start but all that had done was put him in the thick of the barging and thus made his retirement all the more likely. Meanwhile, Juncadella had squeezed by into the lead and was ahead of Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport) once the dust cleared. In the pack Fortec cars were clashing almost everywhere you looked with the result that Alex Lynn needed to pit after a brief flying display.
It wasn’t long before Jaafar rejoined knowing that he had everything to play for as the current series leader in the British series, and so began a determined drive back by the Malaysian. There was some pretty determined stuff going on at the front too as Wehrlein tried to challenge Juncadella for the lead. It didn’t quite come off, the Spaniard resisting any attempt to take the lead from him with determined style and anyway the Safety Car had to be scrambled so there was no overtaking.
The order then was Juncadella in the lead, from Wehrlein, Buller, Bernstorff, Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) who lost ground badly at the start, Fantin, Michael Lewis (Prema Powerteam), Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport), Serralles, Tincknell and Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport). 11th was Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing), with Jack Harvey (Carlin) just behind, then Sven Müller (Prema Powerteam), Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), Philip Ellis (GU-Racing), Tom Blomqvist (ma-con Motorsport), Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke Motorsport), Luis Sá Silva (Angola Racing Team), Goddard and Nick McBride (ThreeBond with T-Sport). 21st was Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing), ahead of Andrea Roda (Jo Zeller Racing), Padayachee and a somewhat distant Jaafar and Lynn.
At the restart Juncadella controlled things beautifully, but in the pack things were getting out of control again. Marciello dived through for 3rd, while Lewis, van Asseldonk, Derani and Ilyas tangled. Lewis, Ilyas and van Asseldonk all got going again, although Lewis and Ilyas would both limp to the pits and retire that same lap. Van Asseldonk, on the other hand, kept right on going, though his rear wing soon started to lean perilously and became increasingly off kilter as he charged round in his attempt to recover something from another less than stellar race. In the midst of all that had been Tincknell, who somehow emerged in one piece and was able to continue.
As Juncadella continued to tow Wehrlein and Marciello round, Buller was on Berstorff’s rear wing and looking for a way through while a lot further back Uhrhane had become embroiled in a scuffle with Sá Silva that looked increasing scary as they scrapped furiously for position. Also on the move was Müller after falling back in avoidance of the Lewis crash. He’d now got on terms with Ellis and was looking for a way past, finally finding it at the S-Kurve. To add to the excitement, Tincknell was going at it tooth and nail with Blomqvist as he battled back into contention. It was turning into quite a race. Or at least it was if you weren’t Ellis, who was the last retirement in the first half of the race, hitting the wall hard and damaging the suspension. He was out on the spot.
Juncadella continued to lead, though no matter what he tried he couldn’t shake the chasing pair of Wehrlein and Marciello. They were attached to his slipstream and they were staying there if they had anything to do with it. In fact Wehrlein still looked as if he was capable of getting past and kept pushing his nose alongside where he could. Meanwhile, Serralles was embroiled in a messy pack of squabbling cars that just would not get out of his way. Zeller was basically holding up Uhrhane, Jaafar (who was a lap down), Roda, Lynn (also a lap down), van Asseldonk and McBride. The lack of a wing did not seem to be holding up van Asseldonk significantly, though it was now dangling rather than attached, which led to much wondering as to whether the black and orange flag should be shown.
It wasn’t and the race continued, although eventually van Asseldonk decided for himself that he needed something doing about the damage. The team rapidly removed the damaged parts, leaving the left hand side panel in place but nothing else. Meanwhile, Blomqvist and Tincknell had a coming together, with Blomqvist losing most of his front wing in an attempt to pass the gangly Englishman. That let Rosenqvist through, at the cost of the other two.
Additionally, the leaders were now catching the back markers, which meant that everyone was going to have to be exceptionally careful to avoid losing ground. Padayachee was an absolute gentleman, pulling out of the way cleanly and letting the leaders through, although whether that was down to the vigorously waved blue flags, the team radio, or the frankly terrifying spectacle of the top three bearing down on him at speed that was responsible for his speedy response is hard to know. You certainly couldn’t blame him for wanting nothing to do with the battle for the lead.
It wasn’t much saner behind as Fantin harassed Bernstorff at every opportunity, though he couldn’t quite find an opening that would help. Not so at the very front. Wehrlein finally thought he could see daylight and went for it, diving through on Juncadella to get into the lead on lap 34 out of a putative 48. Shortly after that they came round to lap National Class leader Goddard, the latter not coming out of it quite as well as his rival Padayachee had. With all three of them on him, he spun, but was able to keep going, dusting himself off and getting moving again without losing his class lead. He was lucky.
Not so luck a handful of laps later was Wehrlein, when Juncadella fought back. At the Grundig hairpin the Spaniard tried to barge his way back through and although he succeeded he also pitched Wehrlein into a spin that would later prove very costly for Juncadella. That was good enough for Marciello, who sensed an opportunity. He tried to force his way past and Juncadella, seemingly having a bit of a rush of blood to the head, drove into him as well. The Safety Car was scrambled and shortly after the red flags were hung out to bring the race to a premature end on Lap 42.
Afterwards, Juncadella would be the subject of an investigation and having been judged to have caused avoidable accidents to both Marciello and Wehrlein, he would be excluded from the results, thus handing the win to Buller, the top three for most of the race thus being all out of contention in one way or another. Bernstorff was thus 2nd, from Fantin who also won the British race. Serralles was 4th from Rosenqvist (who had started 22nd), Wehrlein, Tincknell, Müller, Blomqvist and Zeller. 11th was Uhrhane, from McBride, Harvey, Sá Silva, Roda, National Class winner Goddard, Jaafar, Lynn, van Asseldonk and Padayachee. Marciello was classified 21st, the last man in the results.
The fastest laps of the race were set by Marciello (Euroseries), Harvey and Serralles jointly for the International Class and Goddard.
Weather: Baking hot.