Round 27 (Race 3): A race plagued with dramas...
At the Nürburgring this afternoon Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) was a slightly surprising winner of the final F3 race of the weekend from Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) and Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing). This was not necessarily the result you might have expected at the start, but the race was plagued with dramas that accounted for a number of drivers including most of Prema Powerteam’s boys one way and another.
Additionally, before the start, Ed Jones (Carlin) had withdrawn from the race, his back injury flaring up after two races. Deciding it was better to be safe than sorry, Jones opted not to race. To further mix things up, Verstappen had to serve the first of his 10-grid place penalties for needing an engine change and would start from 12th instead of 2nd. This was going to get interesting.
When the lights went out Blomqvist made a good start, holding onto his lead despite being pushed wide by Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) while holding off Auer. Rosenqvist suffered most as a result and had to pit for a new nose, but was luckier than some. In the pack Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam), Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) and Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam) tangled at the first corner ending all of their races there and then. A little further back, the third Prema car of Dennis van de Laar was also out, so that just left Antonio Fuoco as the sole Prema survivor before the race was even one lap old!
There was no choice for the officials but to send the Safety Car out while various wrecks were removed from the scene of the crime. Blomqvist settled in behind it to lead the pack round, Auer in 2nd just behind him, from Fuoco, Jordan King (Carlin), Verstappen (who had benefited from the utter chaos and emerged unscathed from the mayhem), Felix Serralles (Team West-TecF3), Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing), Jake Dennis (Carlin), Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport). 11th was Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), from Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), Santino Ferrucci (Eurointernational), Alexander Toril (Eurointernational), Wing Chung “Andy” Chang (Team West-TecF3), Gustavo Menezes (Van Amersfoort Racing), Michele Beretta (Eurointernational) and Rosenqvist who rejoined with a new nose.
It took several laps to get the track clear to go racing again, and at the restart Blomqvist was hard pressed to hold Auer at bay, the young Austrian all over the Jagonya Ayam car as they left Turn 1 and headed into the complex. In the end Auer simply drove round the outside of Blomqvist to take the lead, while Verstappen stole 4th from King in a very similar move. That left Blomqvist looking for a way to get back what had been stolen from him, and Verstappen was all over Fuoco for 3rd.
However the battle that really kicked off was the one for 6th which involved Serralles and the cars behind him, in this instance Nissany, Calderon, Dennis and Szymkowiak. Serralles was not making it easy for them and the train that was developing was being watched with interest by van de Laar and Ocon who were stranded out in the boonies looking cold and unhappy.
What followed was a series of absorbing battles as Blomqvist breathed down Auer’s neck, and Fuoco held off Verstappen, assisted by the fact that King was looking keen on joining the fight for 3rd. It got a bit fraught, in fact, when Fuoco and Verstappen banged wheels in Turn 2, Fuoco hanging on to his place regardless of anything Max could dream up. Much the same was happening with Auer and Blomqvist, Blomqvist making several lunges for the lead, none of them quite working. He even managed to regain the place very briefly but then ran very wide and Auer simply calmly took the place back.
Meanwhile Rosenqvist was on a recovery run and had clawed his way up to 14th. Unfortunately, this put him just behind Goddard, which had potential to make life very difficult indeed for the Swede. Just ahead of them, the Serralles pack had gained another member, with Gelael joining in the fun. Serralles was obviously not as fast as the guys behind, but he was driving a good defensive race and nothing was coming past if he could help it.
A couple of laps later Nissany tried it on with Serralles, but again could not quite make it stick. All of this meant ever more cars were latching on to the back of the group, Toril now adding himself to the pack behind the Puerto Rican. The way things were going, Goddard and Rosenqvist would be caught up in the action too, and we were only at the halfway stage.
With Blomqvist still on Auer’s case, and a terrier-like performance from Verstappen, this would have been a good race, especially as Blomqvist was now eating into Auer’s lead again. With the battle for 6th stepping up a gear, this was a brilliant race. Nissany attacked Serralles for sixth again, and again the Puerto Rican resisted. Nissany lost ground as a result, which meant he blocked Calderon, and she consequently lost a place to Dennis, who was not about to turn down such an invitation when it was offered to him.
At the other end of this gaggle of cars, Rosenqvist was having all sorts of problems with Goddard. Eventually, the inevitable happened. After first trying to push Rosenqvist into the wall, contact was made. Goddard spun, and Rosenqvist found himself short of yet another nose. It was no great surprise to see Goddard awarded a drive through penalty for driving standards, as Rosenqvist staggered round to the pits. Lot of people were none too impressed with what had just happened, among them Rosenqvist.
Auer continued on his way to the flag, holding off Blomqvist. With less than three minutes left on the clock, Verstappen decided it was time for one last throw of the dice. He took a deep breathe and went for it, stealing 3rd from a somewhat startled Fuoco almost within sight of the chequered flag. It was a well earned 3rd place and – given that Ocon scored no points at all – has kept his championship chances alive. 4th went the way of Fuoco, from King, Nissany, Serralles, Calderon, Dennis and Szymkowiak. Gelael ended up 11th, from Toril, Menezes, Ferrucci, Beretta, Zeller, Goddard and Chang
The fastest lap was set by Blomqvist as he tried to hunt down Auer.
Next Races: Rounds 28, 29 & 30, Imola, Italy, October 10th/12th 2014