If the Norisring had more confusion than any race meeting could reasonably be expected to contain, the latest outing for the FIA F3 European Championship at the Nurburgring was far calmer, at least for the first two races. Regardless of what was going on elsewhere, however, the key story was that man Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam), the Swiss-born Italian claiming three pole positions, three fastest laps and three victories to move 72.5 points ahead in the championship stakes with 9 races still to run and 225 points up for grabs.
The meeting was also notable for the presence on the podium of Luis “Pipo” Derani for the first time, and also Alex Sims (ThreeBond with T-Sport), giving the Brackley-based team their first podium after what has been a dismal season for them.
Round 19 (Race 1):
When the lights went out to start Saturday morning’s race, Marciello didn’t hesitate and was away into the lead before anyone else could blink, just ahead of Sims, and main threat Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), the latter aiming to capitalise on his performance at Norisring to edge close to the Italian. First he needed to get past Sims though, and the Englishman was having none of it.
Jordan King (Carlin) had slotted into 4th ahead of Derani, Michael Lewis (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Lucas Auer (Prema Powerteam), Sven Müller (ma-con), Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) and Alex Lynn (Prema Powerteam), the latter having had what is by his standards a pretty bad qualifying session. His weekend didn’t improve when he lost ground to Danil Kvyat (Carlin) among others during the course of lap 1, ending up back in 13th.
He wasn’t the only one to lose out. Serralles charged past Müller, while Auer found his way round Derani, sparking something of a battle with the Brazilian as he fought to get 5th place back. Serralles was also now being harassed by Müller, who wanted his place back! It was just as well, because up front there wasn’t much to be excited about. Marciello was opening a gap over Sims, who was getting away from Rosenqvist, the latter seeing King in his mirrors, but not as a real threat.
Of course one of the problems with the Nurburgring that we’ve seen in recent years is how easy it is to repeatedly exceed the track limits. The race officials tend to take a dim view of that sort of thing, and so it proved on this occasion. The first warnings were not long in coming, with Dennis van de Laar (Van Amersfoort Racing) the first offender to receive a drive through penalty for his sins. He was joined shortly afterwards by Lucas Wolf (URD Rennsport). The difference was that Wolf simply didn’t come in, and was subsequently black-flagged.
That at least shook the order up a little, which was as well. Meanwhile, at the front, Marciello was still plugging away, while Sims, Rosenqvist, King, Auer, Derani and Lewis continued to run in a strung out procession towards the chequered flag. The only real interest was just behind as Serralles held off Müller for 8th. It all went a bit pear-shaped finally when they both ran wide, and Müller ended up skittering through the gravel, letting Kvyat through into 9th while he fought to recover. Just for good measure, the German now found he had Harry Tincknell (Carlin) on his case.
Apart from a drive through penalty for Andre Rudersdorf (ma-con), which dropped him to last, that was it for excitement. Marciello came home to his 8th win of the year, ahead of Sims, Rosenqvist, King, Auer (who got the drop on Derani late in the race), Derani, Lewis, Serralles, Kvyat and Müller. 11th went to Tincknell, followed by Mitchell Gilbert (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Tom Blomqvist (Eurointernational), Lynn, Jann Mardenborough (Carlin), Eddie Cheever (Prema Powerteam), Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing), Nicholas Latifi (Carlin) and Sean Gelael (Double R Racing). 21st was Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport), then came Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing), van de Laar, Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing) and Rudersdorf.
Fastest lap of the race – no surprises – went to Marciello.
Round 20 (Race 2)
When the story of the 2013 series comes to be written, this may prove to be the race that Rosenqvist will look back on with most regret. As Marciello again stormed off the line and into the middle distance, towing Derani with him, Rosenqvist stalled on the grid. By the time he got going he was back in 22nd with a massive job to do to even get back in the points, never mind on terms with his championship rival. This was not what he needed at this stage of the competition.
In 3rd place was Sims, who was outgunned at the start by Derani, from King, Auer, Serralles, Lewis, Müller, Lynn and Tincknell. It wasn’t long before Lewis lost out to Müller and Lynn, while further back, Mardenborough had been hit by an unknown assailant and was in the pits and out of the race. This race was at least more interesting than the first one, as Sims and King both tried to find a way to part Derani from 2nd, place, while down at the other end of the pack Rosenqvist was setting about producing a stunning recovery drive.
The Swede was up to 18th when Giovinazzi and Latifi, deeply engrossed in their own little battle, both ran wide. Rosenqvist didn’t blink and was through for 16th. Van de Laar was his next victim, followed almost immediately by Cheever. That put him 14th after 8 laps but there was still an awful lot to do and it would only get harder as he caught up with the faster guys.
Marciello was pulling away from Derani at a steady rate, helped by the fact that Derani couldn’t get a moment’s peace with Sims snapping at his heels and just waiting for a mistake. It was all rather exciting, especially when you looked at it alongside Race 1. In addition to the battle for 2nd, and the Swede rocketing up the order, Lynn was all over Müller for 7th and just in front of them Serralles was setting about Auer for 5th.
Any progress anyone was making, however, came to a crashing halt when Nissany managed to spin at the first corner. Wolf arrived and hit him, and the officials had no choice but to scramble the Safety Car. The crash seemed to be the result of silliness on both their parts, and it was compounded when one of the marshals involved in clearing the wreckage managed to lose a shoe in the middle of the track. Surprisingly, given that, it wasn’t long before the track was clear and we could go racing again.
At the restart, Marciello controlled the field well, and was off once again, leaving his rivals breathless. In the pack, Serralles lost a place to Müller, but the man to watch was Rosenqvist. The Safety Car was a boon to him, bunching the pack up and presenting him with the ideal opportunity. Gilbert could do nothing to stop him claiming 13th. And he wasn’t stopping there either. Blomqvist and Kvyat were next on his list.
It took all of four corners for him to despatch both of them for 11th. He was now one position off the points and there was still time. It was about to get a lot of more difficult though. Just ahead were Tincknell and Lewis, the pair of them scrapping for 9th, and presumably not about to hand it to someone who just appeared from nowhere in their mirrors. This could get tricky. And if he got past them, there was the trio of Müller, Serralles and Lynn to deal with. This was not going to be easy. And indeed it wasn’t. Tincknell resisted enthusiastically for several laps, after Lewis ran wide and let the Mücke driver through. Eventually, though, Rosenqvist prevailed and was through for 9th in what may have been the drive of the weekend. That was the end of his run though, as he’d simply run out of time now.
At the front Marciello came home over five seconds ahead of Derani who had kept Sims at bay all the way to the flag. 4th was King, from Auer, Müller, Lynn (who passed Serralles in the closing stages), Serralles, Rosenqvist and Tincknell. 11th was Lewis, from Blomqvist, Kvyat, Gilbert, Cheever, Giovinazzi, Latifi, Gelael, van de Laar and Calderon. In 21st was Goddard, beating out Rudersdorf and Zeller.
Fastest lap again went to Marciello for a clean sweep so far.
Round 21 (Race 3):
The final race of the weekend saw Marciello again make the perfect start, but this time he might as well not have bothered as a series of crashes in the middle of the pack necessitated an immediate Safety Car period. King and Blomqvist clashed at the first corner, King spinning off and breaking his suspension, while Blomqvist picked up a puncture and dragged himself back to the pits. Müller, who always seems to end up in whatever accident is going, joined in as did Goddard, while Calderon had something of a close shave but managed to escape unscathed.
A handful of corners later and Serralles and Sims got in a tangle that left Sims sidelined and Serralles a very long way back. It didn’t help that Kvyat arrived on the scene, hit Sims, broke his front wing, and had to limp to the pits for repairs. Needless to say this took some time to clear up.
At the restart, Marciello again stamped his authority on the race, leading Auer and Derani away from the rest of the pack. Rosenqvist was 4th at this stage, from Tincknell, Lynn, Lewis, Gilbert, Cheever and Giovinazzi. That changed when Tincknell got his own back on Rosenqvist for Race 2 by nabbing 4th from the Swede, opening up the battle to Lynn, who clearly though he too could pass the Swede. Up at the front Auer, meanwhile was trying to hang on to his team-mate’s gearbox, setting an early fastest lap of the race as he did so. It would do him no good though. Marciello soon began to pull out a gap no matter what his young team mate tried.
Derani, meanwhile, was heading up a train now, with Tincknell, Rosenqvist and Lynn all alarmingly close. The Prema pair at the front were pulling away from the Brazilian, which left him to concentrate on defending what might prove to be his second podium of the season. Further back, there was another interesting drive developing as Serralles began trying to recover lost ground, starting from 17th. He gained places until he got up to 14th, and then he got stuck behind Latifi. The Canadian was fighting with Gelael for 12th when the Indonesian youngster ran wide, and Serralles though he saw an opening. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. It wasn’t big enough for two cars that was for sure. They made contact and Latifi dropped down the order, Serralles later collecting a penalty for his actions.
At the front, Marciello and Auer continued to power away from Derani, the Brazilian finally managing to open up a bit of a gap to the pursuing pack, which must have been a relief. 4th was no under dispute, with Rosenqvist piling the pressure on Tincknell, while having to keep a close eye on Lynn back in 6th. It was getting a bit fraught in there. With a handful of laps left, Rosenqvist came very close to losing out and ending up behind Lynn, but was able to hold it together for 5th. Certainly “Tinks” wasn’t about to give way and left him move up a place.
When the flag finally fell, it was a clean sweep for Marciello, with all three pole positions, fastest laps and victories going the way of the Italian. He’s now 72.5 points ahead of Rosenqvist, who did not have the weekend he would have hoped for. 2nd place went to Auer, with Derani a delighted 3rd. 4th was Tincknell, from Rosenqvist, Lynn, Lewis, Gilbert, Cheever and Giovinazzi. Mardenborough was 11th, from Serralles, Gelael, Wolf, van de Laar, Kvyat, Rudersdorf, Nissany, Calderon and Zeller. Latifi and Blomqvist were the last two men home.
Fastest lap – for the third time – went to Marciello.
Next Rounds: Rounds 22, 23 & 24, Zandvoort, September 27h/29th