On a cold wet day in Hockenheim, Germany, the FIA F3 European teams took to the track for their first race of the weekend.
At Hockenheim this morning, Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) put on what amounted to a demonstration drive in the wet. With the track temperature just in double figures, the Italian even survived a spin on his way to victory, while behind him Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) held off Tom Blomqvist (Eurointernational) for the full 35 minutes of what was in effect an endurance test of the first order for both of them.
At the start Marciello got the power down beautifully, while behind him both Alex Lynn (Prema Powerteam) and Lucas Auer (Prema Powerteam) were not so effective, Lynn sliding off track and Auer losing an awful lot of ground. By the time he recovered he was back in 9th place, and Marciello was streaking away from the ball of spray that was the not-exactly chasing pack.
At the end of the first lap, Marciello has opened up a mind-boggling 5.1 second lead, helped of course by the fact that he and Serralles in 2nd were the only drivers who could actually see anything in the appalling spray. Interestingly it didn’t seem to be hampering Harry Tincknell (Carlin) any, as an opportunistic move at the start saw him careen up the middle of the pack to emerge in 4th, having started 11th.
In the ridiculously slippery conditions it was no surprise when people started sliding off all over the place. Next was Andre Rudersdorf (ma-con), in what would be the first of a number of excursions off the standard line for him. Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing) was another struggling to keep it on the black stuff, and Eddie Cheever (Prema Powerteam) was deep in the gravel, while Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport) was in the pits for a new nose.
While all that was going on, Marciello had increased his lead by another second, while Serralles continued to hold off Blomqvist, and William Buller (ThreeBond with T-Sport) had bullied his way through to 6th. Meanwhile Rudersdorf and Nicholas Latifi (Carlin) were both in receipt of warnings about leaving the track; it seemed a bit harsh, given how hard it was to actually see the track in such dreadful conditions, but rules are rules…
Certainly Marciello seemed surefooted enough – with five laps from a potential (but unlikely) 22 lap total, he was now 9.1 seconds ahead of Serralles. Of course the Puerto Rican driver was a bit busy holding off Blomqvist, but even so, that sort of gap was more than slightly taking the biscuit (among other things).
Behind the battling duo Tincknell was still 4th, but he had Sven Müller (ma-con), Buller, Josh Hill (Carlin), Auer and Jordan King (Carlin) all waiting to see if he would make a mistake and let them through. On lap 7 Müller saw his chance and was through, while King lost a place to Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mucke Motorsport), the vastly experienced Swede fighting to make up for a poor qualifying effort.
Further back, Goddard was being lapped, and managed to spins again while being lapped and managed to pitch himself into a quite spectacular spin which deserved points for style if nothing else. And not to be outdone, the leader got onto the kerbs thinking that the track was drying, veering sideways and spinning. He didn’t hit anything and sorted it out, losing around 3 seconds in the process. It says much for how far ahead he had managed to get that he was still 10 seconds clear by the time he crossed the finish line again.
Meanwhile, Rudersdorf was off again, and this time he’d got Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mucke Motorsport) with him, which was sociable but probably not appreciated! Further forward, Müller was now ahead of Tincknell, while Hill was trying to keep Auer at bay, and Rosenqvist, Buller, and Daniil Kvyat (Carlin) had all battled past King, the latter’s inexperience showing in the horrible conditions. There followed a wild moment as Auer and Rosenqvist went side by side, Auer briefly losing the place to the Swede.
At the front Marciello continued on his way to the flag, untroubled by anything that the others might be grappling with. Blomqvist still couldn’t find a way past Serralles, and changes were now only coming towards the back as people made mistakes and fell off. Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing) was in the gravel after a clash with Latifi. Sean Gelael (Double R Racing) also found a gravel trap he liked the look of, but he was able to regain the track and continue. His team-mate Tatiana Calderon was similarly afflicted and also continued.
There was only one outcome though. Marciello came home to his 3rd win of the season, with Serralles finally smiling again after a rough time at Silverstone. Blomqvist didn’t seem too disappointed to be 3rd.
Marciello didn’t seem to think the rain made much difference. “It is the same for me if it’s wet or dry. In the wet my car is very fast. After my spin I was very far away from the next car so it was OK in terms of points. It's a very long championship so it's better to take maximum points this morning and more for next race.”
Serralles said he was “happy on being 2nd in this race. Marciello was very fast and Blomqvist was putting pressure on me all the time, but it’s good for us to be on the podium and to be in the top five, and it’s a good result for Fortec as it took a while to get used to the new (Euro series) tyres.”
Blomqvist figured he'd been lucky actually: “I was a little bit fortunate at the start as two of them spun in front of me. After that I felt I was a little bit quicker than Felix but it was difficult to get by in the conditions so I'm happy with the result. I think there was some wheel banging behind in the first lap but it was plain sailing from our point of view.”
Muller hung onto 4th, from Tincknell, Hill, Auer, Rosenqvist and Buller. 11th was Kvyat, then came King, Giovinazzi, Dennis Van De Laar (Van Amersfoort Racing), Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsports), Lynn, Jann Mardenborough (Carlin), Mitchell Gilbert (kfzteile24 Mucke Motorsport), Lucas Wolf (URD Rennsport), Mans Grenhagen (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Edward Jones (Fortec Motorsports). Gelael ended up 21st, leading home Michael Lewis (kfzteile24 Mucke Motorsport), Latifi, Nissany, Rudersdorf, Calderon and Goddard.
The fastest lap of the race went, no surprises, to Marciello.
Weather: Cold, wet.