Today’s round of the 2013 FIA F3 European series could have been all about just two men, Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) and Felix Rosenqvist (kfz-teile Mücke Motorsport), the pair now locked in a final struggle to claim the title. Instead it was also about Alex Sims (ThreeBond with T-Sport) and Alex Lynn (Prema Powerteam). Marciello may well have come home to another victory, but he was challenged every inch of the way to the flag by Sims, who never once let up on the pressure as he did everything he could to force a mistake from the Italian. Keeping the pair of them honest was Lynn, who was an ever present menace, just waiting for it all to go wrong ahead of him.
Meanwhile, Rosenqvist was busy putting in the drive of the race as he tried to make up for a disastrous qualifying session that meant he would start dead last in this evening’s race.
At the start, Marciello got away well enough, but had to battle his way into the lead at the first corner, when he found Sims pulling alongside him. In the pack, meanwhile, there was a bit of barging when Mitchell Gilbert (kfz-teile Mücke Motorsport) stalled and several drivers had to take avoiding action, including Rosenqvist, who’d left the line as if his tail was on fire. Slightly further up, Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) had been pushed wide and ended up stuck in the gravel. All of this played into Rosenqvist’s hands, and the Swede was 20th by the end of lap, and 18th a lap later.
Meanwhile, the lead trio was starting to open a gap to the rest of the pack, which was led by Daniil Kvyat (Carlin). Everyone else seemed to be swapping places in the wake of Serralles’ precipitate exit, with Harry Tincknell (Carlin) now 10th after getting the drop on Dennis van de Laar (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Tom Blomqvist (EuroInternational) and John Bryant-Meisner (Fortec Motorsport) disputing the same piece of tarmac. And while all that was going on, Rosenqvist had gained another three places for 15th.
In fact Rosenqvist seemed to be unstoppable, a fact that was hammered home very quickly. Blomqvist barged his way past Bryant-Meisner for 13th, and then Jordan King (Carlin) went through as well. That meant the orange car now in Bryant-Meisner’s mirrors was his fired-up fellow Swede. Perhaps wisely, the rookie didn’t try to halt the progress of the Mücke car, and Rosenqvist was through for 14th.
Up ahead, Blomqvist was also still on the move, taking 11th from van de Laar, leaving van de Laar to try and fend off both King and Rosenqvist, both of them now bottled up behind the Dutchman.
While Marciello set a new fastest lap of the race as he tried to pry Sims loose from his rear wing, Rosenqvist was all over King. The new British F3 Champion did his damndest to hold off the charging Swede, but ultimately Felix wasn’t going to be denied by anyone, even someone in a Carlin car. He tried to go round the outside, but finally he made it stick by squeezing inside King, and he was through.
At the front Sims was edging ever closer to Marciello, and his pace in the Nissan powered car was mightily impressive, especially as he took on Prema on their home ground. He even briefly held the fastest lap of the race (for about a nano-second before Lynn followed him across the line, proving that T-Sport still know a thing or two about engineering a very fast F3 car).
As the race went into its second half, Rosenqvist was 13th, while Marciello continued to circulate ahead of Sims and Lynn, though some wild moments saw him lock up as he worked to stay ahead. Meanwhile, van de Laar was now in receipt of Rosenqvist’s attention, and didn’t seem too sure what to do about it. The Swede simply drove around the outside of the Dutchman and pulled away into the distance. His next target was Blomqvist in 11th.
Further down the order, life was becoming complicated for Richard “Spike” Goddard in the second ThreeBond with T-Sport car was being shown the black and orange flag, which indicates that the officials believe there is something technical amiss with a car. What it was is something of a mystery, but anyway Spike came in and was back out again almost immediately, which suggested whatever was wrong was not that serious. It was for him though as he was obviously a lot further down the order now.
In the middle of the pack, Rosenqvist was now after 11th and fellow Swede Blomqvist was in his sights. This wasn’t going to be easy either, and Blomqvist did everything he could to hang onto his place. Even so, there was little he could do, and before long Rosenqvist was through and gone. He immediately started chasing down Harry Tincknell (Carlin), hoping for more than the single point he was currently in possession of.
At the front Sims was right on Marciello’s tail, and Lynn had gone with him. No matter what the leader did, there was nothing he could do to drop the T-Sport car, and Sims simply stuck to the series leader as if glued there. Back in 6th Luis “Pipo” Derani (Fortec Motorsport) was now having some fun as he merrily fended off Lucas Auer (Prema Powerteam), the latter getting very wild as he tried to force his way through.. Worryingly for Derani, they also had Sven Mueller (Van Amersfoort Racing), the German not being a man you want to have looming in your mirrors at any point in an F3 race!
A lap later and Auer really went for it, trying to get past. Derani slammed the door pretty hard, and the Austrian backed off briefly, coming back on the next corner and banging wheels with his opponent. The way they were going it would be a miracle if they both made it back in one piece.
Marciello continued to lead, consolidating his championship lead, but back in 11th, Rosenqvist was still the man who wouldn’t quit. He was now setting about Tincknell for 10th, and looked as if it wouldn’t take long. This was the drive of the race and no mistake. A lap later and he was past Tincknell, and closing the gap to Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing). The Italian was a fair way down the road, but even so Rosenqvist began to catch him, apparently nearly giving Antonio’s father a heart attack, if his reaction was anything to go by.
As the race wore on, Goddard managed to spin all on his own, while King relieved van de Laar of 13th, and Giovinazzi found Rosenqvist getting ever closer. He would be lucky to hold the Swede off for the last few laps, but he was clearly going to try.
The interest was mostly at the front though, as Marciello started to really struggle, and Sims continued to lurk menacingly in his mirrors. It was too late though really. Marciello took the chequered flag to add another win to his tally for the season. Sims was happy to prove that there was nothing wrong with the T-Sport car, and Lynn was a happy enough 3rd from Kvyat, Cheever, Derani, Auer, Muller, Giovinazzi and Rosenqvist.
11th went to Tincknell, ahead of Blomqvist, King, Van De Laar, Bryant-Meisner, Lewis, Latifi, Mardenborough, Wolf and Calderon. In 21st was Rudersdorf, from Nissany, Zeller, Gilbert and a somewhat distant Goddard.
Afterwards, Marciello was quietly satisfied with his race, as was Sims. “It was a mega race for me with tremendous pace from Marciello, but I was able to stay with him. I kept hoping he would make a mistake and I drove as hard as I could but didn’t have quite enough pace to get close enough to pass.”
Fastest lap of the race was set by Lynn.
Weather: Hot, dry, sunny.