At Hockenheim this morning, Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) only needed to win to claim the 2013 FIA F3 title. He was also starting on pole, so simple really, yes? Well no, actually. Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile-24 Mücke Motorsport) had other ideas and was not going to just roll over and play dead. The Swede got the drop on the Italian at the start and screamed off into the distance, giving it his all yet again to claim his 9th win of the year. The Italian still looks likely to take the title, but Rosenqvist is making sure he has to work very hard indeed for it. The gap is now 38.5 points with 50 up for grabs across the remaining two races. 3rd went to Sven Müller, after some clever driving and a smattering of luck, the German claiming Van Amersfoort Racing’s first podium of the season.
At the start, Rosenqvist was clearly still in fine fighting fettle and he simply out dragged Marciello to the first corner and the squeezed up the inside to claim the lead. Back in the pack Lucas Auer (Prema Powerteam) stalled on the grid but was fortunate in that no one hit him. That led to a bit of a sort out through, and let Harry Tincknell (Carlin) up to 3rd ahead of Alex Lynn (Prema Powerteam), Müller, and Dennis van de Laar (Van Amersfoort Racing), the Dutchman performing much better now he has an equally quick team-mate to work with. Behind him was Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing), from Carlin’s Jordan King, Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani (Fortec Motorsport) and Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport).
What followed was a pretty dull procession of a race, apart from an occasional incident, and the spectacle of Rosenqvist driving his heart out as he attempted to drop Marciello, the Italian deciding quite early that this was a battle he was not going to contest. He would settle for the points and wait at least one more race to settle the matter one way or another.
The two men driving this weekend to ensure they can compete at Macau next month, meanwhile, were both in trouble. Stefano Coletti (ma-con) was almost last on his return to F3 after a four year absence, while Kevin Korjus (ThreeBond with T-Sport) was in the pits and out of the race.
As Rosenqvist began to open up a gap at the front, elsewhere Eddie Cheever (Prema Powerteam) was on the move and had nipped through to take 10th from Serralles. He was now setting about Derani for 9th, but the Brazilian was resisting strongly.
What happened next was a clash between Lynn and Tincknell, as Lynn tried to get past the Carlin driver at the hairpin to take 3rd. They tangled, locking wheels, and both went off the track, letting Müller through. That probably wasn’t what either of them had had in mind, but the German wasn’t complaining. Lynn came back on ahead of Tincknell (though he would also be shown the black and white driving standards flag for his efforts) and Tincknell lost out to van de Laar and Giovinazzi as a result as well. He got a place back shortly afterwards when Giovinazzi was awarded a drive through penalty for exceeding the track limits, and then passed van de Laar as well.
Next van de Laar started to come under pressure, first from King being pushed down to 8th by the 2013 British F3 Champion. It was still one of the best drives of the season from the Dutchman, and went a long way towards restoring his reputation after a dismal first half of the season. Even losing another place to Derani couldn’t change that.
By the halfway point Rosenqvist had opened a gap of almost four seconds and was still doing all he could to keep his championship chances alive. Some rapid calculation suggested that if he stayed where he was and Marciello remained in 2nd, which seemed likely – Mueller was a long way distant – then Marciello has only to finish in the top four this afternoon for it all to be over even if Rosenqvist wins again. However, this has been such a rollercoaster of a season that anything could still happen.
At the blunt end of the field, Coletti’s day had gone from bad to worse when he tangled with Auer, the Austrian a lap down after his poor start. The resulting nose cone damage saw the Monegasque driver pull into the pits and retire from the race. This will not be filling him with confidence for Macau… And if you wanted action, that was your lot.
And so Rosenqvist did everything he could to keep his hopes alive. A win and fastest lap saw him finish nearly six seconds ahead of Marciello, while Müller was a fine 3rd. 4th went to Lynn, from Tincknell, King, Derani, van de Laar, Cheever and Tom Blomqvist (EuroInternational). 11th was Serralles, just ahead of Nicholas Latifi (Carlin), John Bryant-Meisner (Fortec Motorsport), Mitchell Gilbert (kfzteile-24 Mücke Motorsport), Michael Lewis (kfzteile-24 Mücke Motorsport), Jann Mardenborough (Carlin), Giovinazzi, Roy Nissany (kfzteile-24 Mücke Motorsport), Lucas Wolf (URD Rennsport) and Andre Rudersdorf (ma-con). Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing) finished 21st, heading home Richard “Spike Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport), Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Motorsport), Nick Cassidy (Carlin), Sean Gelael (Double R Racing) and, one lap down, Auer.
We go into the penultimate race of the season, then, with everything still to play for. Rosenqvist is not ready to concede defeat and will undoubtedly drive out of his skin again, while Marciello needs to keep a cool head and stay out of trouble to claim the title by making sure he finishes in the top four. It’s an intriguing prospect.