Round 25: A somewhat bizarre first race of the weekend.
Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing) won his first race as a Red Bull Junior driver at the Nurburgring this morning after a somewhat bizarre first race of the weekend. Finishing second was early leader Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) after a climb back through the ranks, while 3rd went to Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin). However, the weather could well have led to a very different result.
Heavy rain earlier in the day, combined with a low temperature reading, meant that tyre choice was something of a lottery, especially as the first few corners were still very wet, while there was a very distinct dry line round the rest of the track. As a result the majority of drivers opted for slicks, with a handful of exceptions, among them Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport), Michele Beretta (Eurointernational) and Andy Chang (Team West-TecF3). All of them were towards the back end of the grid and thus had nothing to lose, but it still looked like a massive gamble given the way the sky was getting lighter by the minute.
Initially it looked as if they might have made the right choice as Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) managed to rotate on the formation lap, proving that it was pretty slippery off the racing line, He was able to get pointing the right way again, and rejoined the pack. At the start Fuoco stormed off the grid to snatch the lead from pole man Verstappen. Series leader Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) didn’t get anything like as effective a getaway and dropped down to 7th and there was something of a mid-field sort out but no one actually came to grief, but the real point of interest was in seeing what effect the different tyres would have. Wets didn’t seem to be helping Beretta much as he managed to go a long way off, but Chang and Goddard were up in 11th and 12th respectively. This was going to get interesting!
A lap later and Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) was in the pits for a drive through, while Goddard was up to 7th, not a position the Australian would normally be expected to appear in in this sort of company. A lap later and he was up in 4th and still quicker than anyone else. Chang meanwhile passed Ocon for 7th, which was also pretty unexpected. Beretta was 10th, but the dry line was increasingly present and you had to wonder how long this could go on. Goddard next claimed 3rd and was now setting about Verstappen, while Chang was 5th. However, the slick-shod drivers were now beginning to get on the pace.
Berretta was passed by Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), while Goddard had reached an impasse and was struggling to find a way past Verstappen. He was aided in his quest by Fuoco, the Ferrari protégé promptly throwing the lead away by slipping off track in the first corner, which led to Verstappen having to back off slightly to avoid going with the Italian. That let Goddard get right on his tail and next time round Goddard took advantage of the wetter part of the track to nip through into the lead!
The gaps started to close
Further back, Jake Dennis (Carlin) was out of the race after being sideswiped by Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing) while Beretta was busy having another spin after nearly running Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) up the gearbox. Meanwhile Goddard had opened up a gap to Verstappen and was now almost three seconds clear of 2nd, not something anyone would ever have predicted.
It wasn’t long though before the gap between Goddard and Verstappen started to close, as the track became ever drier, leaving very few places for the non-slick shod drivers to cool their tyres. Chang was coming under serious pressure from Jordan King (Carlin), to say nothing of the gaggle behind him, which included Santino Ferrucci (Eurointernational), Blomqvist, and Ocon (though the latter pair seemed too busy fighting each other). It wasn’t long before they all passed him, while Verstappen barged past Goddard in the complex.
Further back, Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Gustavo Menezes (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing) tangled briefly, a clash that saw Calderon awarded a drive through penalty for causing an avoidable accident. Back at the front, though, Fuoco was now ahead of Goddard to reclaim 2nd, and Giovinazzi was now on the Australian’s tail. There was nothing Goddard could do, clearly, as his times started to be eclipsed by people who had not gambled on wets.
The race was now just over halfway one and it had already been quite exciting. It was still all change though, with Chang back down in 12th and Blomqvist all over Ferrucci, having got the drop on Ocon. Next to pass the youngster was Ocon in a somewhat robust move, which put Blomqvist and Ocon right on Goddard’s rear wing. Neither of them met much resistance, and were soon through. Rosenqvist, on the other hand, had the door slammed firmly in his face when the Swede tried to come through as well.
It was all over for the T-Sport driver now though, and shortly afterwards he was out of the top ten. Verstappen was now holding a steady gap to Fuoco as the sun came out, and Giovinazzi was a comfortable 3rd. The driver really flying now was Blomqvist who was 5th behind King but clearly wanted to be 4th. King was not proving cooperative in this endeavour but he couldn’t prevent Blomqvist claiming the fastest lap of the race.
And now with less than 3 and a half minutes left Ocon was on Blomqvist for 5th. Luckily, there wasn’t enough time for the French teenager to figure out a way past. Goddard, meanwhile, after wheel banging with another car, had been overtaken by Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), despite the Swiss being a lap down.
Verstappen came home to a hard-earned victory from Fuoco, Giovinazzi, King, Blomqvist, Ocon, Auer, Rosenqvist, Ferrucci and Ed Jones (Carlin). 11th was Dennis van de Laar (Prema Powerteam), from Felix Serralles (Team West-TecF3), Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam), Menezes, Nissany, Gelael, Szymkowiak, Alexander Toril (ThreeBond with T-Sport), Goddard and Chang (a lap down). Berretta was 21st from Zeller, also both a lap down.
Fastest lap was set by Blomqvist.
Weather: Wet, but rain stopped shortly before. Sunny towards the end.
Race 1 Result:
1st – No. 30, Max Verstappen*, NLD, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 23 laps, 35:35.010
2nd – No. 25, Antonio Fuoco*, ITA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 3.275
3rd – No. 19, Antonio Giovinazzi, ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 3.789
4th – No. 5, Jordan King, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 6.650
5th – No. 31, Tom Blomqvist, GBR, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 11.650
6th – No. 2, Esteban Ocon*, FRA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 18.918
7th – No. 3, Lucas Auer, AUT, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 22.352
8th – No. 27, Felix Rosenqvist, SWE, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 24.972
9th – No. 29, Santino Ferrucci*, USA, Eurointernational, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 33.207
10th – No. 6, Edward Jones, UAE, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 33.767
11th – No. 26, Dennis van de Laar, NLD, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 34.738
12th – No. 21, Felix Serralles, PRT, Team West-TecF3, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 41.642
13th – No. 1, Nicholas Latifi, CDN, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 47.883
14th – No. 16, Gustavo Menezes, USA, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 48.247
15th – No. 4, Roy Nissany, ISR, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, gap 57.942
16th – No. 20, Sean Gelael, IDN, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 58.751
17th – No. 15, Jules Szymkowiak*, NLD, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, gap 1:17.741
18th – No. 12, Alexander Toril, ESP, ThreeBond with T-Sport, Dallara F312, NBE, gap 1:25.439
19th – No. 11, Richard Goddard, AUS, ThreeBond with T-Sport, Dallara F312, NBE, gap 1:31.922
20th – No. 22, Wing Chung (Andy) Chang, MAC, Team West-TecF3, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1 lap
21st – No. 8, Michele Beretta*, ITA, Eurointernational, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1 lap
22nd – No. 17, Sandro Zeller, SWI, Jo Zeller Racing, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1 lap
No. 18, Tatiana Calderon, COL, Jo Zeller Racing, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, lap 20
No. 28, Jake Dennis*, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, lap 7
No. 31, Tom Blomqvist, GBR, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:23:786, lap 23, 96.888mph, 155.926kph