The RTL Masters of Formula 3 at Zandvoort saw a dominating performance all weekend by Felix Rosenqvist as he reached his goal of earning his second championship in The Netherlands special yearly event.
In front of almost 17,000 sunburned spectators at Zandvoort, Felix Rosenqvist (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport) put in a dominant performance to become only the second driver in the 23-year history of the event to win twice. It may be a coincidence, but the other man to do this is also Northern European (Valtteri Bottas). It wasn’t an incident free run for the Swede, but no one seriously challenged him after he got off the line, despite a case of wheelspin. 2nd after 25-laps of the circuit in the Dutch dunes was Alex Lynn (Prema Powerteam), from team-mate Emil Bernstorff, the young Brit on his first outing with the team.
At the start, Harry Tincknell (Carlin) also got rather more wheelspin than was good for him. In his case it allowed both Lynn and Bernstorff to power past him, while Rosenqvist held onto his lead despite not having warmed his tyres up as much as he should on the warm up lap. To be fair, the nature of F3 cars means it’s not always the most exciting formula to watch, and certainly the front half dozen drivers had what could best be described as a quiet afternoon. The same could not be said for everyone else.
Back in the pack Sven Müller (ma-con) was giving Lucas Auer (Prema Powerteam) an awful lot of grief. Given Müller’s record to date in the FIA F3 European series, there was really only one way this could end, and sure enough on lap 4 it did. A clash between the two saw Auer arrive at Tarzan completely out of control. He speared straight on into the barriers, raising a major dust storm in the process. Müller limped away from the scene, but only made it as far as the pit lane at the end of the same lap, his race done before it was really underway.
That seemed to settle a few of them down, while at the front Rosenqvist concentrated on extending his lead without taking any silly risks, while Lynn watched the Swede’s disappearing rear wing, and set about trying to conserve his Kumho tyres in the unlikely event that Rosenqvist would do something daft. Bernstorff wasn’t close enough to mount any sort of challenge for 2nd, and Tincknell had the benefit of Tom Blomqvist (Eurointernational) in 5th having his hands full with Jordan King (Carlin).
In the back half of the pack, though, it was all going on, with Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport) showing an unusual – and frankly this season uncharacteristic – ferocity and overtaking people, all without pitching himself into a gravel trap. This was the new improved “Spike” as he overhauled Sean Gelael (Double R Racing) on lap 5 and then set off after Roy Nissany (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport).
Behind them, Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing) had found a friend in Andre Rudersdorf (ma-con) and was setting about him with some focus, as the two of them caught up with Yuhi Sekiguchi (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport), the Japanese unable to get to grips with Zandvoort all weekend no matter what he tried.
Another Double R Racing man having some trouble out there in the early stages – and in fact all through the race – was Antonio Giovinazzi, who had it in for Michael Lewis (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport). The American wouldn’t give an inch, but the Italian was determined to make him, and it was starting to get a bit fraught for 11th. Giovinazzi tried all sorts to pass the American, slowing the pair of them down so much that eventually Dennis van de Laar, the local here in the Van Amersfoort Racing entered car, was able to get in the on the act to.
Back in the pack, as the race entered the mid stage and Rosenqvist continued to enjoy his Sunday afternoon drive to the beach, the stress levels were building, as Goddard caught up to Nissany, and Gelael dropped back into the clutches of Sekiguchi, Rudersdorf and Calderon. The final four were running in close formation, and there was always a chance that one of them might make a mistake that would wipe the lot of them out.
Mind you, Nissany had a bit of a wobble into Tarzan as he concentrated on trying to hold Goddard at bay. That was all the Australian was waiting for and he was through, his next victim Josh Hill (Fortec Motorsport) after Josh lost a lot of time at Scheivlak. A lap later and there was a proper accident at Scheivlak when Gelael bit the dust (or at least the gravel), putting an end to his race and providing the third retirement of the day. Given the heat it was quiet remarkable that more brains didn’t cease to function out there.
Certainly the person driving the medical car seemed to be somewhat addled. Rosenqvist was the almost victim, coming round a little after Gelael’s off only to be confronted by the medical car, stationery in the middle of the track, blue lights flashing. Felix, not unreasonably, had no idea what was going on or what he was supposed to do. Suspecting it might be a Safety Car situation, he radioed the team but they didn’t answer. So he drove carefully round it, losing a couple of second’s worth of lead as a result, and realised what he was dealing with. It was a bit of a nasty moment for the leader.
It was a bit odd and took some of us back to the day’s when the little white rescue trucks used to occasionally randomly take to the circuit on the racing line with no warning at all while the race was still live. No one misses those days, apart perhaps from the truck drivers themselves, we’re sure. It’s been a while since it happened; perhaps this was a flashback. It was one Felix could have done without, that’s for sure.
Once everyone was safely through they all settled down for a few laps, Rosenqvist still comfortably ahead of Lynn, Bernstorff, Tincknell, Blomqvist and King. Again, it was the back half of the pack that provided most of the remaining entertainment. On lap 18, Giovinazzi finally barged past Lewis, and Goddard went for Hill as they entered Tarzan. It didn’t work the first time, but he was doggedly determined.
Two laps later and Goddard was through, while van de Laar had also managed to sneak past Lewis, the American having a tough afternoon out there with little peace to be had. Also in trouble, if the screeching of locking brakes into Tarzan was anything to go by was William Buller (Fortec Motorsport), another driver who seemed to be oddly off the pace all weekend. He ran the entire race just behind team-mate Pipo Derani, who was unable to extract enough pace from his car to trouble Eddie Cheever (Prema Powerteam) or Nicolas Latifi (Carlin) in 7th and 8th.
They were all four promoted a place each with three laps left on the counter though, when Blomqvist, who’d been holding off King from the start, went missing, but that was the only change in the last few laps.
Rosenqvist was a delighted winner afterwards: “It was a completely perfect weekend. I was quickest every session. I was more focussed on my normal championship so didn’t feel pressurised at all for this. The car was much better than last year and my only thought was to win. I want to just offer a thank you to the team. I think it’s partly down to experience and Zandvoort is my favourite track. There was a medical car on the track and I lost 1.7 seconds slowing for. I felt a bit shaky there even though I had a good margin from the start, but that was my worst moment.”
Lynn was a diffident second. “The weekend started a bit difficult for us so we changed the car quite a bit. The team came here expecting to be quite quick but we just weren’t quick enough against Felix so the team worked hard to change the car set up. The start was a good one and I kept my position but Felix was faultless today. I couldn’t catch him, and the tyres were a factor. I had quite bad oversteer so a podium is nice, but the best man won today.”
In 3rd, Bernstorff seemed a mite stunned. “The car drove very well. It was quite different from my normal car so I had to adapt through the practice sessions just getting used to it and the tyres. I made a mistake through the last corner but qualifying was quite good otherwise and I got a good start and was able to hang on to 3rd all the way.”
In 4th, and not too happy despite being joint winner of the Nations Cup with Lynn was Tincknell, ruing what might have been. “It was disappointing. At the start I tried to pass Felix but I got too much wheelspin and ended up on the dirty side so I overcooked it slightly. Still, it was a good weekend for my first time here and good practice for the Euroseries round here later in the year.”
5th went to King, from Cheever, Latifi, Derani, Buller and Giovinazzi. 11th was van de Laar, from Lewis, Jann Mardenborough (Carlin), Goddard, Hill, Nissany, Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), his new friends, Sekiguchi, Rudersdorf and Calderon. Classified 21st and last was Blomqvist.
Fastest lap of the race went to Rosenqvist, and the Nations Cup was claimed by the British, in the shape of Lynn and Tincknell.
Weather: Hot, sunny.