Marcus Ericsson’s run of bad luck this season has been blown apart by a dominant drive to victory this afternoon in the feature race at the Nurburgring, storming away from his rivals despite a safety car to win by almost 8 seconds from James Calado and Stefano Coletti.
The result was set up at the start when Ericsson got off the line better than poleman and teammate Stéphane Richelmi, who bogged down and gave Mitch Evans a clear run at the first turn: the New Zealander ran too deep and gave the spot back to Ericsson, with Richelmi, Felipe Nasr and Robin Frijns behind him.
They were all soon slowed as a safety car came out on track: Daniel Abt and Nathanaël Berthon squeezed Kevin Ceccon between them to avoid the stalled Adrian Quaife Hobbs, with the Italian pitched into a roll before coming to rest against the Briton’s car. With the cars removed, the race ran live again on lap 4, with little change at the front.
Nasr rolled the dice and came in to change his super softs on lap 6, coming out in P23 as Ericsson set a string of fastest laps, forcing everyone to make a decision: Frijns and Calado came in two laps later, with Ericsson having to cover next time by despite setting the pace, while his teammate stayed out for a few more laps to take the lead and run the alternate strategy.
The Brazilian’s gamble soon looked like a losing hand as he dropped back to his rivals as the laps ticked over: Calado claimed his place on lap 17, Frijns had a big look two laps later (just as Coletti made his late stop) before forcing his way by two laps later, while Coletti used his fresh tyres to sneak by countryman Richelmi on lap 25 and Nasr next time round.
With the clock ticking down to zero Ericsson walked away as Calado told the pits his tyres were finished. The pair finally crossed the line 7.8 seconds apart, but all eyes were on the battle behind them: Coletti closed on Frijns and pushed inside at the final chicane, with the pair touching as the points leader squeezed through for a podium finish, with Richelmi slowed just enough by them for Fabio Leimer to sneak into P4 as Frijns fell back to P6 at the final corner, ahead of Jon Lancaster, Thom Dillman, a gutted Nasr and Johnny Cecotto in P10.
The last lap dramatics meant Coletti extended his lead in the championship over Nasr, 135 points to 100, ahead of Bird on 89, Leimer on 78, Calado on 70 and Lancaster on 50 points, with Rapax holding a 4 point lead over Carlin in the teams’ title, 143 to 139, ahead of RUSSIAN TIME on 136 and Racing Engineering on 100 ahead of tomorrow’s sprint race.