At Hockenheim this afternoon, Marcus Ericsson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) took another impressive victory, this time holding off the doggedly determined Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) all the way to the chequered flag. In 3rd, after a long...
At Hockenheim this afternoon, Marcus Ericsson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) took another impressive victory, this time holding off the doggedly determined Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) all the way to the chequered flag. In 3rd, after a long tussle with series leader Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) was Walter Grubmuller in the other Hitech car. The National Class victory went to the only survivor, Victor Correa (Litespeed F3), after Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) and Gabriel Dias (T-Sport) clashed four laps from home.
At the start the man to watch was Ericsson, as he rocketed off the line, barging between front row men van der Zande and Ricciardo to claim the lead as the pack screamed into the first corner. Others were not so impressive, particularly Stephane Richelmi (Epsilon Barazi), the Monegasque not even getting as far as the grid and pulling off with mechanical issues as the field filed round to line up. Nick Tandy (JTR) wasn't his usual impressive self either, stalling on the grid and having to play catch up for the rest of the race. He made up some ground when there was a somewhat bizarre clash at the hairpin on the first lap. Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport) tangled having both apparently left their braking too late. Robert Wickens (Carlin Motorsport), who was ahead of the pair, was hit by them, the Fortec car clipping the back of his head and landing on top of him. No one was hurt, but it was a bit embarrassing for the two culprits and more than a bit uncomfortable for Wickens.
After that little outbreak of insanity things settled down a little, with van der Zande trying his best to catch up with Ericsson, and Grubmuller settling in to worry first at Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport) and then at another Carlin man once he'd despatched the teenager on lap 5. His next target was Ricciardo and he soon caught the Australian up. Meanwhile, Tandy was charging hard and was able to start to make progress through the field once the yellow flags and the debris at the Hairpin were removed, which at least gave everyone something to look at once the top four had gone by with their two battles. Actually there was another scrap going on too, with McKenzie and Dias immediately starting a major fight over the National Class lead, trading places from one lap to the next. There was a moment when it looked as if McKenzie would win it simply because he was in front on each of the odd numbered laps, and this was meant to be a 19 lap race.
By lap 8 things had started to get very interesting with the battle for the lead, van der Zande clawing massive chunks out of Ericsson's lead until he was right with the Swede. Marcus wasn't about to be unnerved by that though, and kept his cool when the Dutchman finally launched his attack, choosing the hairpin to do it. It worked but it didn't stick, van der Zande then falling back again and having to rethink. Grubmuller was also closing on Ricciardo, the Hitech cars proving very effective round here. Tandy was moving too and having made it into the top ten was on the tail of Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport), intent on relieving him of 9th place at the first possible opportunity. It didn't take long. A lap later he was after Wayne Boyd (T-Sport), who he also despatched with extreme effectiveness before the lap was out. That was the end of his progress though, as a lap later he had fallen back into Boyd's clutches and the engine of his Mygale was sounding very rough indeed. Whatever the problem was, it wasn't bad enough to allow Boyd back past him, but it put paid to any further progress on his part.
Shortly after that, Grubmuller got the drop on Ricciardo to snatch the final podium place from the current series leader, and that battle evaporated. Ricciardo just didn't have the pace he needed to catch the Austrian and retake the place and in fact began falling back into the clutches of his team-mate, Chilton. It wasn't turning into his weekend at all.
However, if it wasn't his weekend, it certainly wasn't either Dias or McKenzie's weekend either. After what had been a fine battle they managed to clash with only four laps left, both of them ending up in the gravel and leaving the victory to a somewhat sheepish looking Correa and his delighted Litespeed team. Up ahead of them meanwhile, Garcia was now being bothered by another clutch of desperate characters in the shape of Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport) and Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing). The two of them seem to be spending a lot of time disputing track space and both were keen to catch the Spaniard ahead and get into the points if they could. It wasn't to be, probably because they were both too busy with each other to really make inroads on the Fortec driver.
At the front, van der Zande made one last attempt to depose Ericsson, outbraked himself and had to settle for second. And so Ericsson won his second British F3 race in as many weeks, heading home van der Zande and Grubmuller. Ricciardo was 4th, having held off Chilton in the latter stages of the race, while Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport) came home 6th after a quiet race. 7th was Carlos Huertas (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), a long way ahead of Tandy, Boyd and Garcia. Lloyd claimed 11th despite Bridger's efforts, a disconsolate looking Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) was 13th on the road, ahead of the National Class's only survivor, Correa, but the Englishman was demoted a place with a 30-second penalty for crossing the red box at the Nordkurve too often.
This morning, however, Tandy was excluded from the results after it was found that his airbox had cracked when a piece of rubber was sucked into it. Another team protested the matter and the officials had no choice. That moved everyone from Boyd up a place and also explained why Tandy suddenly slowed significantly and why the car sounded so awful. A penalty seems harsh under the circumstances given that he clearly didn't gain a performance advantage. However, there are precedents and in each one of them the "offender" has been disqualified. It just seemed a shame that his efforts turned out to be a complete waste of time.
Fastest laps went to van der Zande and McKenzie.
Weather: Cold, cloudy.