Mercedes DTM junior Maximilian Gunther took a lights-to-flag win in the final race of the 2017 European F3 season at Hockenheim, but it wasn’t enough to give him the runner-up spot in the standings.
A brilliant performance from Joel Eriksson – a protege of the BMW junior team – gave the Swede second in the race and in the championship after starting fifth on the grid.
Eriksson made up one place at the start when Callum Ilott, second on the grid, lost momentum after what seemed like a decent initial launch, and plummeted to sixth by the time the field reached Turn 2.
Eriksson then made an incisive pass on Jake Hughes for third place into the hairpin on lap two, the Midlander unable to defend from Eriksson as strongly as he had in Saturday’s second race.
One lap later Eriksson passed Ferrari junior Guan Yu Zhou for second in the Mercedes Arena, and was 2.7s behind the Prema Powerteam of Gunther, who, unlike Eriksson, had two new tyres left for this race from his weekend allocation.
Gunther inched out a couple of tenths more to his advantage before a full-course yellow was called on lap seven – Ferdinand Habsburg had misjudged his car positioning in a jostling midfield bunch into the Sachskurve, and was launched over the rear wheel of Juri Vips and into the barriers.
Motopark driver Eriksson lost the best part of two seconds to Gunther over the FCY, and the Austro-Bavarian kept the gap around the 4s mark for the majority of the remainder of the race, despite a couple of hefty lock-ups at the Sachskurve.
“All I could do [to be championship runner-up] was win the race,” said Gunther.
“I had a really good start, pulled the gap and got quite a good lead.
“From there on I managed my race, and managed my tyres – I’m really happy to win here in the motordrome; for a German driver that’s really special.”
The fight for third remained interesting throughout, with newly crowned champion Lando Norris passing Hughes after the FCY to move into fourth and latch onto the tail of Zhou.
But Prema driver Zhou held firm, despite another last-lap attack from the Carlin machine of Norris, to take third.
Hitech GP ace Hughes outbraked himself at Spitzkehre mid-race while defending from the Prema car of Ilott – who had lost ground under the FCY – allowing Ilott to take fifth.
Nikita Mazepin (Hitech) passed Van Amersfoort Racing’s Pedro Piquet as the FCY ended, but was instructed by stewards to give the position back, so Piquet finished his season with a seventh place, while his VAR team-mate Joey Mawson was also close to hand behind Mazepin in ninth.
But a post-race five-second penalty for an FCY infringement relegated Hughes to eighth, behind Piquet and Mazepin.
The season’s final point went the way of Motopark’s David Beckmann after he passed Tadasuke Makino on the fifth lap.