Ferrari protege Guan Yu Zhou took a start-to-finish maiden Formula 3 win in the first race of the F3 European Championship season on the streets of Pau.
The Shanghai racer got a better getaway than poleman Dan Ticktum, who suffered wheelspin after pre-loading the clutch too much, and Zhou was able to control the race in his Prema Powerteam Dallara-Mercedes.
Zhou soon built an advantage of a few car lengths over Ticktum’s Motopark car, which was being shadowed by Prema man Ralf Aron.
But a full-course yellow for Devlin DeFrancesco stopping with a clutch failure gave Ticktum another chance, and when the race went green as they crossed the start-finish line he had a look to the outside of the Gare corner.
Ben Hingeley, having damaged his suspension after contact, pulled over at the tight Lycee hairpin on the first lap after the FCY, bringing out a full-on safety car.
At the restart, Aron’s momentum carried him to the outside of Ticktum at Gare, and the Estonian pulled off a fantastic move via minor contact – which McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Ticktum described as “kamikaze” – to take second place.
Ticktum never gave up, probing for an opening on Aron before the safety car appeared again due to a crash at the exit of the Foch chicane for Keyvan Andres Soori.
There was time for just three more laps of racing once the race went green, and Ticktum had to go a little defensive to fend off Sacha Fenestraz at the restart before dropping the Carlin-run Frenchman and latching onto Aron once more.
But he ran out of time, Zhou and Aron completing a Prema 1-2.
“The key of the race was to have a good start, because obviously Pau is a really tight track and it’s difficult to overtake,” said Zhou.
“I got a mega start, but it was a tough race with the full-course yellow and two safety cars, and it was pretty tense there with the guys putting pressure on me.
“After that I just stayed cool and avoided the kerbs.”
Behind Fenestraz, Marcus Armstrong took fifth in his Prema machine, after pulling off a stunning start to make up three places on the run to Gare.
Reigning BRDC British Formula 3 champion Enaam Ahmed was an impressive sixth from Hitech GP teammate Alex Palou.
Ahmed won the place by spearing down the inside of Palou at Lycee, the Catalan getting squeezed out and losing a further position to Jehan Daruvala.
But Palou recovered seventh place when Daruvala suffered suspension failure and was forced out.
Robert Shwartzman ran an early fourth in his Prema car, but lost several positions immediately after the early FCY and finished eighth.
Motopark pair Marino Sato and Juri Vips completed the points scorers.
Free practice pacesetter Mick Schumacher’s bid to recover from a qualifying-crash-enforced 18th place on the grid was scuppered when he got caught napping at Lycee, and Fabio Scherer lanced down the inside.
The two cars ran wide, with Schumacher having to stop by the barrier before rejoining at the tail of the field.
|1||Guan Yu Zhou||Prema||34'45.458|
|17||Artem Petrov||Van Amersfoort||11.347|
|Ret||Keyvan Andres Soori||Van Amersfoort||-|