Race report – Round 31 (Race 1)
Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing) was on unstoppable form at Hockenheim this morning with his 10th victory, a lights to flag run that netted him fastest lap as well as new lap record, and kept his chances of finishing in the runner up slot well and truly alive.
His rival for that honour, Tom Bomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) finished 3rd, behind Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), while Prema Powerteam did enough to claim the team title to go with Esteban Ocon’s driver trophy. It has been a good year for the Italian team, though they have been made to work for it this time out.
After the excitement of Imola last weekend (and in particular the last race on Sunday) it was always to be expected that Hockenheim would be something of an anti-climax, especially given how often races here are processional in nature.
Pooling into the lead
The race got off to a smooth start, which was a welcome change after Italy, and Verstappen pulled into the lead to be almost three quarters of a second ahead of Auer by the end of the first lap. And that was the closest anyone would get to the Dutchman over the course of the remaining 21 laps.
Behind the lead pair Blomqvist was holding off team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi, while behind him there was a major sort out from which Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) came out best in 5th, from a somewhat lack-lustre Ocon, the 2014 champion seemingly having lost interest after claiming the title, though he did squeeze past Jordan King (Carlin). That left Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) in 8th, from Felix Serralles (Team West-Tec F3) and Gustavo Menezes (Van Amersfoort Racing).
Behind them things were also lively, with both Alexander Toril (ThreeBond with T-Sport) and Santino Ferrucci (Fortec Motorsport) both managing to get into separate spins during the course of the first lap. They were both able to continue but it didn’t help either of them much. Apart from that, there was some further action closer to the sharp end.
Not so hard
Verstappen seemed to realize he didn’t need to push that hard, and Auer caught up a little, but it was nowhere near enough to make a dent in the leader’s confidence. Rosenqvist got the drop on Ocon to claim 5th while Menezes was now up to 8th having passed both Gelael and Serralles.
Verstappen and Auer now started to pull away from Blomqvist, the gap holding steady between first and second at around 0.7 seconds for the initial handful of laps. Then Max put a bit of a spurt on and opened up the gap, setting the fastest lap of the race so far and putting 1.2 second between himself and his nearest challenger. A lap later and he was 1.5 seconds ahead and looking very comfortable.
Behind him, Ocon was passed by King in a dramatic move by the Englishman, thus slipping to 7th, which was still enough to give Prema the team title as long as Ocon didn’t lose any more places. Meanwhile Serralles was setting about Gelael, trying to get round the outside of the Indonesian into turn 10. It didn’t quite work, they touched and the Puerto Rican ran wide. He wasn’t done though, and would continue to harry Gelael for lap after lap until he finally found a way past.
Elsewhere on lap 9 Eurointernational’s Michele Beretta managed to run wide in the first corner and got launched, hitting with wall nose first and ripping his front wing off. It didn’t make any difference to the main runners, given where the Italian was running at the time. In fact it pretty much seemed to sum up the team’s year to date. Stefano Coletti, running with them prior to competing in Macau, must be wondering what he’s got himself into.
The race continued on its processional way for several laps. By lap 14 Verstappen’s lead was up to 2.5 seconds, with the top ten now stable (apart from the Serralles/Gelael scrap). However, in the pack, Wing Chung “Andy” Chang (Team West-Tec F3) was out of the race, having pulled into the pits and out of contention, while Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing) had dislodged his front wing running into Ed Jones (Carlin) and was also in the pits. The Dutch driver would continue after high speed repairs but was now a lap down, and just ahead of King on the road.
Apart from Coletti retiring on lap 17, the race now settled into a steady pattern with no changes to the order. Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) seemed to be making progress in the closing stages, as he caught up to Gelael, but then he sustained damage to his front wing, and to the distress of his massive (and massively vocal) fan club, he ended up losing ground again.
And so Verstappen brought it home for his 10th win of the season. He is currently 13 points ahead of Blomqvist in the runner-up battle, but Blomqvist starts the final two races from pole while Verstappen starts 9th in Race 2 and 8th in Race 3. He may well have to prove that it is possible to overtake at Hockenheim. If anyone can, then Max can.
2nd went to Auer, from Blomqvist, Giovinazzi, Rosenqvist, King, Ocon, Menezes, Serralles and Gelael. After Fuoco started to lose ground, Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing), and Jones all passed him, leaving the young Italian in 14th.
Jake Dennis (Carlin), who started last after an engine change, was 15th, from Nick Cassidy (ThreeBond with T-Sport), Dennis van de Laar (Prema Powerteam), Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), Ferrucci and Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport). 21st was Toril, from Szymkowiak.
The fastest lap of the race was set by Verstappen.
Race 1 Result
1st – Max Verstappen*, NED, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen
2nd – Lucas Auer, AUT, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz
3rd –Tom Blomqvist, GBR, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen
4th – Antonio Giovinazzi, ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen
5th – Felix Rosenqvist, SWE, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz
6th – Jordan King, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen
7th – Esteban Ocon*, FRA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz
8th – Gustavo Menezes, USA, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen
9th – Felix Serralles, PRT, Team West-TecF3, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz
10th – Sean Gelael, IDN, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen