Felix Rosenqvist clinches victory in the Pau Grand Prix
It has to be said that the return of Formula 3 to Pau was a huge success as 31 000 spectators turned up to enjoy the on-track show. On Sunday morning the drivers in the FIA F3 European Championship woke up to rain. Esteban Ocon on pole made the best start and shot to the front from Felix Rosenqvist and Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing), the three drivers covered by a handkerchief.
As the halfway mark approached all hell broke loose on the slippery track. Max Verstappen was the first to go off in the Foch corner and two laps later Felix Rosenqvist attacked Esteban Ocon. The manoeuvre resulted in the Swede tagging his French rival and Felix’s race came to an abrupt halt in the guardrail in Pont Oscar. This gifted second place to Tom Blomqvist, who was fourth on the grid, and he began to eat into Esteban Ocon’s lead. The deployment of the safety car in the closing stages of the race reduced the gaps to zero. On the restart Tom made a perfect getaway while Ocon was struggling with an ill-handling car due to damaged suspension. Blomqvist got past the Frenchman and took the flag in first place from Ocon and Jake Dennis (Carlin), who clinched his maiden podium finish.
“As we hadn’t run on a wet track it was pretty tricky,” said Blomqvist after the finish of race 2. “Over the radio I was told that Esteban had a problem with his car so I went for broke. It was an important victory as I had to cope with a ten-place grid penalty for three races. To catch Esteban I’ll have to continue racking up good results for the rest of the season.”
The final race of the weekend was given the honorary title of the Pau Grand Prix. Esteban Ocon, who was again on pole, lost first place to Felix Rosenqvist, who made a perfect start when the lights went out. He then had to fend off the Frenchman’s attacks for 29 laps. Despite the unceasing pressure, the Swede didn’t make any mistakes and scored his first win of the season from Ocon and Blomqvist.
“This victory is a big relief especially after such a difficult start to the season, rather like this weekend in fact,” explained the winner of the 2014 Pau Grand Prix. “I made a few mistakes during this race, in particular by triggering the pit limiter in the Lycée hairpin! But in the end I won, so it’s a big relief. It’s been a great event and as Formula 3 is the blue riband formula here so it’s a real achievement to win on this circuit. There’s still a long way to go, and I hope that this victory marks the start of my fight back up the championship classification.”
Although Esteban Ocon was second he has every reason to be satisfied with his weekend as he has increased his lead in the championship: he leaves Pau with 57 points in hand over Tom Blomqvist followed by Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Max Verstappen and Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam). “I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t win the Pau Grand Prix. I made an okay start but Felix made a super one,” admitted the Lotus F1 Team Junior driver. “Nonetheless it’s been a very positive meeting with three pole positions, a win and two second places; and above all I really enjoyed myself throughout the weekend. The ambience is fantastic and this circuit is a really exciting one. There’s still a long way to go in the championship and now it’s time to focus on the Hungaroring round.”
The FIA F3 European Championship will pitch its tent in Hungary at the end of May for the fourth round of the year.