In a thrilling second race of the season at the 3.841 kilometres long Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, Callum Ilott (Van Amersfoort Racing) celebrated his maiden victory in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. The 17-year-old Brit finished ahead of Nick Cassidy (Prema Powerteam) in second and the best-placed rookie driver, Guanyu Zhou (Motopark) in third place. Thus, 16-year-old Zhou secured the first-ever podium finish by a Chinese driver in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. 21-year-old New-Zealander Cassidy has now taken over the lead in the drivers’ standings following the retirement of erstwhile points’ leader Lance Stroll (Prema Powerteam) after an accident on the opening lap.
“Somehow, I was surprised myself by the speed I had, because I was using my oldest set of tyres in this race,” commented Cassidy. “In the opening stages, defending first place was still a challenge, but things got better as the race went on.
“Later on, I made a mistake in turn six when the track got more slippery due to the rain. That was really annoying, because I was in control of the race. At least, I was able to get back second place on the final lap after the restart.”
Just after the start, Lance Stroll, the winner of the first race of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season, already saw his hopes of another success blown. The Canadian became involved in a collision in the first corner, in which four drivers retired. Ben Barnicoat (HitechGP) missed his braking point and hit Stroll, who, in turn, collected Joel Eriksson (Motopark). Next to Stroll and Barnicoat, Maximilian Günther (Prema Powerteam) and Harrison Newey (Van Amersfoort Racing) also retired. Race control deployed the safety car out for the first time.
At this time, Nick Cassidy was leading from Callum Ilott, Mikkel Jensen (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Guanyu Zhou and Anthoine Hubert (Van Amersfoort Racing). At the restart on lap four, this order initially remained unchanged until Zhou worked his way past Jensen into third on lap eight. Seven laps later, Cassidy suddenly was down in third place at the track in the south of France after having made a mistake when the rain increased. Ilott took the lead and then safely brought victory home, also assisted by a second safety car intervention.
The safety car came out for the second time after Ralf Aron (Prema Powerteam) had spun on lap 19 and stayed on track until lap 22. After the restart, there was one lap remaining for the young drivers, during which Cassidy mounted a successful challenge against Zhou and thus secured himself second place. In a race marked by many entertaining battles, Jensen finished fourth from Sérgio Sette Câmara (Motopark), Alessio Lorandi (Carlin), Ryan Tveter (Carlin), Hubert, Eriksson and Raoul Hyman (Carlin).
Race 1 – Stroll takes victory in race 1
Lance Stroll (Prema Powerteam) got his second season in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship underway to the best possible start. In the first race of the year at the 3.841 kilometres long Circuit Paul Ricard, the 17-year-old Canadian beat his team-mate Nick Cassidy (Prema Powerteam) and took victory. British driver George Russell (HitechGP) claimed third place, finishing ahead of the best-placed rookie driver, Ben Barnicoat (HitechGP) in fourth. The winner of the first race of the season, Lance Stroll is also the first points’ leader of the 2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship.
“For me, the first few metres were very good, commented Cassidy. “Although my starts over the winter had been terrible and I wasn’t too confident about my starts either. Unfortunately, I made a mistake when shifting at the end of the opening lap and hence I lost the lead again. After that, overtaking proved to be difficult, even though my car was really good. This weekend, conditions are changing all the time, but the team always had the right answer.”
Having started from pole position, Lance Stroll initially had to hand the race lead to Nick Cassidy. However, he already claimed back the lead on lap two and held on to it until the finish of the race after 25 laps. 21-year-old Cassidy was able to follow his team-mate, but didn’t have a chance to mount a successful challenge.
Behind the Prema Powerteam duo, George Russell finished third. The 18-year-old Brit had a better getaway than rookie driver Niko Kari (Motopark), who was third on the grid, and moved up into third place on the opening metres of the race. After a collision with his team-mate Sérgio Sette Câmara (Motopark), the Fin lost even more ground and went on to finish his maiden FIA Formula 3 European Championship race in eighth place.
Ben Barnicoat, Maximilian Günther (Prema Powerteam), the second-best rookie driver Joel Eriksson (Motopark) and Ralf Aron (Prema Powerteam), who collected the trophy for the third-best rookie, filled the positions between Russell and Kari. After entertaining battles in the midfield, Harrison Newey (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Callum Ilott (Van Amersfoort Racing) claimed the final point-scoring positions by finishing ninth and tenth respectively. Ilott did so after impressive progress, because he had to start from the back of the grid following an engine change after an issue in testing on Thursday.