Roberto Merhi has won the second round of the opening F3 Euroseries weekend from Marco Wittmann by merely 8 tenths of a second. The 10-lap sprint race at Le Castellet saw the top 3 drivers Merhi, Wittmann and Daniel Juncadella all scrapping for the lead throughout- the trio never separated by more than 2 seconds.
Merhi was relieved to claim victory after a disappointing performance in the opening race of the weekend. “In the second race, my car was really good after we had made a slight mistake in the set-up in the first race. I hope that the season will continue like this.”
2010 Euroseries runner-up Marco Wittmann appeared frustrated at the pace of his rivals: “After race one, in which I only finished fifth, I am now relatively happy with second place. Nevertheless, we still have work to do, because both Prema drivers Roberto and Daniel were really quick again in this race.”
Signature’s Laurens Vanthoor – the pole-sitter after finshing 8th in Race 1, lead a fast-starting Marco Wittmann for the first lap before being passed by Wittmann and Merhi on the second lap. The leading pair then began to struggle for first place, which Merhi took after a mistake by Wittmann in the final sector cost him over a second and left him vulnerable approaching the start/finish line.
Juncadella once again put in a very competitive performance, the Prema Powerteam driver cleared Vanthoor in the final laps of the race and moved into 3rd place, setting the F3 track record in the process. He replaced Vanthoor in the fight for the top 3, but couldn’t find a way past Wittmann.
Juncadella’s later admitted to gearbox troubles throughout, slowing his overall pace and according to the Spaniard, stopped him from challenging for second place. “I am very happy being on the podium again. In the second race, all the drivers were racing with used tyres and it was already better for us than in the previous race. I wasn’t able to attack Marco in the final stages, because Carlos MuÃ±oz held me up for three laps and because I was having slight gearbox troubles.”
The majority of Nigel Melker’s race was very progressive. Winning Race 1 meant he started 8th on the grid for the second round, and quickly moved his way through the field. The German also provided some last-gasp excitement by passing Vanthoor at the end of the last lap, but the MÃ¼cke Motorsport driver was penalised as the overtake was deemed illegal. A drive-through penalty was issued, but as it was the last lap the stewards declared that 30 seconds be added to Melker’s overall time at the end of the race, dumping him from 4th to 12th and last place.
Vanthoor’s race went from bad to worse after the Belgian driver was also given a 30 second time penalty after the race’s end, dropping him from 5th to 7th, allowing Felix Rosenqvist to inherit 4th place for MÃ¼cke Motorsport.
Due to the short format of the race, tyre management served a less important role and also meant the majority of runners were using worn tyres from previous sessions during the weekend. Merhi finally matched his impressive pre-season pace after struggling with his tyres during the longer Race 1, and takes an early lead in the championship with one more race of the weekend left – another 40-minute race on Sunday.
Nigel Melker still leads the point standings, despite not earning a single point in Round 2, his last chance for points this weekend will come in Round 3 tomorrow morning.
Results - 10 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Roberto Merhi Prema Dallara-Merc 19m10.637s 2. Marco Wittmann Signature Dallara-VW + 0.800s 3. Daniel Juncadella Prema Dallara-Merc + 1.360s 4. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Merc + 7.056s 5. Carlos MuÃ±oz Signature Dallara-VW + 10.152s 6. Kimiya Sato Motopark Dallara-VW + 10.394s 7. Laurens Vanthoor Signature Dallara-VW + 11.856s 8. Kuba Giermaziak Star Dallara-VW + 12.607s 9. Jimmy Eriksson Motopark Dallara-VW + 13.492s 10. Gianmarco Raimondo Motopark Dallara-VW + 16.438s 11. Daniel Abt Signature Dallara-VW + 16.940s 12. Nigel Melker Mucke Dallara-Merc + 34.948s