Dutch rookie Nigel Melker took the first race win of the 2011 F3 Euroseries and of his own F3 career at the Paul Ricard circuit. The driver for MÃ¼cke Motorsport took the chequered flag ahead of team-mate Felix Rosenqvist, who started 6th on the grid. Spain’s Daniel Juncadella completed the podium in 3rd place for Prema Powerteam – meaning Mercedes-Benz powered cars locked out the top 3.
Pole-sitter Roberto Merhi’s impressive pace over the whole weekend was undone by the Kuhmo slick tyres, new for 2011. Prema Powerteam were one of better teams at handling the sensitive rubber, but Merhi was passed by Melker at the halfway point of the race and then quickly slipped further back down the field to finish 4th ahead of Marco Wittmann (Signature).
The 19-lap race was one of recovery for Marco Wittmann, who suffered a technical problem on the grid and was forced to start from the pitlane putting him at the back the field by 15 seconds. However, Wittmann was the fastest man on the track throughout the majority of the race and recovered well to finish 5th, only 1.5 seconds behind pole-sitter Merhi.
Race winner Melker, was naturally elated with the result: “This is my first victory with a single-seater race car and I am really happy. In testing, we focussed more on the set-up for the race than on the qualifying performance and that has paid off. During the race, the new tyres didn't cause any problems for me.”
Felix Rosenqvist surprised many with his podium finish, as the MÃ¼cke Motorsport driver hadn’t made any headlines during practice or pre-season testing. “My start was good, although I had a few doubts after the test sessions. I moved up to finish second from sixth on the grid, so I can be very happy with that. However, there was no way for me to jeopardize Nigel's first place.”
Daniel Juncadella was contented with his performance: “In fact, I am happy with my race, because starting the season with a podium finish is always good.”
Race 2 of the weekend will take place later this afternoon, featuring a reversed top 8 grid. i.e. Melker will start 8th, Rosenqvist 7th and so on.
Results - 19 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Nigel Melker Mucke Dallara-Merc 36m32.728s 2. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Merc + 4.090s 3. Daniel Juncadella Prema Dallara-Merc + 9.268s 4. Roberto Merhi Prema Dallara-Merc + 11.340s 5. Marco Wittmann Signature Dallara-VW + 12.424s 6. Carlos Munoz Signature Dallara-VW + 18.186s 7. Kuba Giermaziak Star Dallara-VW + 20.106s 8. Laurens Vanthoor Signature Dallara-VW + 22.891s 9. Gianmarco Raimondo Motopark Dallara-VW + 23.504s 10. Jimmy Eriksson Motopark Dallara-VW + 24.184s Retirements: Kimiya Sato Motopark Dallara-VW 8 laps Daniel Abt Signature Dallara-VW 7 laps