Esteban Ocon ended the six race winning streak of Van Amersfoort’s Max Verstappen with a dominant victory in race one of the 7th round of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship at the Moscow Raceway on Saturday. Leading from pole position, the French teenager, racing for Prema captured his sixth victory of the season but his first in the last seven weekends.
From the start it was Ocon who led from Jordan King into the first corner and Tom Blomqvist trailing behind in third. Max Verstappen made a good start from 5th on the grid to move up one position into 4th. Female racer Tatiana Calderon made a sluggish start and nearly stalled on the grid; the field having to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
By the time the cars began the second lap, Ocon led by just over 0.8 of a second from King who in turn was able to keep in touch with the Frenchman. Into the final corner, Verstappen made a daring move down the inside of Tom Blomqvist; the two running side by side and nearly touching. The Dutchman had the momentum and took third place as they crossed the line. Blomqvist attempting to fight back immediately into turn one, couldn’t find the space and had to defend heavily from Austrian Lucas Auer which he was able to do.
Navigating the fast and twisty Moscow circuit, Ocon stretched his advantage, and after setting the fastest lap of the race, edged out to a one and a half second lead over King and Blomqvist. It all looked very comfortable for the Lotus young driver. Further in the pack there was some great racing; a battle for 14th and 15th place between Roy Nissany and Antonio Giovanazzi into turn one provided at least some alternative action to the procession at the front. Giovanazzi bravely out-braked the Israeli while American Santino Ferrucci ran out of space trying to take advantage.
Just in front of this group was another ferocious battle for the minor positions. Gustavo Menezes catapulted up the inside of team-mate Jules Szymkowiak at the usual final corner passing zone under braking; the pair of them then ran side by side down the main straight before Szymkoviak burst down the inside of turn one to brilliantly re-take the position.
To say there was less action at the front of the race was a massive understatement; Ocon maintained his one and a half second advantage over King – who was being consistently closed down by both Verstappen and Blomqvist behind. The gap, which had been over three seconds, was chopped to just under two seconds by lap 12. Verstappen had to look both ways as the race moved past half distance.
A race that offered great racing also provided tedious investigations – for track limits. No fewer than twelve drivers were shown the black and white flag which detracted from the action somewhat. A number of drivers including Nissany and Jake Dennis served drive through penalties for their misdemeanours.
The closing stages saw Verstappen right on the tail of Jordan King; up till this point the Dutchman had struggled to sufficiently eat into the gap but with two laps to go, he was pressuring the Brit. King withstood the pressure gallantly and held onto his deserved second place over the line, beating Verstappen by just over half a second. Out in front it was Esteban Ocon who claimed victory and successfully put to an end the winning streak of Verstappen in dominant fashion. Behind the top three, Blomqvist finished fourth ahead of Auer and Fuoco. Nicholas Latifi, Felix Rosenqvist, Félix Serallés and Menezes rounded out the top 10.
Ocon’s sixth victory of the season extended his championship lead once more – which had been diminishing in recent meetings – to 84 points over Verstappen who now leads Lucas Auer by 46 and Blomqvist by 58 going into the second of three races this weekend.
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