European F3: Jehan Daruvala scores sixth rookie win in Race 3 at Spielberg
The Indian had a tough start to the weekend, but fought back to secure solid results in the remaining two races.
Starting Round 9 in the 2017 FIA European Formula 3 Championship, Jehan Daruvala was fifth and 12th in the two practice sessions on Friday at Red Bull Ring.
Daruvala was the lone Indian this weekend after Carlin teammate Ameya Vaidyanathan pulled out from the remainder of the season to concentrate on his Euroformula Open campaign.
Meanwhile, later in the day, the Qualifying 1 saw a tight battle all-through the field, with Prema’s Callum Ilott taking pole by 0.016s from teammate Maximilian Gunther.
Motopark’s Joel Eriksson was third, with championship leader Lando Norris alongside him. The ultra-tight session saw the Top 18 covered by a mere 0.888s, as Daruvala was 16th – only 0.587s off Ilott’s time.
The Qualifying 2 on Saturday afternoon saw Eriksson take pole from Norris by a mere 0.003s. Third went to HitechGP’s Nikita Mazepin. An improved show from Daruvala saw him finish fifth – only 0.317s off Eriksson’s time.
The second best time for Race 3 saw Eriksson score another pole from Norris, with Ilott taking third. Daruvala dropped places to be ninth.
The start of the first race on Sunday saw Ilott get off the line at ease in sunny conditions, as Eriksson managed to get ahead of Gunther, while HitechGP’s Tadasuke Makino was ahead of Norris.
The British driver fended off early pressure from Eriksson and saw-through the 25-lap race comfortably to take the win, as teammate Gunther rounded out the Top 3.
Behind, championship leader Norris was stuck at the rear of Makino for most of the race until the final few laps when the Carlin driver made a ballsy move to snatch fourth.
Meanwhile, with penalties applied, Daruvala started from 15th. The Indian lost a position to Motopark’s Marino Sato off the line, but the Force India protégé quickly regained the place and made up two more places after an incident up ahead.
Issue with Van Amersfoort Racing Joey Mawson’s car brought another place to Daruvala. While chasing HitechGP’s Jake Hughes, the Mumbaikar soon had Hughes’ teammate Ralf Aron on his rear.
The Estonian finally found a way past on Lap 11 to take 12th., where he would finish. In the rookie classifications, Daruvala was third behind Norris and Prema’s Mick Schumacher.
The second race on Sunday morning started under sunny conditions at Red Bull Ring, with Eriksson keeping his lead from pole from title rival Norris.
Behind, Mazepin ran third, with Ilott and Daruvala going side by side in the opening few laps in the battle for fourth position.
As the front battle settled in with Eriksson staying ahead of Norris, Mazepin also fended off the charge from Ilott - after the British driver managed to keep Daruvala at bay as well.
The rest of the race was more of a procession despite Norris staying on Eriksson's tail for most of the race, but the Swede won it by 0.896s from the British driver.
The Force India development driver Mazepin took his second podium of the season in third ahead of Ilott, while Daruvala rounded out the Top 5 - keeping Aron comfortably behind.
The rookie podium saw Norris once again taking the top step, with Daruvala in second and Mawson in third, after finishing in eighth overall.
The final race of the weekend saw a frantic start to the 25-lap race as Eriksson and Norris had a huge wheel to wheel battle in the opening few laps.
Despite the attempts made, the Swede kept his lead from Norris, while Aron behind made up two places to be third at the start of the race.
Meanwhile, Daruvala dropped a place to Mawson to be 10th at the start. But he got to ninth soon after taking Hughes, while keeping Schumacher behind.
Up ahead, Eriksson was still being chased by Norris and the two eventually made contact with over five minutes remaining in the race - the British driver hitting the back of the Swede, damaging his front wing in the process.
That allowed the Motopark driver to pull away and take his second win of the weekend. It was drama on the final lap, though, which saw Norris being taken out by Aron.
It put Habsburg in second, but with his time-penalty in place, the Austrian dropped to fourth handing second to Mazepin, while Makino took third - his maiden F3 podium.
With Mawson also penalised, it helped Gunther to finish fifth and keep the title battle alive after Norris' retirement. In all this melee, Daruvala finished in sixth overall.
After Norris' DNF and Mawson's penalty, it allowed the Indian to secure his sixth rookie win of the season, ahead of the Australian and Schumacher.
After nine rounds in the season, Norris leads the drivers' standings with 411 points ahead of Gunther on 337. Daruvala, meanwhile, stays in sixth with 177 points to his name.
The rookie standings is also led by Norris with 550 points as Daruvala closed the gap in second with 486 points. With 75 points at stake in the final round, the Indian has a chance to topple his British teammate for rookie honours of the season.
The 2017 championship now heads to Hockenheim for the season-finale with both the titles to be fought for during the October 14-16 weekend.