Lando Norris wins the European F3 Title
With two races remaining, the title is his. Here's how race one unfolded
It was largely expected that the F3 championship would be wrapped up at the previous round, but with leader Lando Norris crashing out of race 3 in such dramatic fashion, the final round at the Hockenheim Ring became less of a bonus round and more of a decider.
Callum Ilott lined up in P1 with Norris alongside him ahead of Joel Eriksson and Jehan Daruvala. The only person who could stop Norris taking the championship, Maxi Günther, started race 1 down in P12 and it would take a truly special effort along with a reasonable amount of luck if he was going to keep the fight alive.
Ilott got a blinding start to hold onto the lead as Norris was slow off the line, dropping into P3 and allowing Eriksson to make up a position. Ilott wasn’t able to maintain momentum whereas Eriksson just kept his foot down and in turn three they switched positions before some wheel banging from the British pair seen Illot on the run off area and Norris demoted to P3.
Ilott was able to rejoin in P4 behind Habsburg who had managed to jump Daruvala off the line and, following a look from the stewards, no further action was taken.
While the Championship leader was scrapping up front, his only remaining rival, Maxi Günther, was making steady progress from P12 on the grid, in the final points paying position by the end of lap 2.
The front runners settled into a groove before having another go at attacking and following half a lap of really impressive defence from Ferdinand Habsburg, Norris made it passed to take second position, 1.8 seconds behind Eriksson. He then set about mounting a challenge for the win, setting purple sectors and catching by around 2 tenths a lap, but with 20 minutes left to go, would his tyres hold up?
Further back, a great battle got underway for P8 between Tadasuki Makino and Ralf Aron, allowing Maxi Günther to catch them and get involved. Giving it everything he has though, as he started to make inroads on the pair, he overcooked it into the final turn and dipped a wheel into the gravel, undoing all his good work.
With another wide moment into turn one, he dropped off the back of the squabbling pair ahead and fell into the clutches of his Prema teammate Mick Schumacher.
Ilott had been running steadily in fourth, with a good gap to Daruvala in fifth, but in the closing stages he too had a moment at the final turn, allowing that gap to close and having to get back on it to stave off an attack for the position.
With the gap at the front remaining between 1.3 and 1.6 seconds, it looked a lot as though Eriksson was managing the gap to Norris, doing exactly what he had to maintain the lead. And so it was, as they crossed the line with no changes in the order, Eriksson taking his third win in a row from Norris and Habsburg completing the podium.
With Günther unable to make up any further places, the 2017 F3 Championship was handed to rookie, Lando Norris who kept up the time honoured tradition of pulling off some donuts on the cool down lap.
Here are the full results from Race 1
Race 1 provisional classification [Image: FIA F3]
His position next year is yet to be confirmed but as a McLaren junior driver, the team seem keen to keep up his momentum and keep him on board so there is a chance that he will replace Jenson Button as the reserve driver in the team. The best thing for him would be to get a seat in the next rung on the ladder, F2, but it all remains to be seen.
Until, then, there are still two races to go on this years F3 season and with Joel Eriksson on winning form, he has overtaken Maxi Günther for second. With Günther set to start ahead in both races, it should be a great battle to the end. Race 2 gets underway at 17.15 local 🇩🇪 time.
If you missed race 1, you can catch is here www.youtube.com/watch?v=we1f_vKTokY&feature=youtu.be&t=7m52s
Here is the grid for Race 2
Results of Qualifying 2, setting the grid for Race 2 [Image: FIA F3]