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Charles Leclerc wins wet third European F3 race at Hockenheim

by Peter Allen
Charles Leclerc

Photo: FIA F3 European Championship

Rookie Charles Leclerc overhauled veteran Felix Rosenqvist to win a wet third and final FIA F3 European Championship race of the weekend at Hockenheim.

Pole-sitter Rosenqvist led after a safety car start and quickly opened up a lead of 1.5 seconds over Leclerc, but the Monegasque driver soon began cutting the gap.

He had it down to half a second by the end of lap seven, and although Rosenqvist responded over the next few laps, he soon had Leclerc right back on his tail again.

Van Amersfoort’s Leclerc – racing at Hockenheim for the first time this weekend – was close enough to tap the rear of the Prema car of Rosenqvist (seven wins from 28 previous starts at the circuit) at the hairpin on lap 12, and he ran alongside when braking for the same point on lap 13, only to run deep.

The next time around though, he got the cutback exiting the hairpin, giving him the inside line for the following right-hander and enabling him to take the lead.

The safety car then returned to the track after Pietro Fittipaldi collided with Fortec team-mate?Martin Cao?entering the Mercedes arena.

There was time for just two laps of racing at the green flag and Leclerc got a strong restart on his way to securing his second win from as many weekends in F3. His fifth straight podium, the result puts 17-year-old Leclerc within five points of championship leader Antonio Giovinazzi.

That gap would have been even smaller had Giovinazzi not been able to maintain his 100 per cent podium record so far this season, climbing up to third on the last lap.

The Carlin driver got a good start from sixth, passing Callum Ilott and Lance Stroll on the opening lap and later chasing down Maximilian Gunther, who was trying to convert a third-place starting position into a podium finish for the first time this weekend.

The German youngster held on until the start of the final lap when he spun exiting Turn 1, handing Giovinazzi third.

ADAC Formel Masters champion Mikkel Jensen survived first green-flag lap contact with Ilott to come through to fourth, leading his Mucke team-mates Santino Ferrucci and Gunther across the line.

Jensen had passed Ferrari protege Stroll at the restart, with Ferrucci following him through but needlessly forcing the Canadian off track at the hairpin in the process.

There was then more contact for Ferrucci on the last lap when he hit the rear of Gunther entering the Mercedes arena to gain fifth. He was slapped with a 20-second penalty at the chequered flag, relegating him to 28th place.

Gunther therefore came away with his third top-five finish of the weekend, followed by Stroll, German F3 champion Markus Pommer and Jake Dennis. Alex Albon was ninth and Ilott – an early spinner at the hairpin after that contact with Jensen – took 10th.

Race results
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1 Charles Leclerc Van Amersfoort Racing 18 laps in 36:03.129
2 Felix Rosenqvist Prema Powerteam +2.998
3 Antonio Giovinazzi Carlin +7.136
4 Mikkel Jensen Mucke Motorsport +8.045
5 Maximilian Gunther Mucke Motorsport +10.940
6 Lance Stroll Prema Powerteam +12.475
7 Markus Pommer Motopark +13.351
8 Jake Dennis Prema Powerteam +14.132
9 Alex Albon Signature +15.367
10 Callum Ilott Carlin +15.788
11 Gustavo Menezes Carlin +16.517
12 Dorian Boccolacci Signature +18.490
13 Arjun Maini Van Amersfoort Racing +20.351
14 Sam MacLeod Motopark +20.837
15 Fabian Schiller West-Tec +21.368
16 Raoul Hyman West-Tec +22.048
17 Brandon Maisano Prema Powerteam +22.857
18 George Russell Carlin +23.234
19 Michele Beretta Mucke Motorsport +23.689
20 Ryan Tveter Carlin +23.883
21 Martin Cao Fortec Motorsports +24.852
22 Nabil Jeffri Motopark +25.256
23 Matt Solomon Double R Racing +25.823
24 Kang Ling Mucke Motorsport +26.579
25 Tatiana Calderon Carlin +26.920
26 Julio Moreno T-Sport +28.449
27 Sergio Sette Camara Motopark +28.869
28 Santino Ferrucci Mucke Motorsport +29.680
29 Peter Li Fortec Motorsports +30.707
30 Mahaveer Raghunathan Motopark +32.648
31 Matt Rao Fortec Motorsports +47.700
32 Nicolas Pohler Double R Racing +1 lap
Not classified
Pietro Fittipaldi Fortec Motorsports +6 laps
Alessio Lorandi Van Amersfoort Racing +17 laps