Guan Yu Zhou ended his win drought in the first race of the Formula 3 European Championship finale at Hockenheim, as a first-lap clash between Mick Schumacher and Prema team-mate Marcus Armstrong kept the title fight alive.
Starting seventh on the grid, Schumacher was battling to get past Armstrong when they made contact through the Turn 7 kink on the approach to the Mercedes arena.
The contact damaged Schumacher’s front wing and gave Armstrong a puncture, forcing both to pit, with Schumacher rejoining at the rear of the pack and Armstrong soon retiring from the race.
Schumacher could have wrapped up the title by finishing in the points and ahead of rival Dan Ticktum, but ultimately finished 12th.
Up front, pole-sitter Zhou kept the lead at the start and held it through two safety car restarts to take his first win since the opening race of the season in Pau.
He did so with a 2.3-second advantage over Prema team-mate Robert Shwartzman, as the race was ended prematurely by the chequered flag being flown as soon as the 33 minutes had elapsed, rather than when an additional lap had been run.
Shwartzman got past front-row starter Alex Palou around the outside of the first corner, with Jehan Daruvala also following him through.
Palou tried to fight back against Daruvala though, and they made contact exiting the hairpin for the first time which sent Daruvala into the barriers.
Juri Vips, who will start race two from pole, took advantage to get past Palou for third.
On what became the final lap, Vips attacked Shwartzman on the inside of the hairpin, only for?Shwartzman to move back past on the exit to secure second and with it the rookie title.
Palou came under attack late on from Ticktum, with the pair running side-by-side through the Mercedes arena.
Ticktum earlier survived contact with Sacha Fenestraz at the hairpin on the first restart, which allowed Ralf Aron to pass both before Ticktum got back ahead of the Estonian after the second safety car.
The Red Bull junior is one of several drivers, including Schumacher, under investigation post-race for overtakes under the safety car, but if he keeps his fifth place he will have cut Schumacher’s points lead to 39 points with 50 still available.
Aron, Fenestraz, Nikita Troitskiy, Enaam Ahmed and F3 debutant Frederik Vesti completed the top 10.
Race results (19 laps)
|1||Guan Yu Zhou||Prema||33m52.874s|
|4||Alex Palou||Hitech GP||+5.638s|
|9||Enaam Ahmed||Hitech GP||+14.287s|
|10||Frederik Vesti||Van Amersfoort Racing||+15.076s|
|13||Artem Petrov||Van Amersfoort Racing||+18.187s|
|14||Ben Hingeley||Hitech GP||+20.085s|
|15||Sophia Floersch||Van Amersfoort Racing||+20.962s|
|17||Keyvan Andres||Van Amersfoort Racing||+23.299s|
1?Schumacher 329? ?2?Ticktum 290? ?3?Armstrong 260? ?4?Shwartzman 259? ?5?Vips 257? ?6?Aron 227.5? ?7?Zhou 192? ?8?Palou 185? ?8?Ahmed 170? ?10 Daruvala 124.5