Charles Leclerc won a thrilling wet Formula 3 European Championship finale at Hockenheim after an epic fight with Felix Rosenqvist.
After a safety-car start, Rosenqvist got the hammer down at the green flag to begin the first proper lap of racing with a one-second advantage.
The Swede had built this to 1.5s within three laps, but then F3 rookie Leclerc began to trim it back.
Leclerc had moved right onto Rosenqvist’s tail by the 10th lap when he had a big moment at the Sachskurve, but gathered himself together and set off once more after the leading Prema Powerteam Dallara-Mercedes, which was suffering from overheating rear tyres.
On the 12th lap he was close enough to have a look at the Spitzkehre hairpin, but made light contact with Rosenqvist’s right-rear wheel with his left-front wing (“Probably my fault,” admitted Leclerc).
Two laps later the Monegasque teenager drew his Van Amersfoort Racing Dallara-Volkswagen alongside Rosenqvist to the outside of Spitzkehre, and then found traction on the exit to get the cutback.
They raced side by side towards the Mercedes Arena before Leclerc, on the inside line, grabbed the initiative, but no sooner had he done this than the safety car was called out again.
For the third time in six races this year, Pietro Fittipaldi had caused a race neutralisation, this time after tangling with Fortec team-mate Martin Cao – the Chinese spun and continued, while the Brazilian-American’s race was over.
That gave time for just two laps of racing, with Leclerc crossing the line at the green flag 1.1s clear, extending that to 2.4s next time around and then taking the flag 2.8s in front of Rosenqvist.
“It was a really hard race,” said Leclerc. “I had quite a bad start, but then I managed to come back to Felix.
“The car was amazing and after the safety car I was able to build quite a big gap, so I’m really happy.”
Mucke Motorsport rookie Maximilian Gunther finally looked set to grab his first podium, despite pressure from Antonio Giovinazzi, but the German spun through 360 degrees at Turn 1 on the final lap, dropping him to fifth.
Carlin driver Giovinazzi then survived a huge wobble at Sachskurve before completing the podium and retaining his championship lead from sixth on the grid.
Gunther’s final-lap error promoted Mucke team-mate Mikkel Jensen to fourth, and Gunther then endured contact later in the lap with another Mucke car, that of Santino Ferrucci.
The American had edged Lance Stroll off the track into the Spitzkehre just after the final restart, and was penalised 20 seconds after the race, dropping him to 28th.
Gunther was therefore promoted back to fifth, with Prema driver Stroll completing the top six.
Markus Pommer took another points finish with seventh, while Jake Dennis emerged atop a fight with Alexander Albon and Callum Ilott to take 10th.
Ilott had qualified fifth, but what appeared to be a light tap from Jensen at Spitzkehre on the first lap of racing spun him round and consigned him to the fringe of the points.
RESULTS – 18 LAPS:
|1||Charles Leclerc||Van Amersfoort Racing||Dallara/Volkswagen||36m03.129s|
|2||Felix Rosenqvist||Prema Powerteam||Dallara/Mercedes||2.998s|
|3||Antonio Giovinazzi||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||7.136s|
|4||Mikkel Jensen||KFZTeile24 Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||8.045s|
|5||Maximilian Guenther||KFZTeile24 Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||10.940s|
|6||Lance Stroll||Prema Powerteam||Dallara/Mercedes||12.475s|
|8||Jake Dennis||Prema Powerteam||Dallara/Mercedes||14.132s|
|11||Gustavo Menezes||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||16.517s|
|13||Arjun Maini||Van Amersfoort Racing||Dallara/Volkswagen||20.351s|
|15||Fabian Schiller||Team West-Tec F3||Dallara/Mercedes||21.368s|
|16||Raoul Hyman||Team West-Tec F3||Dallara/Mercedes||22.048s|
|17||Brandon Maisano||Prema Powerteam||Dallara/Mercedes||22.857s|
|19||Michele Beretta||KFZTeile24 Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||23.689s|
|20||Ryan Tveter||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||23.883s|
|21||Martin Cao||Fortec Motorsports||Dallara/Mercedes||24.852s|
|23||Matt Solomon||Double R Racing||Dallara/Mercedes||25.823s|
|24||Kang Ling||KFZTeile24 Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||26.579s|
|26||Julio Moreno||ThreeBond with T-Sport||Dallara/NBE||28.449s|
|27||Sergio Sette Camara||Motopark||Dallara/Volkswagen||28.869s|
|28||Santino Ferrucci||KFZTeile24 Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||29.680s|
|29||Zhi Cong Li||Fortec Motorsports||Dallara/Mercedes||30.707s|
|31||Matt Rao||Fortec Motorsports||Dallara/Mercedes||47.700s|
|32||Nicolas Pohler||Double R Racing||Dallara/Mercedes||1 Lap|
|–||Pietro Fittipaldi||Fortec Motorsports||Dallara/Mercedes||Retirement|
|–||Alessio Lorandi||Van Amersfoort Racing||Dallara/Volkswagen||Retirement|