Esteban Ocon takes lights-to-flag win, Max Verstappen retires
Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) made his comeback on the top step of the podium at the 4.909 kilometres long Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. The 18-year-old Frenchman won the 28th race of the season and thus also wrapped up the title in the rookie classification of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. In the 20 lap race, British drivers Jordan King (Carlin) and Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) finished second and third. Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing), who came to Italy as the runner-up in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship drivers’ standings, retired from a turbulent race. As a result, the 17-year-old Dutchman, who participated in his first free practice session in Formula 1 last week, lost his second place in the championship to Tom Blomqvist. Ocon, who is now 97 points ahead of Blomqvist, remains on top of the standings.
The safety-car was deployed on the opening lap following a collision between Santino Ferrucci (Fortec Motorsports) and Hongwei Cao (Fortec Motorsports). At that time, Esteban Ocon was in the lead after a successful start from pole position. Jordan King followed in second place from Tom Blomqvist and Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport).
After the restart, Ocon was in front again and was soon able to pull a slight gap from his main rival Jordan King. While Lotus F1 junior driver Ocon controlled the race in first place, his rival in the battle for the title, Max Verstappen, had to work his way up through the ranks. Following an engine change in the previous round at the Nürburgring, after which he was dropped ten places on the grid for the first and second race at Imola in compliance with the regulations, the Dutchman had only started from 15th place on the grid. After one lap, he was already ninth and continued to push. A mistake while attacking Jake Dennis (Carlin) cost Verstappen two positions. Soon after that, Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) pushed him into the gravel trap and the Van Amersfoort driver fell out of the top ten as a result. Following another collision with Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), he eventually had to retire in the pits with three laps remaining.
Out in front, Esteban Ocon drove his ninth victory of the season home, followed by Jordan King and Tom Blomqvist. Felix Rosenqvist finished fourth from Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Jake Dennis, Félix Serrallés (Team West-Tec F3), Tatiana Calderón (Jo Zeller Racing) and Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin).
Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam): “Pole position certainly helped me to take the lead after the start. After that, I immediately managed to pull a gap from Jordan. After the restart, the situation was similar. When Jordan increased his speed during the race, I had to take a little bit more risk to keep the gap constant.”
Jordan King (Carlin): “My start wasn’t the best and throughout the race, I never managed to close up to Esteban in such a way that I would have been able to mount an attack. But second place is a good result, too.”
Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin): “After the restart, I had to defend my position from Felix Rosenqvist, which I managed to do. Thus, I was third and I brought this position home. Before the race, we had made some changes to the set-up of my car and I needed some time to get used to it.”