NIKO KARI SCORES MAIDEN FIA FORMULA 3 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP RACE WIN
Event: 09 Imola
Session: Race 1
Track: Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari / Italy
Pole position: Lance Stroll (Prema Powerteam)
Race winner: Niko Kari (Motopark)
Weather: sunny, 23.4 °C
With a courageous overtaking move after the restart following the second safety car intervention, Niko Kari (Motopark) caught out Lance Stroll (Prema Powerteam) and went on to win the 25th race of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season. At the 4.909 kilometres long Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, points’ leader Stroll finished in second place while Joel Eriksson (Motopark) reached the finish in third place. As Stroll’s main rival Maximilian Günther (Prema Powerteam) finished twelfth and didn’t score any points, the Williams F1 team development driver now has a 86 points’ margin in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship drivers’ standings. In its home round at Imola, Italian squad Prema Powerteam already wrapped up the title in the teams’ standings.
The race started well for Lance Stroll, who managed to convert his pole position into the race lead. After Pedro Piquet (Van Amersfoort Racing) had beached his car in the gravel trap on lap six, the safety car was deployed. After the restart, Stroll held on to his lead. On lap 13, David Beckmann (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) also stranded in the gravel trap following a duel with Sérgio Sette Câmara (Motopark), which caused the second safety car intervention. As racing resumed two laps later, Niko Kari then made a move on Lance Stroll, taking the outside line into the first corner to overtake the Canadian. Having led the field for six laps, the Finnish Red Bull junior driver then celebrated his maiden FIA Formula 3 European Championship race win.
Behind him, Lance Stroll and Joel Eriksson finished in second and third place respectively, followed by Nick Cassidy (Prema Powerteam). Because the New-Zealander had exceeded the track limits during the race, he was given a 20 seconds’ post-race time penalty, after which he dropped back to tenth. George Russell (HitechGP), Anthoine Hubert (Van Amersfoort Racing), Guanyu Zhou (Motopark), Ralf Aron (Prema Powerteam), Ben Barnicoat (HitechGP) and Harrison Newey (Van Amersfoort Racing) were classified in fourth to ninth place in that order.
Niko Kari (Motopark): “It was a good race and scoring my maiden victory in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship is a nice feeling. In the first part of the race, I tried to save my tyres as much as possible. At the second restart, I had to make my move on Lance, even though it wasn’t without risk. However, it worked out and I was able to win the race. Now, however, our full focus is on second qualifying this afternoon.”
Lance Stroll (Prema Powerteam): “My start and my first restart were good and even at the second restart, I didn’t do anything wrong. However, Niko was close enough to benefit from the slipstream and overtake me going into the first corner. I didn’t want to take too many risks while defending my position, because I didn’t want to risk a retirement. I scored solid points by finishing second, which is more important for me at the moment.”
Joel Eriksson (Motopark): “Initially, I was as quick as the drivers up front, but first of all, I had to work my way past Anthoine Hubert, George Russell and Nick Cassidy. After that, I tried to increase the pressure on Lance, but I wasn’t able to topple him from second place.”