Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam, 1:36s479) secured himself a good position for the battle for the title in first qualifying for the tenth FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship race meeting. The Frenchman, a protégé of the Lotus F1 team and the leader in the drivers’ standings, claimed pole position for the first race of the weekend at the 4.909 kilometres long Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola. Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, 1:36s611) secured himself second place on the grid for his home race, ahead of the two Brits Jordan King (Carlin, 1:36s890) and Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, 1:36s973). Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing, 1:37s006), currently runner-up in the drivers’ standings and already having made the step to Fórmula 1, had to make do with fifth place.
Around the halfway point, there was a duel for pole position involving Italian Antonio Giovnazzi and Frenchman Esteban Ocon. They were the two drivers to set lap times below 1:37 minutes. In the remainder of the session, Tom Blomqvist closed up to them, but then a crash by Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, 1:37s375) stopped the action for a few minutes. At that time, Ocon was on top from Giovinazzi and Blomqvist while Max Verstappen was skulking in fourth place.
Once the session had been resumed, Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke Motorsport, 1:37s016) was the first driver who managed to improve his own lap time. The Swedish stalwart moved up into fifth place. The final attempts by the youngsters were briefly interrupted once again after a crash by Alexander Toril (ThreeBond with T-Sport, 1:37s926).
After the second restart, there were only 2:19 minutes remaining. In spite of the little time that was left, Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam, 1:37s187) and Jordan King still managed to improve. British driver King even moved up to third place in the final seconds while Canadian driver Latifi ended up tenth in qualifying. Between him and sixth-placed Rosenqvist, Jake Dennis (Carlin, 1:37s031), Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam, 1:37s125) and Lucas Auer (Mücke Motorsport, 1:37s147) were seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.
Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam): “Qualifying was really good and my car was great, too. In free practice, we worked very well and I am happy to be back on top. The Imola circuit really suits me and as I am living in Italy now this race also is something of a home round for me as well. Starting from pole position for the first race of the weekend is all the more beautiful because of this. However, I am not thinking about a possible title win yet”.
Photos: FIA F3 Euro Series