The mixed conditions in the final race of the 2018 FIA European Formula 3 saw Prema dominate as Mick Schumacher took his maiden victory after a long wait.
The damp conditions at Spa-Francorchamps jumbled things up as the part wet and part dry track meant larger concentration from the drivers. The first part of the circuit was certainly wet, while the middle sector had damp patches.
Prema’s Marcus Armstrong took the lead from teammates Robert Shwartzman and Mick Schumacher as Guanyu Zhou had another tangle in the opening lap to drop down the order. Carlin’s Jehan Daruvala tucked himself into fourth.
The Top 3 then pulled away quite comfortably while Daruvala had to fend off Motopark’s Juri Vips and HitechGP’s Enaam Ahmed in the fight for fourth. The Estonian had a storming start from 11th on the grid to be running fifth.
Unlike the passes made on the run-up to Les Combes, Vips got Daruvala in the final part of the circuit to take fourth to chase the Top 3. The Indian tried to get back on Vips, but Ahmed was already on his tail by then.
Daruvala managed to keep fifth for the time being but Ahmed eventually got him later in the race. Meanwhile, as the track started to dry, the Top 3 were closer than ever as Shwartzman was all over Armstrong for the race lead.
The Russian tried for a couple of laps to get ahead not only in the run-up to Les Combes but also in the final corner. He eventually made the move at La Source bringing Schumacher with him to demote Armstrong to third.
But Shwartzman’s lead was only for one corner as Schumacher snatched it away from the Russian on the lead-up to Les Combes to become the new race leader. The German then kept calm and took his first-ever European F3 victory.
He started on pole in Race 2 on Saturday but missed on any result after a contact on Lap 1, but he finally got the win in difficult conditions by 0.847s from Shwartzman as Armsrtong completed a Prema 1-2-3, with the Kiwi also retaking the championship lead by one point.
The last time the Schumacher name stepped on the top step of the podium was during the Formula 1’s 2002 Belgian Grand Prix when Mick’s dad Michael won the race, leading a Ferrari 1-2. Michael also took his first F1 win in Belgian in 1992.
Meanwhile, Vips secured a lonely fourth after he finished nearly 10 seconds behind Armstrong. Even though Ticktum managed to come back and finish fifth, the Red Bull junior lost his championship lead by the one point to Armstrong.
After passing Daruvala, Ahmed lost out to Ticktum to finish sixth ahead of Motopark’s Jonathan Aberdein who came to life midway in the race. The South African brought his teammate Sebastian Fernandez with him as well.
The Spaniard scored only his second points and registered his best F3 result in eighth. HitechGP’s Alex Palou also lost out in the fight to be ninth as Motopark’s race only got better when Fabio Scherer passed Daruvala for 10th.
Apart from Marino Sata, all the Motopark drivers managed to score points in the race. In a total opposite, Carlin had no points scorers after Daruvala was only 11th leading Ferdinand Habsburg. The Indian kept on losing places to eventually drop out of the Top 10.
While three of the Prema cars showed good pace, championship contender Ralf Aron had a race to forget after the Estonian also dropped out from points early in the race. In the end, he could only managed 14th, even beaten by the recovering Zhou.
Position 11-24: Daruvala, Habsburg, Zhou, Aron, Sacha Fenestraz, Marino Sato, Ben Hingeley, Artem Petrov, Petruc Florescu, Keyvan Andres, Sophia Floersch, Ameya Vaidyanathan, Julian Hanses and Nikita Troitskiy.