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Well-earned podium after strong comeback drive

Published on 17 August 2014 by Stefan Meens

After a superb race from the sixth row on the grid, Max Verstapppen ended up with a deserved podium finish in the last race of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship round at the Nürburging.

“I didn’t expect to finish in third after being forced to start in twelfth. The Van Amersfoort Racing team did a fantastic job improving the car in-between races. A great way to finish the weekend.”

Due to an engine failure, which forced Max to retire from race 2 whilst leading, Van Amersfoort racing had to build a new power unit into the back of the F312 Dalara chassis. As the drivers are only allowed one engine per season, Max is penalised with a ten-place grid penalty for race 3 and the first two races at the next round of the series.

The engine switch means Max has to start the race from twelfth instead of second. Nevertheless, the 16-year-old Red Bull Junior Driver shows tenacity as he sits in fifth after the opening lap. The Dutchman’s progress is helped by a collision in the first corner. Antonio Giovinazzi, championship leader Esteban Ocon and Nicolas Latifi wheel bang into each other and all three are out of contention.

Max: “I had another good start and decided to give it my all. Everyone seemed to go for the inside line in the first corner so I opted to go around the outside. I reckoned I didn’t have anything to lose and it worked! In turn four, I was able to pass two drivers at once so it was a great first lap.”

Meanwhile, the safety car has entered the fray and leads pole sitter Tom Blomqvist, Lucas Auer, Antonio Fuoco and Jordan King. At the restart, the latter is quickly passed by Max. “I had a nice fight with King. After I cleared him I had good pace.”
In the meantime, Blomqvist loses his lead to Auer as Max sets his sight on Fuoco. From lap sixth until the 22nd lap, the Dutchman is within halve a second of the Italian. Max is clearly the faster driver but cannot find a way past Fuoco. At one failed attempt, the two rookies touch.

“It’s difficult to overtake at the Nürburging despite my car feeling good and Fuoco struggling. It was easy to stay with him and two laps before the end I decided to really go for it. As I had driven from twelfth to fourth, I felt prepared to take a risk to claim a podium.”

Max’ planned move works out as he out-brakes Fuoco into turn one with a slick move. At the front, Auer is able to fend off Blomqvist to take his second win of the year. A delighted Max joins the Briton and the Austrian on the podium: “As Van Amersfoort Racing we showed tremendous pace to drive on to the podium from twelfth. Amazing!”

Esteban Ocon remains the European championship leader with 402 points. Max occupies second place with 325 points. Blomqvist completes the top three with 315 points. The next and penultimate round of the series will be in the second weekend of October in Italy at Imola.

FIA Formula 3 European Championship Round 9 – Nürburgring – Day 3, Sunday August 17:
Results qualifying 2 (grid race 2)
Results qualifying 2 (grid race 3)
Results race 2
Results race 3
Euro F3 drivers championship
Euro F3 rookie championship
Euro F3 team championship