Character building weekend for Mazepin concludes with Strong wet-weather drive at Hungaroring
Points-scoring FIA Formula 3 European Championship racer Nikita Mazepin encountered a character building visit to the Hungaroring over the weekend, 23rd/24th April, but still produced a series of highly competitive performances – in particular an excellent wet-weather drive in the final race on Sunday to round-out the event in positive mood.
Concluding only his second event in F3 with a best result of 13th overall and sixth in the Rookie Class in the rain-hit third race at the Budapest track, the 17-year-old from Moscow put a frustrating first couple of days behind him and is now focused on the blue riband Grand Prix de Pau next month.
“It was a weekend with a lot of unexpected issues, although the pace was very good throughout the whole event”, said the Russian youngster, “It was a difficult weekend but there are lots of positives to take from it and a lot to learn.”
Mazepin starred in qualifying for round four, lapping with the 11th fastest time just 0.7 seconds shy of pole position pace. The F3 rookie was prevented from taking part in Saturday’s opening contest by race officials, though, as a result of an off-track incident which occurred on the practice day.
His first race mileage of the weekend, therefore, came in round five on Saturday afternoon where the Sahara Force India F1 Team Development Driver lined-up in 16th position overall and seventh in the Rookie class. At the start, Mazepin held his ground and circulated in the tightly packed midfield but on lap seven managed to climb into the overall top 15 and sixth in class.
Inside a couple of laps, the 17-year-old climbed into 14th position after passing British racer Harrison Newey and quickly took 13th place, fourth in the Rookie rankings, when Joel Eriksson had to pit with front wing damage.
Setting his sights on the top 12, Mazepin closed up behind Pedro Piquet and piled on the pressure to the Brazilian racer before making a challenge for position at the first corner on lap 18. Unfortunately, the move up the inside wasn’t successful and resulted in contact between the pair – the Hitech GP car swiftly entering retirement with broken front-left suspension and a deranged wheel.
Hoping to end a very challenging second weekend of the season on a high in round six on Sunday morning, the Moscow youngster did just that with an impressive performance from the back of the grid in the rain-affected contest at the wheel of his Dallara-Mercedes.
Officials started the encounter behind the Safety Car due to the trickiness of the conditions with racing proper getting underway on lap three. Running sixth in the Rookie class and 17th overall, Mazepin made quick progress and on lap four he climbed into 16th place.
On lap five, he broke into the outright top 15 and then – following a tangle involving team-mate George Russell and Maximilian Gunther as they disputed the lead on lap six – Mazepin moved into 13th position.
Following the ensuing Safety Car period, he enjoyed an incredibly close battle with Alessio Lorandi where the pair traded 12th position on several occasions. In the end, the Russian had to settle for a nonetheless strong 13th place overall and sixth in the Rookie classification.
“In Q1 I thought I did a fine job being P11 but I wasn’t able to start race one after an incident off the track”, reflected Mazepin, “I had my lap times deleted in Q2 and Q3 but the race pace was very good – I was happy to come from the back in race three to finish in P13 under massive rain.”
One of the most challenging venues on the FIA Formula 3 European Championship calendar is next on the schedule with the world-famous Grand Prix de Pau taking place over the weekend 14th/15th May at the French street circuit.
2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Driver Standings
18th Nikita Mazepin, 1pt
2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Team Standings
3rd Hitech GP, 102pts
2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Rookie Standings
8th Nikita Mazepin, 34pts