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Continuing his rapid progression, Nikita graduated into the FIA Formula 3 European Championship for the 2016 season – notably becoming a points finisher on his debut weekend in the category

Russian single-seater racer Nikita Mazepin made a huge impression on his first weekend in the immensely competitive FIA Formula 3 European Championship on 2nd/3rd April at Paul Ricard in France, starring with a top 10 points finish for Hitech GP.

The 17-year-old from Moscow, one of the least experienced drivers in the 21 car field, made superb progress during the series curtain-raiser and as well as scoring his first outright point in the final race of the weekend he also chalked-up Rookie Class points in all three contests.

“I was very happy with the performance of the car and team, as well as my progress throughout the whole weekend”, reflected the FIA F3 newcomer, who is also a Sahara Force India F1 Team development driver, “We started on Thursday [in testing] with some issues driving-wise, but we managed to fix them as soon as possible.

“Tricky weather conditions made it even more difficult for my debut event in FIA F3, due to this I didn't have a very good result in Q1 but I managed to understand what I was doing wrong. I found the races very hard too, but it was clear to see the team and I were making progress and we managed to get my first F3 points in race three which I am very happy with.”

Qualifying didn’t quite go to plan for Mazepin, resulting in 18th on the grid for round one, and although he slipped back a couple of spots on the first lap of the opening race – an encounter which took place on a damp track after overnight rain – the teenager began a strong recovery.

Moving back into 18th position, the Dallara-Mercedes driver climbed into 17th place on lap eight but around the halfway point of the race he was edged back to 19th, through some intense action, where he eventually ended the contest. 

For round two, Mazepin started significantly higher up the grid in 12th position and he certainly made the most of his improved slot by slicing his way through a chaotic first lap to climb into eighth position. After an early Safety Car period, the Hitech racer held ninth place – third in the Rookie classification – before eventually being nudged back down to 12th overall and fourth Rookie.

While the second encounter more than confirmed the Russian’s competitiveness, round three was the true highlight. Lining-up 12th on the grid once again, Mazepin got stuck in straight away and after gaining a place on lap one he consolidated his position during the first half of the race.

Getting ever closer to the coveted overall top 10, on lap 22 Mazepin managed to break into the outright points positions, following an excursion for Harrison Newey, to also secure fifth in the Rookie class and cap off a very strong debut event.

Budapest in Hungary will host the second race meeting of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season over the weekend 23rd/24th April at the Hungaroring.

2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Driver Standings
(After Rd3):

8th George Russell, 15pts
9th Ben Barnicoat, 12pts
18th Nikita Mazepin, 1pt

2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Team Standings
(After Rd3):

3rd Hitech GP, 47pts

2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Rookie Standings
(After Rd3):

4th Ben Barnicoat, 33pts;
6th Nikita Mazepin & Niko Kari, 26pts