MAZEPIN JUST MISSES OUTRIGHT POINTS RETURN ON IMOLA DEBUT
Excellent drive from first year FIA F3 racer almost secures third top 10 of 2016
- Mazepin delivers strong showing at Imola during penultimate event of season
- Hitech GP racer posts three consistently competitive race finishes in Italy
Nikita Mazepin delivered a very strong account of himself during the penultimate event of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season at Imola over the weekend, 1st/2nd October, with a best race result of 11th position overall during the second of the event’s three contests.
Marking yet another new venue for the 17-year-old from Moscow to get to grips with, the ninth race meeting of his maiden season in the world’s premier F3 category went well and the Hitech GP driver performed impressively in each of the three encounters at the Italian track.
The highlight was certainly race two, round 26, where the Sahara Force India F1 Team Development Driver made his way through the order from 15th overall into the points-paying top 10 before having to settle for 11th place following a last lap change of position.
Despite losing some vital track time in the second free practice session at the beginning of the weekend, after an unfortunate spin into the gravel, Mazepin hit back well in the first qualifying session to lap 13th fastest overall on his debut at Imola and he went on to produce a strong showing in the opening contest, round 25, on Saturday.
Although edged back to 17th during the early running, ninth in the Rookie Class, he subsequently made good progress to recover the lost ground. The race was impacted by a couple of Safety Car periods, Mazepin holding an improved 14th place overall ahead of the first and then working his way back into 13th position – eighth in class – after the second cautionary period.
Starting round 26 on Sunday morning from 15th on the grid, the Hitech GP racer was edged back a place on the first lap but he quickly moved back into the overall top 15 prior to the appearance of the Safety Car – the first of three interruptions to the second race of the weekend.
When the action resumed on lap five, the first year FIA Formula 3 European Championship racer started to apply significant pressure to Red Bull-backed driver Niko Kari, the winner of Saturday’s opening contest. After a second cautionary period on lap 10, Mazepin was able to profit shortly after the action re-started when team-mate Ben Barnicoat and Mikkel Jensen both ran wide.
Holding an improved 12th position, eighth in class, Mazepin then moved up another place before the Safety Car made its third appearance of the race and he then climbed into the top 10 on the penultimate tour when Sergio Sette Camara ran off the track. On course for his third outright points result, he was frustratingly edged back to 11th on the final tour – taking seventh in the Rookie class.
Beginning the last of the event’s three races from 15th position overall, Mazepin unfortunately slipped back to 18th place, ninth in the Rookie class, after being tagged on the opening lap but he produced a very professional performance to work his way into the top 15 by the conclusion and seventh in class. Due to time penalties for a pair of rivals, he was then credited with 13th overall.
“It was a tough weekend, the pace looked strong for the whole team but I made a mistake in FP2 and spun into the gravel which put me on the back foot a little bit”, reflected Mazepin, “Then, Q1 was fine but making a mistake in the last sector wasn’t ideal and I messed-up Q2 a little bit when I pushed a bit too much.
“The races were consistent, mainly staying out of trouble, and even though I was hit in race three and spun round – which took all my hopes for a good race away – I came back to P13 which wasn’t a bad result at all.”
Hockenheim in Germany will be the venue for the final three races of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season a fortnight from now, over the weekend 15th/16th October.
2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Driver Standings (after Rd27): 19th Nikita Mazepin, 5pts
2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Team Standings (after Rd27): 2nd Hitech GP, 499pts
2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Rookie Standings (after Rd27): 9th Nikita Mazepin, 148pts