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Solid weekend for Mazepin on first visit to Pau street circuit

Hitech GP driver Nikita Mazepin encountered a solid, if mixed, first visit to Pau street circuit in France over the weekend, 14th/15th May, during the third event of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season – the Russian teenager taking a best result of 13th overall in round eight.

Producing some strong performances across the course of the race meeting at the unique and very challenging venue, his maiden visit to any kind of street circuit, the 17-year-old’s weekend was also tinged with disappointment when his involvement in the headline Grand Prix de Pau race on Sunday came to an abrupt end on lap one through no fault of his own.

Beginning the third race of the weekend, round nine of the championship, from 15th on the grid, Mazepin had nowhere to go when contact between two front-runners at the first corner resulted in a bigger tangle in the midfield.

Causing major damage to the front of his Dallara-Mercedes, the Moscow driver did manage to make it back to the Hitech GP pit garage but repairs weren’t possible so, frustratingly, he had to retire from the contest.

Two very strong and competitive drives in rounds seven and eight, though, again gave plenty for the Sahara Force India Formula One Team Development Driver to build on going forward. He concluded the weekend eighth in the Rookie standings, 20th in the overall championship.

“It was a really tough weekend, my first time on a street track with very difficult conditions”, said the first year FIA Formula 3 racer, “It was raining for the free practices, so it was very hard to learn the track. For race one I did the best I could with my starting position and no possibilities to overtake.

“Race two was very good, until a car drove into me, and I couldn’t avoid the collision in race three unfortunately. Overall, it’s been a good learning weekend with a lot of positives to take from it into next weekend’s racing.”

Wet weather was prevalent throughout the start of the Pau weekend, making the notoriously tricky street circuit an even bigger test for the drivers. Mazepin started round seven on Saturday morning from 18th on the grid and produced a fantastic opening lap to slice his way into the top 15, sixth in the Rookie class.

For the first nine laps, the Hitech GP racer remained in position in the middle of a long train of very closely matched cars in the midfield but after a one-lap Safety Car period just prior to the midway point he was edged back to 16th and seventh in the Rookies.

During the remainder of the 24 lap race, Mazepin stayed glued to the back of Harrison Newey’s car, while pulling well clear of the rest of the pack, but a clear-cut opportunity to try and re-take the place didn’t present itself.

Starting round eight later in the day from 15th on the grid, on a damp but drying track with all drivers on slick Hankook tyres, Mazepin maintained position early on and then moved into 14th place on lap four as a result of a puncture for Nick Cassidy.

Climbing into 13th place a couple of laps later, the Moscow teenager then broke into the top 12 on lap 10 before he started to come under significant pressure from Maximilian Gunther. Driving very well to keep the German at bay, after a mid-race Safety Car period Mazepin – now in an elevated 11th position – continued to fend off Gunther but on lap 18 the Russian was pitched into a spin.

Recovering in 16th place, the Hitech GP racer climbed back into 13th position prior to a second Safety Car period late on and remained there to the chequered flag on lap 25, also securing sixth in the Rookie class.

With little time to relax, rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season will take place this coming weekend, 21st/22nd May, at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Driver Standings
(After Rd9):

20th Nikita Mazepin, 1pt

2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Team Standings
(After Rd9):

2nd Hitech GP, 194pts

2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Rookie Standings
(After Rd9):

8th Nikita Mazepin, 48pts