Strong performances from Mazepin on Norisring debut As Russian just misses overall top 10 in all three races
Hitech GP driver Nikita Mazepin delivered a series of very strong performances at the Norisring in Germany over the weekend, 25th/26th June, with 11th place results in all three contests – the Russian racer just fractions away from outright points scores in each instance.
Making his first ever appearance at the all-action Nuremberg street circuit, the 17-year-old from Moscow was the sole Hitech driver to finish all three races and chalked-up three top six Rookie classification results, with a best of fifth in class twice, despite some issues with straight-line speed.
“It’s been a very consistent weekend for me results wise, and we did have some luck on our side in the races”, he reflected, “We did lack a bit of performance with the car this weekend, we were just losing a couple of tenths on the straights but that meant others were able to overtake us. We need to work hard from here, but we also take the positives out of this weekend.”
Qualifying ended in frustration for Mazepin with the straight-line difficulties, the Sahara Force India F1 Team development driver having to settle for 20th on the grid for round 13 on Saturday. From the back of the grid, though, he quickly made progress and by mid-distance he was into the top 15.
Following a Safety Car period between laps 22 and 24, when racing resumed Mazepin gained two more places following a mid-lap tangle between two rivals in the pack. Holding 12th position at the second re-start, the Hitech GP racer remained close behind the group of cars ahead as he set his sights on scoring outright championship points for only the second time in his maiden F3 season.
Moving into 11th place before the finish on lap 38, Mazepin took the chequered flag just 0.5 seconds shy of the coveted top 10 and also finished sixth in the Rookie class. Impressing with a well-judged performance on the Nuremberg street circuit, it set the scene for two more excellent drives.
Starting the second contest later in the day from 14th on the grid, Mazepin was bundled back to 19th place on the first lap but again raced well to climb his way into 16th prior to the first of several Safety Car periods on lap five – resulting from an incident involving team-mate Ben Barnicoat.
When racing resumed on lap 11 he maintained position and then moved up into 15th spot when another rival came to grief on lap 18. After a second cautionary period, racing got back underway on lap 23 and although initially nudged back to 16th position, Mazepin soon hit back and on lap 28 he sliced his way through a chaotic tangle ahead at the hairpin to leap into the top 12 – sixth in class.
During the final few laps, Mazepin got ever closer to the coveted top 10 and after passing Niko Kari for 11th place and fifth in the Rookie classification on lap 34 he ended the race on lap 36 a mere 0.7 seconds shy of the outright top 10.
Round 15 on Sunday morning was dramatic, and quite chaotic, throughout. The start was initially delayed following an electrical problem at the track but when the race got underway around 10 minutes later, it was behind the Safety Car.
Holding 12th position overall, following an early Safety Car period – required after an incident involving team-mate Russell – Mazepin moved up into 11th place as a result of another tangle at the point of the resumption. Leading to a red flag stoppage, the cars formed up on the grid and the race was re-started with only eight minutes remaining on the clock.
Edged back to 13th place overall on the opening tour, Mazepin then moved back into 11th position at the end of lap 20 following a two-car tangle ahead. Unfortunately shuffled back to 12th overall just before the finish on lap 24, post-race an exclusion for team-mate Barnicoat elevated him back into 11th overall and fifth in class.
Racing resumes three weeks from now for Mazepin and his Hitech GP team with the sixth event of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season taking place over the weekend 16th/17th July at Zandvoort in The Netherlands.
“Zandvoort should be good for us, it’s another track which is new to me – it’s challenging and high speed and I’m looking forward to going there”, said Mazepin, “I feel very confident with Hitech GP at every race we go to, I’m feeling confident for the next round and the second half of the season.”
2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Driver Standings
20th Nikita Mazepin, 1pt
2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Team Standings
2nd Hitech GP, 287pts
2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Rookie Standings
8th Nikita Mazepin, 90pts