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European F3 Pau: Ferrari protege Zhou leads Prema 1-2 in opener

Ferrari protege Guan Yu Zhou took a start to finish maiden Formula 3 win in the first race of the F3 European Championship season on the streets of Pau

The Shanghai racer got a better getaway than poleman Dan Ticktum, who suffered wheelspin after pre-loading the clutch too much, and Zhou was able to control the race in his Prema Powerteam Dallara-Mercedes.

Zhou soon built an advantage of a few car lengths over Ticktum's Motopark car, which was being shadowed by Prema man Ralf Aron.

But a full-course yellow for the stranded Devlin DeFrancesco - his car stopped out on track after a clutch failure - gave Ticktum another chance, and when the race went green as they crossed the start-finish line he had a look to the outside of the Gare corner.

Ben Hingeley damaged his suspension after contact at the tight Lycee hairpin on the first lap after the FCY, bringing out a safety car.

At the restart, Aron's momentum carried him to the outside of Ticktum at Gare, and the Estonian pulled off a fantastic move via minor contact - which McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Ticktum described as "kamikaze" - to take second place.

Ticktum never gave up, probing for an opening on Aron before the safety car appeared again due to a crash at the exit of the Foch chicane for Keyvan Andres Soori.

There was time for just three more laps of racing once the race went green, and Ticktum had to go a little defensive to fend off Sacha Fenestraz at the restart before dropping the Carlin-run Frenchman and latching onto Aron once more.

But he ran out of time, Zhou and Aron completing a Prema one-two.

"The key of the race was to have a good start, because obviously Pau is a really tight track and it's difficult to overtake," said Zhou.

"I got a mega start, but it was a tough race with the full-course yellow and two safety cars, and it was pretty tense there with the guys putting pressure on me.

"After that I just stayed cool and avoided the kerbs."

Behind Fenestraz, Marcus Armstrong took fifth in his Prema machine, after making a stunning start to make up three places on the run to Gare.

Reigning BRDC British Formula 3 champion Enaam Ahmed was an impressive sixth from Hitech GP team-mate Alex Palou.

Ahmed won the place by spearing down the inside of Palou at Lycee, the Catalan getting squeezed out and losing a further position to Jehan Daruvala.

But Palou recovered seventh place when Daruvala suffered suspension failure and was forced out.

Robert Shwartzman ran an early fourth in his Prema car, but lost several positions immediately after the early FCY and finished eighth.

Motopark pair Marino Sato and Juri Vips completed the points scorers.

Free practice pacesetter Mick Schumacher's bid to recover from a qualifying crash-enforced 18th place on the grid was scuppered when he got caught napping at Lycee, and Fabio Scherer lanced down the inside.

The two cars ran wide, with Schumacher having to stop by the barrier before rejoining at the tail of the field.

Result - 24 laps

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Guanyu Zhou PREMA Theodore Racing Dallara/Mercedes 34m45.458s
2 Ralf Aron PREMA Theodore Racing Dallara/Mercedes 0.588s
3 Dan Ticktum Motopark Dallara/Volkswagen 0.943s
4 Sacha Fenestraz Carlin Dallara/Volkswagen 1.791s
5 Marcus Armstrong PREMA Theodore Racing Dallara/Mercedes 2.980s
6 Enaam Ahmed Hitech Bullfrog GP Dallara/Mercedes 3.689s
7 Alex Palou Hitech Bullfrog GP Dallara/Mercedes 3.964s
8 Robert Shwartzman PREMA Theodore Racing Dallara/Mercedes 5.116s
9 Marino Sato Motopark Dallara/Volkswagen 6.470s
10 Juri Vips Motopark Dallara/Volkswagen 6.900s
11 Fabio Scherer Motopark Dallara/Volkswagen 7.839s
12 Jonathan Aberdein Motopark Dallara/Volkswagen 8.572s
13 Julian Hanses ma-con Dallara/Volkswagen 9.990s
14 Nikita Troitskiy Carlin Dallara/Volkswagen 10.273s
15 Mick Schumacher PREMA Theodore Racing Dallara/Mercedes 10.690s
16 Artem Petrov Van Amersfoort Racing Dallara/Mercedes 11.347s
17 Ferdinand Habsburg Carlin Dallara/Volkswagen 27.410s
- Keyvan Andres Van Amersfoort Racing Dallara/Mercedes Retirement
- Sebastian Fernandez Motopark Dallara/Volkswagen Retirement
- Jehan Daruvala Carlin Dallara/Volkswagen Retirement
- Ameya Vaidyanathan Carlin Dallara/Volkswagen Retirement
- Ben Hingeley Hitech Bullfrog GP Dallara/Mercedes Retirement
- Devlin Defrancesco Carlin Dallara/Volkswagen Retirement

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