Imola Euro F3: Esteban Ocon claims title, Max Verstappen wins race
Lotus F1 junior Esteban Ocon became Formula 3 European champion by finishing third in a final race at Imola that was won by Max Verstappen
Both poleman Verstappen and front-row partner Ocon were beaten away at the start by Ferrari protege Antonio Fuoco, who held the inside line to claim the lead into Tamburello.
New Toro Rosso Formula 1 signing Verstappen, who had stalled before the start and fired the engine up again just before the lights went out, managed to just hold off Ocon, with the champion-elect playing it safe.
Two early safety cars frustrated Verstappen's attempts to take on Fuoco.
The first was caused by Antonio Giovinazzi's car being left stranded after contact with Ed Jones; the second came when Sandro Zeller had a big crash, from which he emerged unscathed.
On the second restart, Verstappen got a fantastic run on Fuoco and the Van Amersfoort Racing car was already ahead of the Prema Powerteam machine when they reached the braking point for Tamburello.
There was a third safety car, caused by an enormous accident for Felix Rosenqvist at Tamburello after he briefly went airborne over the right-rear wheel of Jordan King.
The Swede stayed in the cockpit for some time after the impact, but was then on his feet before being taken to the medical centre, where he is uninjured but shaken.
That left just four more laps of racing, and the cautious Ocon, while he got close to Prema team-mate Fuoco, never really tried a move to get past.
Up front, Verstappen pulled away to win by just over two seconds.
"I did so many overtakes in the second race that this one on Antonio wasn't so exciting for me anymore," he quipped.
"I knew we had the speed, so I just stayed calm, and after I got past I had really good pace."
Fuoco, meanwhile, dedicated his podium to fellow Ferrari Driver Academy member Jules Bianchi.
Tom Blomqvist, like Verstappen, lost his final chance of the title in this race. He lost out to Nicholas Latifi on the opening lap, and had a lairy moment at Tamburello while trying to pass the Canadian after the final safety car, but had to settle for fifth.
Will Buller scored the first finish for the returning Signature team, emerging from a great fight with Jake Dennis and Lucas Auer for sixth, with Felix Serralles also latching onto the battle.
Gustavo Menezes completed the points scorers, with King next up.
RESULTS - 17 LAPS:
|1||Max Verstappen||Van Amersfoort Racing||Dallara/Volkswagen||36m15.097s|
|2||Antonio Fuoco||Prema Powerteam||Dallara/Mercedes||2.100s|
|3||Esteban Ocon||Prema Powerteam||Dallara/Mercedes||3.066s|
|4||Nicholas Latifi||Prema Powerteam||Dallara/Mercedes||3.650s|
|5||Tom Blomqvist||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||4.030s|
|8||Lucas Auer||KFZTeile24 Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||7.960s|
|9||Felix Serralles||Team West-Tec F3||Dallara/Mercedes||8.291s|
|10||Gustavo Menezes||Van Amersfoort Racing||Dallara/Volkswagen||9.391s|
|12||Roy Nissany||KFZTeile24 Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||11.070s|
|13||Dennis van de Laar||Prema Powerteam||Dallara/Mercedes||11.969s|
|14||Jules Szymkowiak||Van Amersfoort Racing||Dallara/Volkswagen||12.786s|
|15||Alexander Toril||ThreeBond with T-Sport||Dallara/NBE||13.846s|
|16||Santino Ferrucci||Fortec Motorsports||Dallara/Mercedes||16.144s|
|18||Andy Chang||Team West-Tec F3||Dallara/Mercedes||17.998s|
|19||Richard Goddard||ThreeBond with T-Sport||Dallara/NBE||18.254s|
|20||Martin Cao||Fortec Motorsports||Dallara/Mercedes||19.089s|
|21||Sergio Sette Camara||EuroInternational||Dallara/Mercedes||19.395s|
|22||Nick Cassidy||ThreeBond with T-Sport||Dallara/NBE||24.934s|
|-||Felix Rosenqvist||KFZTeile24 Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||Retirement|
|-||Tatiana Calderon||Jo Zeller Racing||Dallara/Mercedes||Retirement|
|-||Sean Gelael||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||Retirement|
|-||Sandro Zeller||Jo Zeller Racing||Dallara/Mercedes||Retirement|
|-||Antonio Giovinazzi||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||Retirement|
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS AFTER 30 OF 33 ROUNDS:
|14||Dennis van de Laar||36|
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