Melker wins Euro F3 opener

Nigel Melker claimed his maiden Formula 3 Euro Series victory in the opening race of the season at Paul Ricard in France

Melker wins Euro F3 opener

The Dutchman's Mucke Motorsport Dallara was initially involved in a four-car battle for second place with Laurens Vanthoor, Daniel Juncadella and Felix Rosenqvist.

However, he overtook Juncadella's Prema machine early on to move into third, and with Vanthoor's Signature car losing pace - and places - rapidly as his tyres refused to reach peak performance, Melker was soon holding the runner-up spot.

Once ahead of the chasing pack, it took Melker just a lap and a half to close onto the tail of Roberto Merhi - who had started the race from pole position - and on lap six he was passing the Prema driver at the end of the Mistral straight and taking a lead he built to over four seconds by the finish.

Neither Prema driver could keep up the pace over a whole race and Rosenqvist was able to move into second at half-distance to set up a Mucke one-two finish. Before the end Juncadella seized the final podium spot from his team-mate Merhi to complete an all Mercedes-powered top three, although the latter Spaniard was still able to finish fourth.

Front-row qualifier Marco Wittmann had a nightmare beginning to the his season, forced to start from the pitlane as his car refused to fire up. A spark plug was changed in time for him to join the tail of the field and the Signature driver was the quickest man on-track - rapidly closing on the rest of the pack.

His recovery drive brought him fifth by the finish, the German passing his team-mates Vanthoor and Carlos Munoz late on.

Vanthoor's race worsened as the finish neared. By the end he had dropped behind Star driver Kuba Giermaziak, but his eighth spot did at least give him pole position for the reversed grid second race.

Only two drivers failed to make the finish, Signature's Daniel Abt and Motopark's Kimiya Sato, who came together at half-distance.

Results - 19 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Nigel Melker Mucke Dallara-Merc 36m32.728s 2. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Merc + 4.090s 3. Daniel Juncadella Prema Dallara-Merc + 9.268s 4. Roberto Merhi Prema Dallara-Merc + 11.340s 5. Marco Wittmann Signature Dallara-VW + 12.424s 6. Carlos Munoz Signature Dallara-VW + 18.186s 7. Kuba Giermaziak Star Dallara-VW + 20.106s 8. Laurens Vanthoor Signature Dallara-VW + 22.891s 9. Gianmarco Raimondo Motopark Dallara-VW + 23.504s 10. Jimmy Eriksson Motopark Dallara-VW + 24.184s Retirements: Kimiya Sato Motopark Dallara-VW 8 laps Daniel Abt Signature Dallara-VW 7 laps
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Merhi takes Ricard F3 poles
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