Esteban Ocon is the new FIA Formula 3 European Champion in his maiden year in the series.

The French driver secured the title with a third place finish in race three at Imola, while F1-bound Max Verstappen claimed his ninth victory of the season and Antonio Fuoco took second place.

The Prema Powerteam driver has notched up nine race wins this season and has led the championship since the opening rounds in Silverstone. The 18-year-old, who is backed by the Lotus Formula 1 team, has repeated what 2013 champion Raffaele Marciello achieved by winning the championship in his rookie season.

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The young driver has been extremely consistent in the series and has taken the title with a whole round to spare.

"I am really happy that I am the new FIA Forumula 3 European Champion," Ocon said. "It is unbelievable, I simply don't know what to say I will celebrate the title in style with my team tonight."

Ocon entered the final race at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari knowing that third place would be enough to win the title outright with a whole round to go. From the start Ocon dropped back from second to third as his teammate Fuoco jumped from third to first, with Verstappen in second.

"My race wasn't too bad. I didn't want to take too many risks in the first corner and I slotted into third place," Ocon explained. "Later on I simply followed my teammate, who was in second place. I knew that third place would be enough."

An action-packed race saw three safety car periods and on the second restart on lap nine Verstappen was able to jump race leader Fuoco.

However, Verstappen needed Ocon to drop further down to the field to keep the race for the title alive but the Prema Powerteam driver gave a smooth and calm performance to see himself home.

"I simply don't know what to say. Prior to the season I never expected such a year," Ocon said. "I am totally happy."