Jules Bianchi has secured victory in the F3 Masters at Zolder after a lights-to-flag victory ahead of ART Grand Prix team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.
Hulkenberg, winner of the event last season, had started from pole position but made a poor start to allow Bianchi to jump ahead when the lights went out and he was able to control the race from the front despite challenging conditions which saw the circuit start wet and dry out over the course of the 28 laps.
“I had a very good start and tried to pull a gap on Nico Hulkenberg,” he said. “Especially in the beginning, there were many yellow flags and Nico was very quick. Therefore, I couldn't pull away. Towards the end of the race, my tyres weren't in the best condition anymore and I concentrated on driving victory home.”
Hulkenberg was lucky to take second having been involved in an incident off the line after the German was slow to get away from the line. Second row starters Renger van der Zande and Koudai Tsukakoshi tried to get ahead of the ART driver off the line but instead found themselves tangling, with both forced into retirement as a result. van der Zande even tagged the rear of Hulkenberg's car but the German was able to carry on regardless to secure his place on the podium.
“My start wasn't great as my tyres didn't get any grip on the white line,” he said. “On the first laps of the race, I was still confident. However, there were many yellow flags, which made it impossible to attack. The longer it took, the more difficult it became to put Jules under pressure, as my tyres lost grip.”
The race turned into one dominated by the ART squad as Briton Jon Lancaster completed the podium with a fine drive through to third place from seventh on the grid although he was unable to match the pace of either Bianchi or Hulkenberg and finished some 20 seconds behind the winner.
Mucke Motorsport's Mika Maki completed the top four ahead of Carlin's Brendon Hartley who led the challenge from the British F3 International Series ahead of Atte Mustonen and Sam Bird – both of whom had failed to make it through to the top 20 shootout in qualifying but managed to master the conditions and avoid any carnage ahead to finish sixth and seventh. Current British F3 points leader Jaime Alguersuari completed the top eight.