Having been installed as the new F3 Euroseries points leader in the build-up to the Brands Hatch round, Nico Hulkenberg did all he could to ensure that he leaves the UK with an enhanced advantage over his rivals.

The German did not have things all his own way in the opening race of two in Kent, however, but emerged on top after a bizarre chain of events that saw long-time leader Jules Bianchi denied a follow-up win to his Masters success.

Polewinner Bianchi made full use of his qualifying position to take the lead when the lights went out, and appeared to have the measure of the field for the first 23 laps. However, with an incident at the start - which ruined the chances of two of the home contingent - and two other retirements before half distance, the Frenchman fell foul of yellow flags around the short Indy layout.

The clerk of the course found several drivers guilty of the same offence, setting a fastest sector time while yellow flags covered part of the area, with Bianchi just one of eight perpetrators to suffer similar punishments. The drive-thru' penalty dropped Bianchi back to seventh but, having made up one place, any hopes of a few consolation points and a decent start in Sunday's second leg were ended when the ART Grand Prix driver made contact with team-mate James Jakes and had to retired with six laps to go.

Jakes had been in the wars right from the start, having collided with countryman Sam Bird, sidelining the Manor Motorsport driver and denting his own ambitions in the process. The pair had started fifth and fourth respectively, but Jakes' second incident saw him restricted to 22nd, similarly six laps adrift.

Bianchi's exit from the lead allowed Hulkenberg to assume top spot, holding station to the chequered flag ahead of Tsukakoshi, who had lined up behind him on the grid, but the German admitted that he would probably not have won had it not been for the intervention of the officials.

"Winning is always great and, therefore, I am very happy with this result," noted the ART driver, who has previously enjoyed Brands success in A1GP, "Initially, Jules Bianchi was too fast for me, I couldn't follow him, but later on, I benefited from his drive-thru' penalty and took over first place. Once in front, I could drive victory home in a controlled way."

Indeed, Tsukakoshi had no answer for Hulkenberg's pace, and had to settle for another second place, his third of the year.

"I tried to get past him [at the start] and we tangled slightly, then I tried to overtake him on the outside but, unfortunately, this didn't work either," Manor's Japanese talent revealed, "But second place is a good result, even though H?lkenberg finished ahead of me again. With a good start, a podium finish should be possible tomorrow."

Hulkenberg's extended 14-point cushion at the top of the points table was aided by Yann Clairay, the SG Formula driver holding off long-time championship leader - and 2007 Brands F3 winner - Edoardo Mortara to the flag.

"I had a very good start, won two places right away, and also benefited as Sam Bird was involved in a crash," he said of his rise from seventh on the grid, "Towards the end of the race, my car was oversteering more and more and Mortara put me under pressure, but I managed to stay ahead of him."

Christian Vietoris, Renger van der Zande and Jean-Karl Vernay rounded out the top eight, and will thus start from the front of the reversed grid in Sunday's race, but there was disappointing news for the best of the British finishers, Jon Lancaster, who missed race two pole by six-tenths of a second as his chase of Vernay proved to be in vain. Niall Breen and Martin Plowman were both victims of the yellow flag punishments, finishing 13th and 19th respectively.


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment