Valtteri Bottas banished his nerves and took advantage of a post-qualifying penalty for pole-sitting team-mate Jules Bianchi to storm to victory in the Zandvoort F3 Masters, in so doing following in the footsteps of reigning Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton amongst others in lifting one of the category's most coveted trophies.
What had been an all ART Grand Prix front row fell apart when Bianchi found himself docked four places for having impeded some of his rivals during qualifying. That promoted fellow F3 Euroseries front-runner Bottas to the top spot on the starting grid, and after getting the jump when the lights went out, the Finn was already two seconds to the good at the end of only the opening lap.
He would go on to slightly extend that advantage over the course of the 25 laps to take the chequered flag a comfortable 2.6 seconds clear of nearest pursuer Mika Mäki, who made it a Finnish one-two in grabbing the runner-up spoils for Signature. The final podium finisher was Prema Powerteam ace Stefano Coletti, making it three different teams in the top three – but coming home a gaping 18 seconds adrift of the race-winner, the legacy of early damage.
The Italian, indeed, had to stave off an earnest challenge from the frustrated Bianchi, who would wind up just half a second shy of the rostrum in the final reckoning, with leading Briton and Crash.net
columnist Alexander Sims taking an excellent fifth place for Mücke Motorsport in his rookie F3 campaign, and Hitech's Renger van der Zande the sole British F3 interloper in an overwhelmingly F3 Euroseries-dominated top dozen in sixth. Jean-Karl Vernay also ran strongly early on, before coming to grief following a collision with local hero Henkie Waldschmidt.
“It was a tough race,” confessed Bottas, “even if it didn't look like that from the outside. The start and the first few laps during which I could pull a gap over Mika were the keys to success. After that, I sort of controlled the race.
“Winning the Masters of Formula 3 is something quite special, and I must admit to having been a little bit nervous prior to the race. Of course, expectations are high when one is starting from pole position.”
“The Masters was one of the best Formula 3 races I have ever driven, added Mäki. “Being on the podium is a big achievement. I am also happy with being back on the podium after my rather poor weekend at Lausitz.”
“Somebody hit me in the first corner after the start and my car got some damage,” reported Coletti. “I had massive understeer from that time on, but I managed to cope with that and I managed to keep Jules Bianchi behind me.”
To see the result in full, click here