Championship leader Daniel Ricciardo has picked up his fourth race victory of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series season and, with his chief title challenger Walter Grubmuller failing to score, has increased his championship lead at Spa.
Ricciardo led every lap and in so doing meted out a sweet beating to the dominant F3 Euro Series team ART Grand Prix, whose drivers Jules Bianchi and Valtteri Bottas had to make do with second and third places overall. Renger van der Zande and Victor Garcia claimed the remaining UK International Class podium places, with Daniel McKenzie the National Class victor for the ninth time.
Round 13 proved more than unlucky for the driver of car #13, Grubmuller, and for Riki Christodoulou, who collided at the La Source hairpin on the opening lap to bring both their races to a premature end. Daisuke Nakajima was another lap one casualty and Max Chilton very nearly was - he stalled on the front row of the grid and was miraculously hit by only one car, that of Hywel Lloyd, which had started from an excellent fourth on the grid. Both Chilton and Lloyd got going but had to pit for repairs at the end of the lap.
Ricciardo had van der Zande breathing down his neck through the opening corners but was afforded a breathing space when the safety car was deployed while crash debris was removed. The restart came at the start of lap four with just 18 minutes of the race remaining and there were no mistakes from Ricciardo as he pulled clear of his Dutch rival.
"It was a good result for me,” Ricciardo said. “Starting from first I just had to get in front. It was quite close at the start, Renger was alongside me at one point, but then we got the safety car warning. At the restart I managed to break the elastic band and Renger couldn't really get a proper tow from me."
Bianchi, one of five non-scoring Invitation Class runners in the race, made steady progress up the field from fifth on the grid to relieve van der Zande of second overall on lap six. He pulled up to within 1.5s of Ricciardo but could not get any closer.
"Bianchi got past Renger," Ricciardo continued, "and was closing on me a bit but I managed to keep consistent and pass the line first. Every win is good but this win is perhaps a bit sweeter for the team because of who we beat."
Van der Zande was pushed back to fourth overall two laps from home by Bianchi's ART team-mate Bottas, but was more than pleased with collecting the points for second in class, while Carlin's Invitation Class runner Jake Rosenzweig finished next on the road, ahead of T-Sport's Buzaid, who drove a canny race to sixth overall only to be slapped with a one-minute penalty by stewards who judged he had started from the wrong position. The Brazilian's team-mate Wayne Boyd stopped with a fuel pump problem three laps from the end.
Of the regular championship runners, Victor Garcia finished third in class for Fortec - it was the Spaniard's first British F3 podium - ahead of Chilton and Lloyd, who staged remarkable recovery drives after their pit visits, Philip Major, Henry Arundel, Jay Bridger, Stephane Richelmi, who took his first championship points of the season for the Barazi Epsilon team and championship newcomer, Taiwanese driver Kevin Chen.
Gabriel Dias enjoyed a superb opening lap, storming from 14th on the grid past all the carnage to take up seventh overall. He overtook his T-Sport team-mate Buzaid for sixth at the restart but four laps later plunged to dead last with a recurrence of the fuel pump issues which blighted his Donington race. Dias managed to get going again to finish third and last in class, behind McKenzie and Victor Garcia in the Litespeed SLC.