F3 Red Bull Ring: Stroll takes Bull by the horns

Lance Stroll © DR

Canadian scores double “pole” and double win at Red Bull Ring in utterly dominant weekend display
Lance Stroll enjoyed a phenomenally successful FIA European Formula 3 Championship event in Austria this weekend (20-22 May) – and now takes a well-deserved five-week break with an extended 38-point series lead. The Canadian teenager impressively placed his Prema Powerteam Dallara F312-Mercedes first twice and also second around the fast and sweeping 4.326km Red Bull Ring having claimed two “poles” and a second row start position for the three races.

His combined performance over the three days resulted in near total domination – a truly extraordinary feat for the Williams Martini Racing development driver. Indeed, Stroll’s winning race margin in Race 2 was the biggest since the corresponding race in 2013 involving over 90 individual races.
Stroll began Saturday morning’s race from the second row of the grid under a blue sky and warm sunshine but moved into third place after a good start off the line before a brief Safety Car period following an opening lap accident. Lance immediately moved up in to second when the race resumed and ran untroubled in that position before the race was red-flagged on 24mins when a serious multi-car accident occurred.
Lance began Race 2 from pole-position, the ambient temperature having risen to 28 Celsius, and had already created a near 2secs lead before a Safety Car period on the third lap wiped out his advantage. Stroll made a good re-start and despite intense early pressure from Race 1 winner, Callum Ilott, drove an intelligent and mature race, leading from start-to-finish to record a dominant near 10secs victory at the chequered flag – a truly remarkable performance from the 17-year-old.
Sunday’s Race 3 saw Stroll line-up in pole again – Lance now having started over 66% of this year’s races from the front two rows – the track now grippier due to DTM usage and in hot sunshine. Another perfect start, another healthy lead (1.4s) and another Safety Car period in the opening minutes of the race. The race resumed with 23mins remaining, Stroll controlling it in supreme fashion, winning by 4.8secs from Ilott – Lance setting the fastest lap on the very last lap. The result marked Lance’s fourth career F3 win, the third of the 2016 season and another untroubled green light to chequered flag victory.
The FIA Formula 3 European Championship now enjoys a five-week respite until the next races staged at the Norisring (24-26 June) – the first visit in 2016 to Germany in the 10-event championship – marking the halfway stage in the 30-race series.

« It’s been a truly awesome weekend – the Prema team did a magnificent job over all three days – and it’s a perfect way to head in to a five-week break. Everything just clicked and fell into place – I drove really well and the car was phenomenal. In Race 1, I used my ‘old’ set of tyres leaving my new ones for the other races. I was very careful not to exceed track limits, many drivers had fallen foul of the organisers in practice and qualifying and got themselves penalized. Considering they were ‘old’ tyres, the balance was really good. I made a really great start off the line then Maxi [Günther] made a mistake at Turn 3 and I overtook him on the exit. I ran a lonely second before the Red Flag bringing a premature halt to the race.
« “The beginning of Race 2 was not so easy. I built up a good gap before the Safety Car came out. Callum was right behind me after the re-start and I had to defend early on. But I just focussed and pulled a gap. Again in Race 3, it was a case of being totally focussed at the race start, then again at the re-start and then concentrating on staying inside track limits.” »

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