*At the time of writing it is Monday the 13th of April, the day after the races had occurred and finished.

And so, on a bitterly cold day at Silverstone, with the wind blowing icicles off the spectators’ frozen bodies the European Formula Three season started. The centre of attention amongst the thirty-five young drivers vying for their place in history, rests on three drivers. Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Felix Rosenqvist. Leclerc, the karting prodigy with his craft well-learnt and honed. Russell, the smooth understated winner of the McLaren Young Driver Award. And Rosenqvist the young veteran of Formula Three hoping to break his duck and move onwards to the next level.

The races themselves were already filled with promise before the flag dropped. Rosenqvist, having gained pole position for all three races was found to have a technical infringement in his cars’ construction and was sent to the back for races two and three. This was no easy task and his creativity was one to watch as the spectators counted down the laps.

The season then, started in ambiguity, which only increased by the onset of rain before the start requiring the safety car and two warm-up laps on wet tyres to mould the young drivers to these adverse conditions.

Chaos occurred immediately at the club chicane as Arjun Maini lost control colliding with several others, including Russell and Leclerc, depriving us of a three-way fight between themselves and Rosenqvist, who had pulled away. Having cleared the wreckage, the safety car came out and was back in just before lap seven. Yet the drivers, unnerved by the conditions, failed to tackle the damp circuit with two cars coming together at Brooklands that was particularly tricky offline, resulting in a second safety car.  On the second restart, testosterone levels had settled and all was clean till Tvyeter’s car expired on the Wellington Straight on lap eight.

Amongst this chaos in a race of their own were Russell and Leclerc, scything their way through the field from eighteenth and twentieth after their adventures. Most notable was Russell’s move on Fittipaldi at Copse, taking to the torrential inside line in a superb show of skill. Equally impressive and unsurprising was Rosenqvist’s control of the lead over Giovinazzi, keeping the gap at no less than one and a half seconds.

Yet, as a dry line became clear and the wet tyres began to wear out an incident was inevitable. Lorandini took to the gravel at Luffield and never returned giving rise to the third safety car period. Having come back in a lap later and without incident at the restart, Russell and Leclerc set about their charge from eleventh and fourteenth respectively as Rosenqvist held off Giovinazzi and Jake Dennis in the fight for first blood. The last lap came around and as the sun dried the circuit Russell picked off three more places to finish a well-deserved eighth, with Leclerc not far behind in twelfth. Rosenqvist took the honours and twenty-five points just a second from Giovinazzi and one and a half seconds from Jake Dennis. It was a race of attrition in the sun but the talent of rookies, Russell and Leclerc was certainly the blinding light.

With the wind chill becoming Arctic, race two started in anticipation on a dry track as Leclerc got away from pole with Russell just behind in second and Rosenqvist starting his charge from the back in thirty-third and last place. Russell made a great start blasting past Leclerc into the lead at Abbey with Leclerc close behind fending off Giovinazzi, Dennis and Stroll into Farm. However, as before, there was chaos at the start; losing three cars before Village Corner and bringing out the safety car just one lap into this race.

In the middle of all this though, was the astronomical rise of Rosenqvist, showing great maturity and skill, passing fifteen cars in one lap to eighteenth. The cars cleared, the safety car pulled in and the race was cleanly away with just one spin at Club Corner. The eyes of all however, lay on the ensuing tussle for the lead with Russell acing the restart to pull away with Leclerc in tow and the others scrabbling behind for grip and points positions. Such was the desperation that the drivers went three wide into Brooklands –   not helped by the lacklustre Tvyeter becoming a mobile chicane.

At the front, the fight remained fierce, Leclerc and Russell in a precocious fight of their own. Leclerc never letting Russell pull away while constantly looking for a way past the Carlin-liveried machine. In the Volkswagen powered racer, Russell, mature beyond his years, had an answer to every question posed by Leclerc to his position. These were not teenagers racing for a trophy but men racing for honour. Behind, another man, Rosenqvist, had passed several more cars after the restart into a commanding thirteenth, three cars separating him from points and by lap twelve he had inherited tenth.  After taking Santino Ferrucci, Rosenqvist’s toughest test suddenly arose in Fortec’s Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of the Formula One legend, Emerson. The two sparred for all they had, Fittipaldi using all the race craft learnt in his formative open-wheel racing years in Formula Four; using all the track to  try and fend off Rosenqvist’s sensational charge. A move on the entrance to Maggots and Becketts, after a slingshot through Copse, eventually discharged Fittipaldi from seventh leaving the Fortec driver decidedly exhausted but with enough of a gap to finish eighth. Rosenqvist continued on pushing but had to settle for seventh after a fascinating drive of skill and maturity.

Amongst Rosenqvist’s charge, and Russell and Leclerc’s combat was the fight for third. Lance Stroll, billed as the new Villeneuve, was tussling with Giovinazzi for the last podium position. Giovinazzi, keen to keep a good record after his second place in race one, was smooth in his defensive approach against Stroll’s ferocious attack. The race finished but not without incident with Stroll and Giovinazzi still tussling for third place as Schiller attempted a late move on Jake Dennis resulting in a suspension failure and the chance of a strong finish for the Englishman lying in pieces. Russell won the race ahead of Leclerc, less than a second behind. It had been a titanic fight between two stars of the future. Leclerc had not let Russell get more than two and a half seconds away but Russell had let Leclerc go no closer than six-tenths on a day when their adventures had warmed the frozen minds of the crowd.

And so the sun shone on a dry circuit as the drivers lined up for their final race of the weekend. Leclerc was on pole from Giovinazzi and Russell just behind in second and third respectively. Rosenqvist, meanwhile, prepared to start his charge from the back once more. Russell made a blinding start, pushing past Leclerc into the lead at Abbey Corner as Menezes took Giovinazzi for third. In the meantime Rosenqvist made a dazzling start, overtaking five cars before the first corner alone.

As Rosenqvist set about the field, Russell made an uncharacteristic error at Copse, running wide and slipping to seventh and several seconds behind Leclerc, but seemingly unable to recover. This until the safety car came out for Stroll’s costly trip into the gravel that ended his weekend, but that closed the field up. Fortunately the safety car came in a lap later and racing resumed to the sight and sound of tyres locking into the Club Chicane. Unusually Rosenqvist was not making the striking progress he had made in race two, only managing to slip into twenty-first on lap eight while Russell seemed unable to close on Albon who was fighting for third with Jake Dennis, the Englishman having made a good start from sixth on the grid. Russell himself seemed unable to gather speed out of the key traction zones, noticeably The Loop and Club. Further down the field Boccalacci made a superb, if rough move on Moreno in the Club Chicane as the cars spread apart and the temperature increased at the front. Giovinazzi kept Leclerc honest in second place, decreasing the gap from two seconds to just half a second (being able to deal with Leclerc’s attempts to shake him off).

Halfway into the race and the Neil Brown powered car of Moreno was slipping down the field rapidly, being overtaken by Rosenqvist as, with greater difficulty than before, he made his way through the field. Meanwhile, Russell had got on top of his earlier issues and was now closing in on Albon’s fifth place after Albon had been overtaken by Menezes into Maggots. As this fight began to materialise Schiller, Pohler and Raoul Hyman were clashing over twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh as if for the lead, as Moreno himself got in the way of the leaders as they came up to lap him.

Five minutes from the end, the safety car was brought out as yet another car, this time Fittipaldi’s, had taken a permanent trip into the gravel at Luffield, closing the field up nicely for the final dash to the line. Due to the length of a lap at Silverstone, the safety car came in after just one lap and racing resumed; Giovinazzi hunting down Leclerc for the race win and with the top five separated by no more than two seconds. With just two laps to go Russell took Albon at the infamous Club Chicane with a smooth manoeuvre and no locking of his tyres or brakes. The main fight though, was on for the lead, Leclerc and Giovinazzi moving as one through Silverstone’s curves and undulations till the final twist of Club Corner where Leclerc found just enough grip to ensure his victory was safe.

As with the previous two races there was drama on the last lap. Sam McLeod had spun his car into the gravel ending a forgettable weekend for the Englishman. Rosenqvist’s charge had not been quite as dramatic as in Race Two but he still finished a credible twelfth with the same being said for Russell who might’ve won the race had it not been for his error at Copse. The best placed Englishman, Dennis finished third adding to a credible performance that had been well-noted over the weekend. The race however, belonged to Leclerc and his Van Amersfoort racing squad as he took the chequered flag, but unfortunately not the Championship lead – that belonged to the credibly consistent Antonio Giovinazzi.

The race weekend then had, like the weather, started with a degree of uncertainty with regards this new breed of drivers but ended with the sun shining warmly on a promising season to come. The performances given, particularly by Giovinazzi, Rosenqvist, Leclerc and Russell were mature and full of promise for the season and trophies ahead.


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