Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou (PREMA Theodore Racing) collected the first winner’s trophy in the 2018 FIA Formula 3 European Championship. Zhou, a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy for many years, took the lead at the start and won after 24 laps from Ralf Aron (PREMA Theodore Racing) and Red Bull junior driver Daniel Ticktum (Motopark) at the French street circuit of Pau. Sacha Fenestraz (Carlin), the only Frenchman in the field, was classified fourth and the best-placed rookie. Fellow rookies Marcus Armstrong (PREMA Theodore Racing) and Enaam Ahmed (Hitech Bullfrog GP) rounded out the top six.
Ticktum started the race from pole position, but it was Zhou who edged him at the start and the Brit slotted into second place. In the opening stages, Aron was third ahead of Robert Shvartzman (PREMA Theodore Racing). On lap four, a full-course yellow was called by race control after a crash by Devlin DeFrancesco (Carlin). During a FCY, the drivers have to reduce their speed and keep the gap to the driver in front of them consistent.
The drivers just having returned to racing speed, Ferrari protégé Shvartzman dropped back to ninth, which made Renault junior Fenestraz, now in fourth position, the best-placed rookie. Almost at the same time, a crash by Ben Hingeley (Hitech Bullfrog GP) prompted the first safety car intervention.
At the start of Lap 9, racing resumed and Aron used the situation to overtake Ticktum. Only one lap later, Mick Schumacher (PREMA Theodore Racing) and Fabio Scherer (Motopark) collided, causing Schumacher to drop back to 19th and Scherer to 15th place. Just before the end of the race, Keyvan Soori Andres (Van Amersfoort Racing) hit the barriers from 12th place and thus caused the second safety car procedure.
Once this was over, Fenestraz mounted a final challenge on Ticktum for third, but the Brit successfully defended his position. As there were no changes up front, Zhou scored his maiden victory in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship from Aron, Ticktum and Fenestraz. Behind Marcus Armstrong and Enaam Ahmed, Alex Palou (Hitech Bullfrog GP), Robert Shwartzman, Marino Sato (Motopark) and Jüri Vips (Motopark) rounded out the top 10. Mick Schumacher eventually crossed the finish line in 15th.
“I had a good start of the race. After that, I only had to be careful to stay in the lead at the restarts,” said Zhou. “Being the first Chinese driver to win a single-seater race in an FIA championship is a great feeling. I am very happy about this.”