Barnicoat victorious in Pau F3 opener

Ben Barnicoat scored his second consecutive FIA European Formula 3 Championship victory in the opening race around the street circuit at Pau.

Starting second on the grid after yesterday’s qualifying session combined with a grid penalty for his Hitech GP team-mate George Russell, the Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver made an outstanding getaway from the start on the wet track to take the lead from Prema Powerteam’s pole sitter Lance Stroll who bogged down when the lights went out.

Barnicoat immediately made good on his start, extending his advantage to closest rival Maximilian Gunther to almost three seconds by the end of the opening lap.

That gap extended further to over five seconds by the time a safety car was required when Carlin’s Zhi Cong Li collided with the barrier on lap seven.

From the restart, Barnicoat once again made a good getaway, and despite a narrower gap to closest challenger, Prema’s Nick Cassidy, he managed the gap without pressure, stretching his lead to almost 2.5 seconds by the chequered flag.

“The track was very wet but not as bad as earlier in the weekend,” Barnicoat said. “It was actually the first time starting the car in the wet as in Hungary, I restarted behind the safety car.

“I managed to get a great launch off the grid. I saw Lance [Stroll] stall in my mirror. So the first couple of laps I nailed to extend as large a gap as possible. So I was extremely gutted to see the Carlin car in the barrier at turn six. I knew that all my hard work had been undone.

“I managed to get a good safety car restart but struggled slightly after then as we’d opted for marginally higher tyre pressures to make a good start. But I knew it was extremely tough to overtake on this track. I managed to control the gap from there, and kept it on black stuff.

“I’ve banked a good bunch of points now. Starting ninth and seventh for the next two races, it’s about bagging as many points as I can for the rest of the weekend.”