By Berthold Bouman
One of the highlights of the race season at the Dutch Zandvoort circuit is without a doubt the annual Masters of Formula Three, a very prestigious race to win as many of the past victors have made their way into Formula One. Previous winners were: David Coulthard (1991), Jos Verstappen (1993), Tom Coronel (1997), Takuma Sato (2001), Lewis Hamilton (2005), Paul di Resta (2006), and Valtteri Bottas is the only driver who won the event twice: in 2009 and 2010.
Familiar names on this year’s entry list of the 22nd edition of the event: last year’s winner Felix Rosenquist, Daniel Juncadella, Raffaelle Marciello, Carlos Sainz Jr, Hannes van Asseldonk, Dennis van der Laar and last-minute entrant American GP3 driver Conor Daly, son of former Formula One driver Derek Daly — who remembers the Zandvoort circuit vividly, as he in 1980 was responsible for the most spectacular Formula One crash ever on the Dutch circuit.
Finally sunny weather at the Dutch classic seaside-track, as it had been raining cats and dogs for the past week, one of the support races on Saturday was red-flagged due to the heavy rain, and the Dutch GT Championship race this morning was still held in very rainy conditions.
Sandro Zeller, who had qualified in 17th place, had to start from the pit lane after technical problems. A problem-free start this year after 19 cars had lined up after completing the warm-up lap, but Felix Serralles crashed at the tight chicane exiting the Tarzan corner, his race was over quickly. Not a good start for Sainz either, he lost one place at the start and another place at the end of the first lap to van Hasseldonk, the Spaniard was clearly struggling as the back of his car was stepping out at the slower corners.
But Juncadella and Marciello were battling for the lead, and at the same time they were getting away from the rest of the field. After five laps, the order was: Juncadella, Marciello, van Asseldonk, Sainz, Rosenquist and Pascal Wehrlein was sixth.
Further down the field Daly and Luis Sa Silva were dicing for 14th place, a battle at the time won by Sa Silva. Also Dutchman van der Laar and Italian Andrea Roda were battling for positions, but van der Laar skillfully kept the Italian at bay.
Juncadella started to get away from Marciello despite a very hairy moment at the last corner before the start-finish straight when the back of his car stepped out, but the Spaniard managed to keep his car on track and continued to lead the race, Marciello was never a threat again during the remainder of the race.
Halfway the 25-lap race, Juncadella had built up a 3.5 second lead to Marciello, and was already lapping back markers. The fights between Daly and Sa Silva and van der Laar and Roda continued, meanwhile Dutchman van Asseldonk had no problems keeping Sainz behind him as the latter was still struggling to find grip.
Not much later van der Laar overtook Roda to take 13th place, and he was then on his way to 12th place. But the major battle this afternoon was between van Asseldonk and Sainz, the latter tried his luck a few times and tried to outbrake the Dutchman at the Tarzan corner, but van Asseldonk knows the Zandvoort circuit very well, and had no problems fending off Sainz’s attempts to overtake him.
With just four laps to go, Daly finally took Sa Silva’s place, the latter tried to outbrake Daly again entering the Tarzan corner, but he braked way too late, spun and had to park his car in the grass.
The battle for second between van Asseldonk and Sainz continued, but it was Juncadella who went on to win the race, Marciello finished second and van Asseldonk was third. Sainz was fourth, Wehrlein fifth and Will Buller finished sixth.