Joel Eriksson produced two resounding comebacks to claim a set of podium finishes from midfield grid slots at this weekend’s FIA F3 European Championship meeting at Spa-Francorchamps, edging closer to the overall lead in the process.
The Belgian event got off to a disappointing start for Eriksson, who struggled with car balance issues in qualifying and had to make do with positions in the middle of the pack to start off the weekend’s three races.
While improving from 12th to ninth in the opening heat ensured Eriksson salvaged two championship points – potentially crucial in the Swede’s ultimate quest for the title – it was in races two and three that he truly demonstrated his never-give-up attitude.
Again starting from 12th in the second race, an overhaul of Eriksson’s Team Motopark Dallara proved right on point, transforming his weekend and reigniting the kind of pace that has seen him win four races so far in 2017.
Picking off his rivals one by one, Eriksson completed a sensational rise that elevated him all the way to second place – and then repeated the very same performance (although from tenth on the grid) in Saturday’s concluding Race 3.
Underlining his pace as the meeting came to a close, Eriksson threw in the fastest lap of Race 3.
In a twist of events that appeared unlikely following qualifying, Eriksson’s double podium sees him actually close in on the overall FIA F3 European Championship lead. Going into the weekend 34 points behind table-topping Maximilian Günther (GER), Eriksson has now brought the gap down to 26.
The BMW-backed Swede holds third in the standings, eight points adrift of second-placed Briton Lando Norris.
“If someone had told me after qualifying that I’d be standing on the podium in two out of three races this weekend, I’d have taken it any time,” Joel Eriksson says. “We really struggled with the balance of the car and I didn’t have very high hopes. Then the team did an amazing job to turn it around ahead of the second race, and suddenly we were flying. It was a strange weekend, but good fun getting to do all of those overtakes!”
Eriksson draws particular optimism from the pace of the final race, in which he was the only driver able to break the 2m12s barrier around the 7.004 km Grand Prix track.
“It’s great to be leaving Spa knowing that we were the fastest package on track in the final race,” Eriksson concludes. “It proves that people should never count us out. That said, we need to make sure we stop qualifying this poorly. It may have turned out alright here in the end, but it could have been a lot better. The next track we go to is Zandvoort, where it’s much harder to overtake. Those are normally the most static races of the season, and we can not afford to qualify in tenth or 12th there.”
The FIA F3 European Championship continues on August 18-20. The Zandvoort circuit, located among the seaside dunes on the outskirts of Amsterdam, played host to Joel Eriksson’s greatest triumph to date last season when he won the prestigious Masters of Formula 3 event at the venue at his first attempt.
RESULTS (top five)
FIA F3 European Championship | Rd. 6
1: Lando Norris (GBR), 15 laps
2: Nikita Mazepin (RUS), +2.807s
3: Maximilian Günther (GER), +6.665s
4: Jehan Daruvala (IND), +9.593s
5: Joey Mawson (AUS), +10.014s
9: Joel Eriksson (SWE), +19.387s
1: Ferdinand Habsburg (AUT), 16 laps
2: Joel Eriksson (SWE), +2.117s
3: Maximilian Günther (GER), +3.557s
4: Jake Hughes (GBR), +4.321s
5: Jehan Daruvala (IND), +7.920s
1: Lando Norris (GBR), 15 laps
2: Joel Eriksson (SWE), +2.393s
3: Guan Yu Zhou (CHN), +4.142s
4: Callum Ilott (GBR), +4.701s
5: Jehan Daruvala (IND), +7.890s
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (top five)
After 18 of 30 races
1: Maximilian Günther (GER), 266 p.
2: Lando Norris (GBR), 248 p.
3: Joel Eriksson (SWE), 240 p.
4: Callum Ilott (GBR), 186 p.
5: Jehan Daruvala (IND), 138 p.