Joel completed a stunning rise through the field as he hauled himself from 17th to fourth in the first race of the weekend at Norisring, scoring a significant 12 points from the last row of the grid.
Much like in Hungary a fortnight ago, Joel started the opening race of the weekend from 17th place following a problematic Qualifying 1 showing, but managed to limit the damage through a composed recovery.
A good start saw him immediately get past the backmarkers and into 11th place on the opening lap, and he then continued to make steady progress over the next few tours to hold eighth by lap five.
That became sixth when he took advantage of Van Amersfoort Racing duo Harrison Newey and Joey Mawson battling at the Grundig hairpin, with Joel cutting underneath both on the exit of the corner and gaining two places in one sweep.
There was a Full Course Yellow (FCY) situation shortly afterwards when Mawson crashed at the Schöller-S, and once the race got back to full speed, Joel found himself 8.3 seconds adrift of the lead.
Up front, meanwhile, Lando Norris was running second and putting pressure on leader Jake Hughes in the closing stages, their battle eventually culminating in contact on the run to Grundig as Norris locked up under braking and shoved Hughes into retirement.
The incident triggered a second FCY period, and Norris was handed a 20-second penalty that eventually demoted him to 11th place – outside the points – in the final results.
The Hughes/Norris accident completed Joel’s rise to fourth, netting him 12 extremely important championship points. Incredibly, that means Joel actually extends his advantage over Norris and Callum Ilott (who retired with damage from a first lap clash) in the standings.
However, Maximilian Günther did snatch the overall points’ lead from Joel with victory on his home track. The German now heads the standings by eight points from Joel, who ultimately took the chequered flag just two seconds from the podium.
Next session: Qualifying 2, 17.20 local time (GMT+02:00).
“I got a really good start and got past three or four cars immediately, and then I tried to take it easy and save the tyres while trying to force others into mistakes. That was my strategy in this race, really, and in the end I’m very, very pleased with how it worked out. To finish fourth from 17th on the grid is definitely more than I expected.
“The car felt back to how it should be, so I’m confident that we’ll be competitive in Qualifying 2 this afternoon. It’s a bit like in Hungary two weeks ago; this is when the weekend sort of really starts for us, and now we need to make sure we deliver the same kind of results we did on Sunday in Budapest.”
RESULTS – Race 1