Bianchi wins first F3 Euro Series race at Norisring
Jules Bianchi extended his lead in the F3 Euro Series standings by winning a rain-shortened first race at the Norisring on Saturday.
The ART driver had a relatively simple run to victory once he deposed pole-sitter Alexander Sims on a restart on lap seven. While Sims fought back initially, he was forced to defend from Stefano Coletti, which allowed Bianchi to ease away.
The race ended in confusing fashion, as a heavy rain shower forced a red flag on lap 19. The cars lined up on the start/finish straight and switched to wet tires, but as the race was restarted, the time limit was reached, meaning Bianchi didn't have to lead a competitive lap in the wet.
The Frenchman's biggest scare came when he stalled at the beginning of the formation lap for the first start. But the size of the grid meant he had time to get away before the last car had passed him and regain his original position.
Sims took his first podium after a tough battle with former championship leader Coletti, who had a straightline speed advantage due to running a rear wing without a top element.
The Prema driver got alongside several times, and even took the place very briefly on a couple of occasions before Sims fought back immediately each time. Their scrap enabled Esteban Gutierrez and Roberto Merhi to get involved as well, which prevented Coletti from concentrating only on going forward.
Merhi briefly passed Gutierrez for fourth, but he then overshot the first corner after trying to defend from the Mexican on lap 14. That put the Spaniard into the clutches of Christian Vietoris, who had come through the field from 14th on the grid to sixth, but he ran out of time to make a pass.
Adrien Tambay had been another driver to battle with the leaders early on, but he was taken out of contention after being given a drive-through penalty for jumping the start from third on the grid.
Behind the top six, Jean-Karl Vernay took seventh, while Sam Bird earned himself pole position for Sunday's reversed-grid race by picking off Henkie Waldschmidt on lap 15, having started down in 16th place.
There was more good news for Bianchi, as fellow title contender Mika Maki's hopes were dealt a severe blow on the opening lap, when he was caught up in a six-car accident triggered by Brendon Hartley running into the back of Valtteri Bottas at Turn 2.