Bottas takes F3 Masters victory
Valtteri Bottas became the first Finn to win the Masters of Formula 3 after dominating the race from lights to flag at Zandvoort this afternoon.
The reigning Formula Renault Eurocup champion made a good start from pole position and held off a determined challenge from fellow Finn Mika Maki (Signature) by blocking the inside at the first corner.
The leader's defensive tactics created a bottleneck in his wake and slow-starting Spaniard Roberto Merhi (Manor) was tagged from behind by Maki's team-mate Jean Karl Vernay.
As the pack shuffled, the front two escaped, with Bottas (ART) producing a blistering first lap to cross the line a full two seconds clear of his closest challenger.
The gap grew to nearly four seconds in the first third of the race, before Maki dug deep and began closing his countryman down.
His Dallara-Volkswagen closed to within 2.2s before Bottas stabilised the gap and drove on to a 2.610s victory - ART's sixth consecutive triumph in the Masters.
"It was a really tough race, maybe it looked easy but I was pushing so much," said the victor. "The key for the win was the good start and in the first three laps I was pushing so much to get a gap to Mika so I could control the race. It was difficult to maintain concentration, there was a lot of pressure, but I was able to keep myself calm and do what I needed to do."
Behind the lead pair, Stefano Coletti (Prema Powerteam), who also tripped over Merhi and Vernay in turn one, resisted race-long pressure from defending Master of F3 Jules Bianchi (ART) to claim third and become the first Monegasque to finish on the Masters podium.
Both took advantage of the confusion at Tarzan hairpin on the first lap to escape into their own fight. Bianchi, who took pole in qualifying, but was docked five places on the grid for weaving, gave game chase, but despite a couple of feints failed to find a way past and was forced to settle for a dejected fourth.
Merhi fell back after the first corner trouble and nursed a crippled Dallara to finish on the fringes of the top 10, while his aggressor Vernay held fourth initially but fell back gradually until he ended his race in the wall following contact with Dutchman Henkie Waldschmidt, which put both cars out.
Alexander Sims (Mucke) managed to find a way by the hobbled car of Vernay early on, but was already too far back to improve further and settled for a lonely fifth as top Briton.
Dutch home hero Renger van der Zande (Hitech) survived a wild early part of the race as Vernay bottled up the chasers, but completed a solid drive as the top British series runner to round out the top six after Vernay and Waldschmidt came together.