Jean Karl Vernay bounced back from a pit stop to change tires with victory in a thrilling F3 Euro Series season finale at Hockenheim that was decided by a final-lap pass for the win.
In a race started on a wet track, the Signature driver played the drying conditions to perfection, and thanks to some carnage ahead of him, was able to make his switch from wets to slicks work perfectly so that he was in a position to pass Christopher Zanella at the hairpin on the final lap.
Zanella was one of several drivers towards the rear of the grid to gamble on starting the race on slicks. Renger van der Zande led that pack for most of the race, and at one point was more than 40 seconds adrift of race leader Roberto Merhi. But when a dry line appeared, several cars came in to change tires, while Merhi, Henkie Waldscmidt and Valtteri Bottas tried to nurse their wets to the flag.
By lap 18 van der Zande was battling Alexander Sims a few places behind them, but the pair were on course to easily get to the front. Sims, who needed a top-two result to have any chance of finishing the year as top rookie, had started from the pit lane after making a late change to wets before the start, but he had caught the drivers that had taken slicks on the grid. However, their scrap came to an end on lap 25 when they collided with Tiago Geronimi under braking for the hairpin, which eliminated all three drivers, and handed rookie honors to Bottas.
That crash gave Zanella the initiative, after he had appeared to blow his chance of glory by going off in the stadium section four laps earlier. While the Motopark driver eased ahead of those still on wets, it was clear that Vernay was much faster as he carved through the field, and the Frenchman made it count on the final lap by taking the lead along the backstraight into Turn 3.
Behind them, Mirko Bortolotti took third on his first weekend in the Euro Series with Carlin Motorsport, having stayed out of trouble after starting the race on slicks.
Marco Wittmann, who ran in the top three for most of the race before pitting for slicks, recovered to take fourth, while Bottas was the top finisher on wets with fifth.
The final point went to Esteban Gutierrez who was another to stop, while this year's champion Jules Bianchi recovered to seventh despite having stalled after a spin and then making a stop for wets.
Merhi, who led until lap 18 before losing out to Bottas, eventually retired after his left-rear suspension collapsed when he hit a curb.