Reigning BRDC British F3 champion Enaam Ahmed surprised the 2018 FIA Formula 3 European Championship field by taking a superb second place finish and rookie victory on his debut at the Pau Grand Prix.
Ahmed netted two top six finishes in the first two races of the weekend before claiming pole position and a second place in the historic Pau Grand Prix to leave the 2018 season-opener third in the Drivers’ championship standings. He almost made it two pole positions but was denied by just 0.3s to drivers with far greater experience in the series.
The Hitech GP driver sits just 10 points behind early FIA F3 championship leader Sacha Fenestraz in the overall standings and is second in the Rookies’ championship following a memorable debut at the Circuit de Pau-Ville in southwest France.
Despite being limited to only 45 minutes of practice running due to a mechanical failure and crash, Ahmed was immediately on the pace as he impressed around Pau’s notoriously tight and unforgiving streets, setting the fifth best time in his qualifying group to secure eighth place on the grid for the opening race.
The 18-year-old BRDC SuperStars member rose up to seventh during the early stages and made an excellent re-start following a Safety Car period to dive down the inside of Hitech GP teammate Alex Palou at Lycee to snatch sixth place and third spot on the rookie podium.
In Saturday’s second and third qualifying sessions, Ahmed starred in difficult wet conditions to seal third place on the grid for race two and pole position for the weekend finale, the Pau Grand Prix, by 0.247s over Prema Powerteam’s Ralf Aron.
Ahmed made a lightning start to challenge Fenestraz – a previous winner at Pau – for the lead at Gare corner in race two, but he was squeezed on the outside line and lost positions after being tagged by teammate Ben Hingeley. However, the Briton recovered well to round out the top five with another strong result just days into his maiden campaign.
In a rain-hit final race of the weekend, the Pau Grand Prix, polesitter Ahmed lost out on the run to the first corner after Aron got the jump from the second row to sneak into the lead. Using his greater knowledge of the track thanks to his wealth of FIA F3 experience, Aron pulled clear by 2s before Ahmed began closing the gap with a string of fast laps.
Ahmed reduced the deficit down to a second and looked set to launch an assault for the race lead as the rain got heavier, but ultimately ran out of time when the race was red-flagged after eight laps due to the worsening conditions. Having not completed 75% distance, only half points were awarded.
By keeping his cool in the treacherous conditions he secured second place in the prestigious race and recorded his first overall podium and rookie win in FIA F3, capping off an impressive first weekend in the ultra-competitive single-seater series.
Enaam Ahmed: “Ralf’s start simply was better than mine and he zoomed past me. Then, I was able to follow him and I think that we were the fastest drivers in the field at times,” Ahmed said when reflecting on his stellar weekend. I am really delighted to have scored a podium finish already in my first weekend of racing in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. Here, I am up against the world’s best junior drivers and now I am bringing a pole position and a podium result home, that is really great.”
Ahmed will head to the Hungaroring, home of the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix, for the next round of the 2018 FIA F3 European Championship on June 2-3.
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