There was chaos and overtakes aplenty in the Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday, but it was Klaas van Snelheid who took victory after snatching it off Adrien Simon with a few laps to go.
Van Snelheid's teammate Nathaniel Powers led from pole, building up a gap over those behind as ftont row starter Felix Perez struggled at the start. After a few laps Van Snelheid overtook Perez around the outside of turn 1. The two made light contact but it was enough to spin around Perez, dropping the Mexican into the midfield. Allar Kangur quickly passed van Snelheid and began to close in on Powers. Simon also passed van Snelheid but failed to catch up to the reigning champion. Powers, Kangur and Simon all pitted on lap 14. Simon collided with Johan Halvosen on the exit, but despite the DS Mathershaw mounting the North Star, the two escaped with just lost time. Powers got stuck behind Tumo Kinnumen allowing Kangur to catch up to him. The Briton tried to pass the Finn on lap 20 on the inside of turn 1, but had to back out and went onto the grass on the inside. When he rejoined the track, Kangur couldn't avoid him and smashed into the Downton car, eliminating the two race victory contenders from the race. The two were unharmed but left the scene with their helmets still on.
The crash left van Snelheid and Simon in prime position to fight for the win. The Dutchman, along with Enrique Ruiz (who couldnt catch up to van Snelheid but maintained a 3 second gap) and Kinnumen pitted on lap 24. Simon took the lead but pitted for his second pit stop on lap 27. As things stood, he would have to make up a 19 second gap to van Snelheid with both drivers having one stop left. Van Snelheid had problems of his own to cope with however - Felix Beyer, who had an impressive opening stint on his extra softs, was unable to pit and stayed out. He and the race leader collided while he was being lapped, and the Holmqvist drove into the wall, breaking his rear wing. He didn't stop though. Simon meanwhile was getting down to business. He passed Kinnumen on lap 29, who was blocked by Beyer. At that point, the gap between van Snelheid and Simon was 14 seconds as he set the fastest lap. By lap 32, Simon was only 10 seconds off the lead, while Ruiz also had closed the gap to 2 seconds. Van Snelheid again had problems with backmarkers as Puccio Giodano forgot that it wasn't 2018 and tried to unlap himself, costing van Snelheid time.
Simon's pace begam to slow down but by lap 40 the gap was just under 5 seconds. 2 laps later he was in for his final pit stop, and began flying again. On lap 45 set the fastest lap. Van Snelheid pitted along with the other medium runners and he came out 3 seconds behind Simon. It looked like the race was wrapped up for Simon, but there was another twist in the race. The Frenchman's softs were starting to run out and van Snelheid on his fresh mediums was beginning to sniff a chance of reclaiming the lead. He began to make startling progress as Simon struggled in traffic, taking only two laps to close the gap to a second. It was clear his only chance of overtaking the race leader was the hairpin at the end of the lap. On both lap 50 and 51, he tried an attempt in the inside but Simon defended superbly, leaving just a car's width to keep up his speed to keep ahead. But by lap 52, the gap was close enough for van Snelheid to get alongside before the corner and he hit his braking point beautifully to take the lead of the race. Despite that, Simon still stayed in touching distance for most of the remainder of the race, until the last lap when he was held up by a backmarker, allowing van Snelheid to get away to claim his first win of the season. Ruiz lost a lot of time prior to his final pit stop but kept third place to stay on top in the championship. Kinnumen was fourth in a surprisingly anonymous race, while Oleksandr Zozulya was also another who had a quiet race. He lost a place to Sebastian Bergkvist at the start before being spun by the Swede after passing him. He later reclaimed the position and drove cleanly to get fifth.
Halvosen dropped behind his teammate at the start but recovered his position, passed Bergkvist and had a quiet race afterwards, save for his brief collision with Simon. Gabriele Garcia collided with Juan Mario Lopez at the start, breaking the Meteor's rear wing. The Argintinian had to pit to retire after that. Garcia, just like his teammate, then passed Bergkvist and had a solid race to seventh. Jules Simon was delighted with eight after passing the two Ingrams and using his strategy to great affect to finish in the points for the first time in his career and Meteor's first since 2016. Bergkvist also used hhis medium tyres to finish ninth and collect more points for Holmqvist. Behind them however, no one had a clean race. Elroy Wagner ran outside of the top 20 at one point but as the amount of retirements grew he rose up the order and despite getting caught up in one incident he came 10th to make sure Lopez have finished in the points in every race so far.
Behind him came Viktor Ostberg, Giodano, Hunter Ryan and Finn Schnyder who were all in the same boat as the German. Thierry Xylander was the last running driver. There were a total of 11 retirements. Along with Lopez, Powers and Kangur, Rodolfo De La Fuente spun at turn 1 on lap 12 and after holding up his teammate drove into the wall and broke his front wheel. Perez also spun at the same time, and later on in the race he crashed into Jean Mattson at the same corner when the two were fighting for 10th place. The two drivers were out of the race and to add to that Sergio Alvarez hit Perez's car, taking himself out of the race. It was a blow for Ingram and Phoenix as a tenth place finish would have done wonders to save them from any Q1 threat while it capped off a miserable day for Perez after starting from the front row. Will Hoskins and Arden Hutchinson both had car issues which forced them to retire, on a day where the large amount of retirements could have seen the new teams get a crucial result but it wasn't meant to be. To add insult to injury for Ingram, James Vasquez was hit by Beyer when he was contending for tenth in an incident where Xylander was also caught out. He eventually retired with engine problems. Beyer was eventually disqualified for running without a rear wing, in a race he will rue after he looked very promising at the start.
Ruiz now remains out in front but his lead is only 12 points over Simon and van Snelheid. Ruiz has finished every race on the podium, but van Snelheid was caught out by an engine failure in Japan and Simon could have easily won all three races so far. Powers and Kangur meanwhile will want to bounce back after throwing away a big haul of points in China. In the constructors Franklin stay out in front, but both DS Mathershaw and Downton have had only one car finish in two races. They will be hoping to close down the gap on the triple champions when Formula Virtual heads to Malaysia this weekend.
See the full race below:
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