Daniel Ricciardo is one step closer to becoming the 2009 British F3 champion this afternoon, following a victory in the first race at the Portimao circuit in Portugal. Ricciardo finished third on the road behind invitation class drivers Jules Bianchi and Esteban Gutierrez, but was the first of the British F3 runners to cross the line – thereby taking his sixth victory of the season.

Lining up on the grid for the first ever British F3 race at Portimao, Max Chilton was the lead Carlin driver in second place, with Ricciardo directly behind him on the grid in the fourth. A quick light sequence caught out several drivers at the start, including Chilton who lost out in the drag down to the first corner and dropped to sixth, while Ricciardo managed to maintain fourth despite some chaos at the first corner. When the cars crossed the line for the first time, Ricciardo was fourth while was Chilton eighth, but the British driver moved back up a place on lap two with an overtaking move past Carlos Huertas. Henry Arundel meanwhile had moved to 15th place, while Philip Major had lost out to drop to 19th.

A safety car period on lap three bunched up the order again, as marshals worked to recover the stranded cars of Sam Bird, Valterri Bottas and Daisuke Nakajima. Despite being under safety car conditions, Henry Arundel saw his race end early, as Adriano Buzaid ran into the back of the Carlin racer putting him into retirement.

As the safety car pulled in at the end of lap six, the racing got underway again as Chilton found himself in a close battle with Riki Christodoulou. Christodoulou had the edge at the restart to pass Chilton for sixth, but the Carlin man fought back a lap later to reclaim the position on lap eight. Chilton held onto his position for the remainder of the race despite a last lap challenge from Christodoulou and crossed the line in sixth place on the road, which made him fourth of the British F3 runners.

Ricciardo meanwhile had an ailing Renger van der Zande in his sights, who had dropped to third on the road due to a slow puncture. Ricciardo seized the opportunity to clinch third place by just 0.009 seconds as the duo raced for the flag, taking victory in the British F3 International Class in the process. With a lead of 57 points in the championship, Ricciardo is tantalising close to clinching the championship title in race two this afternoon.

Philip Major enjoyed an eventful race, with a fight back from 19th place on lap two to 11th place at the chequered flag. With the F3 Euro Series racers ahead of him unable to score points in the championship standings, Major was the seventh British F3 driver across the line. It was also a successful outing for Carlin’s National Class runner Joe Ghanem, who took a superb second place in his class on his F3 debut.

Speaking about his race, Ricciardo said, “That race was just about avoiding the incidents. I managed to avoid [Roberto] Merhi and Bottas and then towards the end I could see that Renger had a problem. I had no idea it was the last lap though – that’s just the way it worked out. It’s not a result that I can be completely delighted with, but you have to take what you can get.”