Round 6 of the 2019 Formula 3 season takes place this weekend in Belgium, where Prema will be feeling the pressure to keep up their command of the championship.
The Italian team have won half of all the races run so far this season and their drivers occupy three of the top four spots in the championship. For Robert Shwartzman, who currently tops the standings on 124 points, the goal will be to steer his car towards another podium at the very least and increase his 12-point lead over second-placed Juri Vips.
However, Shwartzman will be hard-pressed by his own teammates. Jehan Daruvala needs to regain some ground in the title battle at Spa, after a pair of non-points finishes at Silverstone and the Hungaroring undid his run of podiums and wins earlier in the season. And in fourth place in the standings, Marcus Armstrong will be looking to prove he is every bit in contention as his teammates after his first series win in the Hungary sprint race.
But there’s no guarantee Prema will have it all their way in Spa this weekend. After dominating the first two rounds, in which Shwartzman and Daruvala took a feature and sprint race win apiece, the Italian team have faced a stern fightback from the likes of Hitech, HWA Racelab and ART.
Vips is as much a contender for victory this weekend as any of the Premas, and taking a third win of the season will go a long way to impressing his Red Bull bosses as they evaluate where to place the Estonian next year.
Nor can Christian Lundgaard be discounted. After a rocky opening to the season, including four consecutive non-points finishes across France and Austria, the Renault junior driver was imperious in Hungary as he sealed pole position, fastest lap and victory in the feature race. Provided Lundgaard and ART have made a genuine breakthrough with the 2019 F3 car, there’s every reason to expect this pairing at the front for the rest of the year.
Lower down the order, several drivers will be hoping to reignite their campaigns after the summer reset as they look to improve their positions in the 2020 driver market.
David Beckmann is one of those. After scoring three wins with Trident in last year’s GP3 championship, Beckmann has struggled with ART this year and is currently 11th with only four points finishes. With stablemates Lundgaard and Max Fewtrell a long way ahead of him in the points, Beckmann needs a good result in Belgium to get his season back on track.
Also needing to step up his game in the final three rounds is Yuki Tsunoda. Although the Japanese driver is currently dominating his Jenzer teammates (being the team’s only point-scoring driver), he remains 12th in the championship and behind fellow Red Bull juniors Vips and Liam Lawson. Tsunoda is having a much better season in the 2019 Euroformula Open championship, where he is fourth with one win and three further podiums, so there’s no doubt he’s got more speed to come if he and Jenzer can unlock the potential of his car in practice.