F3 Hungary preview: Piastri looking in his mirrors as rivals close in

FIA Formula 3 returns this weekend, heading to the Hungaroring in Budapest for the third round of the season.

The 2020 championship got off to an excellent start at the Red Bull Ring double header, with four first-time winners in each of the four races creating a tight battle at the top of the drivers’ standings.

Renault junior and Prema driver Oscar Piastri still leads the championship with 44 points after the opening two rounds. However, he hasn’t finished on the podium since his win in the opening race of the campaign, and in each of the two sprint races so far he’s struggled to make progress through the reverse grid field.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

Meanwhile, his teammates Frederik Vesti and Logan Sargeant have closed up behind him and are only one good result away from taking the title lead.

In Hungary, Vesti needs to capitalise on the momentum of his feature race win last weekend and take the fight to Piastri again. Sargeant meanwhile must take the pace that’s yielded two second place finishes so far and battle to the top step of the podium this time.

But it’s not just his fellow Premas that Piastri will have to watch out for in Budapest. David Beckmann is sitting just behind them in the standings after a double podium in Spielberg last weekend, and the Trident team generally has emerged as Prema’s nearest rival.

Beckmann and Lirim Zendelli both have the pace to be genuine threats for victory this weekend, while Olli Caldwell showed no qualms about battling with Piastri at the Red Bull Ring last time out.

Frederik Vesti, Prema (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

While the battle rages for the lead of the championship, there are a couple of drivers further back who will be looking to reset their own campaigns as we move on to Hungary.

Sebastian Fernandez would have been hoping for a lot more than six points and 13th in the standings after storming to the first pole of the season in Austria. His only top ten finish came with ninth place in the second Spielberg sprint race, although this was largely gifted to him by Jake Hughes and Liam Lawson crashing out in the final laps—prior to that, Fernandez had dropped down the order after running wide while battling with Zendelli for eighth.

As for Hughes, he will also be glad to finally see the back of the Red Bull Ring. His collision with Lawson last Sunday capped off a troubled start to the year—after a technical problem left him 28th in the season opener, Hughes’ best result is half a point for tenth in the red-flagged second feature race.

The good news for both Hughes and Fernandez is that while neither came away from Austria with the points they expected, both showed that their form this season is a lot higher than their championship standings suggest. Given a clean weekend, both drivers have the potential to trouble the frontrunners for victory at the Hungaroring.

Sebastian
Fernandez, ART (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)
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