F3 Hungary: Hauger prevails over Leclerc in mixed conditions battle

Formula 3 championship leader Dennis Hauger won the Hungary feature race, beating his Prema teammate Arthur Leclerc in a race-long battle in changing conditions.

Leclerc started the race from pole ahead of Hauger. But before either driver had the chance to fight for the lead off the line, the track was drenched by heavy rain and the race was started behind the safety car instead.

When the race got underway with a rolling start, Leclerc got going to stay clear of Hauger into Turn 1. Behind them, third-placed Jack Doohan came under pressure into the first corner from his trident teammate David Schumacher, who tried the move around the outside but didn’t have the grip.

The safety car was back out by the end of the first lap, as Victor Martins found himself in the wall with a broken front wing. When the race resumed on lap 4 Leclerc again went into Turn 1 unchallenged, although Hauger was much closer throughout the lap and was putting the pressure on.

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Further back in the pack, several cars tried to make places as their rivals struggled on the wet track but ended up coming under attack themselves as a result. Clement Novalak in fifth was slow at the restart and gave an opportunity to Alex Smolyar, but when Smolyar couldn’t get the move done he found Frederik Vesti looking up the inside of him instead.

Olli Caldwell tried to take advantage of Vesti’s fight with Smolyar to slip up the inside of the Dane, but had to back out to defend from Ayumu Iwasa behind him. At the start of lap 5, Caldwell then missed his braking for Turn 1, clipping the back of Vesti and dropping to ninth behind Iwasa as a result.

At the front Hauger settled into a rhythm and started setting fastest laps to close to within four tenths of Leclerc by lap 7. With the pressure on, Leclerc then dipped a wheel into the standing water towards the end of the lap and gave Hauger a run down into Turn 1 on the next lap.

Leclerc forced Hauger to the outside where the Norwegian had to back off and slip back in behind. Hauger kept up the attack through the next few corners, but each time Leclerc held the inside line, forcing Hauger to back off from an outside move and dropping him back towards Doohan.

But on lap 9 Leclerc was wide through Turn 1, and this gave Hauger the opportunity he needed to run alongside his teammate and take the lead heading down to Turn 4. Hauger then cemented his pace in the conditions by setting the fastest lap while in front, and starting lap 10 with a 1.5 second lead over Leclerc.

With the track almost dry by the halfway stage, Hauger’s wet tyres started to overheat and Leclerc began coming back at him. Leclerc set the fastest lap on lap 11 to cut the gap to half a second, but Hauger responded on the following lap and opened it back up to a second.

As Hauger and Leclerc traded lap times, Prema told them to be wary of overheating their wet tyres. This brought Doohan into play, who began setting fastest laps and closing the gap to Leclerc to under a second.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Red Bull Content Pool)

But despite the late surge from Doohan, the Premas were able to keep enough tyre life to stay just out of reach. Doohan’s charge was then called off altogether three laps from the end, when Laszlo Toth collided with Ido Cohen at the rear of the field and brought out a safety car to lead the field over the line.

Hauger therefore led home Leclerc and Doohan, who took their second and fourth podium finishes of the year respectively. Doohan’s Trident teammates Schumacher and Novalak followed him in fourth and fifth. Smolyar was sixth ahead of Vesti and Caldwell, and Enzo Fittipaldi and Logan Sargeant rounded out the points for Charouz in ninth and tenth.

Matteo Nannini, who started 13th, was the only driver to chance a stop for slick tyres when the track dried out. But despite being the quickest car on track by almost two seconds and taking the fastest lap, the final safety car coupled with a very slow stop meant Nannini couldn’t capitalise on the gamble, and he finished in 26th.

Hauger’s third win of the year gives him 152 points in the standings and a 63-point lead, meaning he could fail to score in the next round entirely and still hold the championship lead. Doohan’s third place returns him to second in the standings on 89 points, three points ahead of Olli Caldwell in third.

F3 returns after the summer break on 28th and 29th August at Spa-Francorchamps in support of the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix.

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