Formula 3 race winner Frederik Vesti has been announced as a new addition to the Mercedes junior driver academy, and as part of ART Grand Prix’s lineup for the 2021 F3 season.
Vesti finished fourth in last year’s F3 standings driving for Prema, having taken three feature race wins across the season—the most of any driver—and was a title contender until the final round. The year before, Vesti won the Formula Regional European Championship, also driving for Prema, with 13 wins from 24 rounds.
In joining ART as a Mercedes junior, Vesti follows in the footsteps of Esteban Ocon and George Russell, who both won the GP3 title with the French team and Mercedes backing in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
On becoming a Mercedes junior, Vesti said: “To now be working with Mercedes, the best team in the world, is a massive boost for my career and I am really looking forward to building a powerful relationship in the future.
“The collaboration between ART, Mercedes and me is the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey for me,” he added. “I’m convinced that will take me one step closer to my goal, which is to reach Formula 1.”
Mercedes Driver Development Advisor Gwen Lagrue said: “Fred’s commitment and dedication is something we love to see and hugely respect. We are happy to welcome him into the Mercedes family and look forward to seeing him fight for the title this season in FIA F3.”
ART team principal Sébastien Philippe added: “We know Frederik very well since he was one of our most formidable opponents last season in Formula 3, and we were eager to start our collaboration with him in Barcelona during the off-season testing. With Frederik, ART will try and win back the FIA F3 title.”
ART also announced on Tuesday that one of Vesti’s F3 teammates will be Aleksandr Smolyar, who will remain with the French team for his second season in 2020. Smolyar had a successful debut campaign with a pole position in Hungary and a podium in the Monza sprint race.
The 2020 FIA Formula 3 season ended with a bang last weekend at Mugello. ART’s Theo Pourchaire came within touching distance of flipping the championship on its head after title contender Logan Sargeant crashed out on the opening lap, but ultimately it was Prema’s Oscar Piastri who came through to be crowned the 2020 drivers’ champion.
With all the prizes now handed out, it’s time to look back on what will go down as a memorable season—not just for the circumstances surrounding it, but for the brilliant racing seen all year long.
The fight at the top
Obviously, any review of this year’s F3 season has to start with its champion Oscar Piastri and his rivals for the crown.
From his win in the first race of the season, there was little doubt that Piastri would be one of the major players in the title battle right through to the end. Although it took him until the Barcelona sprint race to win again, Piastri’s podiums and strong points finishes kept him in the championship lead right up until round five at Silverstone, when Logan Sargeant’s first F3 win set up a close title fight between the two Premas.
His season wasn’t perfect. Considering he won the title, it’s surprising that Piastri did so with fewer wins than Frederik Vesti or Liam Lawson, and fewer podiums than Theo Pourchaire. More surprisingly, Piastri scored no pole positions at all this year—by comparison, Sargeant took three and qualified ahead of Piastri in almost every round.
All of which must make the final result of the 2020 season tough to swallow for the four drivers above. Despite all outperforming Piastri by one metric or another, the Australian’s consistency meant he was still able to come out on top.
But hopefully, they’ll all come away from the season emboldened by their performances, and the knowledge that the championship could have so easily swung in any of their directions. Pourchaire, Sargeant, Vesti and Lawson would all have been just as deserving a champion as Piastri, and will surely be contenders once again if they stay in F3 next year.
Who else impressed?
While much of the focus this year was on the battle for the championship, there were still plenty more standout performances from drivers up and down the grid.
Alex Peroni was one such. His 2019 F3 debut didn’t start particularly strongly with only two lower points finishes, but it was his vertebrae fractures sustained at Monza that defined it. But Peroni came back a different driver in 2020, taking his maiden podium in the first round with two more to follow at Silverstone and Barcelona, and scoring all of Campos’ 64 points.
Another impressive podium challenger was ART’s Aleksandr Smolyar. While the Russian was a long way off teammate Pourchaire’s results, he showed serious pace all season with a pole position at the Hungaroring and a win at Silverstone, although the latter was taken away by a post-race penalty.
Smolyar’s results wobbled a little after his lost win, but two fourth places at Spa and a podium he could keep at Monza put him back on track and will hopefully set up an even stronger sophomore year in 2021.
Mention should also be made of Ben Barnicoat, Michael Belov and Pierre-Louis Chovet, who all managed to score points acting as last-minute stand-ins for Carlin, Charouz and Hitech respectively. No easy feat by any means, given the steep learning curve of Formula 3.
Who needs to improve?
As for drivers who’ll need to step up their game if they return to F3 next year, the easy answer is the likes of Cameron Das, Sophia Floersch, Lukas Dunner and Alessio Deledda. Each of these stood out for the unfortunate reason that they scored no points all season, while their respective teammates were able to take frequent points and occasional podiums.
Another driver with the same distinction is Jack Doohan, who finished 26th in the championship while his HWA teammate Jake Hughes took two wins and two further podiums to finish 7th. Doohan is one of a trio of Red Bull juniors along with Dennis Hauger and Igor Fraga who will need to find new form next year after being significantly overshadowed by Lawson this year.
And speaking of F1 junior drivers, there’s also Ferrari’s Enzo Fittipaldi. The Brazilian showed some good speed at certain races this year, and particularly found his form at Mugello where he finished fifth and fourth in the two races. But over the whole season Fittipaldi only finished in the points six times in 18 races.
With highly-rated Ferrari juniors like Gianluca Petecof and Arthur Leclerc potentially targeting F3 next year, Fittipaldi will need to flip this ratio around to avoid falling behind them in the FDA pecking order.
While we won’t know for a while who’ll make up Formula 3’s 2021 grid, the talent and potential seen throughout 2020 gives us a lot to look forward to. In the meantime, F3 will be back on track next month for two post-season tests, at Barcelona on October 5th–6th and Jerez on October 27th–28th.
Oscar Piastri was crowned the 2020 Formula 3 champion after the Mugello sprint race finale, overcoming a late charge from outside contender Theo Pourchaire after main rival Logan Sargeant retired from a first lap collision.
Sargeant started the race as the highest title contender in fifth on the reverse grid, while Pourchaire started in eighth and Piastri outside the points in 11th. But Sargeant’s title challenge was ended at the second corner of the race when he was squeezed by Sebastian Fernandez into Lirim Zendelli. Sargeant and Zendelli both went off into the gravel, and despite Sargeant’s efforts he couldn’t make it back to the track and was out of the race.
As the safety car came out to recover Sargeant and Zendelli’s cars, Piastri looked set to take the title as he ran seventh with his only remaining rival Pourchaire behind in eighth. But at the restart on lap 4 Pourchaire immediately leapt past Piastri and then Jake Hughes for sixth as he tried to turn his nine-point deficit into an unlikely championship steal.
As the opening phase of the race unfolded, everything seemed to fall into place for Pourchaire’s title hopes. As he passed his ART teammate Aleksandr Smolyar for fifth and targeted the podium positions he needed to become champion, Piastri struggled for pace and was shuffled down to tenth by his own teammate Frederik Vesti.
But after Pourchaire passed Enzo Fittipaldi and Sebastian Fernandez to reach third place in the second half of the race, Piastri’s pace started to recover. The Australian took ninth from the struggling Smolyar at the same time as Pourchaire passed Fernandez, meaning that Piastri would still have enough points to win the championship if Pourchaire couldn’t improve to second.
With 1.5s between Pourchaire and second-placed David Beckmann on lap 17, it looked far from unlikely that Pourchaire would be able to take the position. But while Piastri’s pace was improving, Pourchaire’s earlier charge took its toll on his tyres and he was unable to make up much of the gap between him and Beckmann.
Meanwhile, Piastri continued picking off the lower top ten to make Pourchaire’s job even more difficult. On lap 18 Piastri passed Vesti for eighth place, then caught Fernandez as the ART dropped back through the field and took seventh place in a drag race to the line on the final lap.
Finishing seventh with Pourchaire third, Piastri won the championship by three points, while Pourchaire took the runner-up position from Sargeant by one point.
The sprint race was won by Liam Lawson, who put in a commanding performance from pole to win by almost seven seconds from Beckmann. The win gave Lawson fifth place in the championship ahead of Beckmann, although both were kept out of the top four by Vesti.
Fittipaldi took his best result of the season just behind the podium in fourth, ahead of Richard Verschoor and Hughes. Behind Piastri and Fernandez, the final points were taken by Vesti and Smolyar, with Vesti also earning the bonus two points for the fastest lap.
Jake Hughes took victory in another Formula 3 thriller at Monza, while teams’ champions Prema endured a nightmare race with Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant and Frederik Vesti all retiring after incidents.
The race started with Lirim Zendelli jumping from fourth to first off the line, while reverse polesitter Michael Belov slipped back to fifth and Hughes went from sixth up to third ahead of Liam Lawson. At the back of the grid, title contender Sargeant started his recovery from 26th by climbing five places off the grid.
The opening laps saw Zendelli and Enzo Fittipaldi scrapping over the lead. Fittipaldi took the position on lap 5, but the two continued exchanging first and second until the run down to Rettifilo at the start of lap 8. Fittipaldi started the lap ahead, but as he defended the corner from Zendelli the two made contact and Fittipaldi dropped out of the fight with a punctured rear tyre.
Lawson then assumed the lead from Hughes as Zendelli dropped down the order as well. The Premas of Vesti and Piastri moved up into third and fourth respectively, having made steady progress from the bottom of the top ten, while Sargeant found himself in the points in tenth.
Sargeant’s luck then seemed to improve dramatically on lap 10 as Piastri was spun around at Turn 1 by the attacking Clement Novalak, who spun Sargeant himself out of the points in yesterday’s feature race. David Schumacher and David Beckmann were both caught up in the incident as well, while Sargeant profited from the chaos to leap up to fifth place behind previous race leader Zendelli.
The debris at Rettifilo brought out a brief virtual safety car, but not before Hughes pulled off a well-timed move on Lawson to take the lead of the race. When the race restarted on lap 11, Sargeant continued making progress as Zendelli ran wide through the first Lesmo, gifting Sargeant fourth place and enough points to level the championship battle with Piastri.
Sargeant continued pushing to take third away from teammate Vesti. After narrowly avoiding contact on lap 17 when Vesti locked up into Turn 1, and with the likes of Zendelli and Theo Pourchaire closing in on the battling Premas, Sargeant dove to the inside into Ascari on lap 19 and squeezed Vesti out to guarantee the position.
However, the move ended horribly for both drivers as they made contact on the first apex of the chicane, leaving Sargeant with a puncture and Vesti with front wing damage, which proved terminal for both drivers.
With three laps left on the board, Pourchaire inherited third behind Lawson and race leader Hughes, and the podium remained this way until the chequered flag. Zendelli looked to have the pace to pass Pourchaire before the end, but was instead passed by the second ART of Aleksandr Smolyar on the last lap, and finished fifth behind the Russian.
Alex Peroni took sixth ahead of Pierre-Louis Chovet, earning his first points since debuting with Hitech at the last round in Belgium. Roman Stanek was eighth for Charouz ahead of Trident’s Olli Caldwell, and Richard Verschoor took the final point in tenth.
Heading now into the final round of the season at Mugello, Piastri maintains the eight-point lead he gained over Sargeant at the start of the weekend. Lawson returns to third in the standings over Pourchaire, with both still mathematically able to challenge for the title at 25 and 26 points adrift of Piastri.
Title contender Logan Sargeant bounced back after engine problems in yesterday’s feature race to take victory in the Formula 3 sprint race at Spa.
Reverse grid polesitter Richard Verschoor held the lead into the first corner, while Sargeant rose to second ahead of Olli Caldwell due to Liam Lawson having a slow start and dropping back to fifth.
But despite getting off the line well, Verschoor was unable to drop Sargeant in the opening laps as he struggled again with straight line speed for his MP Motorsport car. Sargeant stayed within a few tenths of Verschoor until lap 3, when he made the move for first and took the lead of the race.
Meanwhile, Sargeant’s teammate Frederik Vesti was moving up through the order from fifth on the grid. After taking third from Caldwell while Sargeant was passing Verschoor, Vesti then overtook Verschoor himself for second on lap 4.
The race was neutralised shortly after when Hitech’s Pierre-Louis Chovet went into the barriers and brought out the virtual safety car for two laps. When the caution was withdrawn on lap 6, Verschoor continued to fall down the order. The Dutchman lost third to Theo Pourchaire on lap 9, then dropped behind Lawson, Aleksandr Smolyar and Oscar Piastri in quick succession.
Meanwhile, Vesti was making strong progress to catch Sargeant. After being 2.1 seconds behind his teammate after the virtual safety car restart, Vesti cut the gap down to four tenths by lap 14 as Sargeant complained of fading tyres on the radio.
However, Sargeant was able to regroup in the final few laps and opened the gap back up to a second. Vesti made one final charge on the final lap, but couldn’t close up enough to make a move for the lead and finished runner-up across the line.
Lawson recovered from his poor start to finish third behind the Premas. After passing Verschoor for fourth, the Hitech driver put significant pressure on Pourchaire who was struggling with his tyres, and took third away on lap 12.
Pourchaire lost another place to his ART teammate Aleksandr Smolyar, who finished fourth for the second race in succession. On lap 15 Pourchaire was also passed for fifth by Oscar Piastri, who was charging forward from his own slow start to minimise the damage done by Sargeant’s win.
But just after moving into fifth, Piastri was given a five second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage when passing Pourchaire, dropping him to sixth behind the Frenchman in the final order.
Verschoor stabilised in seventh place by the chequered flag, finishing ahead of yesterday’s race winner Lirim Zendelli. His Trident teammate Caldwell had been running eighth, but fell out of the points after colliding with Alex Peroni. David Beckmann took ninth, and Sebastian Fernandez benefitted from the collision ahead to finish tenth.
Trident’s Lirim Zendelli controlled the F3 feature race at Spa for his first win in the series, as Oscar Piastri capitalised on problems for title rival Logan Sargeant to retake the championship lead.
Zendelli got a clean start from pole to keep the lead at the start ahead of ART’s Theo Pourchaire and Aleksandr Smolyar. Two rows back, Zendelli’s teammate David Beckmann passed Sargeant to move up from fifth to fourth, and started targeting Smolyar’s podium position.
The early battles were neutralised by a virtual safety car on lap 3, following a series of punctures for Clement Novalak, Andreas Estner and Enzo Fittipaldi that left debris on track, and Alessio Deledda spinning into the gravel.
When the VSC was withdrawn on lap 5, Beckmann pounced on Smolyar to take third. Smolyar briefly retook the position, but Beckmann repassed the ART definitively on lap 7 and pulled out a gap to hold his place on the podium.
At the same time, Zendelli broke out of DRS range from Pourchaire and proceeded to pull away more with each lap. After adding another second over Pourchaire by lap 10, Zendelli continued pushing until the chequered flag, crossing the line almost five seconds clear of the ART in second and Beckmann in third.
Behind the leading trio, Piastri finished fifth behind Smolyar in a potentially crucial result for his championship campaign.
Sargeant had stayed in fifth early on after being passed by Beckmann, and was gaining on Smolyar to move up to fourth. Meanwhile, Piastri was making his way up from the lower half of the top 10, passing Richard Verschoor and Liam Lawson to get up to sixth by lap 10.
With four seconds separating the two Premas, Sargeant then suddenly slowed on lap 13, losing two seconds with a suspected engine problem. Piastri closed up to within a second two laps later, before he breezed past Sargeant for fifth on the run to Eau Rouge.
Sargeant continued to nurse his car through the final laps despite saying on team radio that he didn’t think he could make it to the end. However, he lost another two positions to teammate Frederik Vesti and Trident’s Olli Caldwell before the chequered flag, and eventually finished in eighth. The result has given Piastri the lead of the championship again with five points in hand over Sargeant.
Lawson finished in ninth place after struggling with his tyres for much of the race, and Verschoor will start from reverse grid pole tomorrow after taking tenth place. Finally, Pourchaire gained the extra two points for setting the fastest lap within the top ten.
The two rookies making their debuts this weekend, Michael Belov and Pierre-Louis Chovet, finished 20th and 22nd respectively, while Estner finished 27th after his puncture on his return to F3.
Aleksandr Smolyar has lost the victory he took in the Formula 3 sprint race at Silverstone on Sunday following a post-race time penalty for weaving, handing the win to David Beckmann.
Smolyar’s driving while defending the lead from Beckmann late in the race was noted by the stewards on lap 16, and the Russian was repeatedly told on team radio to stop weaving. The stewards elected to investigate the issue after the race, and have since awarded Smolyar a five-second penalty which demotes him to sixth.
The penalty promotes Trident’s Beckmann to his second win of the season, with Clement Novalak second and Alex Peroni third. Frederik Vesti and Logan Sargeant move up to fourth and fifth respectively.
The revised result means Sargeant is now 17 points behind Piastri in the standings, while Vesti moves ahead of Liam Lawson into fourth. Smolyar drops a place to tenth behind Novalak.
Aleksandr Smolyar took his first Formula 3 win in the Silverstone sprint race, fighting off a rapid David Beckmann in the closing laps.
Smolyar got a good start from his reverse grid pole to hold the lead from Beckmann on the first lap. By lap 4 the Russian was able to just break out of DRS range of Beckmann, but this gap was lost on the following lap when Igor Fraga stopped on track and brought out the safety car.
At the restart Smolyar and Beckmann again held position, but Beckmann was able to stick with the ART and prevent Smolyar breaking more than a second away. After setting the fastest lap, Beckmann made his first move for the lead on lap 14, diving to the inside at Stowe. Beckmann momentarily took first, but Smolyar was able to repass him immediately.
Beckmann tried the same move on the following lap, but was again unsuccessful and fell back from Smolyar into the clutches of third-placed Clement Novalak. Beckmann managed to recover and get within two tenths of Smolyar in the final laps, but ultimately was unable to find a way around the ART. Smolyar eventually crossed the line with just half a second in hand over Beckmann, with Novalak close behind in third.
Alex Peroni finished fourth, capping off a strong weekend at Silverstone. Frederik Vesti and Logan Sargeant took fifth and sixth for Prema, with Sargeant also taking the points for fastest lap. Vesti and Sargeant were able to take advantage of technical woes for their championship rival and teammate Oscar Piastri, who was forced to retire on lap 11 when his DRS flap stuck open.
Saturday’s feature race winner Liam Lawson finished seventh after a fierce battle with the Premas ahead. Theo Pourchaire, Richard Verschoor and Jake Hughes rounded out the top ten.
Despite logging his first retirement of the year, Piastri still leads the championship after round four with 94 points over Sargeant’s 76. Beckmann’s podium keeps him in third place ahead of Lawson. Smolyar’s sprint race win moves him up to ninth.
In the teams’ standings, Prema have extended their lead over ART to 117.5 points. Trident remain in third with only 8.5 points between them and ART, while Hitech move up to fourth following Lawson’s win this weekend. Find the full Formula 3 drivers’ and teams’ standings here.
Formula 3 returns to Silverstone next weekend in support of the Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
Liam Lawson took his second win of the Formula 3 season at the Silverstone feature race, seeing off the Premas of Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant in a race fraught with incidents.
Lawson started from second behind polesitter Sargeant. Although Sargeant held first off the line, Lawson was close enough to harry him throughout the opening lap and make a lunge around the outside of Stowe to steal the lead.
After a brief interruption on lap 4, when Matteo Nannini slowed on track and brought out a Virtual Safety Car, Lawson began pulling away from Sargeant. The American driver then dropped back into the clutches of teammate Piastri, who demoted Sargeant to third on lap 7.
Piastri was better able to keep pace with Lawson than Sargeant, closing to within half a second by lap 9. On lap 11 Piastri drew alongside Lawson under DRS and looked set to take first place, but the Australian ran wide over the kerbs and couldn’t complete the move.
With Piastri right on his tail, Lawson was handed a saving grace shortly after when the safety car was deployed for Bent Viscaal, who spun after contact with Ben Barnicoat through Luffield and collected Jack Doohan’s HWA.
The safety car remained out for four laps, but was then redeployed almost immediately when Olli Caldwell spun in the middle of the pack and was hit heavily by Lukas Dunner and Max Fewtrell.
With Caldwell’s rear wing and suspension across the track, the race went on to end under the safety car, preserving Lawson’s first place over Piastri and Sargeant.
Jake Hughes finished fourth ahead of the third Prema of Frederik Vesti, with Alex Peroni climbing up from 18th on the grid to take sixth. Sebastian Fernandez finished seventh, Clement Novalak took eighth and the fastest lap, David Beckmann was ninth, and Aleksandr Smolyar took the reverse grid pole for the tomorrow in tenth.
Formula 3 returns this weekend at historic Silverstone, for the fourth round of the 2020 season.
As things stand coming into Great Britain, championship leader Oscar Piastri has begun to break into a dominant position in the title fight. On 76 points so far, he is more than a feature race victory ahead of his nearest rival, teammate Logan Sargeant.
Apart from one eighth place in the first Austria sprint race, Piastri has consistently finished in the top five in every race so far this season, including a double podium last time out in Hungary. Meanwhile, Sargeant has yet to take victory this year, while third-placed driver Theo Pourchaire didn’t score points at all in the first round of the season.
Piastri’s rivals might take some heart from the fact that Silverstone was one of the few rounds Prema didn’t dominate last year, with Juri Vips and Leonardo Pulcini taking both victories for Hitech Grand Prix.
Hitech don’t look to be the same contenders they were last year, despite Liam Lawson winning the first sprint race of the year in Austria and Dennis Hauger finishing third in Hungary. However, Trident and ART have both been close challengers to Prema in 2020 and will be pushing to deal any blow they can to the Italian team this weekend.
One driver in particular who could be a real headache for Prema and Piastri is David Beckmann, who comes to Silverstone off the back of his first F3 win in the Hungary sprint race. With two further podiums already to his name, Beckmann is also one of only three drivers—alongside Piastri and Richard Verschoor—to score in every race so far this season.
As for ART, Pourchaire underlined his own championship credentials in Hungary by becoming the only repeat race winner of the season so far. The young Frenchman has a bit of ground to make up after his slow start to the campaign, but clearly has the speed to challenge for the podium this weekend.
But it’s not just Pourchaire carrying ART’s hopes. The French team has plenty more talent in its lineup in Sebastian Fernandez and Aleksandr Smolyar, both of whom have taken a feature race pole this year.
So far luck hasn’t been on their side, with Fernandez and Smolyar both retiring early from their respective pole position starts. But if either of them can marry up another strong qualifying performance with a clean race on Saturday, there’s no reason they can’t join the fight at the front with their teammate.