F3 Barcelona: Hauger dominates in near-perfect feature race

Prema driver and Red Bull junior Dennis Hauger dominated the first feature race of the Formula 3 season, putting in a lights-to-flag performance and taking the fastest lap for maximum points.

Hauger looked to have lost the lead at the start as he got bogged down at the launch and had to fight a four-wide battle down to Turn 1 with Jack Doohan, Victor Martins and Matteo Nannini. But Hauger managed to keep ahead going into the first corner, while Martins and Nannini assumed second and third and Doohan was shuffled down to fourth.

Nannini moved up to second at the end of the second lap, as Martins ran wide through the final corner and allowed the HWA through. But as Hauger set the fastest lap out front and moved out of DRS range, Nannini was unable to make any in-roads into the Prema’s lead.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

Nannini and Martins then both came under pressure from Doohan as he recovered from his start. After taking third from Martins on lap 9, Doohan then reeled in Nannini and passed him for second on lap 12.

But just like Nannini, Doohan was unable to catch Hauger, who was more than three seconds further up the road by this point. Hauger eventually crossed the line with almost four seconds in hand, with Doohan and Nannini completing the podium.

Martins lost another position in the final laps, finishing fifth behind yesterday’s second race winner Olli Caldwell. Clement Novalak took sixth ahead of Frederik Vesti, Caio Collet and Logan Sargeant, and Hitech’s Roman Stanek took his first point of the year in tenth.

Hauger now leads the drivers’ championship after Barcelona with 34 points, two ahead of teammate Caldwell and six clear of Novalak. Prema leads the teams’ standings with 66 points, 17 ahead of Trident in second. Find the full F3 championship standings here.

F3 Barcelona: Caldwell takes maiden win in chaotic second sprint race

Olli Caldwell took his first Formula 3 win in the second Barcelona sprint race, inheriting the lead late on after two separate battles for the win ahead of him ended in collisions.

The race started with Enzo Fittipaldi on reverse pole ahead of David Schumacher, Matteo Nannini, Victor Martins and Dennis Hauger. At lights out the top five all got away in order, while Caldwell went from seventh to sixth by passing Frederik Vesti.

The first four laps ran behind the safety car, after Logan Sargeant and Alex Smolyar came together further back at the start. When the race resumed on lap 5, Schumacher started pressuring Fittipaldi for the lead by keeping within DRS range, while Hauger and Caldwell took advantage of Martins running wide to take fourth and fifth respectively.

After making several attempts to pass Fittipaldi under DRS into Turn 1, Schumacher finally took the lead of the race on lap 12. However, Schumacher wasn’t able to pull clear at the front and Fittipaldi attempted to retake the lead at Turn 1 on lap 14.

Schumacher fended off Fittipaldi on that occasion, but the Brazilian came back around the outside of Turn 1 on the following lap. But as they went side by side through Turn 2, the pair made contact which took them both out of the race, brought out the safety car, and handed the lead to Nannini.

When the safety car came in at the end of lap 17, Hauger immediately challenged Nannini from second but was rebuffed into the first corner. Hauger kept close to the HWA through the next couple of laps and tried another move up the inside of Turn 1 on lap 20, but remarkably they too collided as they went side by side into Turn 2.

As Nannini was spun round and Hauger lost his front wing, Caldwell avoided the incident to lead from Martins and Vesti with three laps remaining. Martins tried to pass Caldwell into the first corner on the final lap but bailed out of the move onto the runoff area, leaving Caldwell clear to take the win.

Martins finished in second and Vesti third, ahead of Clement Novalak and Caio Collet. Red Bull juniors Jonny Edgar, Ayumu Iwasa, Jack Doohan and Jak Crawford finished in formation from sixth to ninth, and Juan Manuel Correa took the final point on his first weekend back racing.

L-R: Victor Martins, Olli Caldwell, Frederik Vesti (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

F3 Barcelona: Smolyar takes first blood in opening sprint race

ART’s Alex Smolyar took the first win of the 2021 Formula 3 season in Barcelona, beating Clement Novalak and rookie Caio Collet.

Smolyar and Collet started from second and third behind reverse polesitter Jonny Edgar, and held position behind the Carlin at the start. Behind them, Novalak jumped from sixth to fourth by passing Logan Sargeant and David Schumacher.

Jonny Edgar, Carlin (courtesy of Carlin Buzz Racing)

Smolyar stuck with Edgar through the opening laps, and on lap four he took the lead at the inside of Turn 1 under DRS. Edgar tried to return the move on the following lap, but Smolyar was able to hold the Carlin off and start pushing out of DRS range.

As Smolyar opened up a gap at the front, Edgar started to struggle with his tyres and came under pressure from Collet and Novalak. On lap 10 Collet tried a move for second at Turn 1 but lost momentum around the outside, which allowed Novalak to pass the Brazilian for third.

Novalak then overtook Edgar for second on lap 14, while Collet got through for third a lap later. As the race entered its final stage, Smolyar reported losing rear grip as Novalak started to eat into the Russian’s lead.

But as Novalak got close to DRS range, the race was halted when Oliver Rasmussen went off into the gravel on lap 18 and brought out the safety car.

Clement Novalak, Trident (Alexander Scheuber, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

This proved to be Smolyar’s saving grace, as there wasn’t enough time for the safety car to come in before the chequered flag — aided somewhat by the tractor recovering Rasmussen’s car getting stuck in the gravel itself.

Smolyar therefore took the win ahead of Novalak and Collet, while Sargeant finished fourth for Charouz having passed Edgar just before the safety car was deployed. Olli Caldwell finished sixth in his first race for Prema, ahead of Frederik Vesti, Dennis Hauger, Victor Martins and Matteo Nannini.

Smolyar took the additional points for fastest lap, and Enzo Fittipaldi finished twelfth to start the second sprint race on reverse pole.

F3 Barcelona preview: All eyes on the class of ’21

Formula 3 will take to Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend for the opening round of the 2021 season.

This year, F3 will be following the same new weekend format used by Formula 2 in Bahrain. That means there will be two sprint races on Saturday, and one feature race before the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.

Can anyone stop Prema?

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

As we get into a new season, the big question is whether Prema will once again be the team to beat. And looking at their new lineup, it would be hard to bet against them.

Dennis Hauger and Arthur Leclerc, from the Red Bull and Ferrari junior teams respectively, have already been outlined as title favourites. Hauger comes with an impressive resume of Formula 4 results as well as a season of F3 under his belt with Hitech last year, which included a podium at Hungary. As for Leclerc, he came close to winning last year’s Formula Regional European Championship, with only a retirement in the last round leaving him as runner-up.

Olli Caldwell will be the wildcard in Prema’s lineup. Like Hauger, Caldwell brings F3 experience after running with Trident last year, although he only scored points four times across the season. But don’t write him off based on that — Logan Sargeant did the same in his debut F3 year, before going on to be a title contender with Prema last year.

But while Prema has an impressive lineup, they won’t have it all their own way this year. New Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti, who won the joint-most races of anyone last year while driving for Prema, has moved to ART and will be aiming to challenge for the title there as Theo Pourchaire did in 2020.

Meanwhile, Prema’s closest challengers last year Trident have looked rapid during testing with their new lineup of Clement Novalak, Jack Doohan and David Schumacher. Novalak in particular will be one to watch, as he comes off the back of a debut F3 year that included two podium finishes for Carlin.

Watch out for the midfield pack

Jak Crawford, Hitech (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

But it’s not just the top three teams who could start their season off on top this weekend, as there’s an impressive crop of drivers in the midfield pack ready to make their mark.

For F1 fans, there are plenty of potential future Grand Prix drivers making their F3 debuts this weekend. As well as Hauger and Doohan, Red Bull have three more irons in the fire in the form of Jak Crawford and Ayumu Iwasa at Hitech, and Jonny Edgar at Carlin. Iwasa and Edgar were both F4 champions last year, while Crawford was runner-up to Edgar and a five-time race winner in ADAC F4.

Alpine has two exciting prospects in Victor Martins and Caio Collet, who are both racing for MP Motorsport this year. The two juniors spent last year duelling for the Formula Renault Eurocup title, with the crown going the way of Martins, and have carried that rivalry into F3 already as they topped three days of pre-season testing between them. Watch out for these two springing surprise results at the front of the field.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

Outside of the F1 junior spotlight, there’s also Matteo Nannini and Roman Stanek. They were two of the quieter revelations from last year, and now driving for HWA and Hitech respectively they’re well placed to make a big impression in their sophomore year.

Lastly, there’s the good news story that is the racing comeback of Juan Manuel Correa. Driving for ART, Correa will be returning to motorsport for the first time since the F2 crash at Spa in 2019 which left him with severe injuries and claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert.

Although this is Correa’s first time racing since 2019, and first time driving at this level since his 2018 GP3 season with Jenzer, he performed well in both pre-season tests earlier in the year. What’s more, with ART he’s got a great team to help him get up to speed quickly, so Correa’s progress this weekend will be well worth watching.

Check out the full list of F3 teams and drivers for this weekend here.

F3: Nannini fastest in first post-season test

Matteo Nannini topped the first day of Formula 3’s post-season test in Barcelona ahead of Jake Hughes and Calan Williams.

On his first day driving for Campos Racing, Nannini set his time of a 1:32.170s in the morning session, before switching to race simulations in the afternoon and logging a total of 64 laps. Hughes, returning to HWA, was only 0.257s slower than Nannini and set 62 laps overall.

Jenzer’s Williams led a tight trio of drivers with less than three tenths separating him from Dennis Hauger at Prema and ART rookie Victor Martins in fifth. Renault junior Martins, currently leading the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup championship, was the only rookie within the top ten and had one of the highest lap counts with 74.

Victor Martins, ART (Photo Alexandre Guillaumot, DPPI / Renault Sport Media)

Enzo Fittipaldi (HWA) and Roman Stanek (ART) were sixth and seventh, while Jack Doohan was eighth-fastest overall and topped the afternoon session for Trident. Clement Novalak (Trident) and David Schumacher (Prema) rounded out the top ten.

HWA rookie William Alatalo recorded the most laps of the day with 93, while Novalak had the fewest with 49.

Six drivers set their fastest laps in the afternoon session, all of whom were rookies: Alessandro Famularo (Campos), Amaury Cordeel (MP Motorsport), Jonny Edgar (MP Motorsport), Patrik Pasma (Charouz), Rafael Villagomez (Trident) and Josef Knopp (Charouz).

Overall classification:

Pos. Driver Team Time (best) Laps (total)
1 Matteo Nannini Campos Racing 1:32.170 64
2 Jake Hughes HWA Racelab 1:32.427 62
3 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport 1:32.500 60
4 Dennis Hauger Prema Racing 1:32.512 74
5 Victor Martins (R) ART Grand Prix 1:32.527 74
6 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab 1:32.615 73
7 Roman Stanek ART Grand Prix 1:32.625 77
8 Jack Doohan Trident 1:32.777 57
9 Clement Novalak Trident 1:32.816 49
10 David Schumacher Prema Racing 1:32.948 73
11 Igor Fraga Hitech Grand Prix 1:33.069 70
12 Franco Copalinto (R) MP Motorsport 1:33.085 77
13 Jonathan Hoggard (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:33.096 54
14 Artur Leclerc (R) Prema Racing 1:33.161 71
15 Jak Crawford (R) Hitech Grand Prix 1:33.286 72
16 Michael Belov Charouz Racing System 1:33.331 50
17 Ben Barnicoat Carlin Buzz Racing 1:33.450 51
18 Oliver Rasmussen (R) Hitech Grand Prix 1:33.492 74
19 Pierre Louis Chovet Campos Racing 1:33.509 64
20 Olli Caldwell ART Grand Prix 1:33.530 72
21 William Alatalo (R) HWA Racelab 1:33.772 93
22 Sophia Floersch Carlin Buzz Racing 1:33.819 61
23 Ido Cohen (R) Carlin Buzz Racing 1:33.838 61
24 Alessandro Famularo (R) Campos Racing 1:33.988 68
25 Amaury Cordeel (R) MP Motorsport 1:34.139 75
26 Jonny Edgar (R) MP Motorsport 1:34.389 71
27 Patrik Pasma (R) Charouz Racing System 1:34.911 64
28 Rafael Villagomez (R) Trident 1:35.062 65
29 Filip Ugran (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:35.170 56
30 Josef Knopp (R) Charouz Racing System 1:35.758 70

Spanish GP Qualifying: Hamilton takes pole as Mercedes lock-out front row

Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole by 0.059 seconds on a hot Saturday afternoon in Barcelona. Valtteri Bottas seemed to be on a mega lap during his second Q3 run but fell short in the final sector and has to be content with second. This pole means Hamilton now has 92 pole positions and 150 front row starts in Formula 1, and the Englishman will be looking to sign it off with a win tomorrow.

Last weekend’s race winner Max Verstappen put his Red Bull in third and will be hoping for a repeat of the last race. However the Dutchman does not have the luxury of a different strategy this time around with both him and the Mercedes cars set to start on the soft tyres. His teammate Albon will have to be content with starting on the 3rd row after he managed to put a lap together to be placed 6th on the grid.

Racing Point will be happy with the qualifying this afternoon as Sergio Perez is set to start on the second row alongside Verstappen in fourth after missing out the last two races and Lance Stroll starting at fifth alongside Albon on the third row. The team would have definitely liked to be closer to Verstappen but will have to be content with fourth and fifth despite showing promising pace throughout the weekend.

Ferrari’s dismal year looks set to continue after Leclerc only managed 9th place after some complaints with the car in the second run of Q3 and with Sebastian Vettel crashing out in Q2 yet again but this time by just two milliseconds. The Italian team will only be looking for a points finish tomorrow with anything more than that looking like a distant possibility.

GP SPAGNA F1/2020 – SABATO 15/08/2020
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

McLaren look set to have a better weekend than last time around as they have locked out the fourth row with Carlos Sainz in 7th and Lando Norris in 8th. The team will be aiming for a double points finish tomorrow and with this being Sainz’s home Grand Prix, the Spaniard will be hoping for a change in fortunes this time around.

Another team that will be happy with qualifying is Alpha Tauri with Gasly managing 10th after a decent qualifying and Danil Kvyat managing 12th place. Gasly will definitely be eyeing another strong points finish given the French driver has been having a much better year compared to the last one.

Renault would be looking to salvage something out of Sunday after a poor showing today with Ricciardo in 13th and Ocon in 15th as the French team just seemed to have been lost for pace. Ocon would hope his situation changes tomorrow after the Frenchman crashed into the wall during FP3 after a poor judgement call followed by a poor qualifying.

A surprise name in Q2 today was Kimi Raikkonen who finally managed to end his streak of exiting in Q1 this season. His teammate Giovinazzi is set to start 20th on the grid after a poor showing in Q1 and damaging his floor during the first run in Q1.

Both Haas cars are set to line up with Magnussen in 16th and Grosjean in 17th with both the drivers admitting they could’ve put together the better laps. George Russell might be bemoaning about him not being to able to score points on social media but his qualifying game seemed on point as he managed to keep his perfect record over teammate Latifi with both the Williams cars set to start in 18th and 19th respectively.

With Mercedes locking out the front row yet again at the Spanish GP, Hamilton is in with a great chance to edge closer to Schumacher’s win record unless his teammate takes the fight to him on Sunday. Max Verstappen might also be in with a chance if Redbull have a strategy masterstroke up their sleeves yet again. Racing Point would not rule themselves out from an unlikely podium but they will have to work for it.

*The Grid:

Hamilton                     Bottas

Verstappen               Perez

Stroll                             Albon

Sainz                             Norris

Leclerc                        Gasly

Vettel                           Kvyat

Ricciardo                    Raikkonen

Ocon                             Magnussen

Grosjean                     Russell

Latifi                             Giovinazzi

*Subject to change after investigation of a turn 2 incident between Kvyat and Magnussen

 

 

F3 Spain: Hughes takes feature race win

Jake Hughes took his first win of the 2020 Formula 3 season in the Barcelona feature race, beating polesitter Logan Sargeant.

Sargeant held first place at the start with a decent launch over Hughes, but was unable to drop the HWA over the opening laps. Following a brief safety car brought out by Bent Viscaal going off on lap 1, Hughes was able to keep within half a second of Sargeant while he waited for DRS to be enabled.

Hughes was close enough to make a move on lap 7, and he swept around the outside of Sargeant at Turn 1 to take the lead. Almost immediately, Hughes was able to break over a second away from Sargeant, while the American started to come under pressure from Liam Lawson running in third.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

The safety car came back out on lap 9 when Frederik Vesti’s Prema ground to a halt on track. But Sargeant wasn’t able to use the restart to gain on Hughes, who broke almost a second clear before setting the fastest lap the next time around.

Sargeant then found himself with Lawson half a second behind. Lawson tried two moves to the inside of Turn 1 on laps 18 and 19 but Sargeant was able to hold him off each time. But on lap 20 Lawson tried around the outside instead, and this time took the position to finish second behind Hughes.

Sargeant remained on the podium on third, taking valuable points in the championship battle as his main rival Oscar Piastri had another tricky race. After battling in the early laps to keep fourth from Clement Novalak, Piastri ran wide at the second safety car restart and dropped behind Novalak and David Beckmann.

Piastri was unable to recover the positions and finished the race in sixth, three places down on Sargeant. Theo Pourchaire took seventh ahead of Alex Peroni and Richard Verschoor, while Matteo Nannini put his Jenzer into tenth to take his and the team’s first point of the season.

Alex Peroni, Campos (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Jake Hughes (FL) HWA Racelab 27
2 Liam Lawson Hitech Grand Prix 18
3 Logan Sargeant Prema Racing 15
4 Clement Novalak Carlin Buzz Racing 12
5 David Beckmann Trident 10
6 Oscar Piastri Prema Racing 8
7 Theo Pourchaire ART Grand Prix 6
8 Alex Peroni Campos Racing 4
9 Richard Verschoor MP Motorsport 2
10 Matteo Nannini Jenzer Motorsport 1
11 Aleksandr Smolyar ART Grand Prix
12 Lirim Zendelli Trident
13 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab
14 Jack Doohan HWA Racelab
15 Sebastian Fernandez ART Grand Prix
16 Leonardo Pulcini Carlin Buzz Racing
17 Max Fewtrell Hitech Grand Prix
18 Dennis Hauger Hitech Grand Prix
19 Cameron Das Carlin Buzz Racing
20 Olli Caldwell Trident
21 Lukas Dunner MP Motorsport
22 Roman Stanek Charouz Racing System
23 David Schumacher Charouz Racing System
24 Igor Fraga Charouz Racing System
25 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport
26 Federico Malvestiti Jenzer Motorsport
27 Sophia Floersch Campos Racing
28 Alessio Deledda Campos Racing
Ret. Frederik Vesti Prema Racing
Ret. Bent Viscaal MP Motorsport

Spanish Grand Prix: Hamilton scorches to the top in FP2 as Ricciardo and Grosjean impress

Under the scorching hot Barcelona weather, it was Lewis Hamilton who topped the time sheets with a 1:16:883. His teammate Valtteri Bottas finished in P2 (+0.287) behind. It seems like normal service is resumed for the Mercedes team after locking out the top two earlier in the day.

The temperature at the Circuit de Catalunya increased by three degrees celsius by the time FP2 came around which made tyre degradation key to every teams’ running plans. The track temperature was so high that running through sector three would put a much more significant level of load through the rear tyres and push the soft compounds out of their optimum operating window. It was likely we would see slower times than earlier in the day.

Thus, teams took this time to work out the delta between the medium and hard compounds. The question on everybody’s lips will be whether the top teams will risk running the hard compound tyres in Q2. This session was critical to figuring these questions out.

Red Bull had a bitter-sweet session in which Max Verstappen finished P3 (+0.821) ahead of both Mercedes drivers. However, Alexander Albon continued to struggle, only good enough for P13. Verstappen was able to reduce the deficit to Mercedes by a tenth however it seems a little farfetched to think that the Red Bull will be able to challenge the Mercedes going into Saturday.

Daniel Ricciardo finished another impressive P4 as the Australian continues to impress in that ever-improving Renault. If they can make it through to Q3 on the harder compound tyres, do not count out the Honey Badger to make a massive impression in this race. Esteban Ocon finished in P9 (+1.420) but given the young Frenchman’s ability to make the one stop work at Silverstone, expect him to be a factor in a race that is expecting high temperatures and high degradation.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS20.
Spanish Grand Prix, Friday 14th August 2020. Barcelona, Spain.

Haas will be extremely pleased with their performance this weekend with a surprising time set by Romain Grosjean in P5 (+ 1.250). We saw earlier in FP1, the Frenchman setting a similar time good enough for P6. His session ended ten minutes before the end with a mechanical issue. Whether P5 is representative of their true pace or a sign of their nearest rivals sandbagging before qualifying, it remains to be seen. But it will be a positive sign for the American team who have regularly missed out on Q2 this season. Kevin Magnussen struggled down in P16 (+1.878) but will be eager to replicate his teammates impressive pace.

McLaren began the session testing some parts on the bargeboard of Lando Norris’s car. However, they will be worried about the sudden drop in pace over the past few races. Perhaps the new bargeboard will help in the high-speed corners later in the weekend but a P7 (+1.331) for Sainz and a P14 (+1.623) for Norris leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Likewise, Racing Point had a difficult day with Sergio Perez in P8 (+1.410) while Lance Stroll was down in P11 (+1.474). However, Perez will be happy to outperform his teammate in both sessions the weekend he returns after suffering mild symptoms of COVID-19. As the controversy of the Racing Point break-ducts consume the discourse off-track they may be pleased that it will distract from their on-track plateau in performance. However, I expect Racing Point to be up there with Renault vying for a Q3 slot.

Alpha Tauri had a decent day in which Pierre Gasly finished P10 (+1.429) ahead of Danil Kvyat in P15 (+1.759). The Russian once again struggled to find pace in the car and had further frustrations when the Williams of Nicholas Latifi blocked him going into turn 2. The team have shown signs of improvement in the races and so may choose to run the harder compound in Q2 to start on an alternate strategy.

Alfa Romeo finished with Raikkonen in P17 (+2.017) and Giovinazzi in P18 (+2.081). Though they were a few tenths faster than their nearest rivals Williams.

Rounding out the final two places were the Williams drivers, Nicholas Latifi in P19 (+2.272) and George Russell P20 (+2.508). The Canadian will be happy to outperform his highly rated teammate going into Saturday. However, it seems to be the young British driver’s tendency to deliver a lap time out of nowhere when it comes to qualifying and so will be ready to achieve his fifth Q2 appearance in a row.

While the Mercedes lock out the top two positions the fight for best of the rest will be captivating to watch. Ricciardo and Grosjean are showing glimpses of brilliance. Leclerc is still outperforming that Ferrari and Carlos Sainz will be eager to put on a good performance at his home race in order to reverse his run of bad luck.

 

 

Spanish Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas fastest in FP1, Ferrari improve

Valterri Bottas set the quickest time during FP1 of the Barcelona Grand Prix. His teammate Lewis Hamilton was second, only 0.039 seconds behind. Those times were set on a qualifying run in the latter half of the session on the soft tyres.

Mercedes will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing result at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Barcelona has been a good track for the German team in the past,  but there will be concerns that the temperature over the weekend will potentially harm their tyre wear, similar to what happened at Silverstone.

However, they can breathe a sigh of relief that they can mitigate that risk by being almost a second clear of the rest of the competition again.

2020 Spanish Grand Prix, Friday – LAT Images

Max Verstappen set the third fastest time +0.939 seconds behind the Mercedes drivers. Following a race win last weekend the Dutchman will be hoping for another positive drive at a circuit where he achieved his first race win.

Alexander Albon finished  lower in P8  (+1.821). The Thai driver has been facing criticism recently after a string of results where he has failed to perform at a level close to his teammate. The Red Bull car seems to be a handful which was communicated to the team early on in the session, Albon complaining of a ‘sharp’ car.  This simply means that the car is too reactive. When a driver turns the steering wheel, if the car reacts too sharply it will inevitably give you a nervous feeling. Even before you reach a corner you are already worried about your input. Max is naturally faster in a sharper car while Albon is having to adapt his driving style.

Luckily, later in the session Albon mentioned that he was happier with the balance of the car, despite losing time on the straights.

Ferrari will be happy that Sebastian Vettel was closer to his teammate. While Charles Leclerc has had an impressive run of races where he has finished on the podium twice, a new chassis was brought to this race in an attempt to solve the difficulties Vettel has been having. Charles Leclerc finished P4 +1.185 off the pace while Vettel finished in P5, one hundredth of a second behind.

The Scuderia were surprisingly good on managing the Pirelli tyres at Silverstone. If both drivers can capitalise on a good qualifying position, things may be looking up for the team to score good points this weekend.

Haas will be pleased with their efforts as Romain Grosjean finished in P6 +1.506 off the pace while Kevin Magnussen was P9 +1.835 off.

They will be hoping to score points for the first time since Budapest after a disappointing run of form.

Sergio Perez was back in action after the fiasco following a positive coronavirus test. His time only good enough for P7 (+1.689) however was set on the medium compound tyres. Likewise, Lance Stroll set his fastest time on the medium compound tyres good enough for P10 (+1.858), nearly two seconds off the pace.

Racing Point certainly have more pace than that and may have been running high fuel, long race runs. Time will tell what their true pace will be on soft tyre and low fuel.

Racing Point Media

Renault had a productive day once again running a combination of long and short stints throughout the session. Esteban Ocon was P12 +1.951 adrift while his teammate Daniel Ricciardo was P18 +2.445 off.

While Renault’s season has been a mixture of positives and negatives, they will hope to replicate their impressive form at Silverstone here. The Enstone team have been playing around with a fundamental front suspension change and have been trying to find the optimum balance between front aerodynamics and front suspension for many weekends. It seems the second race at Silverstone gave them to opportunity to find the right setup for the demands of the circuit.

As Barcelona mimics Silverstone with many flowing high speed corners. Renault may be able to dial that car in and give there drivers something stable and quick to race with.

McLaren were running a specific programme in order to figure out the cooling issues they experienced with Carlos Sainz at Silverstone. Carlos Sainz finished P11 +1.948 off while Lando Norris was P13 (+1.959).

Sainz will be hoping for a positive result after a string of reliability issues and horrendous pit stops have cost the Spaniard over 25 points at least since Styria. At Styria, Budapest and the 70th Anniversary McLaren have not delivered a sub five second pit stop for Carlos, putting him into traffic after he was running best of the rest each time. All of these, on top of the tyre failure at the first Silverstone race while in P4 shows he has had his fair share of bad luck this season. Andreas Seidl iterated this point after practice to Sky F1 saying that: “On Carlos’s side, we clearly have to admit we have let him down as a team several times this year”.

Alpha Tauri was P14 with Pierre Gasly (+2.103) while Danil Kvyat was P17 (+2.360). The Russian a good potion of the session in the garage, when he was finally able to get a run out he was complaining about the headrest in his cockpit.

Pierre Gasly has been in magnificent form and will be hoping to extend his unbeaten qualifying record against his teammate this season.

Antonio Giovinazzi finished P15 (+2.132) while Kimi Raikonnen was alongside him in P16 (+2.196). Another uneventful session for the Italian team, who have looked like the slowest car on the grid at times.

Williams gave test driver Roy Nissany a run out this session. He finished P20 just under three tenths slower than Nicholas Latifi in P19. However, the Israeli set his time on the mediums and for most the session was very close to the Canadian. It was a relatively uneventful session for the British team apart from a spin caused by Roy Nissany going into sector three.

As the weekend progresses the temperatures are expected to rise. It will be interesting to see the effect this has on teams who have struggled in the heat such as Mercedes and McLaren.

F3 Spain preview: Sargeant goes from hunter to hunted

Formula 3 returns this weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, with Prema’s Logan Sargeant heading into the round as the new championship leader.

After winning the second feature race at Silverstone last weekend, Sargeant became the first driver to take the title lead away from Oscar Piastri, who had previously held it ever since his win in the first race of the season in Austria. That switch puts Sargeant in a tricky position this weekend, as his task has turned from catching Piastri to expanding the slender one-point lead over his Prema teammate.

Sargeant’s key advantage in this fight is his qualifying pace. The American has so far outqualified Piastri at all but one round this season, and took both pole positions at the last two rounds in Silverstone. However, Sargeant’s so far struggled to convert that advantage on race day, as he’s ultimately finished behind Piastri in every feature race bar his victory last weekend.

The key to Sargeant’s title campaign, then, will be a consistent weekend in which he can qualify and then keep ahead of Piastri. And with only four rounds left to go in the season, he will have to start doing so now before he runs out of time.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Having passed the halfway mark in the season, Sargeant and Piastri’s fight for the title isn’t the only battle getting tighter as the championship moves to its climax.

David Beckmann currently leads a close train of drivers all in the mix for third in the standings. On 82.5 points, the German has only a 13.5-point buffer separating him from Liam Lawson, Frederik Vesti and Theo Pourchaire. Each has been a race winner this year, and with one good weekend could even jump up to trouble the title protagonists—especially as Beckmann, Lawson and Pourchaire are this season’s only repeat winners so far.

Bent Viscaal became the only winner outside this group at last weekend’s sprint race. However, with 33 points between him and the top six of the championship, Viscaal is currently more in contention for seventh with the likes of Richard Verschoor, Alex Peroni and Lirim Zendelli, as well as Clement Novalak and Jake Hughes behind him.

Of these drivers, Viscaal and Hughes are the ones currently on a run of form. As well as Viscaal’s win, Hughes took his first podium of the year in the second Silverstone feature race, and both are expected to carry that momentum into Spain.

But with this cluster of drivers as close on points as the group just above them, it’s highly likely we’ll come out of Barcelona with a very different championship order to what we have going in.

Bent Viscaal, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)