F3 2020 season review

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.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of FIA Formula 3 media)

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.

Alex Peroni, Campos (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

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.

Jack Doohan, HWA (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

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.

Igor Fraga, Charouz (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F3 Great Britain: Viscaal snatches win from Zendelli in frantic sprint race

Bent Viscaal took victory for MP Motorsport in the Silverstone sprint race, passing long-time leader Lirim Zendelli on the final lap.

Zendelli and Viscaal started second and third on the reverse grid and got a much better start than polesitter Ben Barnicoat to jump into the lead into Turn 1. While Zendelli and Viscaal pulled away in front, Barnicoat found himself under pressure to hold third from David Beckmann, Theo Pourchaire and Liam Lawson, who had all leapt past Oscar Piastri off the line.

The battles for first and third were halted on lap 2 when Lukas Dunner and Calan Williams came together to bring out the safety car. When the race resumed on lap 6, Zendelli and Viscaal once again moved clear of the pack with several seconds back to Barnicoat.

Despite being separated by just half a second for most of the remaining 15 laps, Zendelli held the lead from Viscaal without challenge until the final lap. After setting successive fastest laps and bringing the gap down to just a few tenths, Viscaal made a late dive to the inside of Copse on the final lap, catching Zendelli by surprise and taking the lead.

Zendelli fought back and the two ran side by side through the final corners. But although Zendelli briefly managed to get ahead, Viscaal hung on around the outside of the final corner and came across the line to win by just one tenth over the Trident.

Lirim Zendelli, Trident (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

As Viscaal and Zendelli fought over the lead, a fierce battle raged behind them for third place. Barnicoat put in an impressive performance to hold the position early on from the more experienced drivers behind him. But on lap 11, the British driver pulled off the track with a mechanical problem with his Carlin, elevating Pourchaire into third.

Pourchaire was immediately forced into defending from Beckmann. On lap 16 Beckmann made a move for third but ran wide and dropped back to fifth behind Lawson, while Pourchaire was shown the black and white flag for weaving in his defence.

Lawson then took up the pursuit of third place but was also unable to find a way past Pourchaire in the closing stages. On the final lap, after losing time attacking Pourchaire and running wide out of the last corner, Lawson was then repassed for fourth by Beckmann in a drag race to the line.

Pourchaire took third for his third podium of the season, ahead of Beckmann and Lawson. Piastri took sixth place after a tight battle late in the race with Jake Hughes and Frederik Vesti, who finished seventh and eighth respectively. Clement Novalak finished ninth, and Enzo Fittipaldi took the final point in tenth.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

New championship leader Logan Sargeant retired with damage after contact with Cameron Das on lap 10, meaning he now has only a single point in hand over Piastri with four rounds remaining in the championship. Viscaal’s victory elevates him from 14th in the standings to 10th.

In the teams’ standings Prema has 281.5 points, while second-placed Trident has extended its gap over ART to 18.5 points. Find the full F3 drivers’ and teams’ standings here.

Update: Fittipaldi was given a post-race penalty of five seconds for leaving the track and gaining an advantage when passing Das. The Brazilian drops from 10th to 17th, and Igor Fraga is promoted up to the points.

Full race result:

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