F3 Austria: Vesti triumphs over Hauger in action-packed feature race

Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti took his first win of the 2021 Formula 3 season in the Red Bull Ring feature race, beating polesitter Dennis Hauger in a race-long fight.

Starting from second on the grid, Vesti launched an immediate challenge on Hauger on the opening lap. Hauger had to go defensive as early as the first corner, and on the run down to Turn 4 he was forced to cover off the inside as Vesti pulled alongside him under slipstream.

Dennis Hauger, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Hauger set an early fastest lap but was unable to pull away from Vesti over the first phase of the race. Vesti started lap four just a few tenths behind the Prema and again attacked Hauger around the outside of Turns 3 and 4, but was again rebuffed.

But on the following lap Vesti was close enough to pull alongside Hauger under DRS down to Turn 4 and take the lead. The move then left Hauger vulnerable to Vesti’s ART teammate Alex Smolyar, who followed Hauger closely before taking second place on lap 7.

Over the short lap Vesti faced the same difficulty in pulling away as Hauger did, and he found himself having to defend from Smolyar as well. After an unsuccessful move at Turn 3 on lap 10, Smolyar came back at Vesti under DRS on the following lap to take the lead. But the Russian’s time at the front only last one corner, as Vesti fought back up the inside of Turn 4, with Hauger following him through to retake second place as well.

Vesti wasn’t able to drop Hauger over the remaining laps, despite moving eight tenths clear at one point, but neither was Hauger able to make any serious attempts at retaking the lead. Meanwhile, Smolyar dropped back after losing the lead and came under attack from the #3 Prema of Olli Caldwell.

Alex Smolyar, ART (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / Courtesy of FIA F3)

Smolyar managed to hold off Caldwell for a while, including multiple moves at the Turn 3 overtaking spot. But with four laps to go, Caldwell finally managed to get past Smolyar at Turn 4 to take his third podium of the year and second of the weekend.

Behind the podium fight, there was another fierce battle throughout the top ten as a DRS train covered the points positions. Clement Novalak was at the head of that group in fourth for much of the race, defending from the likes of Jak Crawford, Jack Doohan and Victor Martins, while Caldwell and the #2 Prema of Arthur Leclerc came up the order behind them.

On lap 9 Caldwell and Leclerc had finally made their way to the front of the train, and Caldwell slipped past Novalak at Turn 3 to take fourth place. Leclerc tried several times to pass Novalak for fifth but was fended off, which left him in turn defending from Martins in sixth.

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

On lap 14 Martins got a run on Leclerc through Turn 1 to take sixth, but Leclerc came back at him on the straight down to Turn 4. As they fought, Leclerc lost his front wing as he tagged the back of Martins then ran onto the grass and lost control.

After first clouting the wall and breaking his front right suspension, Leclerc shot across the braking zone of Turn 4 and collected Novalak. Both retired in the gravel trap, while Martins dropped to the back with a puncture and the safety car was deployed.

Crawford inherited fifth place ahead of Doohan, but they also came together on lap 22 and promoted Matteo Nannini to fifth ahead of Ayumu Iwasa and Caio Collet. Logan Sargeant, Calan Williams and Jonny Edgar rounded out the top ten by the chequered flag.

Caio Collet, MP Motorsport (Alexander Scheuber, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / Courtesy of FIA F3)

With podiums in each race this weekend, Hauger leaves the Red Bull Ring with 115 points and a substantial championship advantage. As Hauger’s main rivals Doohan and Martins both failed to score in the feature race, Vesti now moves up to second in the standings, albeit 41 points behind Hauger and just two ahead of Doohan.

Formula 3 returns in four weeks’ time in support of the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest.

F3 Austria: Hauger wins chaotic sprint race after leaders collide

Prema’s Dennis Hauger won the opening sprint race at the Red Bull Ring from 12th on the grid, taking the lead late on after Clement Novalak and Matteo Nannini collided at the front.

Nannini snatched first place at the start of the race, beating reverse polesitter Logan Sargeant into Turn 1, while Novalak jumped from seventh to third off the line. Behind them, Hauger got himself up into the points in seventh between Jack Doohan and Arthur Leclerc.

The race was stable through the opening laps as most of the cars were running in a DRS train and unable to close up any of the gaps. But on lap 9 things kicked off as Sargeant came back at Nannini to retake the lead through Turn 4.

Logan Sargeant, Charouz Racing System (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

That triggered a frantic couple of laps as Sargeant, Nannini and Novalak traded the lead between themselves multiple times. Nannini looked to come out on top at last as he took first on lap 13 and fended off Sargeant for the following laps.

But on lap 16 the battle sparked off again as Sargeant came back and retook the lead. Nannini repassed him on the following lap, but both were passed by Novalak on lap 19.

After Novalak took the lead, Sargeant started to drop back from the battle at the front and was dropped to fifth by Hauger and Olli Caldwell. That put the Premas in the perfect position to benefit when Novalak and Nannini made contact through Turn 3, which sent Novalak into the gravel with suspension damage and dropped Nannini down to eighth.

Hauger took the lead with just over three laps remaining, from Caldwell in second and Sargeant who had been restored to the podium. When Hauger crossed the line he also had the fastest lap to his name, to take the maximum 17 points away from the opening race.

Olli Caldwell, Prema (Clive Rose, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Hauger’s closest championship challenger Victor Martins initially finished fourth, leading home Jak Crawford, Caio Collet, Doohan and Nannini. But after the race a raft of drivers were penalised, most of them for consistently abusing track limits, which drastically altered the top ten.

Sargeant was the biggest casualty as he was handed a five-second penalty for four track limits abuses, which dropped him off the podium. But in total, eleven drivers were penalised including a disqualification for Ayumu Iwasa for failing to comply with a black and white flag.

The penalties eventually brought Charouz’s Enzo Fittipaldi up to fourth ahead of a penalised Martins, and Jonny Edgar rose from 12th to fifth. Frederik Vesti was seventh, and Crawford, Kaylen Frederik and Juan Manuel Correa rounded out the points. Trident’s David Schumacher was elevated to reverse grid pole, and Sargeant ended up 15th.

F3 Paul Ricard: Doohan storms to maiden win in wet/ dry feature race

Jack Doohan took his first Formula 3 victory in the Paul Ricard feature race, making the most of the changing conditions to overhaul longtime leader Dennis Hauger.

Doohan had a slow getaway from fourth on the grid and dropped behind Trident teammate Clement Novalak. On the front row, Hauger jumped polesitter Frederik Vesti for the lead into the first corner.

In the opening laps, Novalak looked the fastest car on track. He passed Victor Martins for third on lap 2, then kept up the pressure on second-placed Vesti. The ART driver was visibly struggling on his wet tyres, as Hauger was able to open up a three-second lead by the end of the first lap. But when Novalak made a move on Vesti on lap 6 he instead ran wide and fell to fifth behind Martins and Doohan.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

By this point the rain had stopped, and as the track started to dry Doohan found pace in the conditions. He passed Martins for third on lap 7, then took second from Vesti on lap 10 when Vesti ran wide through Turn 3.

Doohan then started closing up the gap to Hauger, whose wet tyres were rapidly losing grip on the drying track. By lap 12 Hauger’s lead had been halved, and Doohan was then close enough through lap 14 to try a move into the final corner.

After Doohan took the place in the corner, Hauger repassed him down the straight. They then went into Turn 1 side by side, and Doohan was able to get his Trident back ahead of the Prema and hold the lead on the run down to Turn 3.

Dennis Hauger, Prema (Clive Rose, Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

Doohan couldn’t sprint clear of Hauger as his own tyres started to overheat in the latter stages of the race. But although Hauger got as close as half a second in the final laps, the Norwegian didn’t have enough grip of his own to try a move and Doohan held the lead to the chequered flag.

Vesti continued to struggle in the conditions after dropping behind Hauger and Doohan and wasn’t able to stay in the podium positions. On lap 11 he went wide at De Beausset and fell to fifth behind Martins and Caio Collet, who ended up settling the podium battle between themselves.

Martins at first looked the faster of the two MP Motorsport cars, but he started to lose pace in the second half of the race. After setting a fastest lap on lap 13, Collet then reeled in his teammate and passed him for third on lap 15 to take his second podium of the year.

Caio Collet, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

Martins came home fourth ahead of Novalak in fifth and Vesti in sixth. Seventh place went to Ayumu Iwasa who led the remaining ARTs of Alex Smolyar and Juan Manuel Correa, and Jak Crawford took the final point in tenth place.

Charouz’s Reshad de Gerus was the only driver to gamble on a tyre change, despite most of the field battling against their wet tyres as the track dried. But despite being five seconds quicker than the leaders and setting a late fastest lap, De Gerus ultimately didn’t have enough time to reach the points and only finished 21st.

Doohan’s win has propelled him up to third in the championship. Hauger remains the points leader, although Martins is now just six points behind him in second. Olli Caldwell, who entered the weekend second in the standings, retired from the feature race with suspension damage and is now fifth in the championship between Novalak and Smolyar.

Formula 3 returns in two weeks’ time at the Red Bull Ring in support of the Austrian Grand Prix.

F3 Paul Ricard: Leclerc breaks points drought with sprint race win

Prema’s Arthur Leclerc dominated the second Paul Ricard sprint race, leading from pole position to the chequered flag to score his first win and first points of the season.

Leclerc got a perfect start from the head of the field, as second-placed Jak Crawford stalled as the lights went out and Olli Caldwell and Dennis Hauger had to avoid the Hitech rather than challenge for the lead.

Hauger initially got past Caldwell for second, but Caldwell retook the position after the first few corners and Hauger dropped back towards Ayumu Iwasa instead. But Iwasa wasn’t able to keep up the challenge and instead fell to fifth behind Jack Doohan by the end of lap 1.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

After the opening lap, the three Premas then started to pull away from Doohan and the rest of the field. Meanwhile, Victor Martins put in moves as he improved from 11th on the grid. By the end of lap 1 Martins was already up to sixth ahead of Juan Manuel Correa and Clement Novalak. On lap 3 Martins picked off Iwasa, then passed Doohan for fourth on lap 7.

At the front, Caldwell set a couple of fastest laps to keep within DRS range of Leclerc. But he was unable to get close enough to challenge for the lead, and instead he dropped to third on lap 8 as Hauger passed him into Turn 1.

However, Hauger was no more able to close the gap than Caldwell was, and Leclerc began setting fastest laps of his own. By lap 10 Leclerc was already more than two seconds clear of his teammates, helped somewhat by Hauger needing to drive defensively to keep Caldwell at bay.

Dennis Hauger, Prema (Clive Rose, Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

As Leclerc built his gap up to three seconds in the closing laps, Caldwell’s pace dropped off and brought Martins into play for the podium. Martins managed to cut the gap from 2.3 seconds on lap 13 to a second on lap 18, before then taking third away from Caldwell on the penultimate lap.

Leclerc led Hauger across the line for a Prema 1–2, while Martins’ third place marked his second podium of the day. Doohan finished fifth behind Caldwell and ahead of teammate Novalak. Alex Smolyar, Calan Williams, Iwasa and Frederik Vesti rounded out the points.

F3 Paul Ricard: Smolyar denies Martins victory in frantic first sprint race

ART’s Alex Smolyar took his second win of the Formula 3 season in the opening Paul Ricard sprint race, seeing off four other race leaders including home favourite Victor Martins.

Smolyar started the race from sixth while Jenzer’s Calan Williams led the field away from reverse grid pole. While Williams held the lead at the start, David Schumacher was slow away from second and dropped to fifth behind Logan Sargeant, Ayumu Iwasa and Juan Manuel Correa.

Williams was unable to pull out of DRS range of Sargeant in the opening laps. Although Sargeant ran wide several times while in the Jenzer’s dirty air, the American overtook Williams for first place on lap 7.

Calan Williams, Jenzer (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

But Sargeant didn’t last long in the lead, as Iwasa followed him past Williams on the same lap and continued to pressure the Charouz. Iwasa took the lead himself on lap 10 at Signe, although he was handed a five second penalty for completing the move off the track.

While Iwasa continued to lead despite his penalty, Smolyar and Martins came into play in the leading pack. Smolyar had already passed Schumacher for fifth by the second lap, and took fourth from teammate Correa on lap 9. Martins meanwhile was climbing up the field from tenth on the grid, and was on Smolyar’s tail in fifth by lap 11.

Smolyar moved into the podium positions with a move on Williams for third on lap 14, then passed Sargeant for second when Sargeant again struggled in the dirty air behind Iwasa. Martins repeated the same moves on lap 16 to run third behind Iwasa and Smolyar.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

Smolyar and Martins then both overtook Iwasa on lap 17 with the Russian becoming the fourth leader of the race. But on the following lap, oversteer at Signe allowed Martins through to take the lead of his home race.

While Martins looked set to win with just three laps remaining, Smolyar remained within a few tenths to keep him under pressure. Smolyar then closed up behind Martins on the final lap, and retook the lead out of Signe. Martins came home in second, and Williams completed the podium after Iwasa’s penalty was applied.

Sargeant finished fourth ahead of Clement Novalak, Correa and Jack Doohan. Iwasa’s penalty dropped him to eighth, with championship leaders Dennis Hauger and Olli Caldwell rounding out the top ten. Their Prema teammate Arthur Leclerc finished 12th for the reverse grid pole for race two, having started at the back of the grid after crashing in qualifying.

F3 Paul Ricard preview: will Prema dominate again in France?

FIA Formula 3 returns this weekend for the second round of the season in Paul Ricard.

It’s a circuit that Prema will be very happy to return to. The last time F3 raced at Le Castellet, the Italian team dominated proceedings with a win apiece for Robert Shwartzman and Jehan Daruvala.

That past form bodes well for Prema considering they’ve also started this season with two wins out of the opening three races. But it’s an especially good omen for championship leader Dennis Hauger, who last time out took a near-perfect feature race win with pole and the fastest lap, and looked set to win the second sprint race too but for a collision with Matteo Nannini just three laps from the finish.

But while Hauger will enter the weekend as the early favourite, he’s not going to have it all his own way. His teammate Olli Caldwell, who inherited that second sprint race win from Hauger’s crash and sits just two points behind Hauger in the standings, will be looking for more podiums this weekend to establish his championship campaign.

Crucially, Caldwell has experience around Paul Ricard from his Formula 4 and Formula Regional European days while Hauger has never raced here before, so expect Caldwell to be a threat from the off.

Fresh start for Leclerc?

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Speaking of Prema’s title protagonists, one name is conspicuously absent — Arthur Leclerc. The Monegasque had a torrid opening weekend in Barcelona. After qualifying just 15th for the feature race, Leclerc then had a puncture in race one, started from the back in race two, and finished 13th in the feature race itself.

He’ll be coming into Paul Ricard hoping to put that weekend behind him and reset his championship campaign with a solid result. Luckily for him, like Caldwell he’s also raced at Le Castellet before in previous categories, including two wins and a second place in his 2020 FREC season.

Leclerc will also know that this early in the season, he only needs a little reversal of fortune for himself and his Prema teammates and he’ll be right back in the game.

Novalak and Martins aiming for home glory

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Prema may be leading both championships, but their drivers are far from the only contenders for victory this weekend. And of their challengers, Clement Novalak and Victor Martins — third and fourth in the standings respectively — will have extra incentive to take up the fight as they come to their home race.

Martins burst onto the F3 scene in Barcelona with a superb third place in qualifying and a podium in the second sprint race. Expect to see him threaten the front in qualifying again, as one lap pace has been one of his strengths throughout his junior career so far.

Novalak meanwhile has shown some of the best race pace so far this season, and looks so at home with his new Trident team. Not that he’s any slouch in qualifying either, so he will be in the mix in any of the three races this weekend as he hunts his first F3 win.

Keep an eye out for Crawford

Jak Crawford, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

If experience is going to play any part in the results this weekend, then it’s hard to ignore Hitech’s Jak Crawford. The 18-year-old Red Bull junior had a respectable start to his rookie year with points in the second Barcelona sprint race, but it’s arguably his exploits outside of F3 that have marked him as a contender this time out.

Alongside F3, Crawford’s also doubling up a Euroformula Open campaign with Motopark. And at the last round at Paul Ricard, Crawford took pole position, scored the fastest lap across all three races, and came away with two wins and a second place.

Another Paul Ricard win might be a long shot for Crawford in F3, but at the very least look out for him running in the points or possibly challenging for a podium across the weekend.

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.