F3 Styria: Vesti sees off Trident challenge in red-flagged feature race

Frederik Vesti saw off a challenge from the Trident trio to take Prema’s second consecutive feature race win, albeit with half points awarded as the race was red-flagged due to torrential rain.

Vesti held on to his pole position off the line, while the order behind him changed. Trident’s David Beckmann had a poor start from second, allowing teammate Lirim Zendelli and championship leader Oscar Piastri to challenge him into the first corner. Zendelli got through for second, although Beckmann was able to hold third ahead of Piastri.

The third Trident of Olli Caldwell also enjoyed a good start, rising from ninth on the grid to challenge Piastri for fourth, while Logan Sargeant slipped back from third to run behind Caldwell and Richard Verschoor.

David Beckmann, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The first interruption came at the end of lap 4 when Aleksandr Smolyar spun off at the final corner, prompting a Virtual Safety Car. After three laps of resumed racing, a full safety car was then deployed when Clement Novalak picked up a puncture from a collision and retired.

The race resumed again on lap 13, but was almost immediately halted again when Roman Stanek spun off  and Sebastian Fernandez was hit from behind on the straight and ended up beached beside the track. The safety car was redeployed, then followed shortly by the red flag.

After waiting to see if the conditions improved, the race was finally abandoned as the time to run it elapsed and Vesti was declared the winner. Zendelli and Beckmann took their first FIA F3 podiums in second and third, while Caldwell managed to pass Piastri to score his first points in fourth.

Piastri finished fifth ahead of Verschoor, and Sargeant was classified seventh. Liam Lawson was eighth, Theo Pourchaire ninth, and Jakes Hughes closed out the top ten having climbed from P16 on the grid.

Lirim Zendelli, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Styria preview: pressure on for Prema

When Formula 3 returns to the Red Bull Ring in support of the Styrian Grand Prix this weekend, all the pressure will be on Prema to maintain their dominant start to the season.

The Italian team started last weekend with Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant taking a 1–2 in the feature race, and Frederik Vesti scoring solid points in both races. As such, Piastri leads the championship with 30 points, with Sargeant in third and Vesti fifth.

Liam Lawson’s win in the Austria sprint race has him second in the standings behind Piastri and makes the Red Bull junior one to watch again this weekend. Alex Peroni also shone at the last round, taking third place behind the Premas in the feature race, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue this forward momentum in his second F3 season.

Trident also had a decent start to the season with Lirim Zendelli and David Beckmann scoring in both races, putting the team second in the championship. To capitalise on this start they’ll need Beckmann and Zendelli to push on towards the podium this weekend, as well as for new signing Olli Caldwell to join them in the points.

David Beckmann, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

One driver who will be hoping for better fortunes in Spielberg this weekend is Sebastian Fernandez. The ART driver claimed a surprise maiden pole for last weekend’s feature race but lost his shot at victory when he was spun by Piastri at Turn 1. But if Fernandez can hook it up in qualifying again this Saturday, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to take the fight to Prema and challenge for his maiden win.

Jake Hughes will also be eager to move on from a disappointing season opener. He was all but out of the feature race before it even began with technical problems meaning he couldn’t start from his qualifying position inside the top 10. But in the sprint race he climbed 16 places from the back row of the grid to P12, showing he has the pace and experience needed to fight at the front, provided his car doesn’t let him down.

Finally, Charouz and Jenzer are the teams most in need of an improvement this weekend as they are the only two outfits still yet to score points with any of their drivers. Charouz came closest last time out, with a best of P15 for David Schumacher in the sprint race, but neither team really came close to worrying the top 10. In such an unusual season, both Charouz and Jenzer will have to find improvements fast if they’re to avoid being stuck to the bottom of the standings.

Sebastian
Fernandez, ART (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Austria: Lawson climbs to sprint race victory

Hitech’s Liam Lawson took victory in Sunday’s Red Bull Ring sprint race, rising from fifth on the grid to take his first win in Formula 3.

Carlin’s Clement Novalak made a good getaway from reverse grid pole to lead into Turn 1, while ART’s Aleksandr Smolyar was slow away from second, being passed by David Beckmann, Lawson and Richard Verschoor.

Beckmann kept close to Novalak through the opening laps, and on lap 4 he passed the Carlin for the lead under DRS. Novalak tried to retake the lead on the following lap but ran wide, losing second place to Lawson when he rejoined the track.

Lawson immediately closed up the gap to Beckmann, and on lap 7 he took the lead into Turn 3. Within two laps Lawson managed to pull out of DRS range of Beckmann, as the Trident came under pressure from Novalak and Verschoor.

On lap 10 Novalak demoted Beckmann back to third with a late lunge into Turn 3. Verschoor tried to do the same to take third from Beckmann a lap later but their battle was called off when Alex Peroni broke down and brought on a Virtual Safety Car.

Clement Novalak, Carlin (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

With the track clear again on lap 12, Verschoor resumed his assault on Beckmann and took away third place under DRS. By this time, Verschoor was 1.2s behind Novalak, but by lap 16 he brought this gap down to 0.2s and dived down the inside of the Carlin into Turn 3 to take second.

Novalak tried to retake the position several times through lap 17 but couldn’t make a move stick. While he and Verschoor battled over second, Lawson was able to open up a two-second gap over them.

On lap 19 the safety car was deployed after Roman Stanek hit a DRS board out of the last corner, wiping out Lawson’s gap over Verschoor and Novalak. But with the race resuming with just two laps remaining, there wasn’t enough time for DRS to be enabled and so Lawson managed to hold on to beat Verschoor by 0.4s. Novalak held onto third and Beckmann missed out on the podium in fourth.

Beckmann’s teammate Lirim Zendelli finished fifth ahead of Prema’s Frederik Vesti, with Smolyar coming home seventh after tumbling from the front row of the grid. Saturday’s feature race winner Oscar Piastri finished eighth and picked up an extra two points for the fastest lap. Enzo Fittipaldi finished ninth for HWA, and Hitech’s Max Fewtrell took the final point in tenth.

After the first weekend of F3 racing, Piastri leads the championship with 30 points, seven ahead of Lawson. Logan Sargeant and Peroni are third and fourth, despite neither scoring in the sprint race. Prema already hold a commanding lead in the teams’ standings with 65 points, 35 clear of next-best Trident.

Formula 3 returns next weekend at the Red Bull Ring again, supporting the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix.

Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Austria: Piastri leads Prema 1–2 in feature race

Oscar Piastri cruised to victory at the Red Bull Ring in the first Formula 3 feature race of 2020, leading teammate Logan Sargeant in a Prema 1–2.

Piastri started from third on the grid behind ART’s polesitter Sebastian Fernandez and Trident’s Lirim Zendelli, but made a rapid launch to challenge for the lead into Turn 1. By Turn 4 he was into first place, having clipped Fernandez into a spin at the first corner and passing Zendelli shortly after.

With no further action taken on his contact with Fernandez, Piastri was free to build an early lead over the chasing pack. After setting an early fastest lap, Piastri already had several seconds in hand over second-placed Zendelli by lap 5.

Lirim Zendelli, Trident (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

While Piastri ran away at the front, the rest of the top 10 ran in a tight train all within DRS range of each other. Zendelli held onto second for the first few laps, but on lap 6 he was passed at Turn 4 by both Sargeant and Alex Peroni, who had charged up from eighth on the grid.

Three laps later, Zendelli lost another place to Frederik Vesti and dropped to fifth. Behind them, Red Bull-backed Liam Lawson continued his rise from 12th on the grid by passing David Beckmann for sixth.

Further back, Aleksandr Smolyar and Clement Novalak occupied the final places in the top 10, having been gifted positions by Fernandez’s spin and Jake Hughes pulling into the pits after the formation lap.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

On lap 14 Sargeant set the fastest lap and began to capitalise on the tyre wear Piastri had incurred in his early charge. As the race neared its closing laps Sargeant reduced the gap to his teammate from 3.5s to 1.7s, with Piastri having visibly less grip than the chasing Prema.

However, with the laps ticking down Piastri had enough in hand to stay ahead of Sargeant until the chequered flag, and take the feature race win on his F3 debut. Sargeant came home in second for a Prema 1–2, while Peroni took his first podium in third. Peroni also set the final fastest lap of the race, taking an additional two points.

Vesti made it three Premas in the top four, and Zendelli finished fifth ahead of Lawson, Beckmann and Smolyar. Novalak took tenth place, earning the reverse grid pole position for tomorrow’s sprint race.

Alex Peroni, Campos (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

F3 Austria preview: will Prema reign supreme?

FIA Formula 3 returns this weekend with a bumper double-header in Spielberg, Austria.

As the 2020 season gets underway all eyes will be on Prema, who dominated last year’s championship to win both the drivers’ and teams’ titles. With Robert Shwartzman, Jehan Daruvala and Marcus Armstrong graduating to Formula 2, Prema has an all-new lineup for this year led by Renault academy driver and 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup champion Oscar Piastri.

Piastri is joined by Frederik Vesti, who won the 2019 Formula Regional European title with Prema, and Logan Sargeant, who has plenty of F3 experience having raced with Carlin last year.

Frederik Vesti, Prema (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

Whether this new lineup will be able to recreate the eight wins and sixteen further podiums Prema swept to last year remains to be seen, and they won’t be without their competition.

Hitech were Prema’s closest rivals last year and has a trio of drivers for 2020 that combines talent and F3 experience. Max Fewtrell and Liam Lawson, Renault and Red Bull juniors respectively, both took podiums in their debut seasons last year, and are joined by Red Bull junior and reigning Italian F4 champion Dennis Hauger.

ART struggled last year to get to grips with the new F3 car and will be expected to improve after this learning experience. Their new lineup is headed by Sauber junior and reigning ADAC F4 champion Theo Pourchaire, who is joined by Alexsandr Smolyar and Sebastian Fernandez.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

Another headache for Prema this weekend may also come from Jake Hughes, the only returning race winner from 2019. Hughes is staying with HWA Racelab for a second season, and this consistency should help him to hit the ground running in the first feature race of the year.

But there are plenty more drivers to watch throughout F3’s packed 30-car grid. Among them are 2019 Macau Grand Prix winner Richard Verschoor (MP Motorsport), rising Red Bull proteges Jack Doohan (HWA) and Igor Fraga (Charouz), 2019 British F3 champion Clement Novalak (Carlin), and the highly-rated Sophia Floersch (Campos).

With so many exceptional drivers and a true old-school circuit, this weekend at the Red Bull Ring will prove an exciting start to the 2020 Formula 3 championship.

Sophia Floersch, Campos (Joe Portlock / LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Sophia Flörsch

  Sophia Flörsch has what promises to be an exciting season ahead of her. The German racer is making the step up to FIA Formula 3 with Campos Racing, as well as entering several races in the European Le Mans series, including the 24h of Le Mans. She’ll be part of an all-female line-up, sharing the car with Katherine Legge and Tatiana Calderon. We asked Sophia her views on the season ahead, as well as talking budgets and her aims for the future.

Alison Finlay: An exciting year ahead for you Sophia, with an all-female Le Mans entry and Formula 3. What are you most looking forward to this season?
Sophia Flörsch: I’m looking forward to each single race I am able to do to be honest. There is no difference for me between a FIA Formula 3 race or an ELMS race. For me it was really important to be racing FIA F3 this year. The F3 car is great and all 30 drivers are one of the best in junior formula classes. The complete starting grid is very close together. It will be a great season with a lot of learning and fighting for me. Each race weekend has something special. It’s always on F1 weekends which is something new to me. The tracks are great and some are even new to me, like Bahrain or Sochi, for example. As the Red Bull Ring is one of my favourite tracks, I am looking forward to that one in particular. The atmosphere in Austria is one of the best. On the other hand I am going to do ELMS in an LMP2 with Richard Mille Racing and 24h of LE MANS! It will be a new and different challenge for me as it’s endurance racing but it’s going to be great. Of course Le Mans will be amazing. I am really thankful to be able to race there this year. That’s definitely a dream come true. 100 million TV viewers worldwide – wow. This one week will for sure be one which I will never forget.

AF: You’ve tweeted recently about the costs of the junior series. Can you describe the barrier this creates for young drivers?
SF: Well, I think everyone knows that motorsport is really expensive. Even in F1 you see teams having different budgets performing differently just because they do not have the same possibilities. That’s pretty much the same in junior classes. If you are lucky, and your parents can afford the yearly budgets between 1-2m, without any problems, and even pay for you to go testing or keep racing during the winter period, then that’s amazing. You are a privileged driver because of more and better testing and possibilities. But if your family is not able to afford it, you need people to believe in you and support you. Already when you start with F4 people spend up to 800k per year. That’s a big bunch of money. The higher you get, the more expensive it gets. F2 is more than 2m a year, F3 in a top team more than 1.3 to 1.5m. The most expensive cockpit I heard this year is 1.9m – don’t know if it’s true. The [team’s] experience, their race engineers and so on – the better it is, the more expensive it is. So there is a reason why parents are paying the highest price. The struggle is that not having the money you need to perform well [means having] to find people to give you money to race. But to perform well you should be able to go testing as much as the others, or at least drive in a team where you can do good races just because the car is quick enough. But for that you need money… so it’s kind of a circle which you need to try to get out of by having good races, fighting, showing people that it really is your dream and that they are the ones making it possible to live my dream and achieve my goal.

credit © Dutch Photo Agency

AF: How are you preparing for the 24 hours of Le Mans? And how exciting is it to be part of an all-female entry?
SF: Well, we are racing the ELMS as well which will be two race weekends before Le Mans already. It’s just going to be 4h races but of course that’s already going to help to get a feeling for endurance racing. I will for sure do a lot of simulator preparation to get into the rhythm and focus on long stints. Watching videos and some 24h races from the years before to learn. A lot of contact with the team and the other two women. It’s an huge honour to be racing 24h of Le Mans and also with an all women line up is super cool. We want to perform – that’s our goal to 100%! To get the possibility thanks to Richard Mille and FIA Women In Motorsport is amazing and we will make the best out of it. Of course in an endurance race everything can happen and there are more things you have to take in account, but the luck will be on our side.

AF: Are you happy with your performance in the F3 test? What are your aims for the season?
SF: I am only happy when I am winning a race or I am P1. That’s 100% sure. But to be realistic it was the first time for me back in a formula car again since Macau 2019. Not a single test day during the winter season. No experience on new tyres. And to understand the Pirelli tyres is really important. In those three test days at Bahrain my main goal was to develop myself, work together with the team and get in a rhythm with the car again. I think I ticked those boxes in Bahrain. In testing you never know where you really stand because everyone is doing different tyre strategies and everyone tries different stuff. Free practice and quali will be the sessions when we really realise where we are. As it’s my first season in F3 and as I did not prepare during the winter in F3 there are no high expectations. This season will be a year for me to learn, to get used to the car, to enjoy, to get better as a race driver and to have good races. If I am ending the season with Top 10 finishes and also well performing [well in] quali then I think it should be a good starting point on which to build up for 2021.

AF: What does the future hold beyond 2020 for you, and is it dependent on performance this year?
SF: The plan is to do FIA F3 again in 2021, and after that, two years of FIA F2 with strong partners and an equal backing would be great. That’s how my next years should look. I want to sit in a race car as much as possible. When I make it to be highest class of formula racing, either F1 or maybe than Formula E, I want to be a proper racing driver who has had enough preparation and years in the junior classes. Of course performance is always important. I want to show that I am the quickest. In motorsport this key factor does not just depend on talent. Money and the budget you have for every single season is probably even more important as I mentioned before. To be able to go testing during the winter, or maybe even do another series during the winter, and to race with a leading top team, you need money. That’s what I need to be able to perform and to reach my next goals

Hitech given late entry to 2020 F2 season

Hitech Grand Prix has been awarded a late entry to the 2020 Formula 2 season, adding the series to its growing junior formula portfolio.

Their entry, which comes with less than six weeks to go until pre-season testing in Bahrain in March, takes the 2020 F2 grid up to 11 teams. Hitech has not yet announced either of its drivers, although it is reportedly set to sign Nikita Mazepin alongside either Luca Ghiotto or Sergio Sette Camara.

Last year Hitech finished second in the FIA F3 teams’ championship with Juri Vips, Leo Pulcini and Ye Yifei. The team will return to the series this year, alongside the 2019–20 F3 Asian Championship.

2020 will be Hitech’s first appearance in F1’s feeder series since they partnered with Piquet Sports to enter the 2004 and 2005 GP2 seasons.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

Hitech owner Oliver Oakes said: “Stepping up to F2 was always something we were aspiring towards, once we had established ourselves in the new era of Formula 3.

“With the new 18-inch rims coming to F2 in 2020 it made entering now much more necessary than at the end of 2020 where we would be a year behind the learning process.

“Of course, joining the grid this late means we are slightly up against it, but at Hitech we like a challenge! I believe in our group and I am really excited for the first event in March at Bahrain.”

F2 CEO Bruno Michel said that he is pleased to add a team of Hitech’s “prowess” to the grid, and added: “Hitech Grand Prix enjoyed a strong Formula 3 season in 2019 and I know that although they are joining late, they will be able to adapt quickly to Formula 2.”

F3 Russia: Vips sees off Armstrong for final sprint race win

Red Bull junior and Hitech driver Juri Vips took victory in the final sprint race of the season in Sochi, seeing off a charge from yesterday’s feature race winner Marcus Armstrong.

Vips was slow away from his reverse grid pole position, which allowed second-placed starter Jake Hughes to challenge him into Turn 2. Behind them, Leo Pulcini went around the outside of Pedro Piquet to take third place while Armstrong got the jump on Robert Shwartzman and Niko Kari to move up to fifth.

Hughes kept up the pressure on Vips throughout the early laps and on lap 4 pulled alongside the Hitech into Turn 13. But Vips closed the door and Hughes dropped back from the lead to come under attack from Pulcini. The Italian driver set up a move on Hughes into Turn 5, but came off worse as the pair banged wheels and Pulcini was spun out of the points.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

Their incident allowed Piquet and Armstrong to both pass Hughes for second and third. Armstrong then took second from Piquet at the start of lap 7 only to be repassed by the Trident at Turn 13, but on the following lap Armstrong once again passed Piquet into Turn 2 and got far enough ahead to keep the position.

After breaking out of DRS range of Piquet on lap 10, Armstrong set about reeling in Vips with a series of fastest laps. At the start of lap 14 Vips had an advantage of 3.5 seconds over Armstrong, but this dropped to half by lap 17.

However, Armstrong’s charge faded in the final few laps as his tyres eventually ran out of grip. Vips was able to open the gap back up between them, having two seconds in hand when he crossed the line to take his third win of the season.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

After being demoted by Armstrong, Piquet had been running in a comfortable third for most of the race. But on lap 17 the Brazilian driver pulled over and retired with a mechanical problem, promoting newly-crowned F3 champion Shwartzman to third.

Hughes finished in fourth after his clash with Pulcini, and Kari was fifth for Trident. The battle for the last three points positions raged throughout the final laps with Richard Verschoor, Yuki Tsunoda and Max Fewtrell all changing positions. But in the end Hitech’s Yi Yifei, who was trailing at the back of the trio, took advantage of their fighting and managed to jump all three to take his first points of the season in sixth. Verschoor finished seventh, and Liam Lawson took eighth place after Tsunoda and Fewtrell both ran off the road with fading grip.

With second place and the fastest lap, Armstrong gained enough points from the sprint race to overhaul his Prema teammate Jehan Daruvala for runner-up in the final standings. Daruvala had been due to start from fourth on the grid, but was relegated to a pitlane start due to an engine problem before the formation lap. He then picked up a five-second penalty later in the race for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, and ultimately finished in 15th place.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

F3 Russia: Shwartzman clinches title as Armstrong wins feature race

Ferrari academy driver Robert Shwartzman sealed the 2019 Formula 3 title in the Sochi feature race, but was denied a home race victory by his Prema teammate Marcus Armstrong.

Shwartzman qualified for the race on pole, his first since the season opener in Barcelona, with his sole remaining title rival Jehan Daruvala alongside him in second. But it was Armstrong starting from third who got the best launch of the three Premas, as he passed Daruvala off the line before slipstreaming Shwartzman for the lead through Turn 3.

While Armstrong went off into the lead ahead of Shwartzman, Daruvala’s chances of taking the title to the final sprint race all but disappeared. Shwartzman’s points gap coming into Sochi meant that Daruvala had to win the feature race to have any chance of snatching away the title, but after being passed by Armstrong he then lost further places to Niko Kari, Christian Lundgaard and Leo Pulcini.

Daruvala managed to repass Lundgaard for fifth on lap two, but struggled to gain any more ground as Pulcini had too much pace ahead of him to present an opportunity.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

The early stages of the race were made tricky as light rain fell on some parts of the circuit, while the rest remained dry.

On lap 2 Bent Viscaal put his HWA into the wall at Turn 5, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car. Devlin DeFrancesco and Felipe Drugovich took advantage of the situation to gamble on a switch to wet tyres, although they were the only drivers to do so.

The VSC was withdrawn on lap 3, but on the following lap the full safety car was deployed when Leong Hon Chio, making his series debut with Jenzer, crashed out as well. The safety car remained out for two laps, during which the rain stopped and DeFrancesco and Drugovich both pitted again to switch back to slicks.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

Armstrong managed the restart on lap 6 well to pull away from the field, although Shwartzman behind was caught by Kari and demoted to third place. Meanwhile, further back in the top ten Juri Vips hit the rear of Lundgaard while trying to position himself for an overtake, spinning the ART out of the points and earning himself a 10-second time penalty.

Once clear of Shwartzman, Kari set the fastest lap to close up to the back of Armstrong. On lap 9, the Finnish driver then went around the outside of Armstrong into Turn 13 to take the lead.

Armstrong continued fighting back against Kari over the following lap, but on lap 11 Kari’s lead seemed to be secured when Armstrong went deep into Turn 2 trying to retake first and instead dropped to fourth behind Shwartzman and Pulcini.

However, Kari’s time in front didn’t last long, and on lap 13 he was passed by championship leader Shwartzman into Turn 2.

One lap later Armstrong got back into the podium positions after passing Pulcini for third, then managed to work his way back past Kari for second on lap 17.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

With four laps remaining Shwartzman looked to have enough of a buffer to keep ahead of Armstrong, and wrap up the championship with a home race victory. But Armstrong quickly settled into a rhythm and closed steadily up to the back of his teammate.

At the start of the final lap, Armstrong pulled to the inside of Turn 2 and took the lead away from Shwartzman, who offered little defence with the title on the line. Armstrong then crossed the line with just over a second in hand over Shwartzman, to take his third win of the season and his first in a feature race.

Kari held on to third for his second podium of the year, with Pulcini fourth ahead of Daruvala, Pedro Piquet and Jake Hughes, who also took two points for the fastest lap. Vips managed to finish third on the road ahead of Kari, but with his time penalty dropped to eighth and will start on reverse grid pole tomorrow morning.

Sauber Junior Team’s Raoul Hyman scored his first points of the season in ninth, and Richard Verschoor took the final point in tenth.

David Schumacher, making his F3 debut for Campos in place of the injured Alex Peroni, finished in P22 after being spun around by Keyvan Andres on lap 11.

Sauber’s Fabio Scherer retired on lap 9, while the team’s third driver Lirim Zendelli withdrew from the round ahead of the race.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

F3 Russia preview: Down to the wire

The fight for the 2019 FIA Formula 3 title comes to an end this weekend, as the championship heads to Russia’s Sochi Autodrom for its eighth and final round.

Runaway championship leader Robert Shwartzman has about as good a chance as he can hope for of claiming the title at his home race. The Prema driver has only one challenger remaining who can snatch the title away from him—his teammate Jehan Daruvala. But with 33 points between them against only 48 on offer this weekend, Daruvala’s chances are looking slim at best.

Discounting the points for pole and fastest lap, Daruvala must finish the feature race in first or second while hoping Shwartzman fails to score to even take the title fight to the final sprint race on Sunday. Meanwhile, a top two finish for Shwartzman in the feature race will earn him the title with one race to spare, regardless of how Daruvala scores.

If Shwartzman does leave Sochi with the F3 title, it will cap off a season in which the Russian has claimed three victories, five further podiums and helped Prema to clinch the year’s teams’ championship.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

While Shwartzman and Daruvala chase the top honours, there is a fierce fight behind them for third in the standings, between Hitech’s Juri Vips and Prema’s Marcus Amstrong.

Vips was a title contender back in the summer after victories in Austria and Great Britain, but has endured a run of pointless finishes since the Spa feature race. This has left him 58 points adrift of Shwartzman and only two ahead of Armstrong, whose two sprint race wins in Hungary and Belgium have propelled him up the standings.

Both drivers have plenty to prove by taking the coveted third spot. For Armstrong, that he can lead Prema’s title charge when Shwartzman likely graduates from F3 next season. And for Vips, that he still deserves Red Bull’s focus as their next best junior progression to Formula 1.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

Two new faces will be joining the F3 grid for the Sochi finale.

The first is 2017 Asian Formula Renault and Chinese F4 champion, Hon Chio Leong of Macau. Leong will race in the third Jenzer car, which has been notable for its revolving lineup this season with Artem Petrov, Giorgio Carrara and Federico Malvestiti all contesting at least one race as teammate to regular drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Andreas Estner.

Leong will also be with Jenzer at F3’s post-season test in Valencia, with the aim of competing on home soil at the non-championship Macau Grand Prix.

The second new driver is David Schumacher, son of former F1 driver Ralf and cousin to Prema F2 driver Mick. Schumacher joins Campos in place of Alex Peroni, who is missing the Sochi finale after fracturing his vertebrae in a crash at the last round at Monza.

UPDATE: There will be one further change this weekend, as ART’s David Beckmann will skip the Sochi finale due to a family emergency. He will not be substituted, meaning ART will field only two cars for Christian Lundgaard and Max Fewtrell.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship