The 2 races in Formula 2 saw drama, conteroversy, safety cars and good, hard, fair racing across many of the young drivers hoping to make a step up to F1.
Lap 1-Crawford lead from Iwasa and Boschung. Doohan goes off the track as Bearman gets up a place. Iwasa took the lead on lap 2 into turn 1. Zane Maloney lost the rear after coming out of turn 2 and that brought out the safety car. Boshchung and Crawford fought after the restart. Theo Pourchaire went for a lunge which paid off as he made up a place.
Theo Pourchaire made the same lunge on lap 7 but he misjudged it and collided with the Prema rookie of Ollie Bearman and that brought both of their races to an end. Pourchaire was given a 5 place grid drop for that collision. Iwasa lead them into turn 10 and Martins made up a place as the sprint race ended up at 50% distance. Lap 11 saw 3 wide into turn 1 between Doohan, Maini and Crawford. Daruvala went for a lunge into turn 1 against boschung in on lap 13 and went up into the podium places.
Martins got a big tow into turn 1 and went for a lunge and made it stick against Boschung. Daruvala went for the lead of the race on lap 17 but as he went for it into turn 2, Martins took 2nd place from Daruvala. Iwasa took the Sprint Race Victory with Martins finishing P2 and Daruvala P3.
The Feature Race in F2 at the Jeddah Corniche Street Circuit saw Bearman overtake Martins from lights out and into turn 1. Martins was P2 and Doohan P3. Haugher battled with Leclerc as lap 1 went on. Benevides brought out the virtual safety car after Amaury Cordeel collided with him. It was a 7 car battle going into turn 1 on lap 6 of the race There was no collisions. Bearman and Martins came into the pits at the same time but all maintained positions. Bearman and Martins battled into turn 1 on lap 10 for the race lead after all pit stops occurred. Martins tried again on lap 11 after Martins got DRS but Vesti managed to catch up with his teammate and get him. Bearman had a spin on lap 16 which saw him drop down to 11th place. Vesti and Martins battled into turn 1 on lap 17 and Martins spun on lap 17 which brought out the virtual safety car even though he kept the car running but then engine eventually cut out. Hadjar was battling Bearman for the P9. Vesti managed to win the Feature Race with Doohan in P2 and Daruvala in P3.
Featured Image courtesy of Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool
This weekend the 2022 Formula 2 championship gets underway in Bahrain, with plenty of new drivers and even a new team looking to open the season with a strong result.
The new weekend schedule
It’s not just the makeup of the grid that’s different this year – the format has also been tweaked for the new season. Last year F2 and Formula 3 ran on separate weekends with three races across Saturday and Sunday, but now they’re back on the same billing and returning to the familiar schedule of one sprint race and one feature race.
It’s not a complete return to the pre-2021 way, however. The sprint race remains on Saturday with the feature race taking place before Sunday’s F1 Bahrain Grand Prix. Qualifying on Friday will set the grid for Sunday’s feature race, while the starting order for Saturday’s sprint race will be decided by reversing the top 10 from qualifying.
The points system has also been tweaked for 2022. The number of points available for pole position and the fastest lap in each race has been halved for this year, meaning pole is now worth two points and the fastest lap is a single point. The points for the sprint race have been adjusted as well – the top eight still score, but victory will now award 10 points with 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 available for the remaining places.
The feature race keeps the same F1 points system as it has always used, with 25 points for the winner down to one point for tenth place.
Will experience lead the way?
Heading into a new season of F2, the focus will always be on the returning drivers with experience behind them.
In 2022 only four drivers are still with the same team as last year: Juri Vips (Hitech), Theo Pourchaire (ART), Ralph Boschung (Campos) and Roy Nissany (DAMS). Of those Vips and Pourchaire will be expected to be in the title hunt as both are fighting to impress F1 teams, and both have good working relationships with their teams to build on after their successful debuts.
Liam Lawson is another driver who will be one to watch this season and this weekend in particular. After winning on his debut last year with Hitech, the New Zealand Red Bull junior moves to Carlin who finished third in the teams’ championship last year. As one of the winners from Bahrain last year, he should be a threat for the top spot in Sakhir again.
Another driver who will be interesting to watch after moving teams is Felipe Drugovich. The Brazilian has switched from UNI-Virtuosi to MP Motorsport for his third season, which theoretically would be a drop down the grid.
But it was with MP that Drugovich took three victories (including one in Bahrain) during his debut season in 2020. With a more comfortable environment he may return to fighting at the front of the field again this year.
Fresh faces, big impact
As Oscar Piastri showed last season when he won the title at the first attempt, experience isn’t everything in F2 – and there’s a bumper crop of rookies joining the series for 2022 looking to follow in his footsteps.
Reigning champions Prema are no exception. With Piastri leaving the series, Prema have called up Red Bull junior and reigning Formula 3 champion Dennis Hauger to take his seat. Given his and his team’s recent success, Hauger is considered one of the favourites for the title this year.
Hauger won’t be without his competition though. His F3 title rival Jack Doohan is also joining the grid for a full campaign this year with the UNI-Virtuosi team. His team enjoyed recent championship challenges led by Callum Ilott and Guanyu Zhou, while Doohan himself already has some competitive F2 experience under his belt from running in the final two rounds last year. This is definitely a pairing to watch out for.
Further along the grid there are more impressive rookies joining the field. Logan Sargeant, Frederik Vesti and Clement Novalak will race with Carlin, ART and MP Motorsport respectively after earning plenty of plaudits in F3 in recent years. Meanwhile F3 race winners and podium finishers Olli Caldwell, Ayumu Iwasa, Enzo Fittipaldi and Calan Williams will represent Campos, DAMS, Charouz and Trident respectively, and former F1 eSports driver Cem Bolukbasi joins Charouz after a race-winning Euroformula Open campaign last year.
And last but not least, there is a new team on the grid in the form of Van Amersfoort Racing. The Dutch feeder series stalwarts are taking over HWA’s vacant entry, and for their first season will pair experienced F2 and F3 driver Jake Hughes with rookie Amaury Cordeel.
Racing gets underway this weekend with the F2 sprint race on Saturday at 16:40 UTC and the feature race on Sunday at 10:40 UTC.
Jack Doohan took his fourth win of the season in the Sochi feature race and helped Trident to snatch the Formula 3 teams’ championship away from Prema, albeit by ignoring team orders in his battle with Clement Novalak.
Doohan and Novalak started alongside each other on the front row, and although Novalak got a quick launch to challenge Doohan into Turn 2, Doohan was able to hold his lead from pole position. Behind them Jonathan Hoggard kept third place while Frederik Vesti dropped from fourth to sixth behind Juan Manuel Correa and Lorenzo Colombo.
Vesti soon took those places back however, repassing Colombo by the end of the first lap and Correa on lap 3. On lap 5 he then caught and passed Hoggard’s Jenzer to bring himself up into the podium positions with just over three seconds separating him from the Tridents out front.
Colombo and Correa continued to fall back through the field after those opening laps. Colombo dropped to ninth place after running wide while being passed by Vesti, and was then bumped out of the points altogether by Oliver Rasmussen by the end of lap 1. Meanwhile Correa lost fifth and sixth to Logan Sargeant and Jak Crawford, although he managed to hold seventh by seeing off the new F3 champion Dennis Hauger.
Hauger continued to pressure Correa for seventh, closely pursued himself by Victor Martins. Their battle came to a head on lap 7 as the three of them ran side by side through Turn 7. Correa came out ahead as Martins ran wide, but Hauger was spun around by Rasmussen who tried to take advantage of the melee.
Hauger dropped to the back of the field while Rasmussen and Martins both ended up outside the points. Arthur Leclerc benefited from the incident to sneak through and take seventh from Correa, while Ayumu Iwasa and Alex Smolyar were promoted into the points.
At the front of the field Doohan and Novalak were separated by just a few tenths of a second as they fought for the lead. Novalak set the pace early on with the fastest lap and ran just two tenths behind Doohan by lap 7. On lap 9 Novalak tried a move around the outside of Turn 2 for the lead, but he ran deep into the corner and was forced to slot back into second.
While Doohan and Novalak battled, Vesti was closing in fast on the pair of them. By lap 10 he’d halved his gap to 1.5 seconds behind the Tridents, while Novalak was being visibly held up by Doohan who was sliding through the hard right-handers.
With Vesti coming up fast behind them and the team needing to protect the win to take the teams’ title, Trident instructed Doohan to let Novalak through as he appeared to be the faster driver. But unsurprisingly with a win on the line Doohan didn’t let his teammate past, even though that allowed Vesti to close to just half a second by lap 15.
Trident were spared some anxiety a lap later when Vesti ran wide and dropped out of DRS range of Novalak. But Doohan also ran wide on the same lap which gave Novalak a run on his teammate down the straight at the start of lap 17. Novalak initially got ahead through Turn 2, but Doohan used the corner to set up the inside line into Turn 3 and retake the lead.
To make matters worse for Novalak he then lost grip in Doohan’s wake and not only dropped out of DRS range of Doohan, but into Vesti’s clutches. Vesti was just a tenth behind Novalak heading through the middle sector while Novalak was warned about weaving in his defence.
When they got to the DRS straight out of Turn 10 Vesti had little trouble pulling alongside and passing Novalak for second. But despite his earlier speed, Vesti’s brief but close battle with Novalak had given Doohan the opportunity to open up a slight lead with two laps remaining, and he ended up crossing the line with two seconds in hand.
Vesti held onto second while Novalak completed the podium in third, but despite losing the 1–2 Trident were still able to take the teams’ title by six points from Prema. Sargeant completed a quiet race in fourth ahead of Crawford and Hoggard, while Leclerc finished seventh and Martins, Iwasa and Olli Caldwell rounded out the points.
Winning the race meant that Doohan keeps his second place in the championship, while Novalak finishes the season in third place ahead of Vesti and Martins.
Dennis Hauger clinched the 2021 Formula 3 title with a podium finish in the opening Sochi sprint race, which was won by Logan Sargeant for his first victory of the season and Charouz Racing System’s first victory in the series.
Sargeant started the race from second on the reverse grid alongside Victor Martins but seized the lead around the outside of Turn 2. Meanwhile Hauger tried to take third place from Jak Crawford, but after backing out he was forced to defend against Caio Collet in fifth and Alex Smolyar in sixth instead.
But although Hauger’s start didn’t go to plan, things were much worse for his title rival Jack Doohan. Starting from 12th on the reverse grid after claiming pole for the feature race, Doohan found himself caught up in the middle of the pack and bounced onto the kerbs at Turn 2, which dropped him down to 17th in the order.
With Doohan out of the points and Hauger only needing six points to claim the title he didn’t need to make up any more places in the race. But despite that, Hauger continued pushing forward and putting the pressure on Crawford in third.
On lap 4 Hauger forced Crawford to take a deep defensive line through Turn 2 and used the opportunity to line up a move through Turn 3, putting himself into the podium positions. He then set the fastest lap and started cutting into Martins’ gap in second.
By lap 7 Hauger had gotten within four tenths of Martins and tried the same Turn 2 setup as he had on Crawford three laps earlier. But Martins was able to better hold off Hauger through Turn 3 and used Hauger’s championship considerations to force the Prema to back out.
But despite coming out on top in that battle, Martins couldn’t keep Hauger behind for much longer. On lap 10 Hauger ran within a tenth of Martins as he set up a move, which he then completed to take second a lap later.
With Sargeant little more than three seconds up the road, Hauger set off with the win in his sights. But with half the race done he started to struggle with his rear tyres losing temperature, and found Martins and Collet in fourth filling his mirrors. Meanwhile Clement Novalak, who had taken the fastest lap from Hauger, was rapidly closing on all three of them.
Sargeant ran wide on lap 14 and lost seven tenths from his lead, but Hauger wasn’t able to take advantage of the mistake as he had Martins just two tenths behind him. But before Martins could capitalise on Hauger’s tyres and reclaim second, the virtual safety car was brought out when Tijmen van der Helm retired on the side of the road with an engine failure.
When the VSC was withdrawn a lap later Hauger was able to get the better restart to pull out of DRS range of Martins, while Sargeant was just under two seconds ahead of him. Hauger continued to cut that gap as Sargeant’s own tyres fell off, and he closed to within DRS range of the Charouz on the final lap.
Going through the DRS zone after Turn 10, Hauger closed to four tenths behind Sargeant, but with the title in his hands he held back rather than making a lunge into Turn 13. Sargeant crossed the line just ahead of Hauger, and Martins finished third for his sixth podium of the year.
Novalak come through to take fourth from Collet in the final laps. Lorenzo Colombo took sixth for Campos ahead of Arthur Leclerc, Frederik Vesti, Juan Manuel Correa and Ayumu Iwasa. Crawford fell through the top ten in the latter stages of the race to finish 11th, while Doohan came home in 15th.
Formula 3 returns to action this weekend for the final time this season, as Russia’s Sochi Autodrom plays host to the championship showdown between Prema’s Dennis Hauger and Trident’s Jack Doohan.
That title fight is now Hauger’s to lose. With four wins, eight podiums and two pole positions to his name so far, Hauger comes to Sochi with a 43-point advantage over Doohan, with 65 points still left to play for this weekend.
That advantage means that Hauger can clinch the title after Saturday’s second sprint race, provided he doesn’t concede any more than 13 points to Doohan across the two sprint races. And even if Doohan still has a chance going into Sunday’s feature race, he’ll be aiming for almost every point available for victory, pole and the fastest lap unless Hauger’s Saturday really falls apart.
Doohan needs a lot of things to go his way if he’s going to snatch the title from Hauger. But pressure can play a big part in title showdowns, even for drivers who have otherwise been as composed all year as Hauger.
If Doohan can start applying that pressure early, such as by taking pole or closing the gap in the first sprint race, then he can start using that to try and force a mistake from Hauger when it really matters.
Neither driver has raced at the Sochi Autodrom so far in their careers, so both will be learning the circuit fresh this weekend. With only one practice session, whoever can hit the ground running fastest will have a big advantage over the weekend’s three races.
Fight for third as tight as ever
It may just be Hauger and Doohan battling for the F3 title this weekend, but there is still an equally intense fight for third place in the championship yet to be resolved — and a four-way fight at that.
Clement Novalak is currently leading that quartet on 122 points after his double podium result at Zandvoort. The Trident driver has shown impressive consistency all year long to reach this position in the championship, with points finishes in all but one of the last nine races — although what’s arguably more impressive is that he is the only driver of these four still yet to win this season.
Just behind Novalak are Victor Martins and Frederik Vesti, both level on 117 points and each with a win to their name. Martins’ victory came in the second Zandvoort sprint race and was the peak of a brilliant bounce back after a disappointing run leading into the summer break. He seems to be riding on a second wind right now, which is the perfect momentum to have running into the season finale.
But Vesti is almost in the opposite situation. He showed great pace early in the season and is still the only driver outside of Hauger and Doohan to take a feature race win this year, but as Novalak and Martins hit their stride Vesti dropped back from the front of the championship.
Vesti was back on the podium at Zandvoort — his first since his feature race win at the Red Bull Ring — so hopefully that will give him the boost he needs to end his season on the form it started.
And lastly there’s Alex Smolyar, who is 15 points behind Novalak in sixth despite having more wins than both Martins and Vesti and more podiums than Novalak. But he’s also missed the points on six occasions and consistency has been his main weakness this year.
However, Smolyar is the only one of this pack of drivers with any racing experience of the Sochi Autodrom, and his last visit during his 2017 SMP F4 days resulted in a double podium. That will surely give Smolyar confidence as he comes into the weekend needing a great result to overhaul the drivers ahead of him.
Dennis Hauger claimed his fourth win of the season in the Zandvoort feature race with a lights-to-flag performance that left the rest of the field in his wake.
Hauger seemed to get a slow launch from pole position and had to make a quick defensive move to cut off second-placed David Schumacher into the first corner. But far from being unsettled, Hauger immediately worked to pull away from Schumacher as the Trident came under attack from Victor Martins in third.
As Hauger led the field away, his championship campaign got another boost as his main rival Jack Doohan was tapped from behind by Jak Crawford in Turn 3. Doohan avoided the wall but dropped to sixth behind Clement Novalak and Alex Smolyar.
After only a handful of laps Hauger had already pulled clear of DRS threat from Schumacher, who was driving on his mirrors as Martins put the pressure on for second. With two tenths between them at the start of lap 5 Martins looked to the inside of Schumacher at Turn 1 but was just too far back to pull fully alongside.
Martins tried the move again on lap 9 but with the same result. As he was forced to back out, Novalak came into play behind them and was told by Trident to go on the attack. But Novalak wasn’t any more able than Martins to make an overtake stick, while Smolyar and Doohan joined the DRS train behind him.
With six laps to go Hauger had sprung more than four seconds clear of the pack led by Schumacher. His lead was almost erased when Juan Manuel Correa further down the field forced Matteo Nannini off into the gravel at Turn 1, but Nannini was able to keep his car going and return to the track to avoid bringing out the safety car.
As the laps counted down Schumacher looked to have second place under control. But on lap 22 Martins launched a move up the inside of the Turn 3 banking and clipped Schumacher’s left rear, spinning the Trident into the barrier and out of the race. Martins was immediately handed a ten-second penalty for causing a collision, while Novalak and Smolyar came through to inherit the two podium positions.
With Hauger out in front those podium positions remained the same for the final two laps. Doohan returned to fourth place after the incident with Martins and Schumacher. Caio Collet finished fifth ahead of Logan Sargeant, Crawford, Frederik Vesti and Arthur Leclerc, while Martins dropped to tenth place after his penalty.
Hauger’s pole position, win and fastest lap gives him a 43-point lead over Doohan heading into the final round in Sochi on 25–26 September. Novalak’s podium moves him up into third in the standings, with Martins and Vesti just behind and level on 117 points.
Prema’s Arthur Leclerc took his second Formula 3 victory in the opening sprint race at Zandvoort, despite race-long pressure from a rapid Logan Sargeant behind.
Leclerc started the race in third behind Sargeant and reverse polesitter Amaury Cordeel. At lights out Sargeant jumped past Cordeel for the lead, but Leclerc got an even quicker launch off the line to pass both of them out of Tarzan. Cordeel’s start went from bad to worse as he was passed for third by Ayumu Iwasa, then spun around by Alex Smolyar through Turn 3.
Sargeant stuck close to the back of Leclerc through the opening stint of the race, rarely lapping more than three tenths behind the Prema. As Sargeant pushed Leclerc and Leclerc set early fastest laps to escape him, they started pulling clear of Iwasa, Jak Crawford and Caio Collet behind.
On lap 5 Sargeant closed to just a tenth behind Leclerc as they crossed the line and looked to the outside heading into Tarzan. Leclerc held Sargeant off on that occasion, but the Charouz driver didn’t lose any time by backing out and kept up the assault.
Two laps later Sargeant pressured Leclerc into a lockup at Tarzan. Losing pace as he managed the flat spots on his tyres, Leclerc found himself leading a DRS train as Iwasa, Crawford, Collet and Jack Doohan all joined the pursuit of the lead. But despite locking up a second time on lap 11, Leclerc was still able to fend off Sargeant’s best efforts at an overtake as he took a better line through Turns 3 and 4 to counter Sargeant’s advantage into Turn 1.
Leclerc was handed another problem to manage on lap 16 when Jonathan Hoggard and Hunter Yeany ended up in the barriers to bring out the safety car and the field was bunched up together. But with Zandvoort’s tight nature making for a particular difficult recovery of the two cars, the stoppage ended up benefiting Leclerc as it left Sargeant with just four laps to rebuild momentum and make a move.
In the end, Leclerc was able to pull away from Sargeant at the restart as the Charouz had to back out of attacking the lead to defend second place from Iwasa. When they crossed the line four laps later Leclerc had more than a second in hand over Sargeant, the largest gap he’d had all race.
Iwasa finished third for his second podium of the season. Crawford took fourth for Hitech, ahead of Collet and Doohan.
Championship leader Dennis Hauger managed seventh place after starting 12th on the grid. The Prema driver made up places at the start to get into ninth between Victor Martins and Clement Novalak, then spent the rest of the race shaping up to improve.
Hauger momentarily lost out when an attempt around the outside of Martins on lap 14 sent him driving through the gravel and behind Novalak. But he managed to recover the position from Novalak at the restart, before claiming seventh from Martins two laps from the flag. Martins finished eighth, while Frederik Vesti and Olli Caldwell demoted Novalak out of the points in the final laps.
Jack Doohan took his second victory of the weekend in the Spa feature race, fending off a race-long challenge from Victor Martins to make a crucial dent in Dennis Hauger’s championship lead.
Doohan started the race from pole, but was spared from defending the lead into La Source as the race began behind the safety car because of the wet conditions. When the race got going with 14 laps on the board, Doohan bolted early out of the final chicane but Martins went with him to look at the outside into La Source.
Martins was too far back to convert that into an overtake attempt, but he stayed glued to the back of Doohan throughout the opening laps. After setting several fastest laps and running within half a second of Doohan, Martins saw his chance on lap 5 coming into Pouhon. Pulling to the outside of Doohan, Martins managed to come out of the corner in the lead, but not without running all four wheels over the limit of the track while setting up the move.
After beginning to pull a gap over Doohan, Martins was instructed over the radio to hand the position back to avoid a penalty. He did on the following lap, but in doing so Martins dropped to more than a second behind Doohan.
Doohan then set the fastest lap when back in the lead, but Martins responded almost immediately to slash the gap back to half a second by lap 7. As they went through Rivage Martins almost nudged the back of Doohan but still couldn’t find a way past the Trident. All the while, Doohan and Martins had pulled more than five seconds clear of the rest of the field, led by Alex Smolyar in third.
As the race ticked over the halfway stage and the track began to dry, Martins’ wet tyres started to overheat and Doohan was able to start building up a gap over the MP Motorsport driver. By lap 9 Doohan was almost a second ahead, before a wide moment for Martins on lap 11 solidified Doohan’s lead over the closing laps.
Doohan took the win with just under two seconds in hand over Martins, who at least managed to reclaim the fastest lap points from Doohan before the end. Smolyar completed the podium in third, albeit 10 seconds back from the top two.
Caio Collet narrowly missed out on another podium as he came home fourth and just a second behind Smolyar, while Clement Novalak finished fifth ahead of Frederik Vesti and Logan Sargeant. Championship leader Hauger battled his way up to eighth place from 14th on the grid to take four points, and David Schumacher and Arthur Leclerc rounded out the top ten.
Doohan’s two wins this weekend means he’s now closed Hauger’s lead at the top of the standings from 63 points to 25. Vesti and Martins move up to third and fourth in the standings, displacing Olli Caldwell who was outside the points in all three races at Spa.
Formula 3 returns next weekend at Zandvoort in support of the Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix.
Lorenzo Colombo took his first Formula 3 win at Spa, making up for the win he was disqualified from in Hungary, by dominating the field in the rain-drenched first sprint race.
Owing to the torrential rain throughout the morning, the race started almost an hour late and ran three laps behind the safety car before lights out.
When the race did get underway on lap 4, Colombo’s Campos led away from Hitech’s Jak Crawford and Roman Stanek. Jonathan Hoggard in fourth put a challenge to the inside of Stanek at La Source, but Stanek held on around the outside to keep third place.
On the first racing lap, the only change in positions came from MP Motorsport’s Caio Collet and Victor Martins, who moved up past Logan Sargeant for eighth and ninth respectively. On lap 5, Collet then made up another place by passing Clement Novalak for seventh at Les Combes.
At the front of the field, Colombo made use of the clear visibility ahead of him to open up a four-second lead over Crawford by the end of lap five. Crawford himself had several seconds in hand over teammate Stanek, but Stanek was unable to drop the challenge of Hoggard who was staying consistently half a second behind the Hitech.
Hoggard’s pursuit of Stanek had opened up a gap between him and the Trident of David Schumacher in fifth behind. By the halfway stage, Schumacher was leading a train of cars including Frederik Vesti, Collet, Novalak and Martins.
On lap 9 Collet tried an audacious move around the outside of Vesti into La Source, but couldn’t get the traction on the wetter part of the circuit and Vesti retook sixth on the exit of the hairpin. At the same time, Collet’s teammate Martins managed to complete a move past Novalak for eighth coming into La Source.
Once past Novalak, Martins put in a new fastest lap time and started putting pressure on Collet ahead of him. Meanwhile, the train caught up with Hoggard who made a pair of costly mistakes on lap 10 and dropped away from the back of Stanek.
On lap 13 Schumacher took advantage of Hoggard running wide out of La Source to pull alongside the Jenzer. But as the two fought down the Kemmel Straight, Vesti and Collet entered the battle as well and Collet emerged from the spray in front of Vesti and Hoggard, albeit after taking to the runoff to avoid collecting the cars ahead of him.
Collet was then handed a five-second time penalty for completing the move off the track, but not before he’d been passed by Vesti on track for fourth place. Hoggard meanwhile fell back to seventh after being passed by Martins, while Schumacher came out of the fight worst as he tumbled back down the order to ninth behind Novalak.
Entering into the final laps, Colombo out front retook the fastest lap title from Martins and continued to sprint away from the field. By the time he took the chequered flag, Colombo was more than 12 seconds clear of Crawford, who took second place by two seconds from Stanek.
Vesti finished fourth, while Collet’s penalty promoted Martins to fifth ahead of Hoggard, Novalak and Sargeant. Collet slotted into ninth position ahead of Alex Smolyar, who dropped Schumacher to P11 and outside of the points on the penultimate lap. Jack Doohan finished in P12 and will start this afternoon’s race from reverse grid pole.
After taking several weeks off over the summer break, the 2021 Formula 3 season is back this weekend, with another trio of races around the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
There are only three rounds left to go this season — at Spa, Zandvoort and the Circuit of the Americas — and at this point it’s hard to imagine anyone toppling Prema’s Dennis Hauger from the position of title favourite.
Hauger took his third win of the season in the Hungaroring feature race before the summer break and earned himself a 63-point lead over Trident’s Jack Doohan in the standings. That means that Hauger will leave Spa still at the top of the table, unless he fails to score a single point and Doohan performs a clean sweep of wins, fastest laps and pole position in all three races this weekend.
But although Hauger has become something of a runaway train, the positions behind him in the standings are still in flux. Doohan is second for now on 89 points, but Prema’s Olli Caldwell and ART’s Frederik Vesti are within just nine points of the Trident, with all three drivers having shown great pace throughout the season so far.
Doohan will be one to watch at Spa, as it was there that he recorded one of the best results of his debut season last year. But Vesti also has fond memories of the circuit, having finished on the podium in last year’s sprint race while driving for Prema.
The midpack is as tight as ever
Behind the top four in the championship, there are two incredibly fierce battles brewing in the final positions of the top ten. The first is between Aleksandr Smolyar (P5), Clement Novalak (P6) and Victor Martins (P7), who are only separated by seven points.
Smolyar arguably should be in the mix with those ahead of him in the standings, given that he’s won two races this year compared to one each for Doohan, Caldwell and Vesti. But despite scoring points in most races — including two fourth places — Smolyar hasn’t stood on the podium since his second win at Paul Ricard in Round 2. That’s something he’ll need to change if he’s going to break away and join what’s realistically the fight to be this year’s vice-champion.
With Novalak and Martins, their goal for the latter half of the season is straightforward: win races. They’re currently the highest-placed drivers in the championship yet to record a victory. In Novalak’s case, he also hasn’t been on the podium since his second-place finish in the opening round in Barcelona — something not helped by being eliminated from strong positions in two of the Red Bull Ring rounds through no fault of his own.
As for Martins, what felt like an inevitable run to a maiden win after three podiums in the opening two rounds has soured recently. Between the second Red Bull Ring race and the summer break, Martins recorded a run of five races well outside the points. Bouncing back from that in a rookie season is hard, but it’s what he’ll need to do to keep up with the drivers around him.
The second of the two midfield fights involves Arthur Leclerc, Matteo Nannini and Caio Collet, who are on 44, 42 and 41 points respectively. Nannini catapulted himself into that group by taking his first F3 win in the second race at the Hungaroring. Leclerc, who has a win and a second place but only one other points finish so far this year, will surely be looking over his shoulder in case Nannini’s maiden win turns out to be a breakthrough moment.
And while Collet hasn’t quite been the match of his MP Motorsport and Alpine academy teammate Martins, he’s still been able to get great results — including two podiums — out of his car, and should be just as much a threat to Leclerc and Nannini in the remaining races.
New Charouz lineup, and Frederick to miss Spa
Lastly, the grid will look a little different this weekend for a few reasons. The first is that Charouz Racing System has refreshed its lineup. In place of Enzo Fittipaldi and Reshad de Gerus, the team will run 2020 US F4 champion Hunter Yeany and Euroformula Open driver Zdenek Chovanec in the #30 and #31 cars respectively. They’ll join Logan Sargeant for the remainder of the season.
The second change is that Carlin will only field two cars this weekend, as Kaylen Frederick has tested positive for Covid-19 and will therefore not take part in the event. Given the late timing, Carlin will not replace Frederick for the weekend.
BREAKING NEWS! We have a new team for @FIAFormula3 . This may not be the news you expected for now, but there will be more! We will miss Reshad and @enzofitti in F3 ❤️