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.

2019 French Grand Prix Review: They Did Their Best

French motorsport fans had already enjoyed the 24 Hours of Le Mans last week, and now their attention turned to the Formula 1 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. The 5.8km blue and red maze of a circuit is known for its Mistral Straight, named after the famous winds which caused some trouble over the weekend.

Conditions in qualifying proved to be tough, but Mercedes prevailed and locked out the front row of the grid again, with Lewis Hamilton on pole and Valtteri Bottas behind him. Charles Leclerc was the fastest of the Ferrari drivers in P3, as Sebastian Vettel had a horrible Q3 that saw him qualify only seventh. Verstappen started from fourth place and Gasly from ninth. Who split them then? Well, in a big surprise it was both McLaren drivers of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr., who claimed fifth and sixth place on the grid.

The start of the race saw Hamilton immediately create a gap to his teammate and Leclerc behind. Lando Norris lost fifth place to Sainz, who set about putting pressure on Verstappen. The Dutchman easily recovered though, pulled away from Sainz even as he complained about a ‘lag’ in power on the exit of some corners.

Thanks to the 2019 aerodynamic regulations, most drivers had trouble following the car in front of them, leading to big gaps being created. A few DRS overtakes took place going into the Mistral chicane, but no more than that.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The biggest battles of the race took place in the midfield, where Haas was really struggling and got overtaken by both Toro Rossos.

Verstappen pitted from fourth on lap twenty-one and emerged in fifth place behind Vettel. Leclerc went into the pits on the next lap for the hard tyres as well, coming back out in fourth place. Bottas switched to the hard tyres onlap twenty-four. and re-joined in third behind Vettel, who was yet to stop, and in front of Leclerc.

Race leader Hamilton responded by pitting the next lap, re-joining safe and sound in first place. Vettel was behind him, locked up and told his team he needed to box, which he duly did. Like those around him, he opted for the hard tyres in an attempt to make it to the end of the race. After all pit stops, the situation in the top five was unchanged.

Meanwhile Hamilton took the time to try out the ‘Time Trial’ mode of the new F1 2019 game, putting up fastest lap times on the board lap after lap. and extending his lead to twelve seconds.

LAT Images

With less than half of the race to go, trouble struck Norris and Grosjean. Norris was told by the McLaren team to not use DRS and that his car would soon become unstable, whilst Grosjean, in his home race, had to retire the car with just six laps to go.

A very short Virtual Safety Car was brought out near the end of the race, after Alex Albon hit a bollard that was then left stranded in the middle of the track.

With just two laps to go, Vettel came in for another pit stop to go for the extra point for the fastest lap, whilst his Leclerc chased Bottas for second place. Was this what Ferrari meant by Plan F?

On the last lap he got in DRS range of the Mercedes, but it didn’t matter. The top three in qualifying ended up as the race result. Vettel’s bid for the extra point paid off as he pipped Hamilton’s time by 0.02 seconds.

The Driver of the Day award went to no other than Lando Norris, who carried on racing with hydraulic problems to end up in tenth place.

F1 returns to Austria next weekend in the first double-header of the season. Last year saw Max Verstappen take the biggest trophy, whilst drama for Mercedes showed us that their engines are not invincible. Will this year’s race see the same drama, or are Mercedes really unbeatable now?

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Renault: “We must do better” in Silverstone

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul has said his team “must do better” at the British Grand Prix than it has in the previous rounds in Austria and France.

The French marque endured a pointless race at the Red Bull Ring last weekend, with Nico Hülkenberg retiring due to a fiery engine failure and Carlos Sainz falling foul of tyre blistering, while in France the week before an MGU-K failure almost dropped Sainz out of the points in the closing laps.

“The sign of a good race team is the ability to react quickly and come back stronger,” Abiteboul said ahead of the British Grand Prix. “Even in the short turnaround between Austria and Silverstone, we must improve reliability, recover our more usual competitiveness level and further our understanding around tyre management.

“We know Silverstone will be a tough challenge but we will keep pushing to get back on target.”

Renault Sport F1 Team

Abiteboul added that Austria in particular was “a crash landing” after eight consecutive points for the team:

“Although the circuit did not play to our strengths, we must do better. It certainly benefited our rivals, who took advantage of three retirements in the top teams to finish higher than usual in the rankings.”

Renault remains in fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship after Austria, but their absence from the top ten meant that Haas—who finished fourth and fifth in Spielberg—closed to within 13 points in the standings, and could overtake Renault this weekend if the French team run into any more misfortune in Silverstone.

Renault Sport F1 Team

F1 2018: French Grand Prix Returns After 10-Year Absence

The French Grand Prix returns to Paul Ricard this week, ten years after the last race in the country was held. Spare a thought for all the teams, who will no doubt be bracing themselves for the prospect of Formula One’s first ever triple-header, with the French, Austrian and British Grand Prix all taking place over the coming weekends.

Last time out in Canada was something of a shock to the system for many. Past form would have suggested Mercedes were set to dominate the weekend, but that was not the case at all. It may not have been the most exciting race in the world – it was really so very, very far from that – but Sebastian Vettel was sublime all weekend and he cruised to victory from pole position, followed home by Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen. With Lewis Hamilton in P5, it means that Sebastian Vettel is now in the lead of the championship, by just one point.

Ferrari won the last French Grand Prix – which was held at Magny Cours in 2008 and was won by Felipe Massa – and Kimi Raikkonen is one of only two drivers on the current grid, the other being Fernando Alonso, who have won the Grand Prix before. The power unit upgrades Ferrari introduced for Canada proved fruitful, and with Paul Ricard’s long straights you can expect the team to go very well again this weekend.

Mercedes, meanwhile, are set to finally introduce the power unit upgrades that were originally meant to be brought in for Canada, but were ultimately delayed because of quality control issues. There is no getting away from the fact that they were very underwhelming in Canada, and will definitely be grateful for the upgrades in France given the nature of the track.

Max Verstappen finished P3 in Canada – the first race this season that he has put in a weekend without incident – continuing Red Bull’s tradition in the hybrid era of performing better there than otherwise might be expected of them. With Daniel Ricciardo also finishing in the top five, and both drivers happy with the upgrades introduced, there is no apparent reason to suggest that Red Bull won’t be able to replicate that sort of performance in France.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon’s first win in a single-seater was actually at Paul Ricard, and he believes that he is potentially on for a good result this weekend. “On paper, the track should suit us,” he said, “with a long straight and some slow corners where we can use our car’s mechanical grip really well. It’s a track which will be new for everyone and we’re usually good at finding a set-up quickly, so I’m not too worried.”

Renault are currently enjoying their best start to a season since they returned to F1 as a works team in 2016, and they head into their home race having been bolstered by the power unit upgrade they brought in Canada. They are a respectable P4 in the WCC, 16 points ahead of McLaren. If both Renault and McLaren perform in France as they did in Canada, expect that gap to grow considerably.

Last time out at the Canadian Grand Prix, Haas introduced a new front wing and floor plus a revised bargeboard, and they are optimistic that these will suit the layout of the Paul Ricard track after two consecutive races of not getting either car into the points. This will actually be Romain Grosjean’s first home race in F1 – his rookie year was in 2009, a year after the last French Grand Prix took place – so expect him to be especially keen for a good result.

Both Toro Rosso drivers are similarly optimistic about what they might be able to achieve in the race. Pierre Gasly, for whom this is also a first home race in F1, has either won or at least gotten on to the podium every time he has raced at Paul Ricard, and Brendon Hartley, who crashed out of the last race in Canada along with Lance Stroll after contact between the pair, has said: “Paul Ricard is a circuit I know well, although not in a Formula 1 car. We did a lot of testing there with WEC in the LMP1 car and I won the LMP2 category in 2013. It was always a popular track for endurance testing and I’m also pretty handy round there in the night-time, although that’s not going to come into play in a Formula 1 car!”

Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada
Sunday 10 June 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren, and Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, on the grid.
Image courtesy of  Andy Hone/McLaren ref: Digital Image _ONZ4265

Speaking of the World Endurance Championship, there is no doubt that the majority of the off-track spotlight will be on McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, fresh from winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside his #8 Toyota co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakijima. However, it may be a case of coming back to reality with a bump for Alonso, as well as for team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne. They struggled around Canada – Vandoorne finished two laps down in P16 and Alonso retired – and with Paul Ricard’s long straights it may unfortunately be more of the same for the Woking-based outfit.

Charles Leclerc is on a very impressive run of performances at the moment. In Canada he finished ahead of Gasly, both Haas cars, the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, Sergey Sirotkin and even Sergio Perez in the Force India, and managed to hold off Fernando Alonso in several wheel-to-wheel duels before the Spaniard retired from the race.

Williams’ Lance Stroll is a lot more muted about the track than some of his rivals. “I know [it] from when I drove in Formula 3. I had a good time there and won a race, but I have to be honest because I can’t say I like it,” he said in Williams’ race preview. “It is just run offs everywhere and I am not a big fan.” As mentioned, he crashed out of the Canadian Grand Prix on the first lap – that just about sums up the luck he and the Williams team have been having this year – but maybe don’t expect the French Grand Prix to be the best place for a turn in fortunes.

Featured Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool