F2 Silverstone: Zhou strikes back at Piastri with feature race win

Guanyu Zhou ran away to victory in the Silverstone Formula 2 feature race, beating polesitter Oscar Piastri after losing the championship lead to the Australian yesterday.

Zhou started alongside Piastri on the front row but got the better launch and was already ahead before they made it to Abbey. Behind them, Dan Ticktum also made a move off the line to take third from Richard Verschoor, while Robert Shwartzman jumped past Felipe Drugovich and Theo Pourchaire for fifth.

At the front of the field, Zhou set the pace with early fastest laps as the top four pulled away from Shwartzman, Drugovich and Pourchaire behind. By lap 4 Zhou had pulled out of DRS range of Piastri, who was starting to come under pressure from Ticktum.

That pressure was relieved when Ticktum pitted for hard tyres on lap 6 to try the undercut. Piastri covered him off on the following lap, but despite coming out ahead of Ticktum he didn’t have the tyre temperature to keep the Carlin behind on the outlap, and Ticktum was able to pass him for P13 and net second.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Zhou pitted from the lead a lap after Piastri, but was able to come out comfortably ahead of Ticktum despite his undercut strategy. That left Verschoor out in the lead for a few laps, but his own pit stop was slow and left him well down on Piastri when he rejoined the track.

At the front, Juri Vips now lead from Lirim Zendelli, Jehan Daruvala, Jack Aitken and Matteo Nannini. They had started on the hard tyre instead of the mediums and were trying to prolong their first stint to jump up into the points. Meanwhile, Zhou had joined the back of this group after passing Marino Sato on lap 12.

Ticktum and Piastri picked off Sato a lap later. Ticktum was held up by the Japanese driver and lost a lot of time to Piastri, who had considerable pace on his first laps on the new hard tyre. But that pace seemed to flip around on lap 16, as Ticktum passed the long-running Nannini for sixth but Piastri couldn’t find a way around the Campos.

Piastri stayed behind Nannini until the Italian finally pitted on lap 24. By this point Piastri was more than nine seconds adrift of Ticktum, while Verschoor was closing rapidly to put pressure on for the final podium position.

Verschoor got within a second of Piastri by lap 27, and finally launched his assault around the outside of Stowe on the penultimate lap. Piastri managed to hold him off then, almost cutting the corner at Club to stay ahead. On the final lap, Verschoor tried the same move at Stowe, but was too far back this time to get alongside the Prema.

Richard Verschoor, MP Motorsport (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

 

Zhou took the chequered flag with four seconds in hand over Ticktum, and Piastri completed the podium with Verschoor on his gearbox. Shwartzman led Drugovich over the line in fifth and sixth, and Vips picked up seventh place from ninth on the grid after his alternate strategy. Pourchaire, Zendelli and Daruvala completed the top ten, with Daruvala taking another two points for the fastest lap.

Zhou’s victory puts him back up to second in the championship standings, just five behind Piastri and twelve ahead of Shwartzman.

Formula 2 now takes a long break, returning at Monza for the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix on 10–12 September.

F2 Silverstone: Verschoor controls sprint race for first win

MP Motorsport’s Richard Verschoor took his first Formula 2 win in the second Silverstone sprint race, with a calm performance from reverse grid pole.

Verschoor got a good launch from reverse grid pole to enter Abbey ahead of Marcus Armstrong and Dan Ticktum. But as the top ten settled their positions through the opening corners, Ralph Boschung spun at the rear of the field and collected Alessio Deledda, bringing out the safety car before the end of lap 1.

At the restart on lap 5, Verschoor bolted clear of Armstrong and Ticktum to see off any potential move for the lead. Just behind them, Oscar Piastri initially took fourth place from Liam Lawson, but Lawson fought him back on the following lap to retake the position.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Red Bull Content Pool)

The green flag racing only lasted for another few laps, as the safety car was again brought out on lap 7 when Jehan Daruvala hit the back of Bent Viscaal at Vale and put the Trident into the gravel.

When the safety car pulled in on lap 11, Verschoor was again able to jump clear of Armstrong, while Ticktum was close enough to put pressure on the DAMS ahead. By the end of the first racing lap, Verschoor was more than a second clear of Armstrong, but six tenths separated Armstrong and Ticktum.

Meanwhile, the fight between Lawson and Piastri resumed with just half a second splitting the two. Piastri tried several times to squeeze his way past Lawson, first up the inside of Vale on lap 15 and again around the outside of Woodcote on lap 16.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

But after Lawson was able to close the door each time, Piastri was finally close enough to dart to the inside at Brooklands on lap 18 and take fourth place. And once freed from behind Lawson, Piastri set the fastest lap as he tried to reel in Armstrong and Ticktum in the final laps.

But despite Piastri’s pace, the gap was too large to overhaul before the chequered flag, and Verschoor led home Armstrong and Ticktum for the podium. Piastri came home fourth with the fastest lap to add another ten points to his new championship lead. Lawson finished fifth, ahead of Juri Vips, Felipe Drugovich and David Beckmann.

F2 Silverstone: Shwartzman commands sprint race as Piastri takes title lead

Prema’s Robert Shwartzman dominated the opening Formula 2 sprint race at Silverstone for his second win of the season, while championship leader Guanyu Zhou retired on lap 1 and lost the points lead to Oscar Piastri.

Shwartzman started the race from fourth on the grid behind Christian Lundgaard, Juri Vips and Roy Nissany. But a rapid launch saw him pass third-placed Nissany off the line, then beat Vips and Lundgaard into first place down to Turn 1.

As Shwartzman assumed the lead from Vips and Lundgaard, Nissany found trouble at Turn 3 as he was hit from behind and then tagged the rear of Lundgaard too. Lundgaard’s car was undamaged, but Nissany was spun around and out of the race.

Almost simultaneously, Zhou was spun around at the same corner while fighting up into the points. The longtime championship leader retired on the spot, and the safety car was deployed.

At the restart, Shwartzman was able to jump clear of Vips, while Lundgaard locked up and dropped back towards Felipe Drugovich in fourth. Meanwhile, Shwartzman’s Prema teammate Oscar Piastri put the attack on Liam Lawson for sixth while Dan Ticktum behind tried to join the battle.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Michael Regan, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri’s assault on sixth was briefly halted at the end of lap 4 as Alessio Deledda was spun out of the race and the safety car was redeployed. But at the restart on lap 7, Piastri was able to get up the inside of Lawson and take sixth place away.

A third safety car came out on lap 12 when Guilherme Samaia found himself beached in the gravel. With ten laps to go, Richard Verschoor, Jack Aitken, Bent Viscaal and Matteo Nannini chose to pit from outside the points and take on fresh medium tyres.

At the restart on lap 15, Shwartzman again shot clear of Vips to protect first place, and went on to ease his gap up to over a second. Over the final laps, Vips couldn’t find a way to close the gap to Shwartzman and came home second where he started.

Juri Vips, HItech (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Lundgaard briefly came within half a second of Vips but couldn’t get close enough to make a move for second before the end. Drugovich took fourth behind Lundgaard, while Theo Pourchaire and Piastri were fifth and sixth. Lawson held on to seventh place despite not having the pace to stick with Piastri, and Ticktum finished eighth for the final point.

Verschoor was able to put his fresh mediums to good use in the closing stages. After making his way past Ralph Boschung and David Beckmann early after the restart, he made his way up to the back of Lirim Zendelli by lap 18, and took tenth place from his teammate to start the second sprint race from reverse grid pole.

With Zhou retiring from the race, Piastri’s sixth place and Shwartzman’s win moves the two Premas to the top of the standings on 83 and 81 points respectively.

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: Schumacher takes dominant maiden win in second sprint race

Trident’s David Schumacher claimed his first Formula 3 victory, winning the second Red Bull Ring sprint race from reverse pole position.

Schumacher got away well from reverse grid pole, while Roman Stanek filed into second and Jak Crawford jumped Kaylen Frederick and Juan Manuel Correa for third. But as the drivers continued to establish their positions, the race was brought to an early halt as Logan Sargeant and Tijmen Van Der Helm crashed at the start of lap 2 and brought out the safety car.

At the restart Schumacher bolted clear to build an early lead, while Stanek and Crawford battled for second place. As Stanek dropped out of DRS range of Schumacher, Crawford tried a move on lap 8 around the outside of Turn 3 but found himself run out of road.

Jak Crawford, Hitech (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / Courtesy of FIA F3)

After trying another pass at Turn 4, Crawford eventually got past Stanek on lap 9 and set off after Schumacher. But just one lap later, Crawford pulled off the track with a loss of drive, promoting Correa to the podium.

Correa’s time in the top three didn’t last much longer, however. On lap 11 he found himself the innocent victim as Frederick in fourth missed his braking point while defending from Frederik Vesti, and ended up spinning himself and Correa around at Turn 3. As Vesti avoided the incident, Victor Martins benefited to move up to third ahead of Jonny Edgar in fourth.

The incidents behind Stanek didn’t relieve the pressure on the Czech driver, as he found himself having to defend second from Martins almost immediately. Martins tried three moves around the outside of Stanek at Turn 4, but after being rebuffed he dummied to the inside of the corner on lap 15 and finally demoted the Hitech to third.

Once behind Martins, Stanek then came up attack from Vesti, who tried to repeat Martins’ Turn 4 overtake on lap 16. Stanek held off the ART on that occasion, but Vesti came back on lap 18 to take the position under DRS on the run down to Turn 4.

Frederik Vesti, ART (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / Courtesy of FIA F3)

Martins and Vesti then began closing in on the leading Schumacher, eating into his four-second lead as the Trident’s tyres started to fall away. But on lap 23, Martins also fell out of contention as he lost power in the same manner as Crawford, promoting Vesti to second with two laps remaining.

With a virtual safety car deployed to recover Martins’ car, Schumacher was able to drive through his tyre struggles and keep the lead from Vesti.

Stanek wasn’t able to benefit from Martins’ retirement to get back on the podium as he was passed by Dennis Hauger on lap 21. The championship leader had driven a recovery race after falling to 14th place at the start, but a series of early overtakes as well as the retirements ahead of him allowed Hauger to complete the podium in third.

Stanek finished fourth ahead of Edgar, and Arthur Leclerc took sixth place and the fastest lap. Jack Doohan was seventh, and Enzo Fittipaldi, Olli Caldwell and Jonathan Hoggard completed the points.

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.