F3 Sochi: Doohan seals Trident teams’ title with contentious feature win

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.

Jonathan Hoggard, Jenzer (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

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.

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

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.

Clement Novalak, Trident (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F3)

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.

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

F2 Sochi: Ticktum dominates sprint race in tricky damp conditions

Dan Ticktum took his second win of the season in the Sochi F2 sprint race, surviving the difficult conditions while drivers behind him fell afoul of the damp track in an assortment of incidents.

The race got off to a dramatic start before the grid had even formed, as first Guanyu Zhou spun on the lap to the grid and stalled his engine, then his teammate Felipe Drugovich spun into the wall and wrecked his car. As a result neither UNI-Virtuosi was able to take the race start.

With the track still wet in places the race began with a rolling start after two formation laps behind the safety car. Ticktum made the most of that rolling start to get a good gap over second-placed Juri Vips across the line, while Christian Lundgaard was the only driver in the field able to pull off a lap 1 overtake as he passed Marcus Armstrong for tenth.

Although Ticktum got the jump on Vips at the start, Vips responded through the opening lap to be just two tenths behind the Carlin at the start of lap 2. But Ticktum then put in his own answer with a fastest lap to open the gap up again, which began a game of trading lap times between the two of them.

Just a few tenths behind Ticktum and Vips, Liam Lawson was defending third place from Robert Shwartzman. Shwartzman appeared to have the better pace than Lawson and looked at a move out of Turn 3 on lap 3, but with the track still wet outside the racing line he couldn’t get alongside the Hitech. Shwartzman then ran wide through Turn 18 and lost several tenths to Lawson.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

On lap 4 Bent Viscaal spun out at the Turn 15/16 chicane and brought out the Virtual Safety Car. When it was withdrawn on lap 6 Oscar Piastri tried to overtake Jehan Daruvala for eighth place, but he immediately lost tyre temperature when he moved out to the wetter part of the track and instead fell to 12th behind Lundgaard, Armstrong and Richard Verschoor.

The VSC then made an immediate reappearance when Lawson, lacking brake temperature from the first VSC, couldn’t get his car stopped heading into Turn 13 and damaged his left rear suspension on the exit wall. With Lawson out, Shwartzman moved up to third place ahead of Jake Hughes, Ralph Boschung, Theo Pourchaire and Daruvala.

Once again, the VSC restart caught out several drivers. Shwartzman ran wide through Turn 10 with cold tyres and was passed down the straight by Hughes, although Shwartzman was able to regroup and take back third into Turn 13. Meanwhile Boschung was slow to react and was passed by both Daruvala and Pourchaire, with Daruvala coming out on top in fifth.

Daruvala then set the fastest lap shortly after and joined the battle for third at just half a tenth off Hughes and Shwartzman. But despite his speed he also couldn’t find a way past, and on lap 15 Daruvala then spun at Turn 15 and dropped all the way down to 12th place.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Back at the front Ticktum had come out best over Vips in both of the VSC restarts and had a four-second lead by the start of lap 10. Vips started to come back at the Carlin with a series of fastest laps and brought the gap down to 2.5 seconds by lap 13.

But Vips also ran wide several times as he struggled to keep temperature in his brakes and tyres, and so he was never able to get on the back of Ticktum. He managed to close to within two seconds on lap 16, but with only two laps remaining there wasn’t enough time to challenge for the lead.

After Vips had a few more offs in the final laps, Ticktum crossed the line to take victory with 4.5 seconds in hand over the Hitech while Shwartzman finished third.

Hughes took his first F2 points with fourth place ahead of Pourchaire, who also recorded the fastest lap late on for an extra two points. Boschung survived a pair of lockups late in the race to finish in sixth place over Lundgaard, and Verschoor come home in eighth to deny Piastri the final point.

Ralph Boschung, Campos (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

F3 Spa preview: can anyone stop Hauger’s runaway title challenge?

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

Alex Smolyar (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

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.

Clement Novalak, Trident (Eric Alonso, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

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.

F3 Hungary: Nannini storms to first victory in race two

Matteo Nannini took his maiden Formula 3 victory in the second Hungaroring sprint race, while Dennis Hauger put in another charging drive to increase his championship lead.

Nannini started the race from third on the reverse grid behind Enzo Fittipaldi and Roman Stanek, neither of whom had won before in F3 either. Although Fittipaldi looked to have the lead covered heading into Turn 1, Nannini made a late braking lunge around the outside to jump from third to alongside the Charouz.

Fittipaldi held the position, helped in part by a lockup from Nannini through Turn 3, forcing Nannini to settle back into second ahead of Stanek. The trio led a chaotic opening lap that also saw three cars stalled on the starting grid, and a collision between Oliver Rasmussen and Olli Caldwell that left Caldwell with a broken front wing and well outside the points.

Olli Caldwell, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Fittipaldi set an early fastest lap, but Nannini stuck with him. At the start of lap 4, Nannini closed to the back of Fittipaldi under DRS and passed him for the lead around the outside into Turn 1. Fittipaldi tried to fight back through the following corners, but although Nannini locked up at Turn 3 the HWA managed to stay ahead.

Once in front, Nannini put the clear air ahead to good use to open up a 2-second gap by lap 8. As that increased even further to almost three seconds by the halfway stage, Fittipaldi was unable to keep up and instead had Stanek and fourth-placed Alex Smolyar on his tail.

Fittipaldi managed to stabilise by lap 15 and drop Stanek out of DRS range, but by this point Nannini was too far up the road to catch. Nannini crossed the line with a comfortable lead to take the victory, with Fittipaldi and Stanek following him across the line in second and third.

While the podium battle was settled early on, the midfield played host to several close fights in the closing laps. Jack Doohan was running in fifth behind Smolyar for most of the race, but his tyres faded on lap 16 and he was passed by teammate David Schumacher at Turn 3.

David Schumacher, Trident (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Doohan then fell prey to Dennis Hauger two laps later at the outside of Turn 1, before tumbling back through the order. Lorenzo Colombo and Clement Novalak demoted him to ninth at the start of lap 19, which then became eleventh as Logan Sargeant and Ayumu Iwasa found their way past the Trident before the end of the lap.

On the penultimate lap Hauger made up another place by launching around the outside of Schumacher at Turn 1 to take fifth. He even managed to catch up to fourth-placed Smolyar by the end of the lap, although didn’t have enough time to pass the ART before the chequered flag.

Hauger crossed the line fifth behind Smolyar to add another six points to his championship tally. Schumacher was sixth, and Colombo, Novalak, Sargeant and Iwasa rounded out the points.

F3 Hungary: Iwasa inherits race one win after Colombo penalised

Hitech’s Ayumu Iwasa has inherited the victory in the opening Hungaroring sprint race, after original winner Lorenzo Colombo was handed a post-race penalty.

Colombo was penalised for dropping more than ten car lengths behind the safety car late in the race. Drivers are only allowed to do so after the safety car has turned out its lights prior to the restart. Colombo was handed a five-second time penalty for the infringement, which drops him from first and seventh.

Iwasa therefore inherits the win, with Olli Caldwell moving up to second place and Logan Sargeant taking his first podium of the year in third. Clement Novalak is now fourth, Dennis Hauger fifth, and Alex Smolyar sixth. David Schumacher, Jack Doohan and Matteo Nannini remain eighth, ninth and tenth behind Colombo.

F3 Hungary: Colombo and Campos take emotional maiden win in first sprint race

Lorenzo Colombo scored his and Campos Racing’s first Formula 3 win in the opening Hungaroring sprint race, beating the Red Bull juniors of Jonny Edgar and Ayumu Iwasa.

Colombo started the race from second on the grid behind reverse polesitter Edgar. The Italian looked to the inside of Edgar at Turn 1, but had to slip back to hold second as Iwasa tried to take them both around the outside.

The top three ran in single file in the first few laps, and quickly broke the DRS gap back to Olli Caldwell in third. But despite Edgar, Colombo and Iwasa being separated by just a second in total, neither was able to make any move to change the order.

Jonny Edgar, Carlin (GEPA pictures, Manfred Binder / Red Bull Content Pool)

That changed soon after though, as Colombo started putting in a sequence of good laps to close up more on Edgar. At the beginning of lap 8 Colombo drew alongside Edgar under DRS on the start/finish straight and swept around the outside at Turn 1 to take the lead.

But as Colombo settled in front of Edgar, the Carlin started slowing with a mechanical problem and dropping down the order. As Edgar fell out of the points and eventually pulled over to retire, Iwasa inherited second and Caldwell third.

Iwasa wasn’t able to pressure Colombo for the lead though, as he himself had to defend second from Caldwell. Just two laps after taking first place, Colombo had already opened up a second gap over Iwasa to protect from the DRS threat.

Colombo’s drive to victory was briefly worried on lap 16, when Frederik Vesti came to a halt by the track and brought out a safety car. But at the restart on lap 19, Colombo went early through the final corner and caught Iwasa off guard, and restored his one second gap within two laps.

Ayumu Iwasa, Hitech (Red Bull Content Pool)

Colombo eventually crossed the line with a 1.5 second lead, and dedicated his win to team founder Adrian Campos, who passed away in January this year. Iwasa scored his first F3 podium in second, while Caldwell finished in third and moves up to second place in the championship.

Logan Sargeant finished fourth for Charouz ahead of Clement Novalak. Championship leader Dennis Hauger took sixth place from eleventh on the grid, having made up places at the safety car restart. Alex Smolyar, David Schumacher, Jack Doohan and Matteo Nannini rounded out the points, and Enzo Fittipaldi finished twelfth to take pole for race 2.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F3 Austria: Hauger wins chaotic sprint race after leaders collide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F2 Monaco preview: can Zhou extend his championship lead?

Formula 2 will take to the streets of Monaco this weekend, as the second round of the 2021 championship gets underway.

This weekend, the action will run from Thursday to Saturday rather than Friday to Sunday. Instead of both sprint races taking place on Saturday, the first will be at midday local time on Friday and the second at 8:20am on Saturday, with the feature race then at 17:15 on Saturday evening.

Alpine vs Red Bull

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

The opening round of the season left us with a fascinating picture of the Alpine and Red Bull junior stables battling it out at the top of the standings.

Alpine came away with the upper hand, with Oscar Piastri and Guanyu Zhou taking two of the three wins in Bahrain and Zhou leading the championship.

But Red Bull’s juniors aren’t far behind, as Liam Lawson sits just 11 points behind Zhou with a sprint race win and a third place under his belt already. And then there’s Jehan Daruvala, who was rapid across the Bahrain weekend and is 7 points clear of Piastri in third despite not taking a victory last time out.

Monaco presents a great chance for Zhou to make up some ground on his less-experienced rivals. As one of only three drivers on this weekend’s grid to have raced in Monaco in F2 before, Zhou has some crucial experience around the tricky track — not only that, but he scored a third place on his last outing at the principality.

Inconsistency has been the bane of Zhou’s campaigns in the past. So if he can notch up more big points and top three finishes in Monte Carlo, he’ll be well on the way to turning a strong start into a strong year.

Second chance at a first impression

Juri Vips, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

While Lawson, Piastri and Zhou left Bahrain with winners’ trophies, their teammates ended the first round of the season with some regrouping to do.

Robert Shwartzman, the championship favourite before the season, only sits five points behind Piastri in the standings, but he seemed a long way off the Australian’s pace throughout the Bahrain weekend. Meanwhile, Felipe Drugovich managed only 2 points to Zhou’s 41, and Lawson’s Hitech teammate Juri Vips had a torrid weekend of penalties and points-free finishes.

But with Bahrain almost two months in the rearview mirror now, those three have had plenty of time to pick themselves up and look to Monaco as a second chance to start off their season well.

And as Monaco is such a difficult circuit to master, Shwartzman, Vips and Drugovich will know that all it takes is one error for their teammates while they score decent points themselves, and Bahrain will just be a minor blip rather than an omen for the season.

Return of the Jack

Jack Aitken (Courtesy of Williams Media)

Together with Zhou and Ralph Boschung, one other driver will head to Monaco with F2 experience of the principality: Jack Aitken. He’ll be returning to F2 this weekend and at Baku with HWA, replacing Matteo Nannini who’s left the series after sponsorship trouble to focus on his Formula 3 campaign.

Aitken hasn’t had the best history at Monaco, with a highest finish of 7th in the 2018 feature race. But he does bring a wealth of experience at this level to help HWA move forward, and his record as a multiple F2 winner and audacious overtaker will make him someone for the rest of the field to beware.