F3 2020 season review

The 2020 FIA Formula 3 season ended with a bang last weekend at Mugello. ART’s Theo Pourchaire came within touching distance of flipping the championship on its head after title contender Logan Sargeant crashed out on the opening lap, but ultimately it was Prema’s Oscar Piastri who came through to be crowned the 2020 drivers’ champion.

With all the prizes now handed out, it’s time to look back on what will go down as a memorable season—not just for the circumstances surrounding it, but for the brilliant racing seen all year long.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of FIA Formula 3 media)

The fight at the top

Obviously, any review of this year’s F3 season has to start with its champion Oscar Piastri and his rivals for the crown.

From his win in the first race of the season, there was little doubt that Piastri would be one of the major players in the title battle right through to the end. Although it took him until the Barcelona sprint race to win again, Piastri’s podiums and strong points finishes kept him in the championship lead right up until round five at Silverstone, when Logan Sargeant’s first F3 win set up a close title fight between the two Premas.

His season wasn’t perfect. Considering he won the title, it’s surprising that Piastri did so with fewer wins than Frederik Vesti or Liam Lawson, and fewer podiums than Theo Pourchaire. More surprisingly, Piastri scored no pole positions at all this year—by comparison, Sargeant took three and qualified ahead of Piastri in almost every round.

All of which must make the final result of the 2020 season tough to swallow for the four drivers above. Despite all outperforming Piastri by one metric or another, the Australian’s consistency meant he was still able to come out on top.

But hopefully, they’ll all come away from the season emboldened by their performances, and the knowledge that the championship could have so easily swung in any of their directions. Pourchaire, Sargeant, Vesti and Lawson would all have been just as deserving a champion as Piastri, and will surely be contenders once again if they stay in F3 next year.

Alex Peroni, Campos (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Who else impressed?

While much of the focus this year was on the battle for the championship, there were still plenty more standout performances from drivers up and down the grid.

Alex Peroni was one such. His 2019 F3 debut didn’t start particularly strongly with only two lower points finishes, but it was his vertebrae fractures sustained at Monza that defined it. But Peroni came back a different driver in 2020, taking his maiden podium in the first round with two more to follow at Silverstone and Barcelona, and scoring all of Campos’ 64 points.

Another impressive podium challenger was ART’s Aleksandr Smolyar. While the Russian was a long way off teammate Pourchaire’s results, he showed serious pace all season with a pole position at the Hungaroring and a win at Silverstone, although the latter was taken away by a post-race penalty.

Smolyar’s results wobbled a little after his lost win, but two fourth places at Spa and a podium he could keep at Monza put him back on track and will hopefully set up an even stronger sophomore year in 2021.

Mention should also be made of Ben Barnicoat, Michael Belov and Pierre-Louis Chovet, who all managed to score points acting as last-minute stand-ins for Carlin, Charouz and Hitech respectively. No easy feat by any means, given the steep learning curve of Formula 3.

Jack Doohan, HWA (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Who needs to improve?

As for drivers who’ll need to step up their game if they return to F3 next year, the easy answer is the likes of Cameron Das, Sophia Floersch, Lukas Dunner and Alessio Deledda. Each of these stood out for the unfortunate reason that they scored no points all season, while their respective teammates were able to take frequent points and occasional podiums.

Another driver with the same distinction is Jack Doohan, who finished 26th in the championship while his HWA teammate Jake Hughes took two wins and two further podiums to finish 7th. Doohan is one of a trio of Red Bull juniors along with Dennis Hauger and Igor Fraga who will need to find new form next year after being significantly overshadowed by Lawson this year.

And speaking of F1 junior drivers, there’s also Ferrari’s Enzo Fittipaldi. The Brazilian showed some good speed at certain races this year, and particularly found his form at Mugello where he finished fifth and fourth in the two races. But over the whole season Fittipaldi only finished in the points six times in 18 races.

With highly-rated Ferrari juniors like Gianluca Petecof and Arthur Leclerc potentially targeting F3 next year, Fittipaldi will need to flip this ratio around to avoid falling behind them in the FDA pecking order.

While we won’t know for a while who’ll make up Formula 3’s 2021 grid, the talent and potential seen throughout 2020 gives us a lot to look forward to. In the meantime, F3 will be back on track next month for two post-season tests, at Barcelona on October 5th–6th and Jerez on October 27th–28th.

Igor Fraga, Charouz (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F3 Mugello: Vesti wins feature race as Sargeant levels championship

Frederik Vesti beat Jake Hughes and Lirim Zendelli to victory in the Mugello feature race, as Logan Sargeant drew level with Oscar Piastri in the title standings.

With plenty of championship positions on the line, the race began with a relatively cautious start. Zendelli, Hughes and Vesti, starting from the top three, held their positions into the first corner, while most of the top ten behind them followed through more or less in order. However, Enzo Fittipaldi was shuffled down from his starting position of fourth off the line by Sargeant and Theo Pourchaire.

Zendelli and Hughes, battling for seventh in the standings, began to pull away from the rest of the pack in the opening phase of the race as both set fastest laps early on. While Zendelli initially held a one-second gap over Hughes, a mistake on lap 4 gave the HWA driver a chance into Turn 1 at the start of lap 5.

Zendelli held the position around the outside, but was unable to keep Hughes behind for long. After trying another move on lap 6, Hughes finally got by for first a lap later, hanging on around the outside to take Zendelli into the chicane after Turn 1.

This began a game of cat and mouse between the Trident and the HWA, as Zendelli came back at Hughes on lap 7 to retake the lead before being passed by Hughes again on lap 13.

Jake Hughes, HWA (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

This close fighting for the lead allowed Vesti to draw up enough to join the battle in the second half of the race. On lap 14 Zendelli went deep into Turn 1 trying to repass Hughes, and this put Vesti within a few tenths of the Trident. A lap later, Vesti moved around the outside into Turn 1 and moved ahead of Zendelli into second.

Vesti wasted little time in going after Hughes, and he tried to take the lead at the start of the next lap. Hughes held the inside into Turn 1 to see Vesti off, but a mistake from Hughes later in the lap gave Vesti the opportunity to take first place on lap 17.

Hughes briefly retook the lead on the penultimate lap with another overtake around the outside of Turn 1, but Vesti came back at him at the same corner on the final lap and got back ahead. With few overtaking opportunities later in the lap, Vesti was able to hold on and beat Hughes to his third win of the year.

Zendelli had held on to third for most of the race after dropping behind Vesti. But the consequences of his hard battle with Hughes earlier on meant that he ran out of tyre life in the later stages, and ended up losing third place to Pourchaire on the final lap.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

While Vesti battled for the race win, his Prema teammates Sargeant and Piastri were fighting hard to better their respective championship positions going into tomorrow’s title-deciding sprint race.

After getting up to fourth at the start, Sargeant was unable to keep pace with the top three and ended up fifth behind Pourchaire by the end of the second lap. As Pourchaire then set off in pursuit of the podium, Sargeant’s race settled into one with Fittipaldi to hold fifth place.

Sargeant stayed ahead for most of the race, but Fittipaldi got ahead on lap 17 as Sargeant struggled with oversteer from his fading tyres. Sargeant retook fifth on lap 19, but was unable to hold on to the place and Fittipaldi got back through on the final lap for his best finish of the season so far.

Finishing in sixth wasn’t such a loss to Sargeant, however, as his main rival Piastri failed to score at all. Relegated to 16th on the grid due to a penalty from the Monza sprint race, Piastri’s job was to make as many moves as possible and try to salvage reverse grid pole for tomorrow.

But despite making early progress, picking off the likes of Matteo Nannini, Alex Peroni and Dennis Hauger in the early phase of the race, Piastri’s pace slowed after passing Richard Verschoor for 12th on lap 13. It took Piastri another five laps to take 11th place from Jack Doohan, by which point tenth-placed Liam Lawson was too far ahead for Piastri to reel in by the chequered flag.

Jack Doohan, HWA (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

With Sargeant scoring eight points for sixth, the two Premas are level on 160 points in the championship. Piastri is still ahead on results countback, but he will start tomorrow’s crucial reverse grid race just outside the points, while Sargeant will start from fifth place.

As for the other outside title contenders, only Pourchaire is still able to win the championship tomorrow. His podium has in fact bettered his chances, as the ART driver is now only nine points behind Piastri and Sargeant on 151.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Frederik Vesti Prema Racing 25
2 Jake Hughes HWA Racelab 18
3 Theo Pourchaire ART Grand Prix 15
4 Lirim Zendelli (FL) Trident 14
5 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab 10
6 Logan Sargeant Prema Racing 8
7 Aleksandr Smolyar ART Grand Prix 6
8 David Beckmann Trident 4
9 Sebastian Fernandez ART Grand Prix 2
10 Liam Lawson Hitech Grand Prix 1
11 Oscar Piastri Prema Racing
12 Richard Verschoor MP Motorsport
13 Jack Doohan HWA Racelab
14 Dennis Hauger Hitech Grand Prix
15 David Schumacher Carlin Buzz Racing
16 Matteo Nannini Jenzer Motorsport
17 Olli Caldwell Trident
18 Federico Malvestiti Jenzer Motorsport
19 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport
20 Alex Peroni Campos Racing
21 Lukas Dunner MP Motorsport
22 Sophia Floersch Campos Racing
23 Cameron Das Carlin Buzz Racing
24 Clement Novalak Carlin Buzz Racing
25 Alessio Deledda Campos Racing
26 Roman Stanek Charouz Racing System
27 Michael Belov Charouz Racing System
28 Bent Viscaal MP Motorsport

F3 Great Britain: Lawson holds off Premas for feature race win

Liam Lawson took his second win of the Formula 3 season at the Silverstone feature race, seeing off the Premas of Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant in a race fraught with incidents.

Lawson started from second behind polesitter Sargeant. Although Sargeant held first off the line, Lawson was close enough to harry him throughout the opening lap and make a lunge around the outside of Stowe to steal the lead.

After a brief interruption on lap 4, when Matteo Nannini slowed on track and brought out a Virtual Safety Car, Lawson began pulling away from Sargeant. The American driver then dropped back into the clutches of teammate Piastri, who demoted Sargeant to third on lap 7.

Piastri was better able to keep pace with Lawson than Sargeant, closing to within half a second by lap 9. On lap 11 Piastri drew alongside Lawson under DRS and looked set to take first place, but the Australian ran wide over the kerbs and couldn’t complete the move.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Bryn Lennon / Getty Images)

With Piastri right on his tail, Lawson was handed a saving grace shortly after when the safety car was deployed for Bent Viscaal, who spun after contact with Ben Barnicoat through Luffield and collected Jack Doohan’s HWA.

The safety car remained out for four laps, but was then redeployed almost immediately when Olli Caldwell spun in the middle of the pack and was hit heavily by Lukas Dunner and Max Fewtrell.

With Caldwell’s rear wing and suspension across the track, the race went on to end under the safety car, preserving Lawson’s first place over Piastri and Sargeant.

Jake Hughes finished fourth ahead of the third Prema of Frederik Vesti, with Alex Peroni climbing up from 18th on the grid to take sixth. Sebastian Fernandez finished seventh, Clement Novalak took eighth and the fastest lap, David Beckmann was ninth, and Aleksandr Smolyar took the reverse grid pole for the tomorrow in tenth.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Liam Lawson Hitech 25
2 Oscar Piastri Prema 18
3 Logan Sargeant Prema 15
4 Jake Hughes HWA 12
5 Frederik Vesti Prema 10
6 Alex Peroni Campos 8
7 Sebastian Fernandez ART 6
8 Clement Novalak (FL) Carlin 6
9 David Beckmann Trident 2
10 Aleksandr Smolyar ART 1
11 Richard Verschoor MP Motorsport
12 Theo Pourchaire ART
13 Lirim Zendelli Trident
14 Calan Williams Jenzer
15 Igor Fraga Charouz
16 Dennis Hauger Hitech
17 Roman Stanek Charouz
18 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA
19 Federico Malvestiti Jenzer
20 Ben Barnicoat Carlin
21 Cameron Das Carlin
22 Sophia Floersch Campos
23 Matteo Nannini Jenzer
24 Alessio Deledda Campos
25 David Schumacher Charouz
Ret. Olli Caldwell Trident
Ret. Max Fewtrell Hitech
Ret. Lukas Dunner MP Motorsport
Ret. Bent Viscaal MP Motorsport
Ret. Jack Doohan HWA

F3 Austria preview: will Prema reign supreme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the 2019 Red Bull Junior Team

While Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon have grabbed the headlines this summer, there’s more to the Red Bull driver programme than just their Formula 1 stable. We take a look at each of their upcoming young talents, from karting all the way to the F1 feeder series’.

Juri Vips

Juri Vips celebrating victory at the Red Bull Ring (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Juri Vips is perhaps the closest Red Bull junior to Formula One right now. The 19-year-old Estonian joined the programme ahead of last year’s Macau Grand Prix, after becoming an F4 champion in 2017 and finishing fourth in the 2018 European F3 series. He is currently driving for Hitech in FIA F3, and is running second with two victories to his name.

Patricio O’Ward

Patricio OWard racing Super Formula at Motegi (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Red Bull’s newest signing is Patricio O’Ward, winner of the 2017 WeatherTech Sportscar and 2018 Indy Lights championships. O’Ward has had a mixed 2019 so far, racing a part-time IndyCar entry with Carlin after losing his initial Harding Steinbrenner Racing drive due to sponsorship issues. With Red Bull backing he has since made appearances in F2 for MP Motorsport and Super Formula with Team Mugen.

Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda driving for Jenzer at the Hungaroring (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

2018 Japanese F4 champion Yuki Tsunoda joined the Red Bull programme through his links with the Honda Formula Dream Project. Red Bull currently has the 19-year-old racing on the F1 support bill in FIA F3 with Jenzer Motorsport. Tsunoda is also driving for Team Motopark in the Euroformula Open series, where he is running fourth in the standings with one win.

Lucas Auer

Lucas Auer on his way to third at SUGO (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

24-year-old Austrian Lucas Auer is another one of Red Bull’s new 2019 signings. Auer has flirted with the pinnacle of motorsport already, having challenged for titles in Formula 3 and DTM and tested Force India’s F1 car in 2017. He has joined O’Ward in Super Formula for this year, and took his first podium of the series at Sportsland SUGO.

Liam Lawson

Liam Lawson in the FIA F3 paddock (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

New Zealander Liam Lawson joined Red Bull this year just a few days after his 17th birthday—and after securing the Toyota Racing Series title over Ferrari junior Marcus Armstrong. Lawson has continued to race Armstrong in FIA F3 this year, driving for MP Motorsport. He is also placed third in Euroformula Open with two victories to his name.

Jack Doohan

Jack Doohan at the Red Bull Ring (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Son of MotoGP legend Mick Doohan, Jack Doohan has joined fellow Red Bull juniors Lawson and Tsunoda in this year’s Euroformula Open Championship. He is currently seventh in the standings with two second places and six other points finishes. Doohan has also taken multiple victories driving for Hitech in Asian F3 this year.

Dennis Hauger

Dennis Hauger celebrating victory in ADAC F4 (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

After a successful Formula 4 debut last year, Red Bull has rewarded 16-year-old Dennis Hauger with a dual programme in Italian F4 and ADAC F4 for 2019. Driving for Van Amersfoort Racing in both series’, the Norwegian driver has taken six wins and seven pole positions altogether this year and is currently second in the Italian standings.

Jonny Edgar

Jonny Edgar driving in the Italian F4 Championship (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

15-year-old British driver Jonny Edgar has stepped up to his first season of racing cars this year, driving for Jenzer Motorsport in the Italian F4 Championship. He is currently 13th in the standings after six points finishes, the best of which so far is a fifth place at the Hungaroring. Like Hauger, he is also entered in the ADAC F4 series.

Harry Thompson

Harry Thompson in the 2018 WSK Final Cup (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Having only turned 15 earlier this month, Harry Thompson is the youngest current member of the Red Bull Junior Team. After being named FIA Karting Rookie of the Year in 2018, Thompson is continuing his karting career this year in both European and British championships.