F2 Sochi preview: focus on 2021

Formula 2 returns this weekend for round 10 of the championship at Russia’s Sochi Autodrom, where all the field will now be driving with one eye on their 2021 plans.

With only three rounds of the season left, the focus of the championship has shifted to who’s gunning for an F1 graduation, and who’s teeing up a campaign for next year’s F2 title. Obviously the driver attracting the most spotlight at the moment is championship leader Mick Schumacher, who is reported to be a firm favourite for one of Alfa Romero’s 2021 seats.

If Schumacher wants to solidify his chances he’ll have to continue to pull away from his title rivals Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman. And doing that means having a much better weekend in Sochi than he did last year, when he scored nothing after retiring from both races. A repeat of that this year would be disastrous for his title aspirations.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

For Shwartzman in particular though, a troubled weekend for the title leader would be just what he needs. After two non-scores last time out at Mugello, Shwartzman has now dropped to fourth in the standings behind Schumacher, Ilott and Christian Lundgaard, and is 21 points off the championship lead he’d previously held for so long.

Shwartzman fortunately has a great relationship with the Sochi Autodrom to help him this weekend. As well as being the Russian’s home circuit, it was at this track last year that he wrapped up the Formula 3 title in commanding fashion, with pole position and two podiums to leave him 54 points ahead of runner-up Marcus Armstrong.

If Shwartzman can bring that kind of form again this year, there’s no reason he can’t make up for Mugello and get right back in the title hunt.

Another driver whose 2021 F1 shot is looking in danger after Mugello is Yuki Tsunoda. After his pole and win in the Spa feature race made him a shoe-in for AlphaTauri next year, Tsunoda has only scored once in the five races since. Crucially, he’s dropped from fourth to sixth in the standings, and if he doesn’t improve from there he won’t secure the superlicense points he needs to move up to F1.

What Tsunoda needs most of all is a clean race weekend. He’s shown no lack of speed since Spa, but some scruffy racing like his incidents with Dan Ticktum and Felipe Drugovich at Mugello have kept that speed from translating into the points finishes Red Bull are expecting of him.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

What makes things more difficult for Tsunoda is that he’s racing for that fourth spot against Lundgaard and Nikita Mazepin. Both drivers are on excellent form and will almost certainly be title contenders if they remain in F2 next year.

Neither of them had a particularly profitable outing at Sochi last year. Mazepin finished eighth in the F2 feature race but retired from the sprint race, while Lundgaard finished fourteenth and ninth in the two F3 races.

But in terms of their recent results, Mazepin and Lundgaard are both riding high as the winners of the Mugello feature and sprint race respectively. Lundgaard especially has a lot of momentum behind him, as he was on pole for the Mugello feature race as well and scored a double podium at Monza the week before.

Lundgaard’s results have put him back into the championship’s top three after a run of non-scores in the middle of the season knocked him down the order. Although he’s touted as one of next year’s title favourites, the Dane is only 16 points off Schumacher and could be a surprise late contender for the 2020 crown instead.

Giuliano Alesi, MP Motorsport (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

There have been two driver changes ahead of Sochi. Nobuharu Matsushita has left MP Motorsport, saying in a statement that he’s “decided to move on to fresh challenges elsewhere”. He’s been replaced by Giuliano Alesi who moves over from HWA, and in turn HWA have promoted their F3 driver Jake Hughes to take Alesi’s seat.

Alesi will be hoping that MP, who have won three races this year with Matsushita and Drugovich, will provide him with a car more capable of challenging for points than HWA. Alesi’s only points this year came with sixth place in the opening race in Austria.

Finally, Juri Vips will continue to drive for DAMS this weekend. The Estonian was initially only due to replace the injured Sean Gelael for three rounds ending with Mugello, but this has been extended to include Sochi as well.

Jake Hughes, HWA (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

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: Piastri beats Pourchaire to title after Sargeant crash

Oscar Piastri was crowned the 2020 Formula 3 champion after the Mugello sprint race finale, overcoming a late charge from outside contender Theo Pourchaire after main rival Logan Sargeant retired from a first lap collision.

Sargeant started the race as the highest title contender in fifth on the reverse grid, while Pourchaire started in eighth and Piastri outside the points in 11th. But Sargeant’s title challenge was ended at the second corner of the race when he was squeezed by Sebastian Fernandez into Lirim Zendelli. Sargeant and Zendelli both went off into the gravel, and despite Sargeant’s efforts he couldn’t make it back to the track and was out of the race.

As the safety car came out to recover Sargeant and Zendelli’s cars, Piastri looked set to take the title as he ran seventh with his only remaining rival Pourchaire behind in eighth. But at the restart on lap 4 Pourchaire immediately leapt past Piastri and then Jake Hughes for sixth as he tried to turn his nine-point deficit into an unlikely championship steal.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

As the opening phase of the race unfolded, everything seemed to fall into place for Pourchaire’s title hopes. As he passed his ART teammate Aleksandr Smolyar for fifth and targeted the podium positions he needed to become champion, Piastri struggled for pace and was shuffled down to tenth by his own teammate Frederik Vesti.

But after Pourchaire passed Enzo Fittipaldi and Sebastian Fernandez to reach third place in the second half of the race, Piastri’s pace started to recover. The Australian took ninth from the struggling Smolyar at the same time as Pourchaire passed Fernandez, meaning that Piastri would still have enough points to win the championship if Pourchaire couldn’t improve to second.

With 1.5s between Pourchaire and second-placed David Beckmann on lap 17, it looked far from unlikely that Pourchaire would be able to take the position. But while Piastri’s pace was improving, Pourchaire’s earlier charge took its toll on his tyres and he was unable to make up much of the gap between him and Beckmann.

Meanwhile, Piastri continued picking off the lower top ten to make Pourchaire’s job even more difficult. On lap 18 Piastri passed Vesti for eighth place, then caught Fernandez as the ART dropped back through the field and took seventh place in a drag race to the line on the final lap.

Finishing seventh with Pourchaire third, Piastri won the championship by three points, while Pourchaire took the runner-up position from Sargeant by one point.

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

The sprint race was won by Liam Lawson, who put in a commanding performance from pole to win by almost seven seconds from Beckmann. The win gave Lawson fifth place in the championship ahead of Beckmann, although both were kept out of the top four by Vesti.

Fittipaldi took his best result of the season just behind the podium in fourth, ahead of Richard Verschoor and Hughes. Behind Piastri and Fernandez, the final points were taken by Vesti and Smolyar, with Vesti also earning the bonus two points for the fastest lap.

Full race result:

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

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 Monza: Hughes takes sprint race win as all three Premas retire

Jake Hughes took victory in another Formula 3 thriller at Monza, while teams’ champions Prema endured a nightmare race with Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant and Frederik Vesti all retiring after incidents.

The race started with Lirim Zendelli jumping from fourth to first off the line, while reverse polesitter Michael Belov slipped back to fifth and Hughes went from sixth up to third ahead of Liam Lawson. At the back of the grid, title contender Sargeant started his recovery from 26th by climbing five places off the grid.

The opening laps saw Zendelli and Enzo Fittipaldi scrapping over the lead. Fittipaldi took the position on lap 5, but the two continued exchanging first and second until the run down to Rettifilo at the start of lap 8. Fittipaldi started the lap ahead, but as he defended the corner from Zendelli the two made contact and Fittipaldi dropped out of the fight with a punctured rear tyre.

Lawson then assumed the lead from Hughes as Zendelli dropped down the order as well. The Premas of Vesti and Piastri moved up into third and fourth respectively, having made steady progress from the bottom of the top ten, while Sargeant found himself in the points in tenth.

Enzo Fittipaldi, HWA (Sebastiaan Rozendaal, Dutch Photo Agency / Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Sargeant’s luck then seemed to improve dramatically on lap 10 as Piastri was spun around at Turn 1 by the attacking Clement Novalak, who spun Sargeant himself out of the points in yesterday’s feature race. David Schumacher and David Beckmann were both caught up in the incident as well, while Sargeant profited from the chaos to leap up to fifth place behind previous race leader Zendelli.

The debris at Rettifilo brought out a brief virtual safety car, but not before Hughes pulled off a well-timed move on Lawson to take the lead of the race. When the race restarted on lap 11, Sargeant continued making progress as Zendelli ran wide through the first Lesmo, gifting Sargeant fourth place and enough points to level the championship battle with Piastri.

Sargeant continued pushing to take third away from teammate Vesti. After narrowly avoiding contact on lap 17 when Vesti locked up into Turn 1, and with the likes of Zendelli and Theo Pourchaire closing in on the battling Premas, Sargeant dove to the inside into Ascari on lap 19 and squeezed Vesti out to guarantee the position.

However, the move ended horribly for both drivers as they made contact on the first apex of the chicane, leaving Sargeant with a puncture and Vesti with front wing damage, which proved terminal for both drivers.

Aleksandr Smolyar, ART (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

With three laps left on the board, Pourchaire inherited third behind Lawson and race leader Hughes, and the podium remained this way until the chequered flag. Zendelli looked to have the pace to pass Pourchaire before the end, but was instead passed by the second ART of Aleksandr Smolyar on the last lap, and finished fifth behind the Russian.

Alex Peroni took sixth ahead of Pierre-Louis Chovet, earning his first points since debuting with Hitech at the last round in Belgium. Roman Stanek was eighth for Charouz ahead of Trident’s Olli Caldwell, and Richard Verschoor took the final point in tenth.

Heading now into the final round of the season at Mugello, Piastri maintains the eight-point lead he gained over Sargeant at the start of the weekend. Lawson returns to third in the standings over Pourchaire, with both still mathematically able to challenge for the title at 25 and 26 points adrift of Piastri.

Full race result:

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

F3 Monza: Vesti wins as Piastri claws back title lead

Frederik Vesti took his second feature race win of the season at Monza, as his teammate Oscar Piastri recovered to the podium from 15th on the grid to take back the championship lead.

The race started with a mixed-up grid as nine drivers including pole winner Theo Pourchaire were penalised for driving unnecessarily slowly to set up their final flying laps. Hitech’s Liam Lawson inherited pole ahead of Matteo Nannini and Jake Hughes, while Pourchaire dropped to sixth behind Logan Sargeant.

But despite losing pole, Pourchaire leapt back into contention for the win at the start. After passing Sargeant and Calan Williams for fourth off the line, the Frenchman then took third from Hughes in the opening corners. Second place followed on lap two with a pass on Nannini, as Pourchaire set the fastest lap to keep close to the leading Lawson.

Pourchaire caught Lawson on lap 4 and took the lead from the Red Bull junior. Setting another fastest lap in the process, Pourchaire began pulling away from the field with what looked set to be a dominant early lead.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

While Pourchaire was lighting up the timing screen in front, Vesti was taking advantage of mistakes from the drivers around him to make steady progress through the field.

Starting from ninth on the grid, Vesti passed his teammate Sargeant for eighth on lap 4 after the American ran wide battling with Alex Peroni. He gained seventh place shortly after when Igor Fraga went off at the Rettifilo, then moved up to fifth when Peroni spun round Williams on lap 7.

On lap 9, Nannini collided with Lawson trying to take away third and retired with front suspension damage. The incident allowed Vesti to close up on Lawson, and on lap 12 he forced his way into third into the second Lesmo.

Vesti’s progress was briefly halted when Sebastian Fernandez spun off and brought out the safety car. But at the restart Vesti immediately pounced on Hughes to take second place, with just a second splitting him from Pourchaire.

After cutting the gap down to five tenths, Vesti took the lead from Pourchaire at Rettifilo with three laps to go, and led the ART home until the chequered flag.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Vesti’s teammate Piastri took third place in a race of contrasting fortunes for him and title rival Sargeant.

After the qualifying penalties played out, Sargeant emerged as the luckier of the two as he was elevated to fifth while Piastri remained in 15th place. But when the race began Sargeant seemed to lack pace compared to the cars around him. After losing out to Pourchaire and running wide battling with Fraga in the opening laps, Sargeant then went off at Rettifilo on lap 5 and dropped to 11th, just in front of Piastri.

The two Premas jostled each other for position as they both inched their way up into the lower top ten. After Sargeant fought back to keep ahead of Piastri just after his mistake, Piastri got definitively ahead of the American on lap 10 while they fought over eighth place. Piastri then managed to put a car between him and Sargeant as he passed Lirim Zendelli for seventh.

At the safety car restart on lap 14 Piastri gained sixth place from David Beckmann. But more importantly for the championship battle, behind him Sargeant was tapped into a spin by Clement Novalak at the Della Roggia chicane and dropped right to the back of the field.

With Sargeant’s chances of scoring points effectively gone, Piastri’s sixth was already enough to return him to the top of the standings. But instead of holding steady, Piastri continued pushing forward. After taking fifth from Peroni on lap 18, Piastri then breezed past Lawson for fourth at the same time as Vesti took the lead from Pourchaire. Finally, Piastri caught and passed Hughes on the penultimate lap to move himself up onto the podium.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 05: Race winner Frederik Vesti of Denmark and Prema Racing, second placed Theo Pourchaire of France and ART Grand Prix and third placed Oscar Piastri of Australia and Prema Racing celebrate on the podium during race one of the Formula 3 Championship at Autodromo di Monza on September 05, 2020 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Hughes lost a further place on the final lap, with Beckmann beating him to the line in fourth. Lawson finished sixth ahead of Zendelli, Bent Viscaal and Enzo Fittipaldi. Michael Belov finished tenth for Charouz for his first point in F3.

With Sargeant eventually finishing the race in 26th, Piastri now has an eight-point lead in the standings, which is likely to increase tomorrow as Sargeant will be starting the sprint race well outside the points.

But despite Sargeant’s non-score, Vesti’s win and Piastri’s podium was enough for Prema to wrap up the teams’ championship with three races still to go.

Full race result:

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

F3 Monza preview: no room for error in penultimate round

Formula 3 is back in action this weekend at Monza for the penultimate round of the 2020 championship.

What stands out most of all as the F3 field heads to Italy’s Temple of Speed is how tight several of the key championship battles are this late in the season.

Obviously the first of those battles to look at is the one between Prema’s Logan Sargeant and Oscar Piastri for the F3 title itself. After Piastri retook the title lead with a sprint race win in Barcelona, Sargeant returned the favour at Spa with his second win of the season, and the American now has the lead over his teammate again.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

It is mathematically possible for Sargeant to win the championship this weekend. However, with only seven points currently separating them, he’d need everything to align perfectly and to outscore Piastri by 42 points across the two races.

It’s not impossible, but given Piastri has only failed to score in one race this season (and aside from that, hasn’t finished lower than eighth), it’s much more likely that Monza will set up a title showdown next week in Mugello instead.

Of the two, Sargeant has had the better track record at Monza so far in his career. He won there in his 2018 Formula Renault NEC campaign, and last year in F3 he finished in the top ten in both races for the uncompetitive Carlin team.

But although Piastri has yet to reach the podium at Monza, Prema will surely give him a car as capable of winning as Robert Shwartzman’s was in last year’s feature race, meaning he’ll be more than ready to take the fight to Sargeant on Saturday.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Just behind the top two is the tightest battle in the field, between David Beckmann and Liam Lawson for third in the standings. Beckmann currently holds the place but only by half a point, with Lawson on a much better run of form with podiums in every round since Silverstone.

Lawson ran well in Monza last year as well, taking second in the sprint race. However, Beckmann has experience of winning at the Temple of Speed as recently as 2018, having taken the GP3 feature race for Trident.

For Lawson, taking third place in the championship is all about recovering from the disastrous run of retirements that derailed his title campaign early in the year, and also convincing Red Bull to move him up the F1 feeder series ladder next year.

For Beckmann, he’ll be thinking of helping Trident to beat ART in their battle for second in the teams’ standings.

David Beckmann, Trident (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Further back again, just 5.5 points cover Jake Hughes, Richard Verschoor and Alex Peroni in the lower positions of the championship top ten.

The three drivers have had wildly different seasons so far. Peroni has the most podiums of the trio with three, but Hughes’ feature race win in Barcelona means he’s currently the one on top, while Verschoor has only had the one podium but scored more consistently across the year.

Monza is sure to be a significant race for Peroni, as it was in last year’s feature race that a frightening crash at the Parabolica left the Australian with a fractured vertebrae.

Since then he’s come back much stronger to lead Campos this year, and it would be a great result for him to move on from last year with another good result this weekend.

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

F3 Spain: Hughes takes feature race win

Jake Hughes took his first win of the 2020 Formula 3 season in the Barcelona feature race, beating polesitter Logan Sargeant.

Sargeant held first place at the start with a decent launch over Hughes, but was unable to drop the HWA over the opening laps. Following a brief safety car brought out by Bent Viscaal going off on lap 1, Hughes was able to keep within half a second of Sargeant while he waited for DRS to be enabled.

Hughes was close enough to make a move on lap 7, and he swept around the outside of Sargeant at Turn 1 to take the lead. Almost immediately, Hughes was able to break over a second away from Sargeant, while the American started to come under pressure from Liam Lawson running in third.

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

The safety car came back out on lap 9 when Frederik Vesti’s Prema ground to a halt on track. But Sargeant wasn’t able to use the restart to gain on Hughes, who broke almost a second clear before setting the fastest lap the next time around.

Sargeant then found himself with Lawson half a second behind. Lawson tried two moves to the inside of Turn 1 on laps 18 and 19 but Sargeant was able to hold him off each time. But on lap 20 Lawson tried around the outside instead, and this time took the position to finish second behind Hughes.

Sargeant remained on the podium on third, taking valuable points in the championship battle as his main rival Oscar Piastri had another tricky race. After battling in the early laps to keep fourth from Clement Novalak, Piastri ran wide at the second safety car restart and dropped behind Novalak and David Beckmann.

Piastri was unable to recover the positions and finished the race in sixth, three places down on Sargeant. Theo Pourchaire took seventh ahead of Alex Peroni and Richard Verschoor, while Matteo Nannini put his Jenzer into tenth to take his and the team’s first point of the season.

Alex Peroni, Campos (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Full race result:

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

F3 Spain preview: Sargeant goes from hunter to hunted

Formula 3 returns this weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, with Prema’s Logan Sargeant heading into the round as the new championship leader.

After winning the second feature race at Silverstone last weekend, Sargeant became the first driver to take the title lead away from Oscar Piastri, who had previously held it ever since his win in the first race of the season in Austria. That switch puts Sargeant in a tricky position this weekend, as his task has turned from catching Piastri to expanding the slender one-point lead over his Prema teammate.

Sargeant’s key advantage in this fight is his qualifying pace. The American has so far outqualified Piastri at all but one round this season, and took both pole positions at the last two rounds in Silverstone. However, Sargeant’s so far struggled to convert that advantage on race day, as he’s ultimately finished behind Piastri in every feature race bar his victory last weekend.

The key to Sargeant’s title campaign, then, will be a consistent weekend in which he can qualify and then keep ahead of Piastri. And with only four rounds left to go in the season, he will have to start doing so now before he runs out of time.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Having passed the halfway mark in the season, Sargeant and Piastri’s fight for the title isn’t the only battle getting tighter as the championship moves to its climax.

David Beckmann currently leads a close train of drivers all in the mix for third in the standings. On 82.5 points, the German has only a 13.5-point buffer separating him from Liam Lawson, Frederik Vesti and Theo Pourchaire. Each has been a race winner this year, and with one good weekend could even jump up to trouble the title protagonists—especially as Beckmann, Lawson and Pourchaire are this season’s only repeat winners so far.

Bent Viscaal became the only winner outside this group at last weekend’s sprint race. However, with 33 points between him and the top six of the championship, Viscaal is currently more in contention for seventh with the likes of Richard Verschoor, Alex Peroni and Lirim Zendelli, as well as Clement Novalak and Jake Hughes behind him.

Of these drivers, Viscaal and Hughes are the ones currently on a run of form. As well as Viscaal’s win, Hughes took his first podium of the year in the second Silverstone feature race, and both are expected to carry that momentum into Spain.

But with this cluster of drivers as close on points as the group just above them, it’s highly likely we’ll come out of Barcelona with a very different championship order to what we have going in.

Bent Viscaal, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Great Britain: Viscaal snatches win from Zendelli in frantic sprint race

Bent Viscaal took victory for MP Motorsport in the Silverstone sprint race, passing long-time leader Lirim Zendelli on the final lap.

Zendelli and Viscaal started second and third on the reverse grid and got a much better start than polesitter Ben Barnicoat to jump into the lead into Turn 1. While Zendelli and Viscaal pulled away in front, Barnicoat found himself under pressure to hold third from David Beckmann, Theo Pourchaire and Liam Lawson, who had all leapt past Oscar Piastri off the line.

The battles for first and third were halted on lap 2 when Lukas Dunner and Calan Williams came together to bring out the safety car. When the race resumed on lap 6, Zendelli and Viscaal once again moved clear of the pack with several seconds back to Barnicoat.

Despite being separated by just half a second for most of the remaining 15 laps, Zendelli held the lead from Viscaal without challenge until the final lap. After setting successive fastest laps and bringing the gap down to just a few tenths, Viscaal made a late dive to the inside of Copse on the final lap, catching Zendelli by surprise and taking the lead.

Zendelli fought back and the two ran side by side through the final corners. But although Zendelli briefly managed to get ahead, Viscaal hung on around the outside of the final corner and came across the line to win by just one tenth over the Trident.

Lirim Zendelli, Trident (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

As Viscaal and Zendelli fought over the lead, a fierce battle raged behind them for third place. Barnicoat put in an impressive performance to hold the position early on from the more experienced drivers behind him. But on lap 11, the British driver pulled off the track with a mechanical problem with his Carlin, elevating Pourchaire into third.

Pourchaire was immediately forced into defending from Beckmann. On lap 16 Beckmann made a move for third but ran wide and dropped back to fifth behind Lawson, while Pourchaire was shown the black and white flag for weaving in his defence.

Lawson then took up the pursuit of third place but was also unable to find a way past Pourchaire in the closing stages. On the final lap, after losing time attacking Pourchaire and running wide out of the last corner, Lawson was then repassed for fourth by Beckmann in a drag race to the line.

Pourchaire took third for his third podium of the season, ahead of Beckmann and Lawson. Piastri took sixth place after a tight battle late in the race with Jake Hughes and Frederik Vesti, who finished seventh and eighth respectively. Clement Novalak finished ninth, and Enzo Fittipaldi took the final point in tenth.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

New championship leader Logan Sargeant retired with damage after contact with Cameron Das on lap 10, meaning he now has only a single point in hand over Piastri with four rounds remaining in the championship. Viscaal’s victory elevates him from 14th in the standings to 10th.

In the teams’ standings Prema has 281.5 points, while second-placed Trident has extended its gap over ART to 18.5 points. Find the full F3 drivers’ and teams’ standings here.

Update: Fittipaldi was given a post-race penalty of five seconds for leaving the track and gaining an advantage when passing Das. The Brazilian drops from 10th to 17th, and Igor Fraga is promoted up to the points.

Full race result:

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