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)

F3 Sochi: Hauger seals title at first chance as Sargeant wins Race 1

Dennis Hauger clinched the 2021 Formula 3 title with a podium finish in the opening Sochi sprint race, which was won by Logan Sargeant for his first victory of the season and Charouz Racing System’s first victory in the series.

Sargeant started the race from second on the reverse grid alongside Victor Martins but seized the lead around the outside of Turn 2. Meanwhile Hauger tried to take third place from Jak Crawford, but after backing out he was forced to defend against Caio Collet in fifth and Alex Smolyar in sixth instead.

But although Hauger’s start didn’t go to plan, things were much worse for his title rival Jack Doohan. Starting from 12th on the reverse grid after claiming pole for the feature race, Doohan found himself caught up in the middle of the pack and bounced onto the kerbs at Turn 2, which dropped him down to 17th in the order.

Logan Sargeant, Charouz (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F3)

With Doohan out of the points and Hauger only needing six points to claim the title he didn’t need to make up any more places in the race. But despite that, Hauger continued pushing forward and putting the pressure on Crawford in third.

On lap 4 Hauger forced Crawford to take a deep defensive line through Turn 2 and used the opportunity to line up a move through Turn 3, putting himself into the podium positions. He then set the fastest lap and started cutting into Martins’ gap in second.

By lap 7 Hauger had gotten within four tenths of Martins and tried the same Turn 2 setup as he had on Crawford three laps earlier. But Martins was able to better hold off Hauger through Turn 3 and used Hauger’s championship considerations to force the Prema to back out.

But despite coming out on top in that battle, Martins couldn’t keep Hauger behind for much longer. On lap 10 Hauger ran within a tenth of Martins as he set up a move, which he then completed to take second a lap later.

With Sargeant little more than three seconds up the road, Hauger set off with the win in his sights. But with half the race done he started to struggle with his rear tyres losing temperature, and found Martins and Collet in fourth filling his mirrors. Meanwhile Clement Novalak, who had taken the fastest lap from Hauger, was rapidly closing on all three of them.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Sargeant ran wide on lap 14 and lost seven tenths from his lead, but Hauger wasn’t able to take advantage of the mistake as he had Martins just two tenths behind him. But before Martins could capitalise on Hauger’s tyres and reclaim second, the virtual safety car was brought out when Tijmen van der Helm retired on the side of the road with an engine failure.

When the VSC was withdrawn a lap later Hauger was able to get the better restart to pull out of DRS range of Martins, while Sargeant was just under two seconds ahead of him. Hauger continued to cut that gap as Sargeant’s own tyres fell off, and he closed to within DRS range of the Charouz on the final lap.

Going through the DRS zone after Turn 10, Hauger closed to four tenths behind Sargeant, but with the title in his hands he held back rather than making a lunge into Turn 13. Sargeant crossed the line just ahead of Hauger, and Martins finished third for his sixth podium of the year.

Novalak come through to take fourth from Collet in the final laps. Lorenzo Colombo took sixth for Campos ahead of Arthur Leclerc, Frederik Vesti, Juan Manuel Correa and Ayumu Iwasa. Crawford fell through the top ten in the latter stages of the race to finish 11th, while Doohan came home in 15th.

F3 Zandvoort: Hauger storms to feature race win

Dennis Hauger claimed his fourth win of the season in the Zandvoort feature race with a lights-to-flag performance that left the rest of the field in his wake.

Hauger seemed to get a slow launch from pole position and had to make a quick defensive move to cut off second-placed David Schumacher into the first corner. But far from being unsettled, Hauger immediately worked to pull away from Schumacher as the Trident came under attack from Victor Martins in third.

As Hauger led the field away, his championship campaign got another boost as his main rival Jack Doohan was tapped from behind by Jak Crawford in Turn 3. Doohan avoided the wall but dropped to sixth behind Clement Novalak and Alex Smolyar.

After only a handful of laps Hauger had already pulled clear of DRS threat from Schumacher, who was driving on his mirrors as Martins put the pressure on for second. With two tenths between them at the start of lap 5 Martins looked to the inside of Schumacher at Turn 1 but was just too far back to pull fully alongside.

David Schumacher, Trident (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Martins tried the move again on lap 9 but with the same result. As he was forced to back out, Novalak came into play behind them and was told by Trident to go on the attack. But Novalak wasn’t any more able than Martins to make an overtake stick, while Smolyar and Doohan joined the DRS train behind him.

With six laps to go Hauger had sprung more than four seconds clear of the pack led by Schumacher. His lead was almost erased when Juan Manuel Correa further down the field forced Matteo Nannini off into the gravel at Turn 1, but Nannini was able to keep his car going and return to the track to avoid bringing out the safety car.

As the laps counted down Schumacher looked to have second place under control. But on lap 22 Martins launched a move up the inside of the Turn 3 banking and clipped Schumacher’s left rear, spinning the Trident into the barrier and out of the race. Martins was immediately handed a ten-second penalty for causing a collision, while Novalak and Smolyar came through to inherit the two podium positions.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F3)

With Hauger out in front those podium positions remained the same for the final two laps. Doohan returned to fourth place after the incident with Martins and Schumacher. Caio Collet finished fifth ahead of Logan Sargeant, Crawford, Frederik Vesti and Arthur Leclerc, while Martins dropped to tenth place after his penalty.

Hauger’s pole position, win and fastest lap gives him a 43-point lead over Doohan heading into the final round in Sochi on 25–26 September. Novalak’s podium moves him up into third in the standings, with Martins and Vesti just behind and level on 117 points.

F3 Austria: Schumacher takes dominant maiden win in second sprint race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F3 Austria: Hauger wins chaotic sprint race after leaders collide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F3 Paul Ricard: Doohan storms to maiden win in wet/ dry feature race

Jack Doohan took his first Formula 3 victory in the Paul Ricard feature race, making the most of the changing conditions to overhaul longtime leader Dennis Hauger.

Doohan had a slow getaway from fourth on the grid and dropped behind Trident teammate Clement Novalak. On the front row, Hauger jumped polesitter Frederik Vesti for the lead into the first corner.

In the opening laps, Novalak looked the fastest car on track. He passed Victor Martins for third on lap 2, then kept up the pressure on second-placed Vesti. The ART driver was visibly struggling on his wet tyres, as Hauger was able to open up a three-second lead by the end of the first lap. But when Novalak made a move on Vesti on lap 6 he instead ran wide and fell to fifth behind Martins and Doohan.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

By this point the rain had stopped, and as the track started to dry Doohan found pace in the conditions. He passed Martins for third on lap 7, then took second from Vesti on lap 10 when Vesti ran wide through Turn 3.

Doohan then started closing up the gap to Hauger, whose wet tyres were rapidly losing grip on the drying track. By lap 12 Hauger’s lead had been halved, and Doohan was then close enough through lap 14 to try a move into the final corner.

After Doohan took the place in the corner, Hauger repassed him down the straight. They then went into Turn 1 side by side, and Doohan was able to get his Trident back ahead of the Prema and hold the lead on the run down to Turn 3.

Dennis Hauger, Prema (Clive Rose, Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

Doohan couldn’t sprint clear of Hauger as his own tyres started to overheat in the latter stages of the race. But although Hauger got as close as half a second in the final laps, the Norwegian didn’t have enough grip of his own to try a move and Doohan held the lead to the chequered flag.

Vesti continued to struggle in the conditions after dropping behind Hauger and Doohan and wasn’t able to stay in the podium positions. On lap 11 he went wide at De Beausset and fell to fifth behind Martins and Caio Collet, who ended up settling the podium battle between themselves.

Martins at first looked the faster of the two MP Motorsport cars, but he started to lose pace in the second half of the race. After setting a fastest lap on lap 13, Collet then reeled in his teammate and passed him for third on lap 15 to take his second podium of the year.

Caio Collet, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

Martins came home fourth ahead of Novalak in fifth and Vesti in sixth. Seventh place went to Ayumu Iwasa who led the remaining ARTs of Alex Smolyar and Juan Manuel Correa, and Jak Crawford took the final point in tenth place.

Charouz’s Reshad de Gerus was the only driver to gamble on a tyre change, despite most of the field battling against their wet tyres as the track dried. But despite being five seconds quicker than the leaders and setting a late fastest lap, De Gerus ultimately didn’t have enough time to reach the points and only finished 21st.

Doohan’s win has propelled him up to third in the championship. Hauger remains the points leader, although Martins is now just six points behind him in second. Olli Caldwell, who entered the weekend second in the standings, retired from the feature race with suspension damage and is now fifth in the championship between Novalak and Smolyar.

Formula 3 returns in two weeks’ time at the Red Bull Ring in support of the Austrian Grand Prix.

F3 Paul Ricard: Leclerc breaks points drought with sprint race win

Prema’s Arthur Leclerc dominated the second Paul Ricard sprint race, leading from pole position to the chequered flag to score his first win and first points of the season.

Leclerc got a perfect start from the head of the field, as second-placed Jak Crawford stalled as the lights went out and Olli Caldwell and Dennis Hauger had to avoid the Hitech rather than challenge for the lead.

Hauger initially got past Caldwell for second, but Caldwell retook the position after the first few corners and Hauger dropped back towards Ayumu Iwasa instead. But Iwasa wasn’t able to keep up the challenge and instead fell to fifth behind Jack Doohan by the end of lap 1.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

After the opening lap, the three Premas then started to pull away from Doohan and the rest of the field. Meanwhile, Victor Martins put in moves as he improved from 11th on the grid. By the end of lap 1 Martins was already up to sixth ahead of Juan Manuel Correa and Clement Novalak. On lap 3 Martins picked off Iwasa, then passed Doohan for fourth on lap 7.

At the front, Caldwell set a couple of fastest laps to keep within DRS range of Leclerc. But he was unable to get close enough to challenge for the lead, and instead he dropped to third on lap 8 as Hauger passed him into Turn 1.

However, Hauger was no more able to close the gap than Caldwell was, and Leclerc began setting fastest laps of his own. By lap 10 Leclerc was already more than two seconds clear of his teammates, helped somewhat by Hauger needing to drive defensively to keep Caldwell at bay.

Dennis Hauger, Prema (Clive Rose, Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

As Leclerc built his gap up to three seconds in the closing laps, Caldwell’s pace dropped off and brought Martins into play for the podium. Martins managed to cut the gap from 2.3 seconds on lap 13 to a second on lap 18, before then taking third away from Caldwell on the penultimate lap.

Leclerc led Hauger across the line for a Prema 1–2, while Martins’ third place marked his second podium of the day. Doohan finished fifth behind Caldwell and ahead of teammate Novalak. Alex Smolyar, Calan Williams, Iwasa and Frederik Vesti rounded out the points.

F3 Paul Ricard: Smolyar denies Martins victory in frantic first sprint race

ART’s Alex Smolyar took his second win of the Formula 3 season in the opening Paul Ricard sprint race, seeing off four other race leaders including home favourite Victor Martins.

Smolyar started the race from sixth while Jenzer’s Calan Williams led the field away from reverse grid pole. While Williams held the lead at the start, David Schumacher was slow away from second and dropped to fifth behind Logan Sargeant, Ayumu Iwasa and Juan Manuel Correa.

Williams was unable to pull out of DRS range of Sargeant in the opening laps. Although Sargeant ran wide several times while in the Jenzer’s dirty air, the American overtook Williams for first place on lap 7.

Calan Williams, Jenzer (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

But Sargeant didn’t last long in the lead, as Iwasa followed him past Williams on the same lap and continued to pressure the Charouz. Iwasa took the lead himself on lap 10 at Signe, although he was handed a five second penalty for completing the move off the track.

While Iwasa continued to lead despite his penalty, Smolyar and Martins came into play in the leading pack. Smolyar had already passed Schumacher for fifth by the second lap, and took fourth from teammate Correa on lap 9. Martins meanwhile was climbing up the field from tenth on the grid, and was on Smolyar’s tail in fifth by lap 11.

Smolyar moved into the podium positions with a move on Williams for third on lap 14, then passed Sargeant for second when Sargeant again struggled in the dirty air behind Iwasa. Martins repeated the same moves on lap 16 to run third behind Iwasa and Smolyar.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA Formula 3)

Smolyar and Martins then both overtook Iwasa on lap 17 with the Russian becoming the fourth leader of the race. But on the following lap, oversteer at Signe allowed Martins through to take the lead of his home race.

While Martins looked set to win with just three laps remaining, Smolyar remained within a few tenths to keep him under pressure. Smolyar then closed up behind Martins on the final lap, and retook the lead out of Signe. Martins came home in second, and Williams completed the podium after Iwasa’s penalty was applied.

Sargeant finished fourth ahead of Clement Novalak, Correa and Jack Doohan. Iwasa’s penalty dropped him to eighth, with championship leaders Dennis Hauger and Olli Caldwell rounding out the top ten. Their Prema teammate Arthur Leclerc finished 12th for the reverse grid pole for race two, having started at the back of the grid after crashing in qualifying.

F3 Barcelona: Caldwell takes maiden win in chaotic second sprint race

Olli Caldwell took his first Formula 3 win in the second Barcelona sprint race, inheriting the lead late on after two separate battles for the win ahead of him ended in collisions.

The race started with Enzo Fittipaldi on reverse pole ahead of David Schumacher, Matteo Nannini, Victor Martins and Dennis Hauger. At lights out the top five all got away in order, while Caldwell went from seventh to sixth by passing Frederik Vesti.

The first four laps ran behind the safety car, after Logan Sargeant and Alex Smolyar came together further back at the start. When the race resumed on lap 5, Schumacher started pressuring Fittipaldi for the lead by keeping within DRS range, while Hauger and Caldwell took advantage of Martins running wide to take fourth and fifth respectively.

After making several attempts to pass Fittipaldi under DRS into Turn 1, Schumacher finally took the lead of the race on lap 12. However, Schumacher wasn’t able to pull clear at the front and Fittipaldi attempted to retake the lead at Turn 1 on lap 14.

Schumacher fended off Fittipaldi on that occasion, but the Brazilian came back around the outside of Turn 1 on the following lap. But as they went side by side through Turn 2, the pair made contact which took them both out of the race, brought out the safety car, and handed the lead to Nannini.

When the safety car came in at the end of lap 17, Hauger immediately challenged Nannini from second but was rebuffed into the first corner. Hauger kept close to the HWA through the next couple of laps and tried another move up the inside of Turn 1 on lap 20, but remarkably they too collided as they went side by side into Turn 2.

As Nannini was spun round and Hauger lost his front wing, Caldwell avoided the incident to lead from Martins and Vesti with three laps remaining. Martins tried to pass Caldwell into the first corner on the final lap but bailed out of the move onto the runoff area, leaving Caldwell clear to take the win.

Martins finished in second and Vesti third, ahead of Clement Novalak and Caio Collet. Red Bull juniors Jonny Edgar, Ayumu Iwasa, Jack Doohan and Jak Crawford finished in formation from sixth to ninth, and Juan Manuel Correa took the final point on his first weekend back racing.

L-R: Victor Martins, Olli Caldwell, Frederik Vesti (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

F3 Barcelona preview: All eyes on the class of ’21

Formula 3 will take to Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend for the opening round of the 2021 season.

This year, F3 will be following the same new weekend format used by Formula 2 in Bahrain. That means there will be two sprint races on Saturday, and one feature race before the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.

Can anyone stop Prema?

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

As we get into a new season, the big question is whether Prema will once again be the team to beat. And looking at their new lineup, it would be hard to bet against them.

Dennis Hauger and Arthur Leclerc, from the Red Bull and Ferrari junior teams respectively, have already been outlined as title favourites. Hauger comes with an impressive resume of Formula 4 results as well as a season of F3 under his belt with Hitech last year, which included a podium at Hungary. As for Leclerc, he came close to winning last year’s Formula Regional European Championship, with only a retirement in the last round leaving him as runner-up.

Olli Caldwell will be the wildcard in Prema’s lineup. Like Hauger, Caldwell brings F3 experience after running with Trident last year, although he only scored points four times across the season. But don’t write him off based on that — Logan Sargeant did the same in his debut F3 year, before going on to be a title contender with Prema last year.

But while Prema has an impressive lineup, they won’t have it all their own way this year. New Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti, who won the joint-most races of anyone last year while driving for Prema, has moved to ART and will be aiming to challenge for the title there as Theo Pourchaire did in 2020.

Meanwhile, Prema’s closest challengers last year Trident have looked rapid during testing with their new lineup of Clement Novalak, Jack Doohan and David Schumacher. Novalak in particular will be one to watch, as he comes off the back of a debut F3 year that included two podium finishes for Carlin.

Watch out for the midfield pack

Jak Crawford, Hitech (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

But it’s not just the top three teams who could start their season off on top this weekend, as there’s an impressive crop of drivers in the midfield pack ready to make their mark.

For F1 fans, there are plenty of potential future Grand Prix drivers making their F3 debuts this weekend. As well as Hauger and Doohan, Red Bull have three more irons in the fire in the form of Jak Crawford and Ayumu Iwasa at Hitech, and Jonny Edgar at Carlin. Iwasa and Edgar were both F4 champions last year, while Crawford was runner-up to Edgar and a five-time race winner in ADAC F4.

Alpine has two exciting prospects in Victor Martins and Caio Collet, who are both racing for MP Motorsport this year. The two juniors spent last year duelling for the Formula Renault Eurocup title, with the crown going the way of Martins, and have carried that rivalry into F3 already as they topped three days of pre-season testing between them. Watch out for these two springing surprise results at the front of the field.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

Outside of the F1 junior spotlight, there’s also Matteo Nannini and Roman Stanek. They were two of the quieter revelations from last year, and now driving for HWA and Hitech respectively they’re well placed to make a big impression in their sophomore year.

Lastly, there’s the good news story that is the racing comeback of Juan Manuel Correa. Driving for ART, Correa will be returning to motorsport for the first time since the F2 crash at Spa in 2019 which left him with severe injuries and claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert.

Although this is Correa’s first time racing since 2019, and first time driving at this level since his 2018 GP3 season with Jenzer, he performed well in both pre-season tests earlier in the year. What’s more, with ART he’s got a great team to help him get up to speed quickly, so Correa’s progress this weekend will be well worth watching.

Check out the full list of F3 teams and drivers for this weekend here.