F3 Bahrain: Martins sweeps to victory as Leclerc charges through the field

Victor Martins took victory in the first Formula 3 feature race of the year in Bahrain, while Prema’s Arthur Leclerc stormed through the field from well outside the points to finish on the podium.

The race began with Franco Colapinto and Van Amersfoort on a debut pole, with Roman Stanek alongside for Trident and Martins in third. The top three held position at lights out, but Leclerc made up five places at the launch to go from thirteenth to eighth.

Behind the top three however, the first corner quickly became chaotic as Zane Maloney in fourth suddenly lost drive and became an obstacle for the chasing pack. Oliver Bearman and Caio Collet were two of the drivers who had to run wide to avoid the Trident, and when Collet rejoined the track he broke his right front suspension and was forced to retire. Francesco Pizzi was also caught up in the incident and retired as well.

The safety car was deployed while the stricken cars at Turn 1 were recovered. When the race got underway again on lap 5 Colapinto went weaving down the main straight to break the tow for Stanek behind. But instead of challenging for the lead Stanek found himself under attack from Martins, who stole past the Trident into second at the first corner.

Franco Colapinto, Van Amersfoort (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Stanek then had to defend again from Alex Smolyar in fourth. As Stanek ran Smolyar to the edge of the track to hold third place, Smolyar made contact with Stanek’s rear right tyre and triggered a puncture for the Trident.

With Smolyar dropping to the back of the field, Leclerc moved up to seventh place. That then became fifth on lap 7 as he despatched first Isack Hadjar and then David Vidales. Leclerc soon found himself on the rear of the podium battle as Smolyar was passed for third by Juan Manuel Correa. On lap 10 Leclerc picked off Smolyar for fourth, then a lap later he passed Correa as well to move up into third place.

Smolyar continued to come under pressure from the cars behind. But when Hadjar made a move on him for fifth place they made contact similar to Smolyar’s incident with Stanek, and Hadjar also came off with a rear right puncture that dropped him out of the points.

Meanwhile at the front of the field, Martins was shadowing Colapinto with only half a second between the two. By lap 14 Martins brought that down to two tenths, but had to wait until the start of the following lap to make a move. After first trying the outside of Turn 1, Martins took advantage of Colapinto running deep into the following corner to cut back through and take the lead down to Turn 4.

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Clive Mason, Getty Images / FIA F3)

By the time Martins assumed the lead, Leclerc had managed to slash his five-second gap to the front and was running just half a second behind Colapinto. On lap 18 Leclerc then made a late dive on the brakes to the inside of Turn 1, and snatched second place away from the Van Amersfoort.

Colapinto’s race began to unfold in the final stages after that. With Gregoire Saucy pressuring him for third place and his tyres seeming to fall away from him, Colapinto picked up several warnings for exceeding track limits which eventually became a five-second time penalty. Colapinto was able to hold off Saucy on the road, but the penalty dropped him down to fifth and moved Saucy up to third to complete the podium.

Correa followed Saucy home to make it three ARTs in the top four, and Leclerc’s Prema teammates Bearman and Jak Crawford finished sixth and seventh behind Colapinto. Smolyar was in the points until the very end of the race when floor damage dropped him down the field, meaning that Vidales, William Alatalo and Kaylen Frederick rounded out the final points positions.

(Dan Istitene. Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

The results of the feature race mean Martins leads the championship after Round 1 with 25 points, with Arthur Leclerc a point behind in second and Oliver Bearman in third on 17 points. ART lead the teams’ standings with 54 points, followed by Prema on 47.

Formula 3 returns on 22–24th April at Imola in support of the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

F3 Bahrain: Hadjar takes opening victory as Bearman penalised across the line

Isack Hadjar took victory for Hitech in the opening Formula 3 race of the season in Bahrain, after initial winner Oliver Bearman was handed a time penalty at the chequered flag.

Bearman started the race in second place behind the Carlin of reverse grid polesitter Zak O’Sullivan. At the race start Bearman went straight for the inside of Turn 1 to try and take the lead, but O’Sullivan managed to cover the Prema off and keep the lead for the opening lap.

Hadjar meanwhile started in fourth place behind David Vidales. After Vidales held Hadjar off into Turn 1, the Hitech driver then had to defend in a tight battle with Alex Smolyar and Zane Maloney early on.

Zane Maloney, Trident (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Hadjar moved up into the podium positions by passing Vidales at the end of the first lap. But coming onto the main straight, Vidales used the slipstream to pass Hadjar back for third while Maloney followed him through and demoted Hadjar to fifth.

However as the opening stages of the race unfolded, Vidales burned through his tyres quicker than the cars around him and dropped back from the leaders O’Sullivan and Bearman. On lap 3 he fell back to sixth as Maloney, Smolyar and Hadjar all passed the Campos, then eventually fell back into the clutches of Prema’s Arthur Leclerc as well.

As Maloney assumed third place, Bearman began to close on O’Sullivan for the lead. O’Sullivan had enjoyed a comfortable buffer of more than a second over the Prema in the early laps, but Bearman began to wear that down to half a second by lap 4. On lap 5, Bearman then made his move and took first place from the Carlin.

Oliver Bearman, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Once in front, Bearman started to pull out a multiple second gap over O’Sullivan by the halfway stage, when O’Sullivan’s tyres began to fall away from him. By this point Hadjar was running in fourth place having despatched Smolyar, and was pursuing Maloney’s Trident for third.

By lap 15 Bearman was more than three seconds clear of O’Sullivan, while Maloney, Hadjar and Smolyar were swarming behind him. Maloney and Hadjar took advantage of O’Sullivan’s failing tyres to bump him off the podium shortly after, before Hadjar’s momentum then carried him past Maloney into second on lap 16.

With only a handful of laps remaining Bearman had a comfortable lead of 3.5 seconds, while Hadjar had lost too much time fighting past Smolyar, Maloney and O’Sullivan to make that up. But as Bearman continued pushing to build his gap even further, his engineer came on the radio to warn him about a string of track limits violations against his name.

Bearman initially crossed the line in first ahead of Hadjar, but while he and his team were celebrating on the radio he was handed a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits too many times. This dropped him to second behind Hadjar, handing Hitech the win.

 

Smolyar completed the podium in third place ahead of Maloney in fourth and Leclerc in fifth, and O’Sullivan came home in sixth in the end. Caio Collet took seventh for MP Motorsport, and Kaylen Frederick, Juan Manuel Correa and Vidales rounded out the final points positions.

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

After taking several weeks off over the summer break, the 2021 Formula 3 season is back this weekend, with another trio of races around the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

There are only three rounds left to go this season — at Spa, Zandvoort and the Circuit of the Americas — and at this point it’s hard to imagine anyone toppling Prema’s Dennis Hauger from the position of title favourite.

Hauger took his third win of the season in the Hungaroring feature race before the summer break and earned himself a 63-point lead over Trident’s Jack Doohan in the standings. That means that Hauger will leave Spa still at the top of the table, unless he fails to score a single point and Doohan performs a clean sweep of wins, fastest laps and pole position in all three races this weekend.

But although Hauger has become something of a runaway train, the positions behind him in the standings are still in flux. Doohan is second for now on 89 points, but Prema’s Olli Caldwell and ART’s Frederik Vesti are within just nine points of the Trident, with all three drivers having shown great pace throughout the season so far.

Doohan will be one to watch at Spa, as it was there that he recorded one of the best results of his debut season last year. But Vesti also has fond memories of the circuit, having finished on the podium in last year’s sprint race while driving for Prema.

The midpack is as tight as ever

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

Behind the top four in the championship, there are two incredibly fierce battles brewing in the final positions of the top ten. The first is between Aleksandr Smolyar (P5), Clement Novalak (P6) and Victor Martins (P7), who are only separated by seven points.

Smolyar arguably should be in the mix with those ahead of him in the standings, given that he’s won two races this year compared to one each for Doohan, Caldwell and Vesti. But despite scoring points in most races — including two fourth places — Smolyar hasn’t stood on the podium since his second win at Paul Ricard in Round 2. That’s something he’ll need to change if he’s going to break away and join what’s realistically the fight to be this year’s vice-champion.

With Novalak and Martins, their goal for the latter half of the season is straightforward: win races. They’re currently the highest-placed drivers in the championship yet to record a victory. In Novalak’s case, he also hasn’t been on the podium since his second-place finish in the opening round in Barcelona — something not helped by being eliminated from strong positions in two of the Red Bull Ring rounds through no fault of his own.

As for Martins, what felt like an inevitable run to a maiden win after three podiums in the opening two rounds has soured recently. Between the second Red Bull Ring race and the summer break, Martins recorded a run of five races well outside the points. Bouncing back from that in a rookie season is hard, but it’s what he’ll need to do to keep up with the drivers around him.

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

The second of the two midfield fights involves Arthur Leclerc, Matteo Nannini and Caio Collet, who are on 44, 42 and 41 points respectively. Nannini catapulted himself into that group by taking his first F3 win in the second race at the Hungaroring. Leclerc, who has a win and a second place but only one other points finish so far this year, will surely be looking over his shoulder in case Nannini’s maiden win turns out to be a breakthrough moment.

And while Collet hasn’t quite been the match of his MP Motorsport and Alpine academy teammate Martins, he’s still been able to get great results — including two podiums — out of his car, and should be just as much a threat to Leclerc and Nannini in the remaining races.

New Charouz lineup, and Frederick to miss Spa

Lastly, the grid will look a little different this weekend for a few reasons. The first is that Charouz Racing System has refreshed its lineup. In place of Enzo Fittipaldi and Reshad de Gerus, the team will run 2020 US F4 champion Hunter Yeany and Euroformula Open driver Zdenek Chovanec in the #30 and #31 cars respectively. They’ll join Logan Sargeant for the remainder of the season.

The second change is that Carlin will only field two cars this weekend, as Kaylen Frederick has tested positive for Covid-19 and will therefore not take part in the event. Given the late timing, Carlin will not replace Frederick for the weekend.

F3 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.

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