F2 Sakhir: Zhou storms to victory in frantic feature race

Guanyu Zhou took the final win of Formula 2’s Sakhir weekend, in a feature race dominated by changing tyre performance and a dramatic late collision for title hopeful Oscar Piastri.

Zhou started the race from pole, but it was anything but an easy drive from the front for the Alpine junior. He was slow away off the line and lost the lead to Christian Lundgaard at Turn 1, then dropped to third behind teammate Felipe Drugovich at Turn 4.

After a brief safety car in the early laps when Roy Nissany was spun out by Robert Shwartzman, Zhou then found himself under pressure from Piastri. The Prema driver, who had started on softs as opposed to Zhou’s hard tyres, picked off Zhou for third on lap 4 and set off after Drugovich and Lundgaard, while Zhou lost another position to Marcus Armstrong on lap 8.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

By lap 12 Piastri had passed Drugovich and closed within half a second of Lundgaard, before overtaking the ART for the lead at the start of the following lap. By then the pit window was open and Lundgaard become the first to stop for hards at the end of lap 13, followed by Drugovich on lap 14 and Piastri himself on lap 16. Meanwhile, Zhou made his stop for soft tyres on the alternate strategy on lap 15, and came out of the pits just behind Drugovich.

Another safety car was deployed in the middle of the pit phase when Gianluca Petecof’s cockpit fire extinguisher went off and forced him to retire. The timing of this second safety car benefited Armstrong and Richard Verschoor, who had been shuffled to the head of the field and were able to stop while the pack was slowed down. Armstrong came out of the pits still in the lead, while Verschoor emerged in third between Piastri and Lundgaard.

At the restart on lap 19 however Armstrong immediately fell back, as Piastri and Verschoor both passed him for first and second respectively. Lundgaard also struggled for pace and lost fourth to Drugovich at Turn 4, then fifth to Zhou at Turn 10. Drugovich and Zhou then toppled Armstrong from third on lap 20, before Zhou overtook his teammate for the podium position a lap later.

Felipe Drugovich, UNI-Virtuosi (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

As Zhou returned to the podium positions, Verschoor took the lead from Piastri on lap 20 and set about building a two-second gap as his softs had more initial pace than Piastri’s hards. That pace deficit allowed Zhou — as well as Dan Ticktum and Liam Lawson, who were also charging through on softs — to close up to Piastri and challenge him for second.

Zhou took the position from Piastri on lap 23 and started reeling in Verschoor, who was struggling as his softs then started losing grip. But despite being on the same compound, Zhou was able to keep his tyres in better condition than the MP Motorsport ahead and he took the lead of the race at Turn 4 on lap 28.

As Zhou then leaped clear in the lead, Ticktum started challenging Piastri for third as the Prema couldn’t find pace on the hard tyres. After being rebuffed at the inside of Turn 1 and the outside of Turn 4 on lap 29, Ticktum was much closer at the start of lap 30. He pulled to the inside and got momentarily ahead, before the two cars made contact and Piastri was spun into a stall and out of the race.

Ticktum continued on in third, and after a brief virtual safety car to recover Piastri he improved to second with a pass on Verschoor. Lawson also overtook Verschoor on the final lap to take his second podium finish of the weekend.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

Verschoor was able to hold onto fourth at the flag ahead of Armstrong and Jehan Daruvala. Shwartzman recovered from a drive-through penalty for hitting Nissany at the start to take seventh and the fastest lap, while Theo Pourchaire, Drugovich and Matteo Nannini rounded out the final points positions.

Zhou now leaves Bahrain in the lead of the championship by 11 points from Liam Lawson, and Piastri drops to fourth behind Daruvala. Carlin now lead the teams’ standings on 47 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi (43) and Prema (37).

Formula 2 returns on 20–23 May in support of the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix.

F2 Sakhir: Piastri snatches last lap sprint race win from Zhou

Prema’s Oscar Piastri became Formula 2’s second rookie winner in as many races after a strategy gamble and a hectic race helped him to overhaul Guanyu Zhou on the final lap.

The race started with an incident at the first corner. As Juri Vips led away Lirim Zendelli and Zhou from pole, Robert Shwartzman hit Dan Ticktum at Turn 1 as he challenged for fourth place. Ticktum spun out and Shwartzman pulled over with terminal damage, and the safety car was deployed for the opening lap.

When the safety car pulled in at the end of lap 3, Zhou immediately took second from Zendelli. Once ahead, Zhou then started reeling in Vips, setting the fastest lap at the end of lap 4 and taking the lead from the Hitech on the following lap at Turn 4.

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

Meanwhile, Liam Lawson and Felipe Drugovich joined the podium battle. After moving past Piastri and Christian Lundgaard for fourth and fifth respectively at the restart, the pair then demoted Zendelli to fifth on lap 5 with Lawson ahead moving into the podium positions. Zendelli’s race then took another hit, as contact from Lundgaard at Turn 1 left the German with a puncture and dropped him to the back of the field.

At the front of the field, Zhou continued to stretch out a gap over Vips, and was running 2.5 seconds clear by lap 11. Behind them, Lawson and Drugovich were much closer in the battle for third, and on lap 15 Drugovich made a move to the inside of Turn 1. Lawson managed to hold off the Brazilian, but they were both passed instead by Lundgaard. Lawson and Drugovich continued battling through the next couple of corners, until they made contact at Turn 4 and Lawson was spun out of the race.

The safety car was deployed again while Lawson’s car was recovered, and Vips, Lundgaard and Piastri all took the opportunity to gamble on a switch to soft tyres. Despite dropping down the order, the trio had an immediate pace advantage over the rest of the field on hards or worn softs when the race resumed on lap 18.

After carving back through the field on the first green flag lap, Vips, Piastri and Lundgaard were back up to second, third and fourth respectively by the end of lap 19, and Vips had the gap to Zhou down to a second.

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

But Vips’ hard work came undone just a few laps later when he lost power and started dropping through the field. Piastri assumed second and the pursuit of Zhou, and at the start of the final lap he and Lundgaard both lunged past their fellow Alpine junior at Turn 1.

As Zhou battled to repass Lundgaard, Piastri was free to pull away in the lead and take his first Formula 2 victory. Lundgaard finished second on the road, but a ten-second penalty for his collision with Zendelli dropped him back to ninth. Zhou therefore finished second, and Jehan Daruvala scored his second podium of the weekend in third.

Richard Verschoor finished fourth for MP Motorsport, ahead of Theo Pourchaire, David Beckmann, Marino Sato and Matteo Nannini.

UPDATE: Lundgaard’s second place finish was reinstated following the race, after the FIA confirmed he had already served his 10 second penalty during his pit stop. The updated result means that Zhou drops to third and Daruvala fourth, and Nannini loses his point as he drops to ninth,.

F2 Sakhir: Lawson dominates sprint race on debut

Hitech’s Liam Lawson opened his rookie Formula 2 season with a dominant win in the first Bahrain sprint race, holding the lead throughout after taking it at the start.

Lawson got a rapid start from third on the grid to get past fellow rookies David Beckmann and Theo Pourchaire, who started first. Pourchaire briefly dropped down to third behind Beckmann, but recovered by the end of the lap to retake second place. Just behind them, Jehan Daruvala jumped Oscar Piastri for fourth.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Lawson’s attempt to break clear of DRS range from Pourchaire was briefly halted on lap 3, when Marcus Armstrong’s DAMS stopped on track to bring out the virtual safety car. But by lap 6, Lawson pulled a second clear of Pourchaire for the first time and went on to build a gap in clean air.

As Pourchaire dropped back from the lead, he started coming under pressure from Daruvala, who’d passed Beckmann for third on lap 11. But on lap 13 Pourchaire suddenly slowed with a mechanical problem, gifting Daruvala second as he dropped out of the points and eventually stopped on track.

Now in pursuit of the lead, Daruvala looked to have much better tyres than Lawson. On his first lap in second, Daruvala took half a second out of the lead as his rival struggled for grip. Lawson then had a big lock up on lap 17, which brought Daruvala to within half a second of the Hitech.

But despite being in DRS range, Daruvala was ultimately unable to get close enough to Lawson to make a move for the lead. Lawson held on to win by 0.7 seconds over Daruvala, with Beckmann taking third on his F2 debut.

David Beckmann, Charouz (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA Formula 2)

Robert Shwartzman took fourth ahead of Piastri, after battling through the field from his starting position of 11th. Christian Lundgaard and Guanyu Zhou were sixth and seventh, and Dan Ticktum took the final point in eighth after being demoted by a time penalty for spinning around Richard Verschoor early on.

Lirim Zendelli finished ninth but took two points for the fastest lap, and Juri Vips finished tenth to start on pole for the second sprint race.

F2 Bahrain preview: New season, new format, same goal

The Formula 2 grid will take to the track this weekend in Bahrain, for the opening round of the 2021 championship.

It only feels like yesterday that Mick Schumacher was crowned the 2020 F2 champion, but a lot has changed since the series left Bahrain last December. For starters, there’s a new race weekend format for the teams and drivers to get their heads around this year.

Instead of a Saturday feature race and Sunday sprint race, the F2 weekend will now feature three races — two sprint events on Saturday, and a feature before Sunday’s F1 Grand Prix. Friday qualifying will still determine the feature race grid, while the first sprint race grid will be set by reversing the top ten from qualifying. The starting positions for the second sprint race will then be a reverse of the first race’s top ten finishers.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

The weekend format might be different though, but for the eleven drivers returning to F2 this year, the goal of winning the championship and reaching F1 remains the same. And of those drivers, Robert Shwartzman is going to come to Bahrain with the most expectation on his shoulders.

In his rookie season last year, Shwartzman took the most wins of the field, helped Prema to the teams’ title, and was in championship contention himself for most of the season. He’s already proven he’s quick in Bahrain — one of his four wins last year came in the sprint race there — so Shwartzman will be the one with the target on his back in the opening round.

But there are plenty more drivers from the class of 2020 who will be out to prove this weekend that it’s not all about Shwartzman. Jehan Daruvala and Dan Ticktum have a great chance of opening the year with a win, as their Carlin team had rapid pace in Bahrain last year. Watch out for Marcus Armstrong too, who was also quick here last year and is starting a new partnership with DAMS.

And lastly, Felipe Drugovich will be a driver with plenty of attention on him in the opening round. After being one of last year’s revelations, the Brazilian has earned himself a move to UNI-Virtuosi alongside Guanyu Zhou and the perfect chance to prove he can challenge the likes of Shwartzman for the title.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Michael Regan, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / Courtesy of FIA Formula 2)

But while the returning field is strong, they’ll have a real fight on their hands to keep ahead of an equally impressive crop of rookies.

One of those new faces will be the 2020 Formula 3 champion and Alpine F1 junior Oscar Piastri. Coming into F2 with Prema, Piastri is expected to be a natural title contender this year — and if his F3 days are anything to go by, he won’t be taking any time at all to get his campaign underway.

Piastri isn’t the only rookie looking to impress an F1 academy, though. Hitech is fielding an all-Red Bull junior lineup this year with Juri Vips and Liam Lawson, both of whom were consistently rapid in pre-season testing.

A lot of the spotlight will fall on Vips after he made his F2 debut last year substituting for Sean Gelael in four rounds, and scored a podium at Mugello. But Lawson is no slouch either — he was a multiple race winner with Hitech in F3 last year, and is every bit as quick as Vips.

And then there’s Theo Pourchaire. Like Vips, Sauber F1 junior Pourchaire made his F2 debut in a handful of rounds last year — including Bahrain — before a full campaign for 2021. He came within three points of snatching the F3 title away from Piastri last year and has been widely tipped as a future F1 star. Driving for ART this year, he’ll be with a team capable of challenging for podiums and wins right from the off.

But as Drugovich showed last year, it’s not just the F1 juniors to watch for. Between Formula Regional European champion Gianluca Petecof, F3 race winners Lirim Zendelli, David Beckmann and Bent Viscaal, and F3 podium finishers Richard Verschoor and Matteo Nannini, there are plenty of lightning-fast rookies coming in under the radar this weekend.

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

Red Bull announces feeder placements for Vips, Lawson, Daruvala

The Red Bull Junior Team announced a raft of feeder series’ placements for its drivers today, including seats in Formula 2 for Juri Vips, Liam Lawson and Jehan Daruvala.

Vips will return to the series full-time after making a stand-in appearance for Sean Gelael at DAMS last year, and will partner New Zealander Lawson at Hitech Grand Prix. Lawson graduates to F2 from Formula 3, where he also drove for Hitech and took three wins in his 2020 sophomore season to finish fifth in the standings.

Daruvala will remain with Carlin for his second F2 campaign. The Indian driver improved on a difficult start to his rookie year with a run of strong results in the last five rounds, which were capped off with his first podium and sprint race win in the Bahrain double header.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull also announced that three of its juniors will make their F3 debuts this year. Jonny Edgar and Jak Crawford, who finished first and second in the 2020 ADAC F4 championship, will race for Carlin and Hitech respectively. Honda-backed 2020 French F4 champion Ayumu Iwasa will also join Crawford at Hitech as a new member of the Red Bull Junior Team.

This follows Red Bull-supported Dennis Hauger being announced as one of Prema’s drivers at the end of last year.

Red Bull also added 13-year-old Swedish-British karter Arvid Lindblad to its junior team, following his championship victory in the 2020 OK Junior WSK Super Master Series.

Jonny Edgar, Red Bull Junior Team (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

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 preview: advantage Piastri in title decider

Formula 3 takes to Mugello in Italy this weekend for the final round of a sensational 2020 season, and the conclusion of the title fight between Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant.

Mathematically there are six drivers capable of becoming champion this weekend, with Theo Pourchaire, Liam Lawson, David Beckmann and Frederik Vesti all still close enough that a near-perfect weekend could earn them the crown.

But realistically, Piastri and Sargeant have been the only drivers with any real claim to the championship this season, and it would take something remarkable to deny either of them now.

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

It’s Piastri who has the upper hand coming to Mugello. After Sargeant failed to score in both races at Monza, Piastri has an eight-point lead over his teammate. It’s not the largest buffer, but it does mean that if Piastri can outscore Sargeant by nine points in the feature race, the title will be his.

This means that if Sargeant misses out on points again in race one, Piastri could finish fifth (providing he doesn’t take any extra points for pole or the fastest lap) and become champion. Alternatively, if Piastri wins the feature race, Sargeant would have to be second just to keep the fight alive into the final race.

Therefore, with overtaking expected to be difficult at Mugello, Sargeant’s best hope will be to qualify ahead of Piastri and hope to create some space between them while also chasing the bonus two points for fastest lap.

But there will be extra drama in the title battle this weekend, as both drivers come to Mugello with grid penalties hanging over them from incidents in the Monza sprint race. Piastri has a five-place penalty for causing Beckmann’s retirement with a Turn 5 collision, while Sargeant will drop three places for cutting across Vesti’s front wing and putting them both out of the race.

This could have huge ramifications for the championship, as Piastri and Sargeant will likely be starting in the thick of the midfield and therefore at much greater risk of a first lap incident.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

While the rest of the top six will be hoping for problems for Piastri and Sargeant to give them a last-gasp shot at the title, their focus coming to Mugello will be mostly on the tight battle for third in the standings.

Pourchaire heads the group after his double podium at Monza, with nine points over Lawson. Both drivers have been revelations this season, and will be targeting the “best of the rest” spot as a springboard for a title challenge in 2021.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are eight drivers heading to the final round still in search of their first points: Cameron Das, Lukas Dunner, David Schumacher, Jack Doohan, Sophia Floersch, Federico Malvestiti, Calan Williams, and Alessio Deledda. Each of these will be desperate to make some moves this weekend and not end the season still with a zero next to their name.

Of those, Schumacher will perhaps be the most frustrated if he’s unable to reach the points in Mugello. His mid-season switch from Charouz to Carlin has so far not yielded the step up the order he was hoping for. And to make matters worse, since his move Charouz has gone on to score with all three drivers, including Schumacher’s rookie replacement Michael Belov.

Schumacher seemed to have a turnaround in Monza as he set the fastest time in practice, only to start from the back of the grid after a messy qualifying. But if he can bring that practice pace to Mugello and maintain it across the whole weekend—no mean feat in a field as competitive as Formula 3—then he’s got every chance of being rewarded with his first points and confidence boost for next season.

David Schumacher, Carlin (Photo by Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

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