F2 Sochi: Ticktum dominates sprint race in tricky damp conditions

Dan Ticktum took his second win of the season in the Sochi F2 sprint race, surviving the difficult conditions while drivers behind him fell afoul of the damp track in an assortment of incidents.

The race got off to a dramatic start before the grid had even formed, as first Guanyu Zhou spun on the lap to the grid and stalled his engine, then his teammate Felipe Drugovich spun into the wall and wrecked his car. As a result neither UNI-Virtuosi was able to take the race start.

With the track still wet in places the race began with a rolling start after two formation laps behind the safety car. Ticktum made the most of that rolling start to get a good gap over second-placed Juri Vips across the line, while Christian Lundgaard was the only driver in the field able to pull off a lap 1 overtake as he passed Marcus Armstrong for tenth.

Although Ticktum got the jump on Vips at the start, Vips responded through the opening lap to be just two tenths behind the Carlin at the start of lap 2. But Ticktum then put in his own answer with a fastest lap to open the gap up again, which began a game of trading lap times between the two of them.

Just a few tenths behind Ticktum and Vips, Liam Lawson was defending third place from Robert Shwartzman. Shwartzman appeared to have the better pace than Lawson and looked at a move out of Turn 3 on lap 3, but with the track still wet outside the racing line he couldn’t get alongside the Hitech. Shwartzman then ran wide through Turn 18 and lost several tenths to Lawson.

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

On lap 4 Bent Viscaal spun out at the Turn 15/16 chicane and brought out the Virtual Safety Car. When it was withdrawn on lap 6 Oscar Piastri tried to overtake Jehan Daruvala for eighth place, but he immediately lost tyre temperature when he moved out to the wetter part of the track and instead fell to 12th behind Lundgaard, Armstrong and Richard Verschoor.

The VSC then made an immediate reappearance when Lawson, lacking brake temperature from the first VSC, couldn’t get his car stopped heading into Turn 13 and damaged his left rear suspension on the exit wall. With Lawson out, Shwartzman moved up to third place ahead of Jake Hughes, Ralph Boschung, Theo Pourchaire and Daruvala.

Once again, the VSC restart caught out several drivers. Shwartzman ran wide through Turn 10 with cold tyres and was passed down the straight by Hughes, although Shwartzman was able to regroup and take back third into Turn 13. Meanwhile Boschung was slow to react and was passed by both Daruvala and Pourchaire, with Daruvala coming out on top in fifth.

Daruvala then set the fastest lap shortly after and joined the battle for third at just half a tenth off Hughes and Shwartzman. But despite his speed he also couldn’t find a way past, and on lap 15 Daruvala then spun at Turn 15 and dropped all the way down to 12th place.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Back at the front Ticktum had come out best over Vips in both of the VSC restarts and had a four-second lead by the start of lap 10. Vips started to come back at the Carlin with a series of fastest laps and brought the gap down to 2.5 seconds by lap 13.

But Vips also ran wide several times as he struggled to keep temperature in his brakes and tyres, and so he was never able to get on the back of Ticktum. He managed to close to within two seconds on lap 16, but with only two laps remaining there wasn’t enough time to challenge for the lead.

After Vips had a few more offs in the final laps, Ticktum crossed the line to take victory with 4.5 seconds in hand over the Hitech while Shwartzman finished third.

Hughes took his first F2 points with fourth place ahead of Pourchaire, who also recorded the fastest lap late on for an extra two points. Boschung survived a pair of lockups late in the race to finish in sixth place over Lundgaard, and Verschoor come home in eighth to deny Piastri the final point.

Ralph Boschung, Campos (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

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 Sochi preview: title beckons for Hauger in Sochi finale

Formula 3 returns to action this weekend for the final time this season, as Russia’s Sochi Autodrom plays host to the championship showdown between Prema’s Dennis Hauger and Trident’s Jack Doohan.

That title fight is now Hauger’s to lose. With four wins, eight podiums and two pole positions to his name so far, Hauger comes to Sochi with a 43-point advantage over Doohan, with 65 points still left to play for this weekend.

That advantage means that Hauger can clinch the title after Saturday’s second sprint race, provided he doesn’t concede any more than 13 points to Doohan across the two sprint races. And even if Doohan still has a chance going into Sunday’s feature race, he’ll be aiming for almost every point available for victory, pole and the fastest lap unless Hauger’s Saturday really falls apart.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Red Bull Content Pool)

Doohan needs a lot of things to go his way if he’s going to snatch the title from Hauger. But pressure can play a big part in title showdowns, even for drivers who have otherwise been as composed all year as Hauger.

If Doohan can start applying that pressure early, such as by taking pole or closing the gap in the first sprint race, then he can start using that to try and force a mistake from Hauger when it really matters.

Neither driver has raced at the Sochi Autodrom so far in their careers, so both will be learning the circuit fresh this weekend. With only one practice session, whoever can hit the ground running fastest will have a big advantage over the weekend’s three races.

Fight for third as tight as ever

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

It may just be Hauger and Doohan battling for the F3 title this weekend, but there is still an equally intense fight for third place in the championship yet to be resolved — and a four-way fight at that.

Clement Novalak is currently leading that quartet on 122 points after his double podium result at Zandvoort. The Trident driver has shown impressive consistency all year long to reach this position in the championship, with points finishes in all but one of the last nine races — although what’s arguably more impressive is that he is the only driver of these four still yet to win this season.

Just behind Novalak are Victor Martins and Frederik Vesti, both level on 117 points and each with a win to their name. Martins’ victory came in the second Zandvoort sprint race and was the peak of a brilliant bounce back after a disappointing run leading into the summer break. He seems to be riding on a second wind right now, which is the perfect momentum to have running into the season finale.

But Vesti is almost in the opposite situation. He showed great pace early in the season and is still the only driver outside of Hauger and Doohan to take a feature race win this year, but as Novalak and Martins hit their stride Vesti dropped back from the front of the championship.

Frederik Vesti, ART (Dan Istitene , Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Vesti was back on the podium at Zandvoort — his first since his feature race win at the Red Bull Ring — so hopefully that will give him the boost he needs to end his season on the form it started.

And lastly there’s Alex Smolyar, who is 15 points behind Novalak in sixth despite having more wins than both Martins and Vesti and more podiums than Novalak. But he’s also missed the points on six occasions and consistency has been his main weakness this year.

However, Smolyar is the only one of this pack of drivers with any racing experience of the Sochi Autodrom, and his last visit during his 2017 SMP F4 days resulted in a double podium. That will surely give Smolyar confidence as he comes into the weekend needing a great result to overhaul the drivers ahead of him.

Round 9 WorldSBK Catalunya, Spain, Race 1

It was Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad) who ended Jonathan Rea’s (Kawasaki KRT) dominance of superpoles by claiming his very own with a fastest lap of 1:40.408. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) getting 2nd with Rea in 3rd.

Catalunya Race 1 WorldSBK Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team – Provec Racing

The start of race one was declared wet with rain pelting down onto the track. No surprise then that the whole grid went with wet tyres. Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) retired before the start, unfortunately crashing out on the sighting lap.

Lights out and it was Razgatlioglu with a great start in the tricky conditions, getting the hole shot into turn 1. Locatelli on the other Pata Yamaha was briefly in 2nd before Rea came through to claim the position. It was Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) in 3rd, Locatelli 4th and Bassani (Motocorsa Racing Ducati) in 5th from a grid position of 11th. However both Sykes and Redding (Aruba.it Ducati) had terrible starts and found themselves way down in 9th and 10th respectively.

By the start of lap 2, Rea had found a way past Razgatlioglu and was looking to get away, although the Turkish rider was having none of it and they swapped the lead several times. Bassani was now up to 3rd, looking confident in the difficult conditions and looking to join the battle up front.

Rea had put the hammer down on lap 3, posting a fastest lap of 1:57.362 and this pace was now putting a significant gap into Toprak behind who had to deal with Bassani who had closed right behind him. Further back the Honda team mates of Haslam and Bautista were in 9th and 14th respectively with Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in 10th and Redding who had slipped further back to 11th.

Rinaldi and vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) were having a battle for 4th place. Both bikes came together with Rinaldi coming off the better and scraping through to take 4th. Meanwhile up front Razgatlioglu had his hands full keeping Bassani at bay with both riders giving the spectators a real treat, swapping positions several times. This was all playing into the Northern Irishman’s hands and he had now increased his gap at the front to 2.5 on lap 4.

Further back Lowes (Kawasaki KRT) had now moved into 5th, taking the position from vd Mark. Redding was 7.5 behind the leader in 10th and looking very unsure of his Ducati in the brutal conditions.

Razgatlioglu responded to the pace of Rea putting in a new fastest lap of 1:56.777. Meanwhile further back there was a three way battle for 8th, 9th and 10th between Sykes, Locatelli and Redding respectively, with the latter eventually moving through to take 8th.

With 15 laps to go, Bassani takes 2nd from Razgatlioglu, the Italian looking for his first ever WorldSBK win. No doubt Toprak was getting more frustrated as he saw his championship lead being cut.

Meanwhile Haslam had now caught the group of Rinaldi 4th, vd Mark 5th and Lowes 6th to make it a four way battle. At the front Razgatlioglu responds with another fastest lap of 1:56.544, desperate not to let Bassani get away.

With 12 laps to go, Redding had now made it onto the back of the Haslam group into 8th and was looking more confident into the tricky corners, but would there be enough laps for him to get any further?

Halfway stage of the race and Rea now appeared to be losing his advantage with both Bassani and Razgatlioglu less than a second behind. The Turkish rider setting a previous lap nearly a whole second quicker than Rea.

Catalunya Race 1 WorldSBK Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team – Provec Racing

With 9 laps left, Razgatlioglu had come through on Bassani and then drives his Yamaha around the outside of Rea to take over the lead. Bassani then uses all the grunt of the Ducati to power past Rea down the straight, Rea falling back like a stone now and would soon have vd Mark on him. Redding meanwhile, was in 6th and looking for a way past Rinaldi in 5th.

Then drama with 6 laps to go, disaster strikes for Razgatlioglu, his Yamaha losing all power and that spells the end of his race. Bassani could not believe his fortune and takes over the race lead.

With 5 laps to go, there was now a group of 5 riders all vying for the win. Rea continued to slip back and both Ducati team mates came through, Rinaldi in 2nd with Redding in 3rd, Rea now 4th and vd Mark in 5th.

Lap 18 and Redding was really in the groove and after getting by on his team mate, he had Bassani firmly in his crosshairs in the process setting a fastest lap of 1:56.166.

Into turn 5 and Redding makes a block pass on Bassani, taking over the lead. With only 3 laps to go could Bassani respond? Meanwhile Rea was desperately trying to hold off vd Mark in 4th.

Redding does not allow Bassani back into contention and takes an amazing win after only being in 10th on lap 1. Bassani comes over the line in 2nd, Rinaldi 3rd, Rea 4th and vd Mark 5th. Other notable places were Lowes in 6th, Haslam 7th, Sykes 8th and Bautista 9th.

The result meant Rea would again take over at the top of this quite breathtaking championship from Razgatlioglu.

Result top 5:

  1. Redding (aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Bassani (motocorsa racing Ducati)
  3. Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati)
  4. Rea (Kawasaki KRT)
  5. vd Mark (BMW Motorrad)

Out: Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha), Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team)

Championship top 3:

  1. Rea 376 pts
  2. Razgatlioglu 370
  3. Redding 323

 

 

F2 Monza: Piastri survives Ticktum charge to win feature race thriller

Championship leader Oscar Piastri took his second win of the season after converting pole position in the Monza feature race, while Dan Ticktum and Carlin provided a late-race threat with a fortuitous tyre gamble.

Piastri got away well from pole to hold the lead into Turn 1, but had to watch his main championship rival Guanyu Zhou assume second place by passing Jehan Daruvala off the line. Daruvala struggled for traction at the start and lost another place to Liam Lawson, while Felipe Drugovich pressured him for fourth throughout the opening lap.

The race was neutralised soon after when Guilherme Samaia spun out of the race at the second Lesmo and brought out the safety car. On the restart on lap 5 Piastri managed to break the tow on the rundown to Rettifilo to see off Zhou, while Zhou then came under attack from a rapid Lawson and lost second place into the Roggia chicane.

Piastri, Lawson and Zhou spent the opening laps more or less matching each other’s pace, with the gap between the three of them never more than 1.5 seconds. On lap 5 Piastri set the fastest lap but wasn’t able to definitively break clear of DRS range from Lawson.

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

On lap 8 Juri Vips, who was running seventh between Theo Pourchaire and Ticktum, slowed suddenly with a mechanical failure in the middle of the Roggia chicane. That caught out Ticktum who made contact with the rear of the Hitech, although he escaped with no significant damage to his own car.

The safety car was brought out again while Vips’ car was cleared away, and the leaders took that opportunity to make their mandatory pit stop from softs to mediums. But Piastri, Lawson and Zhou were followed into the pits by everyone apart from Ticktum, Marino Sato, Christian Lundgaard, Marcus Armstrong and Alessio Deledda, who had started the race on mediums instead.

Sato then dropped out of the race with a mechanical problem of his own, which meant that Piastri rejoined the race in fifth place behind Deledda. Lawson lost out in the pitlane scramble and not only came out behind Zhou but also Daruvala.

At the restart on lap 11 Piastri immediately set about clearing Deledda to get back towards the front. Meanwhile Daruvala found a new turn of pace on his medium tyres and began battling with Zhou for net second.

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

Daruvala got ahead of Zhou at the Roggia chicane but completed the move off track and was ordered to give the place back. He did so on the main straight, but used the momentum to immediately repass Zhou into Rettifilo. But as they came to Roggia again, Zhou went around the outside and reclaimed the position from the Carlin.

By lap 13 Piastri, Zhou and Daruvala had got past Deledda and set about clearing Armstrong as well. Deledda fell back to ninth by the end of the lap, then at the start of lap 14 he made contact with Enzo Fittipaldi at Rettifilo. That allowed Fittipaldi and Robert Shwartzman through, but Drugovich lost out avoiding the HWA and dropped to P12.

Drugovich then dropped out of the midfield battle altogether thanks to a miscommunication with his team. He’d asked his engineer on the radio to check if his front wing was damaged in the incident, but his engineer thought he was reporting wing damage and called him in to pit for repairs — when Drugovich left the pits after the confusion he was in P18 and last.

At the front of the field, Piastri passed fellow Alpine junior Lundgaard for second place on lap 15 and only had Ticktum 1.5 seconds up the road. From the pace of Lundgaard, Armstrong and Deledda it was clear that the worn mediums had run their course, but Carlin kept Ticktum out in front to gamble on another safety car in the final phase of the race.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri kept closing in, bringing the gap to half a second by lap 18. But Ticktum’s gamble paid off a few laps later when Lawson stopped on the main straight after his fire extinguisher went off and the safety car was deployed. Ticktum immediately pitted for softs and rejoined the race in P12, while Piastri led from Zhou, Pourchaire, Daruvala and Shwartzman.

The race restarted on lap 25, with six laps to go. While Piastri locked up heading to Rettifilo and had to get on the defensive to keep Zhou behind, Ticktum immediately began clearing the cars ahead with his fresh soft tyres. The Carlin driver had a hairy moment at Roggia when he was tapped off the road by Ralph Boschung and narrowly avoided collecting Roy Nissany, but he regrouped to hold seventh place by the end of the lap.

Over the next few laps Ticktum continued to improve with uncontested moves on Nissany, Shwartzman and Daruvala, then on the penultimate lap he passed Pourchaire into Rettifilo for third place. With half a second between him and Zhou and only another eight tenths to Piastri up the road, it seemed inevitable that Ticktum and Piastri would be fighting for the lead on the final tour.

But shortly after Ticktum got past Pourchaire, Bent Viscaal and David Beckmann came together at Rettifilo further down the pack and brought out yet another safety car. With just under two laps left to run, the race was completed under the safety car and Ticktum was forced to settle for third place behind winner Piastri and Zhou in second.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Pourchaire finished fourth ahead of Daruvala and Shwartzman. Richard Verschoor took seventh place from Lirim Zendelli, who made a two-stop strategy work to give MP Motorsport a double points finish, and Nissany and Armstrong rounded out the final points positions for DAMS.

With Piastri and Zhou finishing first and second, they remain in the same positions in the championship standings with 15 points separating them. Shwartzman remains third, albeit 21 points behind Zhou and 36 adrift of the lead.

Formula 2 returns on 25–26 September at the Sochi Autodrom in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.

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 Zandvoort: Leclerc soaks up pressure from Sargeant to win sprint race

Prema’s Arthur Leclerc took his second Formula 3 victory in the opening sprint race at Zandvoort, despite race-long pressure from a rapid Logan Sargeant behind.

Leclerc started the race in third behind Sargeant and reverse polesitter Amaury Cordeel. At lights out Sargeant jumped past Cordeel for the lead, but Leclerc got an even quicker launch off the line to pass both of them out of Tarzan. Cordeel’s start went from bad to worse as he was passed for third by Ayumu Iwasa, then spun around by Alex Smolyar through Turn 3.

Sargeant stuck close to the back of Leclerc through the opening stint of the race, rarely lapping more than three tenths behind the Prema. As Sargeant pushed Leclerc and Leclerc set early fastest laps to escape him, they started pulling clear of Iwasa, Jak Crawford and Caio Collet behind.

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

On lap 5 Sargeant closed to just a tenth behind Leclerc as they crossed the line and looked to the outside heading into Tarzan. Leclerc held Sargeant off on that occasion, but the Charouz driver didn’t lose any time by backing out and kept up the assault.

Two laps later Sargeant pressured Leclerc into a lockup at Tarzan. Losing pace as he managed the flat spots on his tyres, Leclerc found himself leading a DRS train as Iwasa, Crawford, Collet and Jack Doohan all joined the pursuit of the lead. But despite locking up a second time on lap 11, Leclerc was still able to fend off Sargeant’s best efforts at an overtake as he took a better line through Turns 3 and 4 to counter Sargeant’s advantage into Turn 1.

Leclerc was handed another problem to manage on lap 16 when Jonathan Hoggard and Hunter Yeany ended up in the barriers to bring out the safety car and the field was bunched up together. But with Zandvoort’s tight nature making for a particular difficult recovery of the two cars, the stoppage ended up benefiting Leclerc as it left Sargeant with just four laps to rebuild momentum and make a move.

In the end, Leclerc was able to pull away from Sargeant at the restart as the Charouz had to back out of attacking the lead to defend second place from Iwasa. When they crossed the line four laps later Leclerc had more than a second in hand over Sargeant, the largest gap he’d had all race.

Iwasa finished third for his second podium of the season. Crawford took fourth for Hitech, ahead of Collet and Doohan.

L-R: Logan Sargeant, Arthur Leclerc, Ayumu Iwasa (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Championship leader Dennis Hauger managed seventh place after starting 12th on the grid. The Prema driver made up places at the start to get into ninth between Victor Martins and Clement Novalak, then spent the rest of the race shaping up to improve.

Hauger momentarily lost out when an attempt around the outside of Martins on lap 14 sent him driving through the gravel and behind Novalak. But he managed to recover the position from Novalak at the restart, before claiming seventh from Martins two laps from the flag. Martins finished eighth, while Frederik Vesti and Olli Caldwell demoted Novalak out of the points in the final laps.

F3 Spa: Doohan holds off charging Martins for second Spa win

Jack Doohan took his second victory of the weekend in the Spa feature race, fending off a race-long challenge from Victor Martins to make a crucial dent in Dennis Hauger’s championship lead.

Doohan started the race from pole, but was spared from defending the lead into La Source as the race began behind the safety car because of the wet conditions. When the race got going with 14 laps on the board, Doohan bolted early out of the final chicane but Martins went with him to look at the outside into La Source.

Martins was too far back to convert that into an overtake attempt, but he stayed glued to the back of Doohan throughout the opening laps. After setting several fastest laps and running within half a second of Doohan, Martins saw his chance on lap 5 coming into Pouhon. Pulling to the outside of Doohan, Martins managed to come out of the corner in the lead, but not without running all four wheels over the limit of the track while setting up the move.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

After beginning to pull a gap over Doohan, Martins was instructed over the radio to hand the position back to avoid a penalty. He did on the following lap, but in doing so Martins dropped to more than a second behind Doohan.

Doohan then set the fastest lap when back in the lead, but Martins responded almost immediately to slash the gap back to half a second by lap 7. As they went through Rivage Martins almost nudged the back of Doohan but still couldn’t find a way past the Trident. All the while, Doohan and Martins had pulled more than five seconds clear of the rest of the field, led by Alex Smolyar in third.

As the race ticked over the halfway stage and the track began to dry, Martins’ wet tyres started to overheat and Doohan was able to start building up a gap over the MP Motorsport driver. By lap 9 Doohan was almost a second ahead, before a wide moment for Martins on lap 11 solidified Doohan’s lead over the closing laps.

Doohan took the win with just under two seconds in hand over Martins, who at least managed to reclaim the fastest lap points from Doohan before the end. Smolyar completed the podium in third, albeit 10 seconds back from the top two.

Alex Smolyar, ART (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Caio Collet narrowly missed out on another podium as he came home fourth and just a second behind Smolyar, while Clement Novalak finished fifth ahead of Frederik Vesti and Logan Sargeant. Championship leader Hauger battled his way up to eighth place from 14th on the grid to take four points, and David Schumacher and Arthur Leclerc rounded out the top ten.

Doohan’s two wins this weekend means he’s now closed Hauger’s lead at the top of the standings from 63 points to 25. Vesti and Martins move up to third and fourth in the standings, displacing Olli Caldwell who was outside the points in all three races at Spa.

Formula 3 returns next weekend at Zandvoort in support of the Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix.

F3 Spa: Colombo powers to rain-interrupted sprint win

Lorenzo Colombo took his first Formula 3 win at Spa, making up for the win he was disqualified from in Hungary, by dominating the field in the rain-drenched first sprint race.

Owing to the torrential rain throughout the morning, the race started almost an hour late and ran three laps behind the safety car before lights out.

When the race did get underway on lap 4, Colombo’s Campos led away from Hitech’s Jak Crawford and Roman Stanek. Jonathan Hoggard in fourth put a challenge to the inside of Stanek at La Source, but Stanek held on around the outside to keep third place.

On the first racing lap, the only change in positions came from MP Motorsport’s Caio Collet and Victor Martins, who moved up past Logan Sargeant for eighth and ninth respectively. On lap 5, Collet then made up another place by passing Clement Novalak for seventh at Les Combes.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

At the front of the field, Colombo made use of the clear visibility ahead of him to open up a four-second lead over Crawford by the end of lap five. Crawford himself had several seconds in hand over teammate Stanek, but Stanek was unable to drop the challenge of Hoggard who was staying consistently half a second behind the Hitech.

Hoggard’s pursuit of Stanek had opened up a gap between him and the Trident of David Schumacher in fifth behind. By the halfway stage, Schumacher was leading a train of cars including Frederik Vesti, Collet, Novalak and Martins.

On lap 9 Collet tried an audacious move around the outside of Vesti into La Source, but couldn’t get the traction on the wetter part of the circuit and Vesti retook sixth on the exit of the hairpin. At the same time, Collet’s teammate Martins managed to complete a move past Novalak for eighth coming into La Source.

Once past Novalak, Martins put in a new fastest lap time and started putting pressure on Collet ahead of him. Meanwhile, the train caught up with Hoggard who made a pair of costly mistakes on lap 10 and dropped away from the back of Stanek.

On lap 13 Schumacher took advantage of Hoggard running wide out of La Source to pull alongside the Jenzer. But as the two fought down the Kemmel Straight, Vesti and Collet entered the battle as well and Collet emerged from the spray in front of Vesti and Hoggard, albeit after taking to the runoff to avoid collecting the cars ahead of him.

Collet was then handed a five-second time penalty for completing the move off the track, but not before he’d been passed by Vesti on track for fourth place. Hoggard meanwhile fell back to seventh after being passed by Martins, while Schumacher came out of the fight worst as he tumbled back down the order to ninth behind Novalak.

Clement Novalak, Trident (Dan Mullan, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Entering into the final laps, Colombo out front retook the fastest lap title from Martins and continued to sprint away from the field. By the time he took the chequered flag, Colombo was more than 12 seconds clear of Crawford, who took second place by two seconds from Stanek.

Vesti finished fourth, while Collet’s penalty promoted Martins to fifth ahead of Hoggard, Novalak and Sargeant. Collet slotted into ninth position ahead of Alex Smolyar, who dropped Schumacher to P11 and outside of the points on the penultimate lap. Jack Doohan finished in P12 and will start this afternoon’s race from reverse grid pole.

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.

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