F3 Hungary: Pourchaire commands interrupted feature race

Theo Pourchaire became the first double winner of the 2020 Formula 3 season at the Hungaroring feature race, seeing off championship leader Oscar Piastri through numerous restarts.

Starting in slippery conditions, the race opened with several incidents at the first corner bringing out the first safety car. Polesitter Aleksandr Smolyar was spun out of the race by Logan Sargeant, while behind them Frederik Vesti and Calan Williams came together to partially block the corner.

With Smolyar out and Sargeant driving a damaged car, Pourchaire moved up into the lead with Piastri second ahead of Sargeant. When the race resumed after a lap behind the safety car, Pourchaire immediately opened up a second over Piastri to protect against the DRS.

Piastri responded on lap five to bring the gap down to half a second. But before he could try a move on Pourchaire the race was interrupted once again when Liam Lawson pulled off with an engine fire, leaving a trail of oil throughout Turns 1 and 2. After one lap behind the safety car, the race was red-flagged to properly clear the track.

When the race resumed after a start behind the safety car, Pourchaire again bolted from Piastri and within two laps the Frenchman had broken out of DRS range again. From there Pourchaire kept improving, setting a series of fastest laps to add almost a second per lap on Piastri.

By the chequered flag, Pourchaire crossed the line more than twelve seconds clear of Piastri to take his second consecutive win of the season, and become the first double winner of the year.

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

Sargeant finished third behind Piastri to make it two Premas on the podium. Nursing damage throughout from the first corner collision with Smolyar, Sargeant was under pressure from both Lawson before his retirement and Sebastian Fernandez after the final safety car restart.

The American’s struggles were clear as he ran wide multiple times. However, he managed to hold onto the position until lap 15, when Fernandez’s tyres dropped off and he dropped behind the MP Motorsport pair of Richard Verschoor and Bent Viscaal.

As Verschoor and Viscaal then battled between themselves for fourth, Sargeant was able to pull away and comfortably keep his podium position. Behind, Viscaal came out on top with a last lap move through Turn 2, taking fourth place and his best F3 finish to date. Verschoor finished fifth and Fernandez was behind in sixth.

Alex Peroni finished in seventh, returning to the points for the first time since his podium in round one. Red Bull junior Dennis Hauger took his first F3 points in eighth place ahead of Clement Novalak, who rose 17 places from his grid position, and David Beckmann took the final point in tenth as well as pole position for tomorrow’s sprint race.

Dennis Hauger, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F3 Hungary preview: Piastri looking in his mirrors as rivals close in

FIA Formula 3 returns this weekend, heading to the Hungaroring in Budapest for the third round of the season.

The 2020 championship got off to an excellent start at the Red Bull Ring double header, with four first-time winners in each of the four races creating a tight battle at the top of the drivers’ standings.

Renault junior and Prema driver Oscar Piastri still leads the championship with 44 points after the opening two rounds. However, he hasn’t finished on the podium since his win in the opening race of the campaign, and in each of the two sprint races so far he’s struggled to make progress through the reverse grid field.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

Meanwhile, his teammates Frederik Vesti and Logan Sargeant have closed up behind him and are only one good result away from taking the title lead.

In Hungary, Vesti needs to capitalise on the momentum of his feature race win last weekend and take the fight to Piastri again. Sargeant meanwhile must take the pace that’s yielded two second place finishes so far and battle to the top step of the podium this time.

But it’s not just his fellow Premas that Piastri will have to watch out for in Budapest. David Beckmann is sitting just behind them in the standings after a double podium in Spielberg last weekend, and the Trident team generally has emerged as Prema’s nearest rival.

Beckmann and Lirim Zendelli both have the pace to be genuine threats for victory this weekend, while Olli Caldwell showed no qualms about battling with Piastri at the Red Bull Ring last time out.

Frederik Vesti, Prema (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

While the battle rages for the lead of the championship, there are a couple of drivers further back who will be looking to reset their own campaigns as we move on to Hungary.

Sebastian Fernandez would have been hoping for a lot more than six points and 13th in the standings after storming to the first pole of the season in Austria. His only top ten finish came with ninth place in the second Spielberg sprint race, although this was largely gifted to him by Jake Hughes and Liam Lawson crashing out in the final laps—prior to that, Fernandez had dropped down the order after running wide while battling with Zendelli for eighth.

As for Hughes, he will also be glad to finally see the back of the Red Bull Ring. His collision with Lawson last Sunday capped off a troubled start to the year—after a technical problem left him 28th in the season opener, Hughes’ best result is half a point for tenth in the red-flagged second feature race.

The good news for both Hughes and Fernandez is that while neither came away from Austria with the points they expected, both showed that their form this season is a lot higher than their championship standings suggest. Given a clean weekend, both drivers have the potential to trouble the frontrunners for victory at the Hungaroring.

Sebastian
Fernandez, ART (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Styria: Pourchaire wins sprint race after leaders collide

Theo Pourchaire took his first Formula 3 win in the Red Bull Ring sprint race after longtime leaders Liam Lawson and Jake Hughes collided in the closing laps.

Pourchaire had started the race on the front row of the reverse grid behind polesitter Hughes. The Frenchman jumped into the lead at Turn 1 as Hughes was slow off the line, but was soon caught by Hughes and Lawson and demoted down to third.

Hughes and Lawson then continued to swap the lead throughout the race, passing each other every few laps through Turns 3 and 4. While the win looked set to be decided between the two of them, Pourchaire came under pressure for third from the Prema of Logan Sargeant.

But on lap 21 Hughes and Lawson collided with each other on the outside of Turn 4 and both retired with suspension damage. This gifted first back to Pourchaire with Sargeant and David Beckmann elevated to the podium. The safety car was deployed to recover Hughes’ and Lawson’s stricken cars, and with only four laps remaining the race ended under caution and the order was frozen with Pourchaire taking the victory.

David Beckmann, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Beckmann’s podium, his second of the weekend, led another triple points haul for Trident. He and Lirim Zendelli both got past Oscar Piastri at the start, while Olli Caldwell moved past Richard Verschoor to run fifth.

However, Beckmann had more pace than his teammates and by lap 8 was ahead of both Zendelli and Caldwell to put him in place for the podium behind Sargeant. Caldwell and Zendelli were unable to keep up with Beckmann in the latter half of the race, with Caldwell eventually finishing sixth behind Verschoor and Piastri, and Zendelli taking the final point in tenth.

Max Fewtrell made progress from 14th on the grid and rose to seventh by the flag. Saturday’s feature race winner Frederik Vesti finished eighth, and Sebastian Fernandez took ninth ahead of Zendelli.

After the second round of the championship, Piastri still holds the lead in the drivers’ standings with 44 points, ahead of Prema teammates Vesti and Sargeant. Beckmann’s double podium moves him up to fourth, while Liam Lawson drops from second after last weekend down to seventh.

Prema maintains the lead of the teams’ championship with 115.5 points, ahead of Trident (67.5) and Hitech (30).

Formula 3 returns next week in support of the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

F3 Styria: Vesti sees off Trident challenge in red-flagged feature race

Frederik Vesti saw off a challenge from the Trident trio to take Prema’s second consecutive feature race win, albeit with half points awarded as the race was red-flagged due to torrential rain.

Vesti held on to his pole position off the line, while the order behind him changed. Trident’s David Beckmann had a poor start from second, allowing teammate Lirim Zendelli and championship leader Oscar Piastri to challenge him into the first corner. Zendelli got through for second, although Beckmann was able to hold third ahead of Piastri.

The third Trident of Olli Caldwell also enjoyed a good start, rising from ninth on the grid to challenge Piastri for fourth, while Logan Sargeant slipped back from third to run behind Caldwell and Richard Verschoor.

David Beckmann, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The first interruption came at the end of lap 4 when Aleksandr Smolyar spun off at the final corner, prompting a Virtual Safety Car. After three laps of resumed racing, a full safety car was then deployed when Clement Novalak picked up a puncture from a collision and retired.

The race resumed again on lap 13, but was almost immediately halted again when Roman Stanek spun off  and Sebastian Fernandez was hit from behind on the straight and ended up beached beside the track. The safety car was redeployed, then followed shortly by the red flag.

After waiting to see if the conditions improved, the race was finally abandoned as the time to run it elapsed and Vesti was declared the winner. Zendelli and Beckmann took their first FIA F3 podiums in second and third, while Caldwell managed to pass Piastri to score his first points in fourth.

Piastri finished fifth ahead of Verschoor, and Sargeant was classified seventh. Liam Lawson was eighth, Theo Pourchaire ninth, and Jakes Hughes closed out the top ten having climbed from P16 on the grid.

Lirim Zendelli, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Styria preview: pressure on for Prema

When Formula 3 returns to the Red Bull Ring in support of the Styrian Grand Prix this weekend, all the pressure will be on Prema to maintain their dominant start to the season.

The Italian team started last weekend with Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant taking a 1–2 in the feature race, and Frederik Vesti scoring solid points in both races. As such, Piastri leads the championship with 30 points, with Sargeant in third and Vesti fifth.

Liam Lawson’s win in the Austria sprint race has him second in the standings behind Piastri and makes the Red Bull junior one to watch again this weekend. Alex Peroni also shone at the last round, taking third place behind the Premas in the feature race, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue this forward momentum in his second F3 season.

Trident also had a decent start to the season with Lirim Zendelli and David Beckmann scoring in both races, putting the team second in the championship. To capitalise on this start they’ll need Beckmann and Zendelli to push on towards the podium this weekend, as well as for new signing Olli Caldwell to join them in the points.

David Beckmann, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

One driver who will be hoping for better fortunes in Spielberg this weekend is Sebastian Fernandez. The ART driver claimed a surprise maiden pole for last weekend’s feature race but lost his shot at victory when he was spun by Piastri at Turn 1. But if Fernandez can hook it up in qualifying again this Saturday, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to take the fight to Prema and challenge for his maiden win.

Jake Hughes will also be eager to move on from a disappointing season opener. He was all but out of the feature race before it even began with technical problems meaning he couldn’t start from his qualifying position inside the top 10. But in the sprint race he climbed 16 places from the back row of the grid to P12, showing he has the pace and experience needed to fight at the front, provided his car doesn’t let him down.

Finally, Charouz and Jenzer are the teams most in need of an improvement this weekend as they are the only two outfits still yet to score points with any of their drivers. Charouz came closest last time out, with a best of P15 for David Schumacher in the sprint race, but neither team really came close to worrying the top 10. In such an unusual season, both Charouz and Jenzer will have to find improvements fast if they’re to avoid being stuck to the bottom of the standings.

Sebastian
Fernandez, ART (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Austria: Lawson climbs to sprint race victory

Hitech’s Liam Lawson took victory in Sunday’s Red Bull Ring sprint race, rising from fifth on the grid to take his first win in Formula 3.

Carlin’s Clement Novalak made a good getaway from reverse grid pole to lead into Turn 1, while ART’s Aleksandr Smolyar was slow away from second, being passed by David Beckmann, Lawson and Richard Verschoor.

Beckmann kept close to Novalak through the opening laps, and on lap 4 he passed the Carlin for the lead under DRS. Novalak tried to retake the lead on the following lap but ran wide, losing second place to Lawson when he rejoined the track.

Lawson immediately closed up the gap to Beckmann, and on lap 7 he took the lead into Turn 3. Within two laps Lawson managed to pull out of DRS range of Beckmann, as the Trident came under pressure from Novalak and Verschoor.

On lap 10 Novalak demoted Beckmann back to third with a late lunge into Turn 3. Verschoor tried to do the same to take third from Beckmann a lap later but their battle was called off when Alex Peroni broke down and brought on a Virtual Safety Car.

Clement Novalak, Carlin (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

With the track clear again on lap 12, Verschoor resumed his assault on Beckmann and took away third place under DRS. By this time, Verschoor was 1.2s behind Novalak, but by lap 16 he brought this gap down to 0.2s and dived down the inside of the Carlin into Turn 3 to take second.

Novalak tried to retake the position several times through lap 17 but couldn’t make a move stick. While he and Verschoor battled over second, Lawson was able to open up a two-second gap over them.

On lap 19 the safety car was deployed after Roman Stanek hit a DRS board out of the last corner, wiping out Lawson’s gap over Verschoor and Novalak. But with the race resuming with just two laps remaining, there wasn’t enough time for DRS to be enabled and so Lawson managed to hold on to beat Verschoor by 0.4s. Novalak held onto third and Beckmann missed out on the podium in fourth.

Beckmann’s teammate Lirim Zendelli finished fifth ahead of Prema’s Frederik Vesti, with Smolyar coming home seventh after tumbling from the front row of the grid. Saturday’s feature race winner Oscar Piastri finished eighth and picked up an extra two points for the fastest lap. Enzo Fittipaldi finished ninth for HWA, and Hitech’s Max Fewtrell took the final point in tenth.

After the first weekend of F3 racing, Piastri leads the championship with 30 points, seven ahead of Lawson. Logan Sargeant and Peroni are third and fourth, despite neither scoring in the sprint race. Prema already hold a commanding lead in the teams’ standings with 65 points, 35 clear of next-best Trident.

Formula 3 returns next weekend at the Red Bull Ring again, supporting the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix.

Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Austria: Piastri leads Prema 1–2 in feature race

Oscar Piastri cruised to victory at the Red Bull Ring in the first Formula 3 feature race of 2020, leading teammate Logan Sargeant in a Prema 1–2.

Piastri started from third on the grid behind ART’s polesitter Sebastian Fernandez and Trident’s Lirim Zendelli, but made a rapid launch to challenge for the lead into Turn 1. By Turn 4 he was into first place, having clipped Fernandez into a spin at the first corner and passing Zendelli shortly after.

With no further action taken on his contact with Fernandez, Piastri was free to build an early lead over the chasing pack. After setting an early fastest lap, Piastri already had several seconds in hand over second-placed Zendelli by lap 5.

Lirim Zendelli, Trident (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

While Piastri ran away at the front, the rest of the top 10 ran in a tight train all within DRS range of each other. Zendelli held onto second for the first few laps, but on lap 6 he was passed at Turn 4 by both Sargeant and Alex Peroni, who had charged up from eighth on the grid.

Three laps later, Zendelli lost another place to Frederik Vesti and dropped to fifth. Behind them, Red Bull-backed Liam Lawson continued his rise from 12th on the grid by passing David Beckmann for sixth.

Further back, Aleksandr Smolyar and Clement Novalak occupied the final places in the top 10, having been gifted positions by Fernandez’s spin and Jake Hughes pulling into the pits after the formation lap.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

On lap 14 Sargeant set the fastest lap and began to capitalise on the tyre wear Piastri had incurred in his early charge. As the race neared its closing laps Sargeant reduced the gap to his teammate from 3.5s to 1.7s, with Piastri having visibly less grip than the chasing Prema.

However, with the laps ticking down Piastri had enough in hand to stay ahead of Sargeant until the chequered flag, and take the feature race win on his F3 debut. Sargeant came home in second for a Prema 1–2, while Peroni took his first podium in third. Peroni also set the final fastest lap of the race, taking an additional two points.

Vesti made it three Premas in the top four, and Zendelli finished fifth ahead of Lawson, Beckmann and Smolyar. Novalak took tenth place, earning the reverse grid pole position for tomorrow’s sprint race.

Alex Peroni, Campos (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

F3 Austria preview: will Prema reign supreme?

FIA Formula 3 returns this weekend with a bumper double-header in Spielberg, Austria.

As the 2020 season gets underway all eyes will be on Prema, who dominated last year’s championship to win both the drivers’ and teams’ titles. With Robert Shwartzman, Jehan Daruvala and Marcus Armstrong graduating to Formula 2, Prema has an all-new lineup for this year led by Renault academy driver and 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup champion Oscar Piastri.

Piastri is joined by Frederik Vesti, who won the 2019 Formula Regional European title with Prema, and Logan Sargeant, who has plenty of F3 experience having raced with Carlin last year.

Frederik Vesti, Prema (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

Whether this new lineup will be able to recreate the eight wins and sixteen further podiums Prema swept to last year remains to be seen, and they won’t be without their competition.

Hitech were Prema’s closest rivals last year and has a trio of drivers for 2020 that combines talent and F3 experience. Max Fewtrell and Liam Lawson, Renault and Red Bull juniors respectively, both took podiums in their debut seasons last year, and are joined by Red Bull junior and reigning Italian F4 champion Dennis Hauger.

ART struggled last year to get to grips with the new F3 car and will be expected to improve after this learning experience. Their new lineup is headed by Sauber junior and reigning ADAC F4 champion Theo Pourchaire, who is joined by Alexsandr Smolyar and Sebastian Fernandez.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

Another headache for Prema this weekend may also come from Jake Hughes, the only returning race winner from 2019. Hughes is staying with HWA Racelab for a second season, and this consistency should help him to hit the ground running in the first feature race of the year.

But there are plenty more drivers to watch throughout F3’s packed 30-car grid. Among them are 2019 Macau Grand Prix winner Richard Verschoor (MP Motorsport), rising Red Bull proteges Jack Doohan (HWA) and Igor Fraga (Charouz), 2019 British F3 champion Clement Novalak (Carlin), and the highly-rated Sophia Floersch (Campos).

With so many exceptional drivers and a true old-school circuit, this weekend at the Red Bull Ring will prove an exciting start to the 2020 Formula 3 championship.

Sophia Floersch, Campos (Joe Portlock / LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)