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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F3 Bahrain preview: who can challenge the Trident/ Prema supremacy?

As the Formula 1 paddock descends on Bahrain’s International Circuit for the opening Grand Prix of the season, Formula 3 is also getting ready to launch its 2022 championship with a fresh format, plenty of new drivers and a title fight that’s anyone’s guess.

The title fight is the minimum for Trident and Prema

Oliver Bearman, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Since the FIA F3 championship began in 2019, two teams and their drivers have dominated proceedings – Prema and Trident. The two Italian teams have claimed every drivers’ and teams’ title between them, and ended last season with their two lead drivers – Dennis Hauger and Jack Doohan respectively – far ahead of the rest of the field in the championship standings.

With that record it’s a safe bet to assume those two teams will again be favourites this year, and they certainly have the driver talent to back that up.

Of the two Prema perhaps has the most instantly standout stable. Arthur Leclerc returns for a second season with the team, and although he had a lacklustre debut in 2021 he does come to this year off the back of a pretty dominant Formula Regional Asian title, also with Prema. He’s joined by another sophomore driver in Red Bull junior Jak Crawford, who finished on the podium with Hitech during his debut year and showed impressive pace along the way.

The final member of the Prema lineup is Oliver Bearman – Ferrari junior, and winner of the 2021 ADAC and Italian F4 championships. Although he’s going up against experienced teammates, Bearman’s recent titles and rise through the junior ranks mean he’ll be as much in the title hunt as anyone.

As for Trident, their lineup boasts a similar blend of experienced drivers and rookies. In the #1 car is Red Bull junior Jonny Edgar, who had a solid debut year in 2021 with Carlin, while Roman Stanek joins the team for his third season in F3.

Their teammate is rookie Zane Maloney, who comes with a British F4 title and race wins in Formula Regional European behind him. As one of the fastest drivers in pre-season testing in Bahrain, Maloney will certainly be a rookie to keep an eye on at the front of the field.

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

Can anyone take the fight to the top teams?

Of course, Trident and Prema don’t have an exclusive hold over the title fight. They may have been top of the table in every F3 season so far, but there are eight other teams on the grid, with plenty of formidable talent spread throughout the field.

One name that jumps out is the newly-signed Red Bull junior Isack Hadjar. The Frenchman comes to F3 having finished fifth in Formula Regional European and third in Formula Regional Asian, but more importantly he topped two of the three days of pre-season testing. Hitech may have finished down the order last year, but it wasn’t that long ago they were winning races with Liam Lawson and Juri Vips at the helm.

Isack Hadjar, Hitech (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Speaking of Formula Regional European, the reigning champion Gregoire Saucy will make his debut this year with ART. Saucy also showed strong pace in pre-season testing and can surely be expected to be in the fight for poles, podiums and race wins in his debut year.

However, Saucy will have to come out swinging at ART to avoid being overshadowed by the team’s new signing Victor Martins. In his debut with MP Motorsport last year Martins was by far the field’s standout rookie, taking a win and five podiums and finishing fifth in the championship.

Although ART haven’t been able to challenge for the title in the FIA F3 era, with a driver like Martins in the car that could change this year.

Further down the grid Zak O’Sullivan leads an all-rookie lineup at Carlin. O’Sullivan’s short racing CV already includes last year’s GB3 title, the runner-up spot in British F4 and Ginetta Juniors and the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award, all of which has earned him a place in the Williams F1 Driver Academy.

With Carlin he’s unlikely to be in the title hunt, but given his calibre it would not be surprising to see him on the podium or even end Carlin’s hunt for a first win in FIA F3.

A new format for 2022

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

Last of all, F3 will see a revised format for this year. After running separately to Formula 2 last year, both feeder series’ are back on the same billing and each with one sprint race and one feature race instead of three races across the weekend.

F3’s sprint race will take place on Saturday and the feature race will be on Sunday before the Bahrain Grand Prix. The grid for both races will be set by qualifying on Friday, with the feature race decided by the full qualifying results and the sprint race by reversing the top 12.

The points on offer for pole position and the fastest lap have been halved to two and one point respectively. Points for the sprint race have also been reduced with the winner taking 10 points instead of 15, and the remainder of the top 10 scoring 9 points for second down to 1 point for 10th place.

The feature race points remain the same as before, meaning the winner will score 25 points following the system used for an F1 Grand Prix.

Formula 3’s first sprint race of the season begins on Saturday at 09:45 and the feature race will start on Sunday at 08:45.

F3 Sochi: Doohan seals Trident teams’ title with contentious feature win

Jack Doohan took his fourth win of the season in the Sochi feature race and helped Trident to snatch the Formula 3 teams’ championship away from Prema, albeit by ignoring team orders in his battle with Clement Novalak.

Doohan and Novalak started alongside each other on the front row, and although Novalak got a quick launch to challenge Doohan into Turn 2, Doohan was able to hold his lead from pole position. Behind them Jonathan Hoggard kept third place while Frederik Vesti dropped from fourth to sixth behind Juan Manuel Correa and Lorenzo Colombo.

Vesti soon took those places back however, repassing Colombo by the end of the first lap and Correa on lap 3. On lap 5 he then caught and passed Hoggard’s Jenzer to bring himself up into the podium positions with just over three seconds separating him from the Tridents out front.

Jonathan Hoggard, Jenzer (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Colombo and Correa continued to fall back through the field after those opening laps. Colombo dropped to ninth place after running wide while being passed by Vesti, and was then bumped out of the points altogether by Oliver Rasmussen by the end of lap 1. Meanwhile Correa lost fifth and sixth to Logan Sargeant and Jak Crawford, although he managed to hold seventh by seeing off the new F3 champion Dennis Hauger.

Hauger continued to pressure Correa for seventh, closely pursued himself by Victor Martins. Their battle came to a head on lap 7 as the three of them ran side by side through Turn 7. Correa came out ahead as Martins ran wide, but Hauger was spun around by Rasmussen who tried to take advantage of the melee.

Hauger dropped to the back of the field while Rasmussen and Martins both ended up outside the points. Arthur Leclerc benefited from the incident to sneak through and take seventh from Correa, while Ayumu Iwasa and Alex Smolyar were promoted into the points.

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

At the front of the field Doohan and Novalak were separated by just a few tenths of a second as they fought for the lead. Novalak set the pace early on with the fastest lap and ran just two tenths behind Doohan by lap 7. On lap 9 Novalak tried a move around the outside of Turn 2 for the lead, but he ran deep into the corner and was forced to slot back into second.

While Doohan and Novalak battled, Vesti was closing in fast on the pair of them. By lap 10 he’d halved his gap to 1.5 seconds behind the Tridents, while Novalak was being visibly held up by Doohan who was sliding through the hard right-handers.

With Vesti coming up fast behind them and the team needing to protect the win to take the teams’ title, Trident instructed Doohan to let Novalak through as he appeared to be the faster driver. But unsurprisingly with a win on the line Doohan didn’t let his teammate past, even though that allowed Vesti to close to just half a second by lap 15.

Trident were spared some anxiety a lap later when Vesti ran wide and dropped out of DRS range of Novalak. But Doohan also ran wide on the same lap which gave Novalak a run on his teammate down the straight at the start of lap 17. Novalak initially got ahead through Turn 2, but Doohan used the corner to set up the inside line into Turn 3 and retake the lead.

Clement Novalak, Trident (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F3)

To make matters worse for Novalak he then lost grip in Doohan’s wake and not only dropped out of DRS range of Doohan, but into Vesti’s clutches. Vesti was just a tenth behind Novalak heading through the middle sector while Novalak was warned about weaving in his defence.

When they got to the DRS straight out of Turn 10 Vesti had little trouble pulling alongside and passing Novalak for second. But despite his earlier speed, Vesti’s brief but close battle with Novalak had given Doohan the opportunity to open up a slight lead with two laps remaining, and he ended up crossing the line with two seconds in hand.

Vesti held onto second while Novalak completed the podium in third, but despite losing the 1–2 Trident were still able to take the teams’ title by six points from Prema. Sargeant completed a quiet race in fourth ahead of Crawford and Hoggard, while Leclerc finished seventh and Martins, Iwasa and Olli Caldwell rounded out the points.

Winning the race meant that Doohan keeps his second place in the championship, while Novalak finishes the season in third place ahead of Vesti and Martins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F3 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.

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.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline