ART’s Alex Smolyar took the first win of the 2021 Formula 3 season in Barcelona, beating Clement Novalak and rookie Caio Collet.
Smolyar and Collet started from second and third behind reverse polesitter Jonny Edgar, and held position behind the Carlin at the start. Behind them, Novalak jumped from sixth to fourth by passing Logan Sargeant and David Schumacher.
Smolyar stuck with Edgar through the opening laps, and on lap four he took the lead at the inside of Turn 1 under DRS. Edgar tried to return the move on the following lap, but Smolyar was able to hold the Carlin off and start pushing out of DRS range.
As Smolyar opened up a gap at the front, Edgar started to struggle with his tyres and came under pressure from Collet and Novalak. On lap 10 Collet tried a move for second at Turn 1 but lost momentum around the outside, which allowed Novalak to pass the Brazilian for third.
Novalak then overtook Edgar for second on lap 14, while Collet got through for third a lap later. As the race entered its final stage, Smolyar reported losing rear grip as Novalak started to eat into the Russian’s lead.
But as Novalak got close to DRS range, the race was halted when Oliver Rasmussen went off into the gravel on lap 18 and brought out the safety car.
This proved to be Smolyar’s saving grace, as there wasn’t enough time for the safety car to come in before the chequered flag — aided somewhat by the tractor recovering Rasmussen’s car getting stuck in the gravel itself.
Smolyar therefore took the win ahead of Novalak and Collet, while Sargeant finished fourth for Charouz having passed Edgar just before the safety car was deployed. Olli Caldwell finished sixth in his first race for Prema, ahead of Frederik Vesti, Dennis Hauger, Victor Martins and Matteo Nannini.
Smolyar took the additional points for fastest lap, and Enzo Fittipaldi finished twelfth to start the second sprint race on reverse pole.
Formula 3 will take to Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend for the opening round of the 2021 season.
This year, F3 will be following the same new weekend format used by Formula 2 in Bahrain. That means there will be two sprint races on Saturday, and one feature race before the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.
Can anyone stop Prema?
As we get into a new season, the big question is whether Prema will once again be the team to beat. And looking at their new lineup, it would be hard to bet against them.
Dennis Hauger and Arthur Leclerc, from the Red Bull and Ferrari junior teams respectively, have already been outlined as title favourites. Hauger comes with an impressive resume of Formula 4 results as well as a season of F3 under his belt with Hitech last year, which included a podium at Hungary. As for Leclerc, he came close to winning last year’s Formula Regional European Championship, with only a retirement in the last round leaving him as runner-up.
Olli Caldwell will be the wildcard in Prema’s lineup. Like Hauger, Caldwell brings F3 experience after running with Trident last year, although he only scored points four times across the season. But don’t write him off based on that — Logan Sargeant did the same in his debut F3 year, before going on to be a title contender with Prema last year.
But while Prema has an impressive lineup, they won’t have it all their own way this year. New Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti, who won the joint-most races of anyone last year while driving for Prema, has moved to ART and will be aiming to challenge for the title there as Theo Pourchaire did in 2020.
Meanwhile, Prema’s closest challengers last year Trident have looked rapid during testing with their new lineup of Clement Novalak, Jack Doohan and David Schumacher. Novalak in particular will be one to watch, as he comes off the back of a debut F3 year that included two podium finishes for Carlin.
Watch out for the midfield pack
But it’s not just the top three teams who could start their season off on top this weekend, as there’s an impressive crop of drivers in the midfield pack ready to make their mark.
For F1 fans, there are plenty of potential future Grand Prix drivers making their F3 debuts this weekend. As well as Hauger and Doohan, Red Bull have three more irons in the fire in the form of Jak Crawford and Ayumu Iwasa at Hitech, and Jonny Edgar at Carlin. Iwasa and Edgar were both F4 champions last year, while Crawford was runner-up to Edgar and a five-time race winner in ADAC F4.
Alpine has two exciting prospects in Victor Martins and Caio Collet, who are both racing for MP Motorsport this year. The two juniors spent last year duelling for the Formula Renault Eurocup title, with the crown going the way of Martins, and have carried that rivalry into F3 already as they topped three days of pre-season testing between them. Watch out for these two springing surprise results at the front of the field.
Outside of the F1 junior spotlight, there’s also Matteo Nannini and Roman Stanek. They were two of the quieter revelations from last year, and now driving for HWA and Hitech respectively they’re well placed to make a big impression in their sophomore year.
Lastly, there’s the good news story that is the racing comeback of Juan Manuel Correa. Driving for ART, Correa will be returning to motorsport for the first time since the F2 crash at Spa in 2019 which left him with severe injuries and claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert.
Although this is Correa’s first time racing since 2019, and first time driving at this level since his 2018 GP3 season with Jenzer, he performed well in both pre-season tests earlier in the year. What’s more, with ART he’s got a great team to help him get up to speed quickly, so Correa’s progress this weekend will be well worth watching.
Check out the full list of F3 teams and drivers for this weekend here.
Clement Novalak ended the second day of Formula 3 testing in Barcelona on top of the timesheets, with Trident teammate Jack Doohan in second.
Novalak was on the pace throughout the morning session. Hitech’s Igor Fraga set the initial pace with a 1:33.033s, but this was swiftly beaten by Novalak. The Trident driver was briefly deposed by Matteo Nannini, driving from ART after topping yesterday’s test with Campos, but by the end of the session Novalak was back on top with a benchmark of 1:31.989s.
Nannini stayed in second until late in the session, when Doohan put in a 1:32.147s to drop Nannini to third ahead of Fraga. Doohan also recorded the most laps of the day with 91.
Jenzer rookie Jonathan Hoggard impressed by ending the day fifth-fastest ahead of ART’s Olli Caldwell, and then topping the afternoon session which focused on race simulations.
Renault junior Victor Martins made it all three ARTs in the top seven, while Dennis Hauger (Prema), Calan Williams (Jenzer) and David Schumacher (Trident) rounded out the top ten.
Hauger was the only Prema driver in the top ten in the morning session, with Roman Stanek P17 and Arthur Leclerc P22. However, the reigning champions had a much stronger afternoon with Stanek and Hauger second and third behind Hoggard, and Leclerc fifth behind Fraga.
Matteo Nannini topped the first day of Formula 3’s post-season test in Barcelona ahead of Jake Hughes and Calan Williams.
On his first day driving for Campos Racing, Nannini set his time of a 1:32.170s in the morning session, before switching to race simulations in the afternoon and logging a total of 64 laps. Hughes, returning to HWA, was only 0.257s slower than Nannini and set 62 laps overall.
Jenzer’s Williams led a tight trio of drivers with less than three tenths separating him from Dennis Hauger at Prema and ART rookie Victor Martins in fifth. Renault junior Martins, currently leading the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup championship, was the only rookie within the top ten and had one of the highest lap counts with 74.
Enzo Fittipaldi (HWA) and Roman Stanek (ART) were sixth and seventh, while Jack Doohan was eighth-fastest overall and topped the afternoon session for Trident. Clement Novalak (Trident) and David Schumacher (Prema) rounded out the top ten.
HWA rookie William Alatalo recorded the most laps of the day with 93, while Novalak had the fewest with 49.
Six drivers set their fastest laps in the afternoon session, all of whom were rookies: Alessandro Famularo (Campos), Amaury Cordeel (MP Motorsport), Jonny Edgar (MP Motorsport), Patrik Pasma (Charouz), Rafael Villagomez (Trident) and Josef Knopp (Charouz).