Formula 3 Austrian Grand Prix 2020

Three months ago, drivers headed out to Bahrain to take part in the pre-season testing and eventually the first round of the season. With Covid-19 becoming a major outbreak, races started to be cancelled. A provisional calendar was set out, until it was confirmed that we would be racing once more. Strict guidelines followed and thus, we had our first race of the season at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

Qualifying

For Formula 3’s second season, the first qualifying session was considerably sunny compared to the day before. The pole position was contended between Frederik Vesti, David Beckmann, Logan Sargeant, Sebastián Fernández, Oscar Piastri, Jake Hughes and Lirim Zendeli, however with Fernández’s immaculate driving, he achieved first. There were a few mishaps during the session including some oversteers, with Novalak riding into the gravel, Vesti spinning causing Piastri to lose a qualifying lap and Pourchaire with too much oversteer into the final corner.

The grid is as follows:
1. Sebastián Fernández
2. Lirim Zendeli
3. Oscar Piastri
4. Logan Sargeant
5. Jake Hughes
6. Frederik Vesti
7. David Beckmann
8. Alex Peroni
9. Richard Verschoor
10. Roman Staněk
11. Alexander Smolyar
12. Liam Lawson
13. Bent Viscaal
14. Clément Novalak
15. Jack Doohan
16. Dennis Hauger
17. Max Fewtrell
18. Matteo Nannini
19. Federico Malvestiti
20. Théo Pourchaire
21. Cameron Das
22. Lukas Dunner
23. Calan Williams
24. David Schumacher
25. Olli Caldwell
26. Enaam Ahmed
27. Alessio Deledda
28. Sophia Flörsch
29. Enzo Fittipaldi
30. Igor Fraga

Feature Race

A week before the race, people were suspecting a wet race, with rain forecasted all weekend, but for the first race of the season, the track temperature was 28°c and the air was 19°c with clear skies.

During the formation lap, Alessio Deledda in the Campos car stalled on the starting grid. Jake Hughes went into the pits due to a mechanical issue, but returned to the race a lap in.

Fernández had a bad start compared to new rookie Piastri. Through into turn one, Zendeli, Piastri and Fernández were all wheel to wheel. Sebastián’s attempt to go around the outside of both drivers ended in disaster when his right rear wheel collided with Piastri, hitting him round and thus consequently, dropping to the back of the grid and having to pit. Zendeli, however, was still fighting alongside Piastri for the lead with Sargeant now gaining on them. Piastri overtook Zendeli, meaning he was now in the lead of the race. Alex Peroni was running behind Sargeant after making a significant start from P6. Similarly, Liam Lawson went up 5 positions from 12th.

Sargeant was on a charge for Zendeli, gaining time every lap. When the chance arose on lap 7, Logan dived for the position. Zendeli was tentative on the brakes, allowing Peroni to go around the outside as well on the same corner. The running order was Piastri, Sargeant, Peroni and Zendeli.

By the following lap, Piastri had made a 3 second gap from the other drivers that were battling, allowing him to have a smooth drive. Lawson overtook Beckmann for 6th position and was on the charge towards Zendeli who was in 5th. Further behind, Novalak was battling Viscaal for 10th position, which is now even more significant because of the new rule implemented for 2020, which is that the reverse grid pole as 10th instead of 8th. On top of this, Doohan, Fewtrell, Hauger and Pourchaire were all battling it out for 12th. The battle continued for many laps, where Fewtrell and Pourchaire ended up P12 and P13 with Doohan and Hauger settling for the latter positions.

By this time, Prema had all 3 cars in the top 10, with Piastri controlling the race, Sargeant trailing behind in 2nd and Vesti fighting behind in 4th. Oscar had a 3 second gap to Sargeant by lap 10, clearly showing his domination and control despite being a rookie to the championship. Logan tried to close down the gap, even gathering fastest laps, but he still remained 2.6 seconds behind his Australian teammate.

Further down the grid, there were many drivers who were vastly improving. Igor Fraga, previously a sim racer, went from 30th on the grid to 16th. Similarly, Enzo Fittpaldi was up 11 positions from 29th on the grid.

Piastri controlled the race from the start after gaining the first position during the first few corners. Keeping focus and maintaining the tyres drove him to excellence in his debut race and debut season.

The feature race results are:
1. Oscar Piastri
2. Logan Sargeant
3. Alexander Peroni
4. Frederik Vesti
5. Lirim Zendeli
6. Liam Lawson
7. David Beckmann
8. Richard Verschoor
9. Alexander Smolyar
10. Clément Novalak
11. Bent Viscaal
12. Max Fewtrell
13. Théo Pourchaire
14. Jack Doohan
15. Dennis Hauger
16. Igor Fraga
17. Roman Staněk
18. Enzo Fittipaldi
19. Federico Malvestiti
20. Olli Caldwell
21. Calan Williams
22. Cameron Das
23. Enaam Ahmed
24. Lukas Dunner
25. David Schumacher
26. Sophia Flörsch
27. Matteo Nannini
28. Jake Hughes
29. Alessio Deledda
30. DNF Sebastián Fernández

Sprint Race

The sprint race grid is:
1. Clément Novalak
2. Alexander Smolyar
3. Richard Verschoor
4. David Beckmann
5. Liam Lawson
6. Lirim Zendeli
7. Frederik Vesti
8. Alexander Peroni
9. Logan Sargeant
10. Oscar Piastri
11. Bent Viscaal
12. Max Fewtrell
13. Théo Pourchaire
14. Jack Doohan
15. Dennis Hauger
16. Igor Fraga
17. Roman Staněk
18. Enzo Fittipaldi
19. Federico Malvestiti
20. Olli Caldwell
21. Calan Williams
22. Cameron Das
23. Enaam Ahmed
24. Lukas Dunner
25. David Schumacher
26. Sophia Flörsch
27. Matteo Nannini
28. Jake Hughes
29. Alessio Deledda
30. Sebastián Fernández

In Novalak’s second Formula 3 race, he was starting on reverse grid pole with Alexander Smolyar and Richard Verschoor behind. Clément had a decent start, maintaining the lead a few corners later. In comparison, Smolyar had a bad start, where he dropped back to 5th. For the opening lap, Beckmann and Lawson were battling it out for second, but with Beckmann’s careful lines and brakings, he remained ahead of the New Zealander. Further down the grid, Peroni, Sargeant and Viscaal all were battling it out for track position, but as per every fearsome battle, Sargeant was hit with a puncture following the second lap, ending his battle at the front and dropping him to the back.

A few laps later, the gap between Novalak and Beckmann started to reduce significantly. A late lunge into a corner, David manages to overtake him, earning the lead of the race. On the following lap, Novalak tries to retake the lead of the race, sending a dive, but being unable to stop on time, he went wide allowing Lawson to drive alongside. Now second, the New Zealander started his mission to close down the gap to Beckmann and to start leading the race. Not long after, Lawson made his second move, lunging into the corner ahead of Beckmann. A combined effort of late braking and good lines allowed him to gain the lead of the race, whilst David settled for second. Behind the front runners, Verschoor was battling it out with Smolyar for 4th position. Trying to defend his position, Smolyar went for the overtake but was hit. Soon, Zendeli went to take his 5th position, putting the Russian in 6th. It went further backwards for Alexander where Formula Regional champion Frederik Vesti overtook him on lap 8, just a lap after Zendeli did.

The top nine drivers were in a DRS train, all within a second of each other, gaining time off each other. Meanwhile, Hughes was driving up the order. Starting from 29th on the grid due to issues the day before, he was now racing in 16th.

Lap 10 came round and Novalak wanted to make a move. He dove into turn 4 with late braking, hoping to make a move on Beckmann. A good exit out the corner and Clément made the move stick, putting him now second behind Lawson. Verschoor tries to make a similar move, but lost it within the next corner.

The virtual safety car was released with Alex Peroni’s car losing power on lap 11. He was having a decent race, still running in 8th since the start. Théo Pourchaire didn’t expect his car to be losing power, so when he tried to take the slip stream of the Campos car, he hit the back, damaging his front wing. A dive into the pits under virtual safety car left him out in 26th.

Lawson was plain sailing with the car, with a 2 second gap to Novalak, who was driving in second. Behind them, Zendeli and Vesti were fighting each other for 5th, allowing Smolyar and Piastri to gain time on them.

Verschoor, on lap 16, decided to lunge ahead of Novalak. With careful manoeuvres and brakings, Richard took second from the French rookie. It was now Lawson, Verschoor and Novalak. Behind them, Piastri, the feature race winner, was attempting an overtake on Aleaxnder Smolyar, but remained behind. For Jack Doohan, his race didn’t end well. A mechanical failure meant he had to unfortunately retire from the race.

Within the final few laps of the race, Staněk lost control of his car briefly into the final corner, hitting the polystyrene DRS board, scattering it all over the track. The race had another safety car in order to clear up the track and keep the marshals safe. For Lawson, it was a matter of keeping the race under control and keeping a charging Verschoor behind. 2 laps away from the end, the safety car went into the pits, with green flags waving around the track. Further down the grid, Fittipaldi was clawing his way back from 18th. He was racing against Dutch driver Bent Viscaal to the end of the race. Norweigan driver Dennis Hauger was also battling towards the end, but unfortunately lost it on the gravel trap, ending up going further back in the grid.

For Lawson, it was a matter of taking the lead on lap 7 and controlling it from there. With good tyre management, he stayed ahead, winning the Formula 3 Round 1 Sprint Race.

The sprint race results are:
1. Liam Lawson
2. Richard Verschoor
3. Clément Novalak
4. David Beckmann
5. Lirim Zendeli
6. Frederik Vesti
7. Alexander Smolyar
8. Oscar Piastri
9. Enzo Fittipaldi
10. Max Fewtrell
11. Bent Viscaal
12. Jake Hughes
13. Sebastián Fernández
14. Lukas Dunner
15. David Schumacher
16. Sophia Flörsch
17. Calan Williams
18. Matteo Nannini
19. Théo Pourchaire
20. Olli Caldwell
21. Alessio Deledda
22. Federico Malvestiti
23. Dennis Hauger
24. Roman Staněk
25. Enaam Ahmed
26. Igor Fraga
27. Logan Sargeant
28. DNF Jack Doohan
29. DNF Alex Peroni
30. DNF Cameron Das

We’ll be back once more next week (10-12 July) for another round of Red Bull Ring. The team will be following the same schedule for the posts:
Friday – Predictions
Monday – Race Summaries
Wednesday – Race Opinions