Formula 3

Leclerc closes gap, Prema pull away with Silverstone F3 win

3 Mins read
Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited

The FIA Formula 3 Championship visited Silverstone for the first time in two seasons last weekend (1-3 July), with the British circuit bringing some surprise results.

Kush Maini put his MP Motorsport car at the top of the times in Free Practice, ahead of team-mate Caio Collet. That session, like the subsequent three F3 outings of the weekend, was contested on a dry track, with W Series drying the circuit after early-morning showers.

One of the success stories of the weekend came from Zak O’Sullivan and Carlin.

In his home weekend, and that of his team and the Williams F1 Team whose Racing Driver Academy he is part of, he ended Practice in seventh, putting 1.3s and 1.6s on team-mates Enzo Trulli and Brad Benavides respectively.

He was surprised but cautiously optimistic when The Checkered Flag spoke to him before Qualifying.

The team, while never far from the top step in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, the GB3 Championship and the F4 British Championship, has struggled in FIA Formula 3 since the Championship formed after the merging of GP3 and the European Formula 3 Championship for 2019.

Despite that, O’Sullivan channelled his experience of the Northamptonshire circuit and the home support to take pole position for Sunday’s Feature Race, ahead of Arthur Leclerc and Zane Maloney.

The MP pair both qualified in the top ten for the Feature Race, with Collet lining up fourth and Maini tenth.

With the top 12 reversed for Saturday morning’s Sprint, Reece Ushijima started on pole, ahead of Championship leader Victor Martins and 2020 British F3 team-mate Maini.

The Japanese-American driver, racing under the British flag, slipped just behind the French pair of Martins and Isack Hadjar, who started fourth for Hitech GP throughout the 17 laps, but got his season thoroughly on track with his first podium in FIA Formula 3.

Hadjar made a stunning move around the outside of Martins at Stowe on the penultimate lap, and held on to take his second Sprint win of the season.

O’Sullivan started the Feature Race from pole, ahead of Leclerc and Maloney, and managed to stay ahead in the early stages.

There was controversy just a few corners in, though, as Franco Colapinto‘s crash at Luffield scrambled the safety car.

Leclerc had begun to make his way around the outside at Stowe as the safety car came out, and slotted in ahead of O’Sullivan until the exit of Chapel a lap later, wherein Prema Racing told him to give the position back to the British driver.

When the safety car came back in, O’Sullivan made the better start, but Leclerc used the DRS to take the lead back legitimately into Brooklands and Luffield.

It was a lead he wouldn’t relinquish, while O’Sullivan and Oliver Bearman nearly came to blows in the final sector of the final lap, O’Sullivan being forced off-track on the exit of Club as Bearman mounted the inside kerb and ran wide, losing speed and coming home narrowly behind O’Sullivan in third.

Leclerc’s first win of the season, his second in FIA F3, helped him secure a 13-point swing on Victor Martins, whose disappointing Qualifying position put him out of the fight for the big points in Sunday’s Feature Race.

The Monegasque driver now sits just six points behind Martins, with highest-placed rookie Hadjar a further three points behind after two wins.

Ollie Bearman and O’Sullivan have shot up the standings to sixth and seventh respectively, with their second and first podiums of the season.

Prema had a great weekend in their title battle with ART Grand Prix, pulling away by 40 points thanks to their double podium in the Feature Race, and Juan Manuel Correa‘s retirement in the early laps on Sunday.

Hitech are closing on ART, with Hadjar’s win and Kaylen Frederick‘s best finish to date (P5), both in the Sprint Race, taking them away from Trident and Van Amersfoort Racing.

O’Sullivan’s third-place in the Feature Race took Carlin to seventh in the standings; he has scored all 33 of the team’s points to date this season, already surpassing their total from 2021.

The next round will be at the Red Bull Ring on 8-10 July, supporting Formula 1 and Formula 2.

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Stickler for track limits, covering the GB3 Championship and the FIA Formula 3 Championship. Twitter: @MCallanderMedia
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