PREMA Racing’s Dennis Hauger sealed the Formula 3 Drivers’ title with a peerless performance in Race 1 at Sochi but narrowly missed out on clinching the crown with a win, finishing second on track to Charouz Racing System’s Logan Sargeant.
With Jack Doohan struggling down in 15th after a difficult start, Hauger needed just six points to clinch the crown, but the Norwegian wanted to cap it off in style. Having started the race in fourth, he had risen to second midway through and set off in pursuit of Sargeant and first place.
And although he succeeded in cutting down the American’s 3.5s advantage, the Norwegian was unable to prevent Sargeant from claiming a first victory for more than a year.
The achievement makes Hauger the third F3 winner and sees him follow in the footsteps of 2019 and 2020 champions Robert Shwartzman and Oscar Piastri, who also took the title with PREMA.
Reverse polesitter Victor Martins lost first place to Sargeant at the start but did manage to hang on to a podium spot, ahead of Trident’s Clément Novalak and his MP Motorsport teammate, Caio Collet.
AS IT HAPPENED
With heavy rain anticipated on Saturday, Race 1 had been brought forward to Friday evening, but that gave the field very little time to prepare for a 20-lap spectacle that could decide the title.
Not that a lack of preparation was obvious at the start. Reverse polesitter Martins got a good leap off the line and attempted to protect P1 by chopping in front of Sargeant, but the American had seen it coming and lunged to the left of the MP motorsport heading into the first turn.
The duo continued brawling side-by-side through to Turn 4 before a wide moment from the Frenchman allowed Sargeant to pull ahead.
The remainder of the top five, including Hauger, retained their positions at the end of the first lap. Meanwhile, Doohan had slipped from 12th to 15th and was provisionally out of the title race. That didn’t stop Hauger from moving forwards as the Norwegian stole the final podium spot from Jak Crawford.
Sargeant had increased his lead to 3.5s at the front as Hauger began to reel in Martins, pulling off a DRS-fuelled move on the MP Motorsport man for second. The PREMA had his eyes locked on sealing the title with a win and there were seven laps left for him to catch up to the race leader.
Tijmen Van der Helm’s MP Motorsport went up in smoke with five laps to go and brought out a Virtual Safety Car. The Marshall’s fast work spared the need for a full Safety Car and protected Sargeant’s lead.
However, Hauger’s hunt of Sargeant intensified when racing resumed and he found himself within DRS range of the American on the final lap, but with just three corners to go, he ran out of road and crossed the line behind the Charouz in second, with the Czech team claiming their first F3 win.
Martins completed the podium as Novalak pulled off a late move on Collet for fourth. Colombo and Leclerc took sixth and seventh, ahead of Frederik Vesti, Juan Manuel Correa and Ayumu Iwasa.
Crawford fell out of the top 10 but did hang onto 11th for a spot on the front row of Race 2’s reverse grid. He’ll start behind Johnathan Hoggard, who finished 12th.
KEY QUOTE – LOGAN SARGEANT (CHAROUZ RACING SYSTEM)
“I have finally gotten a win – I was determined not to go a season without a win. I had a really good start and then tried to manage the tyres as best as I could, but then towards the end Dennis (Hauger) was coming really quick.
“I am really glad that I could hang on and give Charouz their first victory. I’m looking forward to the next few days.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Hauger is the Drivers’ champion with two races to spare on 205 points, ahead of Doohan on 154 and Novalak on 132. Martins is fourth with 127 points and Vesti fifth with 120.
In the Teams’ title fight, PREMA Racing are top with 368 points, ahead of Trident on 341 and ART Grand Prix on 238. MP Motorsport are fourth with 220 and Charouz Racing System fifth with 115.
Hoggard will start from reverse grid pole in Race 2 at 1.40pm (local time)