Franco Colapinto was victorious in an event-filled Sprint Race, winning from P6 on the grid. The MP Motorsport driver put an impressive move on pole-sitter Sebastián Montoya at Turn 9 to take the lead early on and held his nerve to the chequered flag for victory.
Zak O’Sullivan made a late-race pass on reverse pole-sitter Montoya to take second. The Hitech Pulse-Eight driver held on for a podium in third as the race ended under Safety Car.
AS IT HAPPENED
Montoya got a great launch to retain the lead into the first corner, but Luke Browning got the jump on third-place man Caio Collet. The #16 Hitech Pulse-Eight driver even forced a nose down the inside of Oliver Goethe at Turn 1, but the slightest of contact on the run into Turn 3 gave the Trident man a puncture. He locked-up and ran straight into the gravel as Browning claimed P2.
Franco Colapinto was brave in battle against Collet down the back straight, seizing third from the Van Amersfoort Racing man into the fast Turn 9 and 10 chicane. A Safety Car brought a temporary reprieve at the end of Lap 1. Goethe was stranded in the gravel trap at Turn 3 and his car needed recovering.
Racing got back underway entering Lap 4 as race leader Montoya pulled the pin through Turn 13 to escape up the road. The following lap and the Hitech duo at the front could hardly be separated. With DRS, Browning looked to the inside at Turn 9 but bounced over the kerbs. He dropped down the order to fifth and forced a few battles behind. Collet was one that lost out, sustaining a puncture in a fight with the PREMA Racing teammates of Paul Aron and Zak O’Sullivan.
On Lap 6, Colapinto used DRS into Turn 9 to take the lead from Montoya, moving around the outside on entry before a Safety Car neutralised the race once more. Ido Cohen hit the wall down the back straight following slight contact with Campos Racing’s Hugh Barter. The Rodin Carlin driver was ok but out of the race.
Back to racing on Lap 11 and the leader chose to go at the penultimate corner. Dino Beganovic was able to snatch a place from Gabriele Minì into Turn 3 to put three PREMAs in the top six at the halfway point. In the fourth DRS zone, Beganovic forced Browning defensive on Lap 12 and claimed P5 from the Brit. Plenty behind took advantage as the Hitech fell out of the top 10 in the following corners on Lap 13. Browning was later handed a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision.
A third Safety Car was deployed after Tommy Smith ran wide at the final corner and damaged his Van Amersfoort Racing car. The race resumed entering Lap 17 and once more, Colapinto chose to go ahead of the final corner and escaped DRS range right away. He put in the fastest lap as the gap opened up to over two seconds on Lap 18.
Behind him, the podium fight was hard-fought. O’Sullivan and Montoya couldn’t be separated, rubbing wheels as the PREMA driver claimed P2 out of Turn 11. PREMA teammates Aron and Beganovic went wheel-to-wheel into Turn 3 on the penultimate lap and the Estonian had to fight hard to keep fourth. Minì took advantage to sneak into fifth ahead of the Swede just as a fourth and final Safety Car came out. Jenzer Motorsport driver Alejandro García was in the wall at Turn 11, meaning the race ended under Safety Car.
Winner Colapinto was clear of O’Sullivan in P2 and Montoya held onto a podium position in third. Aron’s defence meant he was fourth ahead of Minì and Beganovic. Trident teammates Gabriel Bortoleto and Leonardo Fornaroli followed in seventh and eighth respectively, with Mari Boya and Grégoire Saucy rounding out the points, in ninth and 10th.
KEY QUOTE – Franco Colapinto, MP Motorsport
“Super happy wininng the Sprint Race and the first race for F3 in Australia. Starting from P6 it was a really good race. The start was pretty good but the pace out in front was amazing. The team did an amazing job to get this right. We are going in the direction we want and I’m really happy with it. Looking forward to tomorrow. I think we can get a lot of points then as well.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS Gabriel Bortoleto still leads the way in the Drivers’ Championship, moving onto 32 points at the top. He’s followed by Dino Beganovic on 27 and Trident teammate Oliver Goethe, who remains third despite his non-score. Franco Colapinto’s win moves him up to fourth on 21 points ahead of fellow Sprint Race winner, Josep María Martí who’s fifth with 19.
Trident retains the lead in the Teams’ Standings on 61 points. PREMA Racing’s triple-scoring result moves the Italian team onto 49, while Hitech Pulse-Eight moves up to third with 33 points.
Formula 3 is back in action on Sunday in Melbourne, with the Feature Race set to begin at 09:05 local time.