Isack Hadjar proved that experience isn’t all that matters as he stormed to the third victory of his rookie campaign, and his first Feature Race win, around a drenched Spielberg circuit. Starting from pole proved to be the backbone of the Hitech Grand Prix driver’s success, as the clear air ahead allowed him to build a gap to Victor Martins which even an appearance from the Safety Car couldn’t overcome.
Oliver Bearman converted third on the grid to the final step of the podium, ahead of PREMA Racing teammate Arthur Leclerc. Zane Maloney made up three places as he and his teammate Roman Stanek made it two Tridents in the top six. Franco Colapinto added more points to his tally in seventh, ahead of a charging Alexander Smolyar, who leapt his way up from 16th to eighth at the chequered flag.
William Alatalo and Ido Cohen brought smiles to the Jenzer Motorsport team, as they secured the team’s third and fourth points finishes this season by rounding out the top 10 and bringing home Cohen’s first points in the third tier.
AS IT HAPPENED
One of the biggest challenges the grid has tackled so far this season awaited them in today’s Sprint Race, as heavy rain at the Red Bull Ring saw the drivers face a contest of attrition on wet tyres. With standing water everywhere and spray creating a lack of visibility, it was up to maiden pole-sitter Hadjar to lead the field away in a rolling start.
Despite having never started from the front row in Formula 3, Hadjar nailed his launch allowing him to hold off an attack from Championship leader Martins. However, an error saw the rookie run wide into Turns 1 and 9, allowing fellow Frenchman Martins to close in on him. Nevertheless, the ART Grand Prix driver wasn’t immune to mistakes, and taking too much kerb into the final corner almost proved to be his undoing. A lucky save stopped Martins heading into an early spin but dropped him nearly a second behind the leader.
The pair’s duel wasn’t slowing them down, as they continued to pull a gap to the PREMA duo of Bearman and Leclerc behind. As predicted, conditions began to ease, and with a drier line beginning to form along the 4.318km circuit the field urgently searched for wet patches of tarmac in order to run the blue-walled tyres to the end of the race.
It was an all-Red Bull battle over seventh, as juniors Jak Crawford and Jonny Edgar fought hard. While the PREMA looked to be the quicker of the two, it was the Trident who kept the American at bay. This allowed Maloney to close up on the pair.
On Lap 11, Caio Collet dived down the inside of Maloney for ninth, but couldn’t make the move stick. Overly eager on the throttle, the MP Motorsport driver suffered a big snap and almost lost control. Luckily, he was able to just hold on but had to set about catching up to the Bajan driver once again.
Two laps later and the pair continued to battle. Utilising the cutback out of Turn 3, Collet got past Maloney, who refused to give in, going side-by-side until Turn 8 in a heart-stopping run but the Bajan driver wasn’t quite able to make it stick.
Outside the points, the two Charouz Racing System drivers of Francisco Pizzi and Zdenek Chovanec made contact, whilst Josep María Martí’s charge to try to claim his first points finish in F3 took a knock. Attempting to defend P16 from Alatalo, the Spaniard clipped fellow rookie Zak O’Sullivan before making contact with Campos Racing teammate David Vidales.
In a repeat of Saturday’s events, the two PREMAs of Bearman and Leclerc once again got their elbows out as they fought over third. This battle soon ground to a halt, however, as the Safety Car was deployed on Lap 19. Further contact between the two Charouz cars had beached Chovanec in the gravel at Turn 4.
Consequently, the lead Hadjar had fought hard to build vanished in an instant and it all came down to his restart once again three laps later. Despite the pressure on his shoulders, the Hitech driver didn’t falter and Hadjar pulled away from Martins, as chaos unfolded behind. A disastrous restart for Crawford, Edgar and Collet sent the trio into a spin and dropped them well outside the points.
As the penultimate lap got underway, Stanek made a last-ditch attempt to get past Hitech’s Kaylen Frederick for fifth, which resulted in the American driver getting a puncture and falling outside of the points.
As the drama ensued behind, Hadjar looked calm and collected as he crossed the line to collect the win and make it two Red Bull junior victories at their home weekend. Martins held on to second, ahead of Bearman, Leclerc, Maloney, Stanek and Colapinto. The biggest beneficiaries from the chaos were Smolyar in the red MP Motorsport car and the Jenzers of Alatalo and Cohen who had slowly but surely moved their way up through the field, capitalising on mistakes ahead to finish inside the points.
KEY QUOTE – Isack Hadjar, Hitech Grand Prix
“Really happy with that Feature Race win, my first of the season. Super happy with the weekend – we got our first pole position and Feature Race win. It’s a great comeback from yesterday’s race, so really about that and thanks to my team.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Victor Martins continues to hold the narrowest of leads at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, with just one point now separating him and Isack Hadjar, as 98 points play 97. Arthur Leclerc drops to third, six points adrift of the French rookie. Roman Stanek leaps back up into fourth and Spielberg Sprint Race winner Jak Crawford sits fifth on 70 points.
A double top-four finish has helped PREMA Racing extend their lead at the top of the Teams’ Championship on 220 points. ART Grand Prix remains second, 10 points clear of Hitech Grand Prix in third. Trident strengthens their hold on fourth on 116 points, compared to fifth-placed MP Motorsport’s 90.
The drivers will have two weeks to reset, as Formula 3 returns to action at the Hungaroring for the sixth round of the 2022 season from July 29-31.