Now that the dust has settled on the 2022 Formula 3 season, it’s time to take a look back at some of its biggest blockbuster moments. From Victor Martins laying down the gauntlet in Sakhir to Zane Maloney’s heroic turn of fortunes in Spa-Francorchamps, we’ve been spoilt for choice across the 18 races, but here are five that stand out as some of the best...
SAKHIR FEATURE RACE
Qualifying instantly set the stage for what was an exhilarating season-opening Feature Race. Rookie Franco Colapinto snatched a surprise pole position on Van Amersfoort Racing’s debut weekend. Yet by the Feature Race’s chequered flag, it was returnee Martins who covered himself in glory and got his title charge well and truly started.
Slamming his foot to the floor, Colapinto nailed a textbook getaway to hold the lead and comfortably managed an early Safety Car appearance. Meanwhile, further back his fellow rookies showed no hesitation in getting their elbows out. Brits Oliver Bearman and Zak O’Sullivan duelled on the opening lap but were forced to take avoiding action after running wide and dropping down the order.
Taking advantage of the restart, Martins got the better of Trident’s Roman Stanek, who soon found himself eliminated from contention after suffering a puncture. A Virtual Safety Car restart followed on Lap 5 and this time it was Arthur Leclerc on the charge, dispatching Sprint Race winner Isack Hadjar and Campos Racing’s David Vidales for fifth, having started P13.
His two PREMA Racing teammates were also making headway with Jak Crawford and Bearman slicing through a stream of 15 or more cars to get back into the top 10.
Patiently waiting until Lap 15, Martins finally pounced on Colapinto for the lead, but the Argentinian rookie didn’t make things easy for him, forcing the ART Grand Prix driver to go the long way around up into P1. Their duel allowed Leclerc to close in and the VAR driver lost out once again and eventually classified in fifth behind Leclerc and ART teammates Grégoire Saucy and Juan Manuel Correa.
IMOLA FEATURE RACE
A wet weekend in Imola had no shortage of drama from the outset, but the slippery 24-lap Feature Race kept the whole field on their toes and added a new winner to the record books. Overnight rain left teams with a dilemma – gamble on slicks when the circuit was damp or wet tyres but risk the track drying well before the end.
Benefitting from his wet tyres, Caio Collet rocketed up from ninth to lead by almost four seconds by the end of the opening lap. Unfortunately, his advantage would quickly be washed away by the Safety Car on Lap 2, as three drivers found themselves on the sidelines early.
Having reached the wet-to-dry crossover point, Collet dived into the pits, promoting Josep María Martí into the lead momentarily after starting 24th. Then Maloney had his turn up front, but that too turned out to be short-lived. On the second Safety Car restart, the Trident driver spun out at the penultimate corner, leaving the door open for Bearman to take the lead, one he extended following a third Safety Car appearance.
However, the race was far from over as Stanek clawed back the Ferrari junior’s advantage, going toe-to-toe with Bearman before breezing through along the main straight on the penultimate lap to bring home his first F3 victory.
This left the PREMA driver vulnerable in a five-car fight for second. He lost out to Crawford before clashing with Saucy at the final corner of the final lap – allowing Hadjar to sneak up onto the podium ahead of Bearman. Rampant recovery drives were also in order for Leclerc, who regained 16 places to take fifth, and Vidales who charged through from P27 to P9.
SILVERSTONE FEATURE RACE
The fourth Feature Race of the year threw up its fair share of surprises with two home heroes fighting for the podium all the way to a photo-finish.
After seizing an unexpected pole position, Carlin driver O’Sullivan held his nerve off the line ahead of Leclerc. Just behind them things were getting scrappy as Crawford was squeezed wide by Maloney in the battle for third. Eyeing the tussle ahead, Bearman got the run on the Bajan driver down the Wellington Straight with neither driver willing to yield. Heading into Luffield, the two made contact which sent Maloney spinning off the track and gave Collet third.
The first Safety Car of the morning to deal with a stranded Colapinto gifted Leclerc the slipstream he needed, using DRS to glide past O’Sullivan for the lead around the outside of Brooklands on Lap 6. Separate clashes between Hadjar and Crawford, Saucy and Stanek and Rafael Villagómez and Azman dampened their days, with the last bringing out the Safety Car once more.
At the backend of the points, Martins’ fight back was on – executing a late dive on Kaylen Frederick into Village for eighth before pulling off an audacious move around the outside of Crawford at Stowe. Having survived his early contact with Hadjar, the American managed to survive the Frenchman’s attempts and then dispatched Trident’s Jonny Edgar for P6 two laps later.
It was now or never for the top five runners, who were separated by only 1.5s. Getting revenge on Collet, Bearman lunged past him into Brooklands on the penultimate lap and caught the back of O’Sullivan, attempting to get past him through Stowe to no avail.
Undeterred, Bearman forced his compatriot to go on the defensive in a wheel-to-wheel drag race to the line with the Carlin driver holding on to second by the skin of his teeth by 0.051s. Their duel gave Leclerc the breathing room he needed to bring home his first victory of the year and PREMA’s first F3 win at the historic circuit.
SPIELBERG FEATURE RACE
Come rain or shine, the class of 2022 always flourished, but probably the wettest race of the year gave Hadjar a chance to put on a masterclass. As heavy spray blanketed the Red Bull Ring, pole-sitter Hadjar had the unenviable task of getting racing underway after a rolling start in his first front row appearance.
Immediately under pressure from Martins after a small mistake, the Hitech Grand Prix driver had small reprieve as his compatriot wasn’t immune from errors – with a lucky save narrowly avoiding an early spin.
With conditions improving and a dry line forming around the Spielberg circuit, it was a game of survival for the drivers to get their wet tyres to the finish and hold off duelling rivals. Red Bull juniors Crawford and Edgar battled it out over seventh, with the American unable to find his way through. Meanwhile, Collet tried to dive down the inside of Maloney and just about averted disaster, as the MP Motorsport driver suffered a huge snap of oversteer. Eventually, the Brazilian got through after a nail-biting run through Turns 3 to 8.
Contact between Charouz Racing System teammates Francisco Pizzi and Zdenek Chovanec necessitated a late Safety Car appearance on Lap 19, wiping out Hadjar’s lead. At the restart, the rookie held his nerve against rival Martins to claim an impressive victory at his academy’s home track.
Things didn’t go as well behind them, as chaos into Turn 1 eliminated Crawford, Edgar and Collet in one go, whilst Stanek clipped Frederick on the penultimate lap, giving the Hitech driver a puncture. This allowed Alexander Smolyar and the Jenzer Motorsport duo of William Alatalo and Ido Cohen to slip through into the points – the team’s only double points finish of the season.
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS FEATURE RACE
Turning his fortunes around overnight, few drivers have ever had quite such a memorable recovery drive as Maloney did in Spa-Francorchamps. After a major crash in the Sprint Race that wrecked his Trident car, his team put in a herculean effort to get him ready to race the next day. The Bajan driver rewarded them with the first of three consecutive Feature Race victories.
With the top four title contenders languishing down in P20 or lower, the spotlight fell on those close behind in the Standings. Instantly hungry for the lead off the line, Maloney and pole-sitter Collet engaged in a drag race down into Les Combes and banged wheels. The Trident driver was ordered to give the place back to the MP driver, as Oliver Goethe snuck through into the lead on his second F3 weekend.
Martins’ day soon turned to disaster as he was caught up in chaos ahead. Kush Maini overshot the corner, sending him into the path of Pizzi, with the domino effect tagging Cohen and Martins, forcing the ART driver to pull over with damage – bringing out the Safety Car.
On the restart, Collet, Maloney and Stanek wasted no time getting through on Goethe, moments before the Safety Car’s second appearance after Saucy and Martí made contact. With the benefit of traction, Maloney easily got the jump on Collet and paved the way for his teammate Stanek to follow him through into second to secure a 1-2 finish for the team.
A three-way battle for third between Bearman, Edgar and Goethe developed and having dispatched the third Trident, Bearman and Goethe risked it all on the penultimate lap.
The PREMA driver set up the move on the final lap, using the extra pace from DRS to get the better of the Campos driver and put himself right in the mix for the Championship behind Martins and Hadjar.