PREMA Racing Team Principal René Rosin believes it’s now anyone’s game to be crowned the 2022 FIA Formula 3 Drivers’ Champion after a topsy-turvy weekend in Budapest shook up the order and blew the title fight wide open.
Heading into the weekend, it looked to be a three-car battle with ART Grand Prix’s Victor Martins having led the way since the opening round in Sakhir. However, following his second victory of the season in the Silverstone Sprint Race, Isack Hadjar has had the momentum and the Hitech Grand Prix driver’s P4 finish on Saturday in Budapest was enough for him to dethrone his fellow Frenchman by one point.
Right on the leading duo’s tail was Arthur Leclerc. However, an opportunistic move from him on PREMA teammate Jak Crawford as he sought to chase down fourth on the final lap of the Sprint Race backfired. The pair came together and tumbled out of the points, earning the Monégasque driver a five-place grid drop for the Feature Race.
Reflecting on a somewhat underwhelming weekend from the Italian team, it’s slip ups like these that have left Rosin feeling dissatisfied with their performance at the Hungaroring and uneasy about whether an opportunity to take advantage of their rivals’ weaker results passed them by.
"From a team perspective, we didn't maximise all the potential over the weekend. Yesterday was quite a big disappointment because we lost quite a lot of points. We were in a solid points position with all the cars and then at the end we finished just with Ollie (Bearman) because Arthur decided to crash into Jak.
“It was an unfortunate event that we've already discussed internally, and I don’t think it will happen anymore between any of the teammates. We lost quite a lot of points because there was a chance to gain, especially with the starting grid penalty for Arthur compromising another good result.
“Then the race today, if I look at the pace - the potential has been pretty solid from all the cars. Of course, the last six-seven laps when the drivers starting from the back decided to put on the slicks, this is something that we cannot control. We could have thought to do something different, but on the other hand we were ahead of all the title contenders.
“At the end we were looking to score points, which were good for the championship. The balance of today I cannot blame anybody or anything, but I’m more concerned about the points loss yesterday, which has been first of all, not a good image for us as a team, but secondly, for Arthur to have done those mistakes has been quite bad.”
Keen to salvage what they could from the Feature Race, PREMA were on course for a very solid haul of points up until the final lap. From the moments the lights went out, Oliver Bearman was putting pressure on Trident’s Zane Maloney for P2 and on Lap 23 of 24, it looked as though the team would be bringing home all three cars inside the top six.
However, the drying track enabled those who started further down the field like Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan and Juan Manuel Correa for ART, who lined up in P22 and P18 respectively, to gamble on a switch to slicks late on. This proved to be a wild success as the two skyrocketed up into the top 10, with O’Sullivan eventually snatching fourth from Crawford and Correa finding his way past Leclerc to finish sixth. Meanwhile, Bearman secured the fourth podium of his rookie season.
“Honestly, at the beginning we were thinking that it would not have dried up. Then we when we saw Juan Manuel Correa become one of the first top put on slicks seven laps to the end and immediately went purple in the last sector, we started looking at it. On the other hand, in that moment, Ollie and Jak were P3 and P4 and Arthur was catching up and he was already around sixth or seventh.
“At the end it was a bit risky to try to do something. We think that we could have done things differently, but it was a good comeback performance-wise after the after yesterday.”
After falling short at the final hurdle and narrowly losing out to Trident in the Teams’ Standings last year, PREMA have a convincing hold over the Championship on 255 points. They’ve extended their advantage over ART to 102 points heading into summer break, courtesy of their three drivers comfortably sitting third, fourth and fifth in the Drivers’ Standings.
24 points split the top five in the Championship. Tied on 104, it’s Hadjar that holds the lead over Martins on countback, while Leclerc has dropped a little way off on 95 points. Countback also separates Crawford and Bearman on 80 points, with the American driver’s Spielberg Sprint Race win keeping him ahead of the Brit.
Three rounds remain of the 2022 campaign in Spa-Francorchamps, Zandvoort and Monza and with 117 points still to be decided, Rosin believes any one of his three young stars could be in with a shot a glory as the team aim to secure the Drivers’ title for the fourth consecutive season.
However, in order to follow in Robert Shwartzman, Oscar Piastri and Dennis Hauger’s footsteps, the PREMA boss insists there must be no more room for mistakes, as with margins as tight as these, even a split-second decision can have huge ramifications for their title challenge.
“Everything is open now. I don't say that we restart from zero, but we are in that position. We’re starting a triple header in a month’s time where we cannot have any mistakes. We need to be concentrating, working hard as a team because only by working as a team can we make sure that we can do these three races
“At the end the best of them will win. All of them have a great chance and a great potential so we will see in Spa in three weeks time. It will be tight. It will be tough, stressful, but it will be like it is.”