Round 2 of the 2021 FIA Formula 3 Championship gets under way this weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet.

WHEN TO WATCH All times local (GMT +2)

Friday Free Practice: 10:05 – 10:50 Qualifying: 13:50 – 14:20 Press conference: 16:05

Saturday Race 1: 10:10 (20 laps) Press conference: 11:15 Race 2: 16:40 (20 laps) Press conference: 17:45

Sunday Race 3: 11:40 (20 laps) Press conference: 12:45

THE STORY SO FAR

The 2021 FIA Formula 3 Championship makes a much-anticipated return at the Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend, after an action-packed opening round in Barcelona last month.

An exhilarating weekend of racing during the season-opener at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya saw three drivers, Alexander Smolyar, Olli Caldwell, and Dennis Hauger all crowned Formula 3 race winners for the first time. In addition to three new podium sitters, the round also saw a total of 15 drivers pick up points across the three races first races of the season.

Smolyar won the opening race of the season in Barcelona

ART Grand Prix’s Smolyar sealed an impressive first victory in Formula 3, darting ahead of reserve polesitter Jonny Edgar in the early stages of Race 1 to finish ahead of Trident’s Clément Novalak and MP Motorsport’s Caio Collet. Meanwhile, PREMA Racing’s Caldwell emerged victorious from a frenetic Race 2, which saw two front row crashes in just six laps, winning out over MP’s Victor Martins and ART’s Frederik Vesti.

Red Bull Junior Hauger got his Championship contending campaign off to a strong start in Race 3, with a dominant lights-to-flag that saw him cross the line with an impressive 4s lead. The Norwegian also scored PREMA’s second win of the weekend, coming home ahead of academy-mate Jack Doohan, and HWA RACELAB’s Matteo Nannini.

THE CHALLENGERS

After three races Dennis Hauger (34 points) leads the Drivers’ Championship, with a narrow 2-point gap to teammate Olli Caldwell (32) who was one of five drivers to score points in all three races in the opening round. The PREMA duo lead Clément Novalak (28) who sits in third ahead of Alpine Academy driver Victor Martins (24), the highest placed rookie, in fourth. Trident’s Jack Doohan (21), who collected his Formula 3 podium in Barcelona rounds out the top five.

PREMA Racing lead the way in the Teams’ Championship (66 points) after strong weekends for both Hauger and Caldwell. Second placed Trident (49) are 17 points back, and lead MP Motorsport (44) by just five points. ART Grand Prix (38) and HWA RACELAB (16) are in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Hauger currently leads the title race after taking pole and winning Race 3 in Barcelona

Johnathan Hoggard makes his Formula 3 debut this weekend, replacing Pierre-Louis Chovet at Jenzer Motorsport. Hoggard featured in both post-season tests last year, but this weekend will be his first appearance of the 2021 season.

Meanwhile Chovet steps in for Campos Racing driver László Tóth at the Spanish team this weekend, after the Hungarian rookie tested positive for COVID-19 during pre-race PCR testing.

FROM THE GRID – VICTOR MARTINS (MP MOTORSPORT)

“The layout at Circuit Paul Ricard is quite fun: there are some quite long straights with some technical corners. I think it's quite tricky to get everything right. It’s in France, so it's pretty exciting for me as it’s my home race, but at the end of the day you still expect to do that same job and you expect to deliver the same results.

“It's difficult to know what to expect when it comes to tyre management because I've never been to Le Castellet with a Formula 3 car. I’ve been with Formula Renault before, but we didn't have as much degradation. The target for me is to analyse what happened in MP’s previous Formula 3 races and understand as much as possible before we get into the car for Free Practice.

“I think the most overtakes are going to be before the chicane on the long straight with the DRS, and before Beausset too because even though you don't have DRS you do have a long straight. It’s going to be quite tricky to stay close to the cars in Sector 1 and to stay in the 1 second range to have DRS.

Martins is hoping to take his second F3 podium on home soil

“The new format is pretty exciting because it doesn't disadvantage a rookie driver. The guys coming back for a second year haven't really experienced the format yet either. We have to manage pushing the car to the limits and having some margin. It's also important to think twice before making a decision, because if you do something in Race 1, it can affect Race 2 and then your weekend isn't great.

“My goal for this weekend is to enjoy it as much as possible, as it will be first home race supporting Formula 1. Having support from the spectators will be awesome. I need to enjoy it but still work like I do every weekend, and if I do, I will be able to deliver really good results. I've seen in the past that it's when you expect the least from yourself that you get the most, so I just need to keep calm and go from there.”

TYRE TALK – MARIO ISOLA (PIRELLI’S HEAD OF F1 AND CAR RACING)

“Paul Ricard provides quite a varied challenge for the tyres, but the main demands are the lateral forces through the fast corners such as Signes. There are also some long straights and heavy braking zones. The surface is fairly smooth, though, meaning degradation is fairly low, although thermal degradation is always a possibility in the warm weather you expect in the south of France in June. We saw some great racing in Formula 3 on this circuit two years ago, and with the hard compound being nominated rather than the medium, the drivers should be able to push harder throughout all three races.”

STAT PACK

  • The Formula 3 race lap record at the Circuit Paul Ricard is 1:49.519, set by Jake Hughes with HWA RACELAB in 2019.
  • At 5.842km in length Circuit Paul Ricard is the second longest circuit on the 2021 calendar, shorter only than Spa-Francorchamps.
  • A total 15 drivers scored points in the opening round in Barcelona, the second highest number of drivers to score points in a single round since Formula 3 began.
  • Of the 15 who scored points, five drivers scored points in all three races: 3 second years and 2 rookies, Victor Martins and Caio Collet.
  • Just one driver has previously competed in a Formula 3 race at Le Castellet: Logan Sargeant, with Carlin Buzz Racing in 2019.
  • A fastest lap for ART’s Frederik Vesti at Paul Ricard would see him equal the existing record of four, currently held by Oscar Piastri and Marcus Armstrong.
  • Eight teams scored points at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, and five teams were represented on the podium across the three races.