Franco Colapinto converted pole position into his and Van Amersfoort Racing’s maiden FIA Formula 3 victory during a frantic Sprint Race at Imola.
Colapinto trailed fast-starting Caio Collet for much of the 20-lap Sprint Race but snatched first place on the final lap and subsequently had a clear route to victory after Collet tangled with Isack Hadjar moments later.
The clash between Collet and Hadjar promoted Victor Martins and Jak Crawford into the podium positions and their fierce duel was only settled on the dash to the line after 20 laps of close competition.
AS IT HAPPENED
Warm and sunny conditions greeted the field of 29 on Saturday morning after Free Practice and Qualifying was affected by rain through Friday, meaning for many it was their first taste of Imola on slick tyres.
As the five red lights went out Colapinto made the perfect getaway from pole position, but behind him Ido Cohen bogged down from his front-row spot to fifth, while Collet surged from fourth to second, picking off teammate Kush Maini. Collet remained glued to the rear of Colapinto and with the assistance of DRS breezed past his opponent along the pits straight on lap 4.
But Collet couldn’t shake off the advances of Colapinto while a couple of seconds behind it was Hadjar who was the driver on the move. Having gone around the outside of Cohen on lap 1 he dispatched Martins along the pit straight before working past Maini into the second chicane, moving into third spot.
Colapinto’s pursuit of Collet was halted when the Safety Car was deployed after Zak O’Sullivan spun out of seventh, and he was joined moments later in the same gravel trap by Josep Maria Martí. There was also an unwelcome development for Maini, who was issued a drive-through penalty for being out-of-position at the race start, removing him from fourth.
Racing resumed on lap 10 but the green flags were only out for a couple of minutes as Reece Ushijima and Federico Malvestiti clashed exiting the first chicane, necessitating the Safety Car once more. Shortly after the subsequent restart Arthur Leclerc went wide and ploughed through a DRS board, scattering polystyrene over the track surface, requiring the Virtual Safety Car while the debris was cleared.
Finally, there was a frenetic two-lap dash to the flag and Colapinto seized the initiative to sweep past Collet along the pit straight. The Brazilian was left vulnerable to the advances of the fast-charging Hadjar but the two cars interlocked on the approach to the first chicane. Collet was out while Hadjar relinquished positions after skating through the gravel.
As Colapinto greeted his jubilant Van Amersfoort mechanics, behind him Martins and Crawford crossed the line split by just 0.06s to grab second and third respectively. It capped a frantic duel between the pair, which had previously seen Crawford run through the gravel at the first chicane in his attempt to overhaul Martins.
Roman Staněk was a beneficiary of the late drama to move into fourth place, ahead of the delayed Hadjar, with Zane Maloney sixth, and Oliver Rasmussen seventh. Eighth went to Kaylen Frederick, Alexander Smolyar was ninth while Rafael Villagómez gained 10 spots from his starting position to round out the top 10.
KEY QUOTE – Franco Colapinto, Van Amersfoort Racing
“It’s the reverse grid, but it’s still a win, I’m happy. The pace was good, we had a good fight with Caio and it went our way. We had better tyres at the end of the race, and that was an issue in Bahrain, so I’m happy with that, as we improved our weakest parts. The team did an amazing job. I’m happy with the performance here, and let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
With his runner-up position ART Grand Prix’ Martins moves onto 34 points, extending his advantage in the Drivers’ Championship over PREMA Racing’s Arthur Leclerc – who was a non-scorer in the Sprint Race – to 10 points. Sprint Race winner Colapinto holds third, on 22 points, ahead of Oliver Bearman on 17 and Hadjar on 16.
ART Grand Prix leads the Teams’ Championship on 63 points, ahead of PREMA Racing on 55, with Trident Motorsport on 26, ahead of Hitech Grand Prix and Van Amersfoort on 23.
Maloney and Staněk will form an all-Trident front-row for the Feature Race, which is scheduled to get underway on Sunday at 8:50am local time.