The Budapest weekend came and went in a flash, but one driver remains unflustered at the front. Gabriel Bortoleto heads to Spa-Francorchamps as the Championship leader, while things in the Teams’ Standings are only growing closer with each race that goes by.
Who heads to Belgium with work to do and who are the drivers and teams finding form at the perfect moment?
PREMA Racing retook the lead of the Teams’ Standings at the first time of asking, usurping Trident after Zak O’Sullivan secured his first Formula 3 Feature Race victory. The Briton’s win also equalled the record for most wins in Formula 3 history by a single driver, with his four victories this season putting him level with previous champions Oscar Piastri and Dennis Hauger on four in total. Can the Williams Academy driver reach the top step one more time in 2023 and take the record all for himself?
O’Sullivan’s win also ended a rotten run of three non-scoring results following his previous victory in the Barcelona Sprint. Without those blanks on his scorecard, he may well have been giving Bortoleto a headache going into the final two rounds of the year.
Teammates Dino Beganovic and Paul Aron were scorers in both Budapest races themselves as the fight for second in the Standings closes up even more. Just eight points separate five drivers heading to Spa-Francorchamps.
While all three Trident drivers scored points in the Feature Race, it wasn’t enough to prevent PREMA from jumping back ahead in the Teams’ Standings. The Italian outfit has now fallen to second, but they head to a track where they were dominant last season. It makes the prospect of clinching the Drivers’ Championship a possibility for Bortoleto, who now enjoys a 43-point advantage over his closest rival. It has been quite the run for the Brazilian, who extended his points-scoring streak to 13 consecutive races. He is now just two points finishes short of the all-time record, currently held by David Beckmann (with 15 in 2020).
The continued improvement in performances for both Oliver Goethe and Leonardo Fornaroli will also be a confidence boost for the team as they make the trip to Belgium. The former achieved two top five finishes across the Budapest weekend, his second-best average finish across a single weekend since Round 1 in Sakhir. Fornaroli slipped out of the points in the Sprint Race but rebounded to add a P9 finish, his fourth points scoring result in the past five races. Both will need to replicate that at Spa in order to take the fight back to PREMA in the Teams’ Standings.
Once again, Hitech Pulse-Eight showed promising signs of speed, but the results didn’t quite match them in the end. Gabriele Minì took a strong race win in the Sprint Race, an important result for his season but a torrid Qualifying meant he was mired in the midfield during the Feature Race. Sebastián Montoya suffered contact again, leaving him in need of repairs and well down the order and Budapest was his first blank of the 2023 season in terms of points. Luke Browning is in the midst of a seven-race barren spell going back to the Barcelona Sprint Race where he finished second.
Scoreless in the Feature Race, Minì has slipped back to seventh in the Drivers’ Championship having arrived in Budapest fourth. It’ll be an uphill climb to retake a spot in the top five, as PREMA Racing, Trident and MP Motorsport are now hitting their strongest form of the year so far.
Campos Racing is all but guaranteed its best finish in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, currently fourth in the Teams’ Standings on 143 points. In fact, the Spanish outfit has eyes on third after a third consecutive weekend outscoring nearest rivals Hitech Pulse-Eight to close the gap to 21 points. Josep María Martí was left to rue a Qualifying session that ended with him outside the top 12. The Spaniard put on an overtaking show in the Feature Race to rebound from a Sprint that was promising until contact left him out of contention.
Martí believes that Campos had a top five car in Budapest, and he will need to make that a regular occurrence between now and the chequered flag falling in Monza. Rebounding next time out at Spa-Francorchamps is critical to his season. Teammates Christian Mansell and Hugh Barter were involved in plenty of action, with Mansell in particular battling away for points in both races, ultimately falling short after his tyres fell away from their performance peak. He has taken steps forward though lately, scoring points in five of the last seven races having scored just twice in the opening three rounds.
The Budapest weekend was much more like it for MP Motorsport, with all three drivers scoring points at least once across the weekend. In fact, the team had five of a possible six scores in what was the most consistent round of the year for the outfit overall. Franco Colapinto has ignited his season following the return to European shores, with just one non score coming in the Spielberg Sprint Race. His fourth podium of the season courtesy of a P3 finish in the Budapest Feature Race has launched him back up the Standings to sixth position, just eight points off P2.
Jonny Edgar was back on it again after a blip on home soil at Silverstone, scoring back-to-back P8 finishes at the Hungaroring in what is his best run of the season so far. Teammate Mari Boya was back in the points also, securing a P10 finish in the Feature Race. He has been threatening more for a few rounds now already, and if he can break into the top 12 in Qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, further points finishes are likely to follow.
Another tough weekend for ART Grand Prix as the team took just two points across the Budapest Round. Nikola Tsolov’s impressive Qualifying performance was the highlight, but the Bulgarian driver struggled to keep his spot in the top 10 positions. He made contact with Campos Racing’s Martí at the Safety Car restart in the Sprint and fell to 25th in the Feature Race after a 10-second time penalty for a collision involving Jenzer Motorsport’s Taylor Barnard.
Earlier in the season Grégoire Saucy was a contender for the top spots in the Drivers’ Championship. After an impressive run to open the year though, the Swiss is now struggling for form. Ninth in the Sprint was as good as it got for him this time, and he will be aiming to go better next time out at Spa-Francorchamps. Kaylen Frederick’s Feature Race was wrecked after picking up a puncture, forcing the American driver to retire early on.
It was a tough weekend all round for Van Amersfoort Racing after a difficult Qualifying gave way to no points for any of the three drivers. An error by the team and failure to hand back tyres in the required time window led to grid penalties for Caio Collet, Tommy Smith and Rafael Villagómez, making a difficult task even harder.
Collet also earned a separate penalty for causing a collision in the Sprint Race. After three consecutive top five finishes earlier in the year, he’s now failed to score for three races in a row. VAR will be targeting a rebound in performance at Spa-Francorchamps, a venue where Collet scored points twice at last season.
Nikita Bedrin’s best result of the season is more evidence that Jenzer Motorsport has taken steps forward in 2023. Starting on the front row in the Sprint, he battled away with Minì in the early phases and kept in touch after eventually losing the lead of the race to the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver. Slipping to third by the end after his tyres had cried enough, it was still a very positive performance that he and the team can take a lot from.
Teammate Taylor Barnard rose up the order from 17th on the grid to end up just a few seconds away from points, a solid effort after missing out on a top 12 grid position. The Briton has shown he is capable of a better Qualifying, and if the team can continue to deliver improved race pace, the pair along with teammate Alejandro García could benefit before the end of the year.
The weekend didn’t start off on the strongest of notes for Rodin Carlin after a crash for Oliver Gray in Qualifying left him last on the grid. The Williams Academy driver did well to recover though, climbing back up to 14th in the Sprint Race and showing plenty of speed throughout.
Teammates Ido Cohen and Maxwell Esterson experienced different weekends also. Cohen’s potential was limited after a collision with Collet on the opening lap left him out on the spot of the Sprint, missing out on vital experience running the medium tyres. Esterson meanwhile had a solid drive from 25th on the grid to finish 18th in just his second FIA F3 weekend.
PHM Racing by Charouz newcomer Woohyun Shin made it to the chequered flag in both races on his debut weekend. It’s a big positive as he gets to grips with a brand new car and Championship that is approaching the finale for 2023. There were more positive signs for the team as Roberto Faria and Sophia Floersch secured solid top 20 finishes in both races.
Floersch in particular was impressive, climbing from 28th on the grid to finish 15th in the Sprint Race, a handful of seconds off of the points scoring places. She drove through the pack once again on Sunday to achieve 17th in the Feature Race, putting her experience and tyre saving skills on full display.