There's no time to pause as the 2022 FIA Formula 3 Championship moves ever-closer to its conclusion. The penultimate round of the title-deciding triple-header takes place at Zandvoort.
With its notorious banked corners, the Dutch circuit provides a unique challenge for the field. All eyes turn to the title protagonists with only ten points separating first to fifth. Who will leave the Netherlands as the Championship leader?
WHAT TO EXPECT
There's barely anything in it, as Isack Hadjar holds on to the lead of the Drivers' Championship by a sliver. Scoring only two points last time out left the door wide open for Oliver Bearman to storm his way through up into second, with a maiden victory in the Sprint Race and a podium in the Feature Race allowing the Brit to close to within a point of the top. Five points separate Hadjar, Bearman, Victor Martins and Arthur Leclerc, whilst back-to-back podiums for Roman Staněk have promoted the Trident driver to fifth, 10 points off the leading Hitech Grand Prix driver.
In the Teams’ Championship, PREMA Racing remains top of the class, holding an 86-point advantage over reigning Champions Trident, up two spots to second. MP Motorsport slips down to third, 14 points ahead of ART Grand Prix while Hitech Grand Prix rounds out the top five.
David Schumacher returns to Formula 3 with Charouz Racing System for the final two rounds in Zandvoort and Monza, taking over from Christian Mansell in the red, white and blue #15 car.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Montoya will make his Formula 3 debut replacing Oliver Goethe at Campos Racing, after the Danish-German driver stood in for Hunter Yeany, who sustained a broken wrist in the Spielberg Sprint Race.
FROM THE GRID – William Alatalo, Jenzer Motorsport
“The first time I drove there I really liked the track and the atmosphere now with all the orange army, so I’ll be happy to race there again. I like the whole area, the track is next to the beach and it’s quite nice, so of course I’m looking forward to driving there.
“The oval-type corners at Turn 3 and the last corner, they’re just something you don’t have at any other track that I have driven so it’s really special for me. It takes a lot of power from your arms to drive in those corners and they just feel amazing because you can go at such a high speed through the corner. It’s kind of like the Hungaroring, it’s a mixture of corners all the time, you don’t really have time to rest. I kind of like it, turning all the time, braking and accelerating and you’ve got to focus all the time. The corners are all cambered, though they are quite a fast type of corners, so I really like it.
“Turn 1 is the best place to make a move for sure, just on the outside of Turn 1. When the other guy’s defending you’ve got to commit to braking later than the driver next to you and then you can overtake on the outside. Even into Turn 3 you can pass, but it’s much harder. I think 90% of the overtakes will happen in Turn 1, so you need to get a good exit from the last corner and then overtake into Turn 1.
“I haven’t driven there before in F3, but for me last year when I drove in Formula Regional, you had to manage your tyres a bit. It’s not the hardest one of the tracks, but you have to take care not to slide the tyres because once they overheat, they are basically done. You have to be at the edge of the grip all the time and not slide it. You can drive pretty fast, but you have to be careful going on the throttle. It’s the rear tyres that will run out in the race, so you have to care for them.”
LAST TIME OUT - SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS
Our Championship contenders experienced mixed fortunes on F3's return to Spa. Whilst some stuttered, Oliver Bearman and Roman Staněk flourished to blow the title fight wide open, with Bearman and fellow rookie Zane Maloney stealing the spotlight.
Rainfall created the opportunity for yet another thrillng Qualifying session. Track evolution saw times continue to fall all the way to the chequered flag and beyond, as Caio Collet secured back-to-back pole positions for MP Motorsport and wrote his name into the history books as the seventh different driver to take pole in as many rounds.
Meanwhile, Zane Maloney returned to the front row for the second Feature Race in a row, as Charouz Racing System's Francesco Pizzi stormed to his best Friday result in third. However, the top four in the Standings weren't so fortunate, with Arthur Leclerc deep in the pack in P20, ahead of Isack Hadjar in P23, Victor Martins in P24 and his PREMA Racing teammate Jak Crawford lining up at the back of the field after beaching himself in the gravel trap early on.
It seemed to be a case of when not if for Bearman's maiden F3 victory and it was finally time for the Ferrari Academy junior to bring it home in style in Saturday's Sprint Race. Taking full advantage of contact on the opening lap between reverse pole sitter Zak O’Sullivan and Juan Manuel Correa and a separate incident between Franco Colapinto and Jonny Edgar, he pulled away from the pack to secure an impressive victory.
In the fight for the podium, Staněk and Alexander Smolyar kept themselves out of the fray to claim their spots on the rostrum. Further back, Leclerc and Hadjar’s charges through the field were rewarded with fifth and ninth respectively, as a drive-through-penalty for jumping the start undid all of Martins’ overtaking efforts.
Following a major crash on Saturday and a mammoth rebuild from his Trident team overnight, Maloney turned disappointment into jubilation to lead the Italian team to a 1-2 finish - the team's first double podium of the year, ahead of teammate Staněk. A familiar face joined them on the podium, as Bearman bravely battled his way past Oliver Goethe to secure a third-place finish for the fourth consecutive Feature Race.
Disappointment was on the cards for the rest of the title contenders, as Hadjar, Leclerc, Crawford and Martins were unable to find a route into the points - with the ART Grand Prix driver getting caught up in contact on the opening lap.
Opting to go a step softer this time around, the Formula 3 grid will be bolting on the yellow-walled medium Pirelli tyres for the upcoming weekend.
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director
“We nominated the hard tyre for Zandvoort’s debut last year, but using the data gathered in 2021 we have been able to go a step softer this time and choose the P Zero Yellow medium. As the middle tyre in the range, this is well-suited to the circuit’s demands but will also require some management in the races. Zandvoort is the shortest circuit of the year in F3, so traffic could be a factor for the large field in qualifying, making it even more crucial to get the most from the tyres over one lap.”