Arthur Leclerc scored his first win of the Formula 3 season after a hectic Silverstone Feature Race. The result also put PREMA Racing on the top step for the first time this year, and it could have been a one-two finish.
Home favourites Zak O’Sullivan and Ollie Bearman were separated by just 0.051s across the line in the Carlin driver’s favour after a last-lap scrap for the runner-up position.
Caio Collet added some important points to his tally with P4 and Sprint Race victor Isack Hadjar completed the top five.
AS IT HAPPENED
O’Sullivan covered off Leclerc to retain the lead in the opening corners. Jak Crawford fought with Zane Maloney for third but was squeezed out by the Trident driver, allowing PREMA teammate Ollie Bearman to gain a run onto the Wellington Straight. The Briton tried to hang it around the outside, but Maloney made his Trident as wide as possible. Heading into Luffield, Bearman didn’t back out, resulting in contact which spun the Bajan off track and down the order.
Collet was in the right place at the right time to take full advantage, surging up the inside at Copse on Bearman after the PREMA driver lost momentum, stealing third place. Up ahead and Leclerc had fought back and with a tow down Hangar Straight, swept around the outside of O’Sullivan into Stowe. Just as the move happened, the Safety Car was deployed and Leclerc relinquished the position to the Briton. Franco Colapinto’s stranded Van Amersfoort Racing car was the cause, stopped on the outside of Luffield.
O’Sullivan got a good restart, but Leclerc had clung with him and with DRS enabled on Lap 6, made the move stick. A sweep around the outside of Brooklands gave the Monégasque the lead of the race and despite a switchback opportunity for the Briton, Leclerc retained the position.
Hadjar and Crawford were fighting hammer and tongs for fifth and the pair came to blows on Lap 8. Side-by-side out of the final corner and down the main straight, the duo entered Abbey with Crawford on the outside but just as the American swept ahead, Hadjar narrowly clipped the rear right tyre of the PREMA driver, sending him off track and down to P8.
A slight collision between Grégoire Saucy and Roman Stanek required both to pit at the end of Lap 9 for repairs. The ART Grand Prix driver was able to re-join albeit down the order, but the Trident man was out of the race.
Another Safety Car was deployed following a crash for Rafael Villagomez at Copse. Contact with Nazim Azman resulted in the front wing becoming stuck underneath the VAR driver’s car, sending him straight into the barriers.
The Safety Car was withdrawn on Lap 15 and Martins continued his progress through the field immediately, pulling off a late dive on Frederick into Village to seal eighth place.
Next up was Crawford and the Frenchman almost pulled off an audacious overtake on the outside of Stowe on Lap 16. Aggressive defence from the American kept him ahead as the ART driver had to take to the run-off to avoid contact. Crawford refocused his attentions forward and was able to clear Jonny Edgar for P6 two laps later.
With three laps remaining, the top five was separated by just 1.5s. Bearman had been shaping up a move on Collet for several laps and finally made the lunge into Brooklands on the penultimate lap for third. Leclerc was untroubled though and secured his third F3 victory and first of the 2022 season.
Leclerc was untroubled though and secured his third F3 victory and first of the 2022 season.
Bearman stuck with O’Sullivan closely and attempted a move at Stowe on the final lap. The Carlin driver held the place but both weren’t finished yet. Into the Vale chicane and Bearman forced his compatriot to go defensive, allowing him a route up the inside at the final corner. O’Sullivan just about held onto second, running wheel-to-wheel over the line separated by just 0.051s.
MP Motorsport’s Collet held P4 ahead of Sprint Race winner Hadjar, who completed the top five. Crawford ended up sixth but with the fastest lap followed by Martins, who made a final lap move on Edgar. David Vidales and Reece Ushijima were ninth and 10th respectively.
KEY QUOTE – Arthur Leclerc, PREMA Racing
“I’m really happy about the win, we gave everything. Finally a good weekend from beginning to end. We had a good quali and started on the front row. It was a hard race to keep it in front, we had a lot of deg with the rears, I was struggling quite a lot with the tyres but in the end, we made it to P1. Now on to Austria.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Leclerc moves himself right back into the hunt in the Drivers’ Championship, now just six points behind leader Martins, 77 points to 71 in favour of the ART driver. Hadjar’s strong weekend moves him up to P3 in the standings on 68, while Stanek slips to fourth just one point ahead of Crawford in fifth.
In the Teams’ Standings, PREMA has a sizeable advantage on 175 points. Next best is ART on 113. Hadjar’s Silverstone efforts have also moved his Hitech Grand Prix team ahead of Trident, with the team now on 90 points.
Formula 3 racing returns next weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria for the fifth round of the 2022 season.