Holding his nerve until the dying minutes of the race, Isack Hadjar swooped in to take victory out of Victor Martins’ hands. A breath-taking lunge around the ART Grand Prix driver on the penultimate lap was enough to secure a second Formula 3 win in his rookie season at Hitech Grand Prix’s home race.
Martins was forced to settle for second after sustaining pressure from rookie Reece Ushijima in the final few laps. A sterling effort from the Van Amersfoort Racing driver, who started on reverse grid pole, paid off to seal his maiden F3 podium in third.
Kush Maini wasn’t able to hold on to the leading trio and finished fourth, while Hitech secured two top-five finishers with Kaylen Frederick crossing the line P5. Roman Stanek was sixth, as Trident teammate Zane Maloney climbed from 10th to seventh. PREMA Racing’s Arthur Leclerc found his way past both teammates to take eighth, Oliver Bearman was ninth, and Jak Crawford completed the top 10.
12th-placed qualifier Reece Ushijima had a little bit longer to wait to get off the line in his highest-ever starting position. The reverse grid pole sitter led the field for a second formation lap after an issue for a slowing Brad Benavides led to an aborted start.
Determined to make amends after a disappointing Friday, Martins wasted no time diving up the inside of Ushijima to snatch the lead of the race and the VAR racer found himself under pressure from Maini, going side-by-side in the opening sectors.
Clean getaways throughout the field meant the drivers were eager to do battle, as Frederick and Bearman fought over sixth. The American driver soon caught up with Maini and Hadjar ahead, and the two Hitechs tucked into the MP Motorsport driver’s slipstream. Meanwhile, Bearman fell into Maloney’s clutches. The two made contact but both got away unscathed, as the British driver lost out to teammate Crawford and Leclerc created a PREMA queue at the backend of the points.
Out front, Martins was unable to build a gap as Ushijima refused to let the Frenchman out of his sights, closing to within four-tenths. With the added benefit of DRS, the American-born driver – who races under a British licence – sent a move around the outside. Martins tried to break the tow, but Ushijima got his elbows out, going side-by-side around the outside before the VAR driver took a trip over the kerbs.
Hadjar was on a charge, swiftly dispatching Maini for P3 and begun to hunt down the leading pair. On Lap 7, he was already within Ushijima’s DRS window. A mistake from the VAR driver at Luffield opened the door for Hadjar. The pair went toe-to-toe into Maggotts and Becketts and despite the VAR’s valiant defence, Hadjar carved his way past before closing in on race leader Martins.
A Safety Car on Lap 10 shook up the field, after Charouz Racing System’s Zdenek Chovanec and László Tóth collided. Two laps later, the Safety Car pulled into the pits and race leader Martins wasn’t waiting around, flooring it into the final corner to try to pull away from Hadjar behind.
In the fight for the final podium spot, fourth-placed Maini was caught off guard on the restart and dropped 1.7 seconds behind Ushijima. This allowed the black and orange VAR to creep up on the duelling pair in front, as Martins went wide and Hadjar forced him to go on the defensive.
A three-way fight for the lead on the penultimate lap left Martins’ trying to put his car in all the right places, but there was nothing he could do as Hadjar swooped around the outside at Stowe. The ART driver’s eyes were quickly glued to his mirrors as Ushijima was all over his rear wing right up until the finish line.
However, it was Hadjar who reached the chequered flag first to take his second Sprint Race win of the season. Martins held on to third ahead of Ushijima and Maini. Frederick’s quiet race was rewarded with fifth, ahead of Stanek and Maloney. A last burst of action in the final few laps saw Leclerc get the better of Bearman and Crawford to finish eighth, as his American teammate rounded out the top 10 points-scorers.
KEY QUOTE – Isack Hadjar, Hitech Grand Prix
“Really happy with the result today! It was an amazing race. The pace was just fantastic, and I had a lot of fun. Really happy to give this victory to my team at our home race and we’ll be pushing for tomorrow’s one.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Victor Martins extends his lead at the top of the Drivers' championship to 71 points with his P2 finish. Roman Stanek remains second, as Isack Hadjar leapfrogs his fellow Red Bull junior Jak Crawford into third and closes the gap to the leader down to 13 points.
In the Teams’ Championship, PREMA Racing continue to reign supreme on 126 points. ART Grand Prix remain second on 107, ahead of reigning Champions Trident. Finishing with two drivers in the top five, Hitech Grand Prix are fourth, as MP Motorsport sit fifth on 63 points.
After securing his and Carlin’s first F3 pole in Qualifying, Zak O’Sullivan will be aiming for a shot at home glory in Sunday’s Feature Race when the lights go out at 8:35 local time.