Campos Racing’s David Vidales held his nerve out front to achieve his first victory in Formula 3 at both his and his team’s home race.
The Spanish rookie coped under the pressure from the start, getting a strong start from reverse-grid pole and managed to keep a charging Jak Crawford at bay as they duelled during the mid-point of the race. The PREMA Racing driver eventually had to settle for second.
Meanwhile, there was a fierce battle behind for the final podium spot, as Juan Manuel Correa fought hard on his return to F3 after an injury. However, as the ART Grand Prix driver’s tyres faded, he was overtaken by MP Motorsport’s Caio Collet for third and Arthur Leclerc, to finish fifth.
Alexander Smolyar made up four places to finish sixth, ahead of Hitech Grand Prix’s Kaylen Frederick and Trident’s Roman Stanek. Reece Ushijima secured his first Championship points in ninth, as Isack Hadjar rounded out the top 10.
AS IT HAPPENED
A strong getaway for the front row at lights out saw reverse-grid pole-sitter Vidales retain his lead ahead of Correa, despite Crawford’s attempt to go three wide into Turn 1. The American driver eventually had to bail out of the move and remained in third.
There was an abundance of action behind them, as Collet sought to get past Frederick for fourth and Smolyar and Oliver Bearman duelled over P6. As Smolyar dived down the inside of Turn 10, the pair went side-on, and the PREMA driver paid back the move by utilising the slipstream into Turn 1 on the following lap.
On his return to F3, Charouz Racing System’s Lirim Zendeli had his hands full batting both Ido Cohen and Brad Benavides. Making the move stick, Cohen slotted his Jenzer Motorsport car up into 22nd.
Back out in front, Vidales was slowly but surely pulling a gap from Correa behind, who was soon dispatched by Crawford along the DRS straight. The PREMA driver then set his sights on clawing in the Campos out front. In the other two PREMAs, Leclerc jumped ahead of Bearman, who was swiftly overtaken by Stanek for P8.
Disaster soon stuck for Championship leader Victor Martins on Lap 7. The ART driver slowed down on track and was forced to trundle back to pits, retiring from the race. Franco Colapinto was another retiree, after the engine cover on his Van Amersfoort Racing car broke off.
Lap 11 saw Crawford catching the heels of Vidales in the fight for the lead, the pair nip-and-tuck into Turn 1. The Spaniard went hard of the defence, as PREMA driver jolted across the sausage kerbs, allowing Vidales to begin to pull a gap once more.
Making moves up the order, Collet went late on the breaks into Turn 1 to get past Frederick for P4 and his teammate Smolyar soon followed him through. In the fight for the final points, Hadjar dove past both Ushijima and Bearman to get up into ninth.
As the race entered its closing stages, Correa’s defence of third came to an end as Collet capitalised on the slipstream meanwhile Leclerc jumped up into sixth ahead of Frederick. The train that had formed behind the Ecuadorian-American driver soon came into play as Smolyar went wheel-to-wheel with Correa. The move failed to pay off as he dropped behind Leclerc, who found his own way past the ART and into fourth.
However, nobody could come close to Vidales as he crossed the line to take his first victory in the category on home soil, 1.2 seconds clear of Crawford in second. Collet rounded out the podium in third, ahead of Leclerc, Correa, and Smolyar. Frederick finished seventh for Hitech, ahead of Stanek in eighth. Ushijima was ninth for VAR, overtaking Hadjar for a crucial two points.
KEY QUOTE – David Vidales, Campos Racing
“First victory for myself and for the team this year, so I’m extremely happy with it. We’ve done an incredible job since day one and the progress we have shown from the first race to this one, it’s amazing - in race pace and everywhere.
“Super proud of the team and hopefully we can get much more of this!”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
The seven points for fourth were enough for Leclerc to assume the lead of the Drivers’ Championship on 43 points, a point ahead of teammate Crawford. Roman Stanek is third with 38 points, while Victor Martins sits in fourth following his retirement, with 36 points. Isack Hadjar rounds out the top five with 32 points.
In the Teams’ standings, PREMA Racing lead the way on 102 points, ahead of ART Grand Prix on 71 and Trident on 57. Hitech Grand Prix are fourth with 46 and MP Motorsport are fifth with 38.
Trident’s Roman Stanek starts on pole for Sunday’s Feature Race, with Victor Martins for company on the front row. The race will get underway at 10:05 local time.