Formula 3 action resumed bright and early on Friday morning, and it was Jak Crawford who immediately hit the ground running in Budapest Free Practice. Entering the weekend off the back of his first victory in the Championship last time out in Spielberg, the PREMA Racing driver left it to the last second to knock Trident’s Zane Maloney off the top spot by a tenth of a second.
Ideal conditions greeted the field at the Hungaroring. The session got underway with the field bolting on their sets of red-walled soft tyres that they carried over from the previous round and off the bat, Campos Racing’s Josep María Martí got up to speed, laying down a 1:36.144.
Meanwhile, exploration was the name of the game early on as several drivers sought to pinpoint the limit around the 4.381km circuit. A rapid Franco Colapinto seemed to have the pace but found himself running too far over the white lines out of the final corner.
Times continued to tumble as David Vidales, Juan Manuel Correa, Grégoire Saucy and Zak O’Sullivan all took turns at the top of the order before Alexander Smolyar followed by Kush Maini put MP Motorsport up into P1. However, Isack Hadjar was on the charge and clocked in a 1:32.694 to go over half a second clear of the pack.
As the final ten minutes of the 45-minute Practice session approached, it was time to chuck off soft Pirellis, and bolt on a fresh set of yellow-walled medium tyres. Turning the timing screens purple, PREMA’s Arthur Leclerc went top before being demoted momentarily by his teammate Crawford. Unfortunately for the American driver, his time was deleted for exceeding track limits.
This allowed Maloney to leap up into P1 with a 1:32.573, but the Barbadian driver’s best efforts couldn’t match those of Crawford. The Red Bull junior threw down the gauntlet ahead of Qualifying with a 1:32.473.
Having achieved his first F3 pole position at the Hungaroring last year, Leclerc ended today’s practice in third ahead of Hadjar.
A solid session for MP Motorsport saw Caio Collet just pip teammate Smolyar to fifth by 0.004s, with the third MP car of Maini also finding its way into the top eight. Trident also put their best foot forward as Jonny Edgar and Roman Stanek slotted themselves into the Top 10, ending their running in seventh and ninth respectively.
Lastly, Rafael Villagómez will be optimistic he can be in the fight for his first points since the second round in Imola, as he closed out the top 10 ahead of Championship leader Victor Martins.
The 30-car field will have their homework to do before Qualifying gets underway at 15:30 local time.