The 2023 FIA Formula 3 season will burst back into life with an action-packed month of racing coming up. Kicking off with the return to action is the well-known surroundings of Spielberg. Situated right in the heart of the picturesque Styrian mountains, the second-shortest circuit on the calendar provides high-speed thrills from start to finish.
Championship leader Gabriel Bortoleto will be hoping his consistency extends into the second half of the season. However, with a maximum of 195 points available, the battle for the title is about to heat up. Here’s all you need to know ahead of Round 6.
THE FORM BOOK
Having stamped his authority on the Championship early on with Sakhir and Melbourne Feature Race victories, two consecutive fourth places in Barcelona ensure Gabriel Bortoleto’s lead in the Standings remains strong on 92 points.
Josep María Martí’s glory on home soil in the Feature Race has elevated the Campos Racing driver to second. His 31-point haul from pole, victory, the fastest lap, and an eight-placed finish in the Sprint Race leaves him 24 points adrift of the Trident racer.
A third podium of the campaign moves Dino Beganovic up to third on 61 points, with the PREMA Racing driver leapfrogging Hitech Pulse-Eight’s Gabriele Minì, who is now on 56. Progressing up one place, Paul Aron rounds out the top five after his back-to-back fifth place finishes in Barcelona. The Estonian sits on 54 points, six points ahead of Franco Colapinto in the #10 MP Motorsport car.
Over in the Teams’ Standings, reigning champions PREMA Racing have wrestled the top spot away from Trident for the first time this season. Claiming 46 points, spearheaded by Zak O’Sullivan’s Sprint Race victory, has given them a narrow five-point advantage on 156 points. Hitech Pulse-Eight sit comfortably in third on 117, whilst the battle for the top five remains fierce as Campos Racing and MP Motorsport demote ART Grand Prix to sixth on 73, 62 and 54 points respectively.
FROM THE GRID – Rafael Villagómez, Van Amersfoort Racing
“It’s a tricky track, quite a short one with not many corners, so that makes Qualifying really, really tight everywhere. The next thing is that the first right-hand corner is quite far from where you start, so you need to be careful when you warm up the front right tyre.
“The best part to drive is through the high-speed corners, the section through Turns 5, 6 and 7 which are really, really nice. Also, the whole atmosphere of the track being in the middle of the woods is pretty nice.
“Turn 2 is the first option you have to overtake. Then again at Turn 4, you’ve got another good braking opportunity which is where you see most of the overtakes, but why not around Turn 6 as well.
“It’s an easy track for tyre degradation, one of the easiest tracks I would say. I remember in one of the tests, we were just doing a couple of push laps in a row, but when we go elsewhere, we have to do one maximum and after that you have to cool down.
“Qualifying is 80% of your weekend because then you start in the right group and it’s much easier to fight around and make up positions. The reverse grid is not too bad because then you can get pole and have the clean air. Then, you can be on your own, dictate the pace and it’s much easier.”
After a round away, the red-walled soft tyres will be back in use this weekend. Additionally, a set of the hard compounds will be available for Free Practice, having been carried over from the previous round.
One of the least demanding circuits for the tyres, the focus will switch to managing their performance in Qualifying, with the short layout making traffic a major factor at play. However, some rear management could be needed in the races, particularly through the two consecutive left-handers through Turns 6 and 7.
The Austrian hills are known for their unpredictable weather, with the potential for rain looming over the weekend. Last year, Isack Hadjar overcame a torrential downpour, ensuring his wet tyres went the distance despite the ever-drying circuit.
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director
“In Austria, the P Zero Red soft tyre will be available for Formula 3 as the softest tyre in the range. This is the same nomination as last year, but a new compound for 2023 that the teams and drivers got their first experience with in Monaco. There we saw some degree of tyre management was required over a race distance – which in Formula 3 has to be completed without mandatory pit-stops. Although the Red Bull Ring is also a low-severity circuit, we can still expect the demands to be higher especially in traction and braking with several long straights leading into tight corners. Managing the performance of the rear tyres will be especially important.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Despite being the second shortest circuit on the calendar after Monte Carlo, the Red Bull Ring has the fastest lap time of the season. Sebastián Fernández set the record with a 1:19.429, driving for ART Grand Prix in 2020.