The first F3 Sprint Race of the weekend at the newly renovated Zandvoort Circuit resulted in an enthralling battle between Prema’s Arthur Leclerc and Charouz’s Logan Sargeant with Leclerc being victorious.
By Tyler Foster
After qualifying yesterday, Campos’ Amaury Cordeel started on reverse grid pole for race one. Logan Sargeant lined up alongside the Belgian, with Leclerc starting on the second row from P3. At the start, Cordeel got away poorly which allowed both Sargeant and Leclerc to lunge past the Campos into turn one. Leclerc and Sargeant were side-by-side, however it was Leclerc that managed to get a better exit as a result of taking the higher line through the banked Tarzanbocht corner.
“It was a bit difficult to manage the rear, as I was getting quite a lot of snaps around corners. It wasn’t easy. Obviously, we didn’t set up the car quite as well to start P1. In the end we were P1 at the end of the first lap so it didn’t go as planned but it was better like this.”
“I didn’t want to have any contact in order to maximise the opportunity. It was really hard to keep it in front because Logan put a lot of pressure from beginning to end. It was just a really intense race and like I said I was struggling with the tyres so it was a challenge.”
With each lap, Sargeant kept piling the pressure upon the Monegasque driver however he failed to wilt. A number of times Leclerc looked vulnerable down the main straight with Sargeant closing in under the DRS but it still wasn’t enough to overtake.
On lap 16, an incident between Jenzer’s Johnathan Hoggard and Charouz’s Hunter Yeany caused a safety car period that left only four laps remaining. At the restart, Sargeant came under pressure from Hitech’s Ayumu Iwasa and nearly lost P2. Following a short battle, the lack of overtaking once again became apparent and other than a spectacular move by Championship leader Dennis Hauger on Victor Martins for P7 with a couple of laps to go, there was not much on-track action.
“I am really happy to have won. It was a difficult one because there was a lot of pressure from Logan (Sargeant), who was really fast. I was struggling a little bit with the balance, so we need to work a little bit to find a bit more pace, but I am really happy with the result.”
“We were side by side two or three times. I was trying to give him as much space as I could because we were fighting for the win. We fought as hard as we could but it was always fair. This is what I enjoyed in this battle and it was good racing. It was not easy inside the cockpit.”
At the safety car restart Leclerc waited patiently in an attempt to catch the field out. While he maintained his lead, he wasn’t happy with the way he controlled the pace of the restart.
“To be honest, I’m not really happy about the safety car restart. When I went on the throttle I had a little slide which made me lose a little bit of time. I think it was not the best job that I did at the safety car restart but I made that gap into sectors one and two and that made the gap for the race.”
For Logan Sargeant this is his third podium of the season and third in consecutive rounds, but none of those have come from the top step. Despite another solid performance, he was visibly frustrated when he spoke to selected media including F1 Feeder Series.
“Like I said coming from yesterday I know we had more pace than we showed in qualifying. Well done to Arthur for getting the better start and that was really my only regret in the race, not just going a bit deeper into turn one and holding the lead. We had great pace and were able to pressure him from the beginning to the end. I think that is all we could really ask for. We know it’s not easy to overtake here, so I just kept him under pressure and was waiting for a mistake but it just never came.”
This victory was Leclerc’s second of the season and he now sits in 10th in the drivers’ standings on 61 points, just five points behind Sargeant. He certainly hasn’t disappointed so far in his F3 rookie year but Arthur feels that there is room for improvement still.
“I’ve been working quite a lot with the team on myself to get better. If I have to be realistic I think I’m still lacking a bit of pace. I was struggling a little bit with the balance. That is something we can improve for sure and if we talk about the qualifying earlier this weekend, I didn’t think we showed our real pace because I did a mistake on the last lap. For sure the pace is getting better. It’s just about putting everything together.”
Awesome to drive
This race was the first of the weekend in a packed schedule that includes Formula 3, W Series and Formula 1 action. The talking point coming into the weekend was in regards to the supposed lack of overtaking that would be inevitable at Zandvoort. Both Leclerc and Sargeant were asked about their view on this ‘issue’ after now having had some race experience there.
“Look the track is awesome to drive, it is really cool”, Logan Sargeant said after Race 1. “In terms of racing it is really difficult. It’s not easy to get close and I’d say turn one is the only realistic place at making an overtake without a mistake from the other driver.”
Both drivers were asked about their thoughts regarding the concept of extending the second DRS zone back to the banked final corner at Turn 14.
Arthur said, “The DRS on the banking is something we need to test. It is difficult to test though because for the DRS you have to stay flat out, so the first one with the balls to do it should get a prize.”
Logan said, “For F1 they could probably handle it with the amount of downforce they have but if it is possible to not have crashes there due to that, I think it could really help overtaking into turn one.”
Race 2 will be at 16:55 BST (17:55 CEST) on Saturday afternoon.
Race 3 will be at 09:45 BST (10:45 CEST) on Sunday morning.
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