O’Sullivan considers extra Silverstone experience ‘an advantage’ as he takes maiden pole

The FIA F3 Championship returned for Round 4 with a veritable feel-good story as rookie driver Zak O’Sullivan took Carlin’s first FIA F3 Championship pole position at both his and the team’s home race. It turned out to be a banner day for the Williams Driver Academy, whose drivers took pole positions in F2, F3 and the W Series for the first time in the academy’s history.

by Michael McClure

Behind the clearly surprised O’Sullivan, Arthur Leclerc took second as the lead Prema Racing driver. Zane Maloney stepped forward as Trident’s lead driver, securing third as teammate Roman Staněk failed to make the front row for the first time this year, qualifying eighth.

F1 Feeder Series spoke to the top three drivers in the post-session press conference.

Home-field advantage helps OSullivan

The boost O’Sullivan gets from racing at Silverstone isn’t just about having local fans in the stands cheering for the British-Irish driver. He has driven the historic circuit in every year that he’s raced in cars, stretching back to his first year in Ginettas in 2019.

“It’s obviously a bit of an advantage. Any driving around here is always useful”

Zak O’Sullivan

In 2020, O’Sullivan finished all three races of the Silverstone weekend of the British F4 Championship on the podium. O’Sullivan took another win when the GB3 Championship, previously the British F3 Championship, visited the circuit for the second time last year. At the end of the season, he also took part in the two-day Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award finals held at Silverstone, during which he drove an Aston Martin GT3 Vantage and a BBM Sport Ginetta LMP3 as part of his testing programme.

O’Sullivan ultimately won the award, beating out F3 rivals Jonny Edgar and Ollie Bearman and 2021 Euroformula Open runner-up Louis Foster. As he explained to F1 Feeder Series, all of his track experience at Silverstone helped him unlock a bit of extra pace during Qualifying.

“It’s obviously a bit of an advantage. Any driving around here is always useful,” O’Sullivan said. “The more valuable knowledge would come from British F3 last year. We had two rounds here, so [I have] quite a lot of track knowledge here, which I think helped me out a bit today. But I’m sure throughout the weekend everyone will be catching up, so it shouldn’t last too long.”

“Regards to the GT3 and the LMP3 and the Autosport Award, I guess it was cool to drive very different cars around here. I wouldn’t say it translates too well to F3, but it’s for sure a good experience and more laps around Silverstone.”

Perhaps the only negative so far this weekend for O’Sullivan, who starts the Sprint Race from 12th, was the fact that he earned a €1000 fine for bypassing the support pit lane at Turn 8 as instructed by the race event notes. 

Leclerc won’t change his approach

Though Leclerc has been in the championship hunt since the beginning of the season, he had to fight from the midfield in the first two rounds after failing to make the top 12 in qualifying in both. Since then, he’s qualified fifth in Spain and now second in Britain, giving him a great chance to fight for Prema’s first win of the season in the Feature Race.

Moreover, Leclerc qualified significantly ahead of several drivers above him in the standings: Leclerc’s teammate Jak Crawford was fifth, Staněk was eighth, Isack Hadjar was ninth, and Victor Martins finished eleventh. We asked him if he and Prema would alter their approach for the Feature Race with Leclerc’s strongest rivals starting behind him.

“I’m not changing my approach. I mean, of course it’s something maybe you have to take in your mind in the last race of the championship, but we are way too early in the championship to focus on it already. There is still six weekends counting these two races this weekend, six weekends to go, so [there are] plenty of opportunities to score points as well.

“I’m not changing my approach”

Arthur Leclerc

“Just looking to try to take all the opportunities possible so that I can do the best I can do or we can do. That’s something that will bring us naturally to the top.”

Maloney appreciates Edgar’s return

Though he’s shown great pace in his rookie season and taken pole at Imola, Maloney has had a rough run in the races, which has left him 14th in the championship with 15 points to his name. This poor performance in the races puts him well behind his Trident teammate Staněk, who’s currently second overall with 56 points.

This weekend, Trident have a new ace up their sleeve in the form of Edgar, who has returned for his home race after missing the last two F3 rounds because of complications from Crohn’s disease. Maloney explained to F1 Feeder Series that Edgar’s presence is helping to “push the team” forward as they attempt to defend their 2021 Teams’ Championship crown.

“Any good teammate, they push you and they push the team as well, so of course, he’s pushing us along, me and Roman”

Zane Maloney

“It’s great to have Jonny back. Of course, it was also great working with Oliver [Rasmussen, Edgar’s substitute]. He’s a very nice guy, but Jonny was the one who started the year with us, so it’s good to have him back.

Any good teammate, they push you and they push the team as well, so of course, he’s pushing us along, me and Roman. And all three of us [are] working together to get the team as high as possible, so moving forward for the rest of the year, hopefully we can, all three of us, push each other the entire year.”

The Sprint Race kicks off Saturday morning at 09:55 local time, with Van Amersfoort Racing’s Reece Ushijima on reverse-grid pole alongside championship leader Martins.

Header Photo Credit: Williams Racing

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