A Red Bull double on the Red Bull Ring: 5 takeaways from FIA F3 Round 5 at Spielberg

Though they didn’t quite manage victory in Formula 1, Red Bull had much to celebrate at the Red Bull Ring, as two of their juniors took impressive victories in the FIA Formula 3 Championship races over the weekend. At an event where track limits, traffic jams and rain dominated the discussion, F3 provided two great reminders of the unique racing spectacle offered by the Red Bull Ring. F1 Feeder Series breaks down five of the big storylines from Round 5 of the championship.

By Michael McClure

Crawford’s long-awaited victory

Jak Crawford won the Saturday Sprint Race by 0.626 seconds. That might not seem like a particularly impressive margin, but the performance he put on to get there was his finest yet in Formula 3, highlighted by a brilliant round-the-outside move on Caio Collet into Turn 7.

All three podium finishers certainly benefitted from the retirement of Juan Manuel Correa, who had led the race until a mechanical issue befell him at the end of the fifth lap. It put Crawford back on the podium after he’d lost a place to Franco Colapinto on the first lap, and he had the aid of DRS to re-pass Colapinto on Lap 10, immediately prior to the collision involving Arthur Leclerc, Ollie Bearman and Zane Maloney that put the Trident driver out and required a safety car period.

There was no DRS at the restart on Lap 14, so Crawford had to make the move on Collet the traditional way, and he did after several corners of side-by-side battling. Neither driver had yet won a race in one and a half years of F3, but both drivers showed Saturday that they were up for the challenge.

It would have been a sensational story for Correa to take his first F3 podium, or even victory, since his racing comeback, but the win was an equally deserved result for Crawford, who had shown great pace in the first four rounds to take three podiums and points in all but one race. Crawford has fallen into the shadows of fellow Red Bull junior Isack Hadjar – whom the programme’s adviser Helmut Marko tipped as a potential candidate for a Formula 1 seat in 2024 – but he stamped his authority on the circuit this weekend, at least on Saturday.

Just how good can Hadjar get?

It didn’t take long for Hadjar to reclaim the spotlight from Crawford and conquer the bullring. Not even 24 hours later, he was standing atop the podium for the Feature Race to celebrate his third victory of the season. That result made him the first driver in FIA Formula 3 Championship history to take three wins in their first 10 races – an impressive statistic for anyone, let alone a driver just 17 years of age.

Hadjar turned heads with his Sprint Race victory in Silverstone last weekend, when he rose from fourth to first by saving his tyres throughout the race and executing a decisive late-race pass on Victor Martins. That came the Sprint Race win Hadjar earned on début in Bahrain after Bearman received a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits four times.

On Friday, Hadjar became the fifth driver to take pole position in as many rounds. He admitted that his result was in part down to luck, as his positioning at the front of the notorious Qualifying queues meant that the late red flag did not void his last attempt as it did those of most others.

But there was no luck involved on Sunday: Hadjar pulled out a gap of more than six seconds over Martins prior to a late-race safety car period and went on to win by more than three seconds. It was an assured and confident drive – exactly the kind of performances he’s put on all season, albeit in less challenging weather conditions. With the win, he also closed to just one point behind Martins, positioning himself not just as the best rookie of the season but as a bona fide championship contender.

L–R: Victor Martins, Isack Hadjar and Ollie Bearman on the podium for the F3 Feature Race at the Red Bull Ring | Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Trident’s tale of missed opportunity

Last week’s takeaways article mentioned that Trident has endured poor luck, driver absences and unnecessary incidents this season. At Spielberg, the team set themselves up well in Qualifying to put all three cars in the top eight, with Roman Staněk in sixth ahead of Jonny Edgar and Maloney. Edgar ran as high as fourth in the Sprint Race before falling away in the latter stages, ultimately coming home seventh as Staněk took fifth.

The Feature Race, though, unravelled spectacularly for two of Trident’s three drivers. Edgar was sent spinning by Collet on Lap 23 in the Feature Race, and the next lap, Staněk hit Kaylen Frederick at Turn 3, for which he received a five-second penalty. With Staněk demoted from sixth to 11th and Edgar crossing the line 21st, Maloney’s fifth-place finish, his first top 10 in a Feature Race, gave the team their only points of the day.

Considering the pace that Trident’s drivers, particularly Staněk and Maloney, have shown this year, it’s surprising that the team have taken only two podiums and scored with multiple cars on just three occasions. They leave Styria fourth in the teams’ standings on 108 points, less than half of Prema’s total of 220. A successful defence of their crown might just have fallen out of reach.

Zane Maloney (foreground) took his first Feature Race points with fifth as Caio Collet (background) crashed in the closing laps | Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

The golden rule

It’s a motorsport adage as old as time, a maxim told to young karters and Formula One stars alike: don’t crash into your teammate. Yet that’s exactly what transpired, twice, at Charouz Racing System during Sunday’s Feature Race, as Francesco Pizzi and Zdeněk Chovanec came together in wet conditions, the second time with terminal consequences for Chovanec’s race.

The first incident happened on Lap 13 as Pizzi and Chovanec battled for 25th place. After getting a run on Chovanec exiting Turn 9, Pizzi took too narrow a line through Turn 10 and drifted into his teammate’s path, spinning him. Both cars continued without damage, but they came to blows again at Turn 4 on Lap 19. Pizzi moved to the inside of the corner and once again drifted toward the outside line on exit, where he ran into Chovanec’s car and pitched it into the gravel trap. Commentator Harry Benjamin even said “not again” as the replay was shown to viewers, illustrating the unfortunate frequency of the incident.

Though he vented over the radio and urged Charouz to “teach [Chovanec] how to drive”, Pizzi was ultimately blamed for both incidents by the stewards. It didn’t affect his finishing position of 24th, but Pizzi received two separate 10-second penalties after the race and a total of four penalty points on his licence – a stern punishment for ruining his teammate’s day.

The Austria weekend was the nadir for Charouz in a trying 2022, one in which they’ve scored a single point, cycled through four drivers in one car and endured three collisions between teammates, including one between Chovanec and László Tóth last weekend at Silverstone. Last season, they experienced the highs of podiums and a race win, and two of their drivers that year, Logan Sargeant and Enzo Fittipaldi, now occupy spots in the top five in the F2 standings. This F3 season has brought Charouz back to earth in a painful, and expensive, way.

A word on sausage kerbs

The debate over sausage kerbs in open-wheel racing resurfaced last weekend in the wake of Roy Nissany and Dennis Hauger’s terrifying crash in the F2 Feature Race at Silverstone. Both drivers escaped uninjured in that incident, but it’s a conversation with specific history in Formula 3. Three years ago at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Alex Peroni was catapulted into the catch fence around Parabolica by a sausage kerb, fracturing a vertebra and sustaining a concussion.

Sausage kerbs are in place to prevent drivers from gaining an advantage if they go off track. The Red Bull Ring has two long sausage kerbs on the exits of Turns 1 and 3, where drivers are otherwise liable to run wide and earn penalties for exceeding track limits. Drivers have praised the stricter procedures introduced this season for monitoring and enforcing track-limits violations, but this stringency also means that the need for sausage kerbs as deterrents has been largely obviated.

On Lap 8 of the Sprint Race, an incident between Nazim Azman and Hunter Yeany at Turn 3 left the latter with a broken wrist, forcing him to sit out the Feature Race and possibly miss future rounds as well. The contact itself was minor – Yeany was on the outside, Azman was on the inside, and the Campos driver was edged out to the kerb on exit, where the two cars’ front wheels touched. But just after that impact, Yeany bounced over the sausage kerb, jolting his steering wheel in a manner that broke his wrist.

The placement of the sausage kerb unsettles cars that go over it. Having one at a location like Turn 3 may make sense in theory, but it has injurious consequences that have become clear over the past few weeks. It’s fair to say that Yeany could have raced on Sunday had the kerb not been there; instead, he now has to recover from injury. As the F1 ladder continues to strive for better safety and clearer rules, reconsidering sausage kerbs would seem to be a good place to start.

The start of the Sprint Race | Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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