The blue, red and yellow Red Bull–sponsored Prema F3 car of Jak Crawford drives around the banking at the Turn 3 left-hander.

Maloney and Crawford on title chances: ‘It’s going to be tough’

The FIA Formula 3 championship fight entering Zandvoort was wide open, with eight drivers within a perfect weekend’s worth of points from the lead. Two of the drivers with outside chances at the lead are Zane Maloney and Jak Crawford – who qualified first and third at Zandvoort, respectively – to put themselves in strong positions for a much-needed points boost.

By Michael McClure

Maloney was not initially touted as a title contender, but strong results in the previous two rounds have brought him back into the fold. He scored his maiden F3 podium at the Hungaroring with second in the Feature Race before taking a commanding win in the Spa Feature Race a day after rolling the car in a horror crash at Blanchimont.

Those results, and his pole position on Friday, lifted Maloney to 76 points, just four behind Crawford at the time. But he told F1 Feeder Series that his championship chances were slim, particularly with Victor Martins, currently second overall on 108 points, starting the Feature Race alongside him.

“For me, it doesn’t change anything. Of course we’re quite far back, I’m quite far back, so the plan is to just have two good races and two good races in Monza, and then we’ll see. Of course, Victor is in P2, so he’s not losing so far so many points this weekend. It’s going to be tough in the championship, but to be honest, I’m so far away, I’m not really thinking about this.”

Zane Maloney celebrates pole position at Zandvoort, which made him the only repeat pole-sitter this season | Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

In the opening corner of the Sprint Race, Maloney had to take to the gravel to avoid an incident in front of him and fell to the back of the field, eventually finishing 17th.

Losing touch with the leaders

Crawford had been in the top three of the championship early in the season, but he has since fallen to sixth. Aside from his maiden win at Spielberg, the middle part of the season was difficult for Crawford, who scored no other top-five finishes. A last-lap crash at the Hungaroring caused him to drop away from the outright championship lead, as did a no-score weekend at Spa that was doomed from the start after Crawford was at the back of the grid for both races.

Entering Zandvoort, Crawford admitted that the Spa weekend put a damper on his title hopes and forced him to adjust his approach.

“After Spa, I haven’t really thought about the points. Just looking for those good results, and we’ll start here and hopefully in Monza as well.”

Prema ‘didn’t have the pace’

While Crawford qualified third, he admits that he was fortunate with the timing of the late red flag for William Alatalo’s crash, which ended the session 44 seconds before the chequered flag. The American driver was able to jump from eighth to third on his final flying lap, but many of those behind him were unable to complete theirs.

These included Prema teammate Ollie Bearman, who gesticulated in frustration as he crossed the line to learn that a lap good enough for sixth was voided by the red flag. He starts both races 14th, while Arthur Leclerc, the third Prema driver, will start both of them 20th.

“We didn’t have the pace as a team today. We were behind on all three runs, and in the end, I was also lucky to get the red flag, but I put the lap together in the end. It doesn’t concern me for the rest of this weekend. We have really good race pace, it’s been shown all year, so I have no doubts for the race.”

We have really good race pace, it’s been shown all year, so I have no doubts for the race.

Jak Crawford (Prema Racing)

Crawford finished the Sprint Race ninth, while Bearman and Leclerc climbed to 11th and 12th. Bearman was set to score before making a late mistake and losing 10th to Roman Staněk, another of his championship rivals. With championship leader Isack Hadjar finishing sixth and Martins finishing seventh, Bearman has slipped to third, now six points behind Hadjar.

Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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