Man in red, white, and blue racing suit holding trophy above his head and pointing to the right of the camera.

Ultimatums and uncertainty: FIA F3 drivers reflect on the season and discuss plans for next year

All eyes were on new FIA F3 champion Victor Martins after Sunday’s Feature Race at Monza concluded, but several other drivers made headlines throughout the weekend for both the right and the wrong reasons. F1 Feeder Series spoke to such drivers in the paddock on Sunday afternoon.

By Michael McClure

Martins retained a slim championship lead throughout the entirety of the weekend at Monza, but the biggest mover was runner-up Zane Maloney, who leapt from fifth to second after taking fourth in the Sprint Race and winning the Feature.

Maloney effused joy when telling F1 Feeder Series about his run of form after the Feature Race.

“It feels amazing. P2, P1, P1, P1 sounds very nice. It’s been a great year – the team have been giving me a great car every round, and we finished it off in the perfect way,” he said.

Maloney: Finishing second ‘surprises me a lot’

Maloney’s charge to near victory in the title race was of an almost unprecedented scale in F3. Aided by three consecutive Feature Race wins in the final tripleheader, the Trident driver climbed to second despite being 14th after Round 4 at Silverstone and 10th after Hungary, which hosted the final event before the summer break and where he took his first F3 podium.

But that surge came with the realisation that two costly mistakes early in the season doomed what could have been a certain title win. At Round 2 in Imola, Maloney spun from the lead on a safety car restart in the Feature Race and got stuck in the damp grass at Rivazza, while at the following round in Barcelona, he had to start both races from the pit lane after missing a mandatory call for the weighbridge in Qualifying. He failed to score points that weekend for the only time in 2022.

Of course I look back to Imola and Barcelona and [I’m] not so happy with that

Zane Maloney

“It surprises me a lot in terms of points, but in terms of results, not really so much,” Maloney said about finishing second despite the early setbacks. “We’ve been up there all year. The team, we’ve had the quickest car in every round, first- or second-quickest car, so the team have done an amazing job. I’ve done the job in the last four rounds, so I’m happy with myself, but of course I look back to Imola and Barcelona and [I’m] not so happy with that.”

Edgar overcomes setbacks and finds consistency

Maloney is not the only driver riding a wave of momentum from the triple header. Another driver with an enviable, and unparalleled, record is his Trident teammate Jonny Edgar, who was the only driver to score points in each of the last six races. He ended the year 12th on 46 points.

I think the last three rounds have obviously been better than the rest of the year, kind of improving every race

Jonny Edgar

Edgar had missed the Imola and Barcelona rounds because of complications from Crohn’s disease, with which he had been diagnosed prior to Bahrain. Upon returning to the car at Silverstone in July, months earlier than his initial recovery timeline had stipulated, Edgar took a couple of rounds to reacclimatise himself to the demands of F3 machinery.

“I think the last three rounds have obviously been better than the rest of the year, kind of improving every race. This weekend, let’s say I was quite unlucky in the Qualifying. [I] got blocked on one lap and then lost a lot of time with the yellow flag, so I think I would have been top three, but I think I even [had] a good chance of pole because the car felt really good,” Edgar said.

A blue, gold and red racecar with Red Bull branding, driven by Jonny Edgar, makes a left turn. A teal racecar driven by Caio Collet, wearing a bright green crash helmet, pursues Edgar.
Jonny Edgar and Caio Collet battled for much of the Monza weekend | Credit: Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool

Edgar ultimately ended the session ninth, putting him fourth for the Sprint Race. He was on his way to a maiden podium before he was overtaken by Caio Collet for third on the penultimate lap and by Maloney on the final tour. Despite being on the fringes of the top 10 for much of the Feature Race, Edgar took his second fastest lap of the year thanks to an effort on Lap 8, while he was directly behind Pepe Martí.

I dropped back to 12th at one point, and then the car was really good, so I managed to get back up to P8 and I got the fastest lap

Jonny Edgar

“The race yesterday, [I] just struggled a tiny bit with the car, so I ended up P5, which still wasn’t too bad. And then today, we changed some things on the car, so the first few laps it was kind of crazy, and then I’d say I got a bit unlucky in some situations.

“In some braking zones, you kind of pick a side, and if that road slows down, people can get around the outside of you on the other side. I dropped back to 12th at one point, and then the car was really good, so I managed to get back up to P8 and I got the fastest lap.”

Hadjar’s ‘nightmare’ weekend

The driver who finished behind Edgar on Sunday was his fellow Red Bull junior Isack Hadjar, who climbed from 16th to ninth. But the Hitech driver’s crash in Qualifying and his visible despair afterwards will remain one of the defining images of the season – a sombre portrait of a driver whose relentless ambition pushed him to a painful extreme.

Reflecting on his weekend two days later, Hadjar admitted to F1 Feeder Series that his hopes of a good weekend, and of securing the championship, were largely doomed after Friday.

You can’t expect much starting P16 for the races, so that was pretty much it

Isack Hadjar

“I was pushing hard in quali. We had the pace to be on pole, clearly. [I made] a small mistake with big consequences, so that was really disappointing from my side. You can’t expect much starting P16 for the races, so that was pretty much it.

“I was counting on the guys in front to create a bit of chaos, but they all drove quite well, so I couldn’t really make my race from the back like I wanted,” Hadjar explained. “It was a bit of a nightmare, to be honest. I was a bit lost – also the chicanes, an incident every lap, it was a bit of an annoyance, so it wasn’t really fair every time. I couldn’t really do what I wanted.”

A blue, yellow and red F3 car with a Red Bull livery driven by Isack Hadjar makes a slight left turn on damp asphalt
Isack Hadjar | Credit: Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Ltd via Getty Images

Of the many incidents in the races, Hadjar was caught up in one on Saturday that destroyed his Sprint Race. Entering the Variante Ascari for the first time after a mid-race safety car period, Hadjar hit the rear of Kush Maini while attempting a move for 14th and damaged his front wing, forcing him to pit. He crossed the line that day 27th and last in what was his worst result of the season at a crucial time of year.

Uncertain futures

Hadjar’s rookie F3 season may not have ended in the title he hoped for, but he still expects to move up to Formula 2 next year as he has suggested previously. At Monza, he told F1 Feeder Series that Formula 2 ‘still is the plan’ for 2023.

“I’m very excited about it. I learned a lot this year, and I’m going to apply what I learned for next season,” Hadjar said.

Over at Trident, Maloney expressed excitement for the future, though he conceded that the team’s 2022 trio – Maloney, Edgar, and Roman Staněk – won’t all be reuniting for 2023.

I’m sure that whatever I do next year and with whoever I do next year with, it’ll be a great season

Zane Maloney

“Thank you to Trident for the great car all year. It’s been an amazing year, and it’s been loads of fun with them, obviously had loads of fun with Jonny and Roman as well. We’ll see what all three of us do next year, but I’m sure that whatever I do next year and with whoever I do next year with, it’ll be a great season and I’ll start off from the get-go very strong and hopefully don’t have the mistakes and learn from them from this year.”

Third-year F3 driver Staněk had received an ultimatum earlier this year from his father stating that he had to finish in the top three in order to receive the funding necessary to continue his single-seater career. Though the Czech driver ultimately finished the year fifth, 15 points off Ollie Bearman in third, there is no indication as yet that this threat will materialise. Staněk also told F1 Feeder Series on the Friday of the Monza weekend that his plans hadn’t yet been nailed down.

“I still haven’t decided what will happen,” he explained. “Let’s hope I can find a seat for next year, which won’t be in FIA F3 but maybe higher or maybe some other projects. So let’s see what we can do.”

Header Photo Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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