Showers overnight saw Practice commence around a slippery Red Bull Ring. Fortunately for the 30 drivers the rain held at bay for the whole session, as they took the time to make some exploratory laps on the wet tyres.
Immediately getting to grips with the challenging conditions, Trident’s Roman Stanek laid down a cautious but representative 1:30.622, before he and MP Motorsport’s Alexander Smolyar began to trade fastest times.
At the halfway point, it was clear the wet tyre had served their purpose as a dry line had started to form around the Red Bull Ring, taking a gamble, the first driver to switch over to slicks was Arthur Leclerc. Turning the timing screens purple, times tumbled as drivers began clocking in their best laps of the session, the change in conditions saw lap times over 10 seconds quicker than those at the start.
Arthur Leclerc finished the practice session on the top spot, with Smolyar finished 2nd and Jonny Edgar 3rd.
Now onto qualifying, HiTech’s Grand Prix, Isack Hadjar claimed his first Formula 3 pole position, going two-tenths clear of title rival and Championship leader Victor Martins who will join his fellow Frenchman on the front row.
Oliver Bearman bettered PREMA Racing teammate, Arthur Leclerc for P3, whilst Kaylen Frederick made it two Hitech’s in the top five.
There was no sign of the damp conditions that drivers dealt with in practice, but the wind had picked up from the morning session as Caio Collet was warned of a headwin into Turn 3.
Caio Collet covered off Correa to retain the lead into the first corner, whilst Franco Colapinto challenged Crawford for third. Further back it was as much as four wide entering Turn 3.
Correa got a run into Turn 4 and went around the outside of the MP Motorsport car to take the lead. Colapinto also managed to sneak through on Crawford in the same place before a Safety Car was deployed.
The Safety Car was withdrawn entering Lap 4, and it was three Tridents that were instantly wheel to wheel, as Zane Maloney and Roman Stanek scrapped, Jonny Edgar slipped up the inside of the pair of of them at Turn 4. Corrrea’s strong start was for nought as on Lap six he coasted to a halt front he race lead to leave Collet at the head of the field.
On the next lap, Oliver Bearman made a late dive down the inside of Stanek to steal sixth position, however his move opened the door for Leclerc at Turn 4 and both PREMA drivers were through on the Trident man.
But it was Jak Crawford who wins his first F3 race, Caio Collet in 2nd and Franco Colapinto finished 3rd rounding out the podium. The rest of the top 10 are: P4: Leclerc, P5: Stanek, P6: Frederick, P7: Edgar, P8: Martins, P9: Smolyar and P10: Hadjar.
A big challenge arrived for the grid for the Feature Race, as heavy rain at the Red Bull Ring saw the drivers face a contest of attrition on wet tyres, with standing water everywhere and spray creating a lack of visibility, it was up to maiden pole-sitter Hadjar to lead the field away in a rolling start.
Despite never started from the front row in Formula 3, Hadjar nailed his launch allowing him to hold off an attack from Championship leader Martins. However, an error saw the rookie run wide into Turns 1 and 9, allowing fellow Frenchman Martins to close in on him.
The pair’s duel wasn’t slowing them down, as they continued to pull a gap to the PREMA duo of Bearman and Leclerc behind. As predicted, conditions began to east and a drier line began to form along the circuit, with the field urgently searching for wet patches of tarmac in order to run the blue walled tyres to the end of the race.
Outside the points, the two Charouz Racing System drivers of Francisco Pizzi and Zdenek Chovanec made contact whilst Josep Maria Marti charge to try to claim his first points finish in F3 took a knock.
But it was Hadjar who took the win in Austria, Victor Martins finished 2nd and Oliver Bearman grabs another podium in the bag! The rest of the top 10 are: P4: Leclerc, P5: Maloney, P6: Stanek, P7: Colapinto, P8: Smolyar, P9: Alatalo and P10: Cohen.
We are back in less than 3 weeks for round 6 at Budapest, Hungary on the 29th to 31st July, where the championship is hotting up!