Time is running out: Budapest F3 weekend recap The Budapest weekend went by in a flash, but one driver remained unfazed at the front. Gabriel Bortoleto heads to Spa-Francorchamps as the championship leader, while things in the team standings only get closer with each passing race.
Who is heading to Belgium with work to do and who are the drivers and teams finding the form at the perfect time?
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BACK TO THE SUMMIT
PREMA Racing reclaimed the lead in the team standings on first demand, usurping Trident after Zak O’Sullivan took his maiden Formula 3 Feature Race victory. The Briton’s win also equaled the record for most wins in Formula 3 history by a single driver, with his four wins this season putting him level with previous champions Oscar Piastri and Dennis Hauger on four overall. Will the Williams Academy pilot once again be able to reach the top step in 2023 and clinch the record all to himself?
O’Sullivan’s win also ended a rotten run of three scoreless results after his previous Barcelona Sprint victory. Without those blanks on his scoreboard, he might well have given Bortoleto a headache heading into the final two rounds of the year.
Teammates Dino Beganovic and Paul Aron were the scorers themselves in both Budapest races as the fight for second place in the standings draws even closer. Only eight points separate five drivers en route to Spa-Francorchamps.
While all three Trident riders scored points in the Feature Race, it wasn’t enough to prevent PREMA from reclaiming the top spot in the team standings. The Italian team have now fallen to second place, but they are heading towards a track where they were dominating last season. This makes the prospect of clinching the Drivers’ Championship a possibility for Bortoleto, who now enjoys a 43-point advantage over his nearest rival. It was quite a race for the Brazilian, who extended his points streak to 13 consecutive races. He is now just two points off the all-time record, currently held by David Beckmann (with 15 in 2020).
The continued improvement in the performances of Oliver Goethe and Leonardo Fornaroli will also be a boost of confidence for the team during their trip to Belgium. The former achieved two top five finishes over the Budapest weekend, his second best average in a single weekend since the opening round at Sakhir. Fornaroli fumbled for points in the Sprint race but bounced back to add a P9 finish, his fourth points result in the past five races. Both will need to replicate that at Spa in order to bring the fight back to PREMA in the team standings.
A FAMILY HISTORY
Once again, Hitech Pulse-Eight showed promising signs of speed, but the results didn’t quite match it in the end. Gabriele Minì took a solid victory in the Sprint race, an important result for his season, but a torrid qualifying forced him to get stuck in the middle of the pack during the Feature Race. Sebastián Montoya again suffered contact, leaving him in need of repairs and well down the order and Budapest was his first white of the 2023 season in terms of points. Luke Browning is in the midst of a barren seven-race stretch dating back to the Barcelona Sprint Race where he finished second.
Scoreless in the Feature Race, Minì fell back to seventh in the Drivers’ Championship after coming fourth in Budapest. It will be a tough climb to reclaim a top five spot as PREMA Racing, Trident and MP Motorsport are now reaching their best form of the year so far.
Campos Racing is virtually assured of its best result in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, currently fourth in the team standings with 143 points. In fact, the Spanish side have their eyes on third place after a third straight weekend edging their closest rivals Hitech Pulse-Eight to close the gap to 21 points. Josep María Martí must have regretted a qualifying session that ended with him outside the top 12. The Spaniard put on a show of overtaking in the Feature Race to bounce back from a promising sprint until contact knocked him out.
Martí believes Campos had a top-five car in Budapest, and he will need to make it a regular feature by the time the checkered flag drops at Monza. Bouncing back next time at Spa-Francorchamps is essential to his season. His teammates Christian Mansell and Hugh Barter were involved in plenty of action, with Mansell in particular battling for points in both races, ultimately failing after his tires strayed away from their performance peak. He’s been making strides lately, scoring in five of the last seven races after scoring just twice in the first three rounds.
The Budapest weekend was much more like MP Motorsport, with all three drivers scoring points at least once over the weekend. In fact, the team got five out of a possible six scores in what was the most consistent round of the year for the team as a whole. Franco Colapinto ignited his season after returning to European shores, with just one non-score in the Spielberg Sprint Race. His fourth podium of the season with a third place finish in the Budapest Feature Race lifted him up the standings to sixth position, just eight points from second place.
Jonny Edgar was back after a blow at home at Silverstone, scoring back-to-back P8 finishes at the Hungaroring in what is his best race of the season so far. Her teammate Mari Boya was also back in the points, securing a 10th place finish in the Feature Race. He’s already been more of a threat for a few rounds, and if he can get into the top 12 in qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, more points finishes should follow.
Another difficult weekend for ART Grand Prix as the team only took two points on the Budapest round. Nikola Tsolov’s impressive performance in qualifying was the highlight, but the Bulgarian driver struggled to hold his place in the top 10 positions. He made contact with Campos Racing’s Martí on the safety car restart in the sprint and fell to 25th in the distance race after a 10-second time penalty for a collision involving Jenzer Motorsport’s Taylor Barnard.
Earlier in the season, Grégoire Saucy was a contender for the top spots in the drivers’ championship. After an impressive run to open the year, the Swiss is now battling for form. Ninth place in the Sprint was as good as it gets for him this time, and he will aim to do better next time at Spa-Francorchamps. Kaylen Frederick’s Feature Race was wrecked after a puncture, forcing the American rider to retire early.
It was a difficult weekend for Van Amersfoort Racing after a difficult qualifying which gave no points to any of the three drivers. A team error and failure to return the tires within the time limit resulted in grid penalties for Caio Collet, Tommy Smith and Rafael Villagómez, making the task even more difficult.
Collet also earned a separate penalty for causing a collision in the Sprint race. After three consecutive top-five finishes earlier in the year, he failed to score again for three consecutive runs. VAR will be aiming for a performance rebound at Spa-Francorchamps, a venue where Collet scored two points last season.
Nikita Bedrin’s best result of the season is further proof that Jenzer Motorsport has made strides forward in 2023. Starting on the front row of the Sprint, he battled with Minì in the early stages and stayed in touch after eventually losing the race lead to the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver. Sliding to third at the end after his tires had cried enough, it was still a very positive performance that he and the team can take a lot from.
Teammate Taylor Barnard upped the order from 17th on the grid to find himself seconds from the points, a solid effort after missing out on a top-12 grid spot. The Briton has shown he is capable of better qualifying, and if the team can continue to deliver improved race pace, the pair and team-mate Alejandro García could benefit before the end of the year.
HIGHS AND LOWS
The weekend did not start on the strongest note for Rodin Carlin after a crash by Oliver Gray in qualifying left him last on the grid. The Williams Academy driver however recovered well, moving up to 14th in the Sprint race and showing plenty of speed throughout.
Teammates Ido Cohen and Maxwell Esterson also had different weekends. Cohen’s potential was limited after a collision with Collet on the opening lap left him out of the Sprint, missing out on vital experience with the medium tyres. Meanwhile, Esterson had a solid drive from 25th on the grid to finish 18th in only his second FIA F3 weekend.
PHM Racing by Charouz newcomer Woohyun Shin reached the checkered flag in both races in his debut weekend. It’s a big positive as he gets to grips with a brand new car and a championship approaching the 2023 finale. There were more positive signs for the team as Roberto Faria and Sophia Floersch achieved solid top-20 finishes in both races.
Floersch in particular was impressive, climbing from 28th on the grid to finish 15th in the Sprint race, seconds from scoring points. She cut through the pack again on Sunday to finish 17th in the Feature Race, showcasing her experience and tire-saving skills.