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Fernandez takes last-gasp Formula 3 pole in Austria

ART Grand Prix driver Sebastian Fernandez grabbed pole position at the last gasp for the opening round of the FIA Formula 3 Championship at the Red Bull Ring

The Spanish-Venezuelan, who failed to score a point in the 2019 season, has added speed to his spectacular style and did enough to pip Lirim Zendeli to the four points on offer for pole by 0.016 seconds.

Trident driver Zendeli was another to have a disappointing 2019 campaign, in his case with the Charouz-run Sauber Junior Team, but the 2018 German Formula 4 champion sprang to the top of the times after everyone fitted their second set of Pirelli tyres and was only beaten by Fernandez after the chequered flag fell.

Logan Sargeant was at the top of the order on his first competitive outing with Prema Racing when everyone had completed their opening runs.

But the American found himself dropping behind not only Fernandez and Zendeli, but also Prema team-mate Oscar Piastri to finish in fourth place.

Reigning Formula Renault Eurocup champion Piastri therefore led the F3 rookie contingent in third in a session that featured heavy traffic, with 30 drivers all attempting to find a clear space on a lap of just 79s duration.

Piastri set his time while running very close to ex-Formula Renault rival Alexander Smolyar, potentially costing him downforce in the corners at the end of the lap.

Like the Trident drivers, Jake Hughes made an early run for it on his second set of tyres, joining the circuit while the majority were still sitting in the pits.

That tactic led to a remarkable turnaround for HWA Racelab's single-seater veteran, who vaulted up the order from 23rd to briefly top the times, and ended the session in fifth.

Reigning Formula Regional European title winner Frederik Vesti made it all three Prema drivers in the top six, recovering from a spin exiting the final corner on his first set of tyres.

David Beckmann made a very commendable return to F3 competition with Trident, after a late deal to replace Devlin DeFrancesco - despite missing the testing earlier this year, the German edged out Piastri to top free practice early on Friday, and was a solid seventh in qualifying.

Alex Peroni, who will start his first race this weekend since his horrific shunt at Monza last September, took eighth with Campos Racing, while 2019 Macau Grand Prix winner Richard Verschoor will line up ninth in his MP Motorsport car.

Completing the top 10 was the highly impressive 16-year-old Czech Roman Stanek, who did a late deal with Charouz Racing System to replace Niko Kari.

Formula 4 star Stanek, who has never even tested an FIA F3 car, went third in free practice before planting himself 10th in qualifying.

There was bad news for Charouz, however, with its car of new Red Bull Junior Igor Fraga restricted to just a couple of laps - he will line up on the back row alongside fellow Brazilian and Ferrari protege Enzo Fittipaldi.

Starting grid

Pos Driver Team Gap
1 Sebastian Fernandez ART Grand Prix 1m19.429s
2 Lirim Zendeli Trident 0.016s
3 Oscar Piastri Prema Racing 0.135s
4 Logan Sargeant Prema Racing 0.166s
5 Jake Hughes HWA 0.189s
6 Frederik Vesti Prema Racing 0.247s
7 David Beckmann Trident 0.264s
8 Alex Peroni Campos Racing 0.280s
9 Richard Verschoor MP Motorsport 0.380s
10 Roman Stanek Charouz 0.397s
11 Alexander Smolyar ART Grand Prix 0.599s
12 Liam Lawson Hitech GP 0.626s
13 Bent Viscaal MP Motorsport 0.679s
14 Clement Novalak Carlin 0.682s
15 Jack Doohan HWA 0.712s
16 Dennis Hauger Hitech GP 0.761s
17 Max Fewtrell Hitech GP 0.771s
18 Matteo Nannini Jenzer Motorsport 0.799s
19 Federico Malvestiti Jenzer Motorsport 0.895s
20 Theo Pourchaire ART Grand Prix 0.909s
21 Cameron Das Carlin 0.915s
22 Lukas Dunner MP Motorsport 0.924s
23 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport 1.126s
24 David Schumacher Charouz 1.378s
25 Olli Caldwell Trident 1.417s
26 Enaam Ahmed Carlin 1.429s
27 Alessio Deledda Campos Racing 1.804s
28 Sophia Florsch Campos Racing 1.882s
29 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA 1.901s
30 Igor Fraga Charouz 3.631s

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