The Formula 3 title challengers gunning for title glory this weekend
As the FIA Formula 3 championship descends on Monza for its title decider, there are six drivers still firmly in contention split by just 25 points, with 39 still available. Here are the contenders hoping to scoop the prize and how they've got there
With eight rounds and 16 races completed, FIA Formula 3 will finally reach its conclusion this weekend at Monza. But the championship is far from over, and with just 25 points separate the top six, everything is still to play for.
Prema driver Jak Crawford, in seventh, remains in mathematical contention, but a 36-point deficit to points leader Victor Martins will require a turnaround of remarkable proportions to stand a chance of scooping the crown.
It was a different story this time last year, with far greater margins separating the title contenders. Dennis Hauger was 55 points clear of Jack Doohan, clinching the title after the Saturday sprint race at the Sochi season finale, while Clement Novalak sat a further 18 points behind in third.
But with new names and a far closer competition, who looks set to emerge on top in F3 this season? Here are the top six and their chances at clinching the top prize.
1. Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix)
Martins has led the points for most of the season and comes into the finale with the edge
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Wins: 2 (Bahrain, Barcelona features)
Average qualifying position: 7.5
If there’s anyone who should win the title, it’s Victor Martins. In his second year in the series, the 21-year-old Frenchman led from the start of the season, putting in some impressive performances in Bahrain and Spain to clinch feature race victories, and has six podiums to his name so far.
But the Alpine Academy junior has failed to win a race since the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, albeit finishing second three times. Isack Hadjar took the top of the standings after the Hungaroring sprint race, one of only two rounds all year where Martins didn't register a podium.
But despite a disastrous weekend at Spa, where he failed to score any points after a lowly qualifying and dropped to third in the standings, Martins was back on top after last weekend’s Zandvoort round with another second place in the feature race.
Heading into the Monza weekend, the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup champion said qualifying was the “critical moment” for the title fight, so will be looking to beat the typically chaotic traffic issues around the Italian circuit to claim a first pole of the year for Sunday’s decider.
2. Isack Hadjar (Hitech GP)
Red Bull junior Hadjar has made an excellent impression in his rookie F3 campaign
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Wins: 3 (Bahrain, Silverstone sprints, Red Bull Ring feature)
Average qualifying position: 8.62
Points deficit: 5
The star rookie, Formula Regional European graduate Isack Hadjar has had an impressive season to say the least. Hailed by Christian Horner and Helmut Marko as the next big thing, the 17-year-old Red Bull junior caused waves from the off after winning the opening sprint race of the season in Bahrain when Oliver Bearman was issued a post-race penalty for track limits.
Despite having a year less experience in the series and being four years his compatriot's junior, Hadjar has confidently taken the fight to Martins all season and scored more wins courtesy of Silverstone sprint and Red Bull Ring feature successes - both times prevailing over Martins. At Silverstone, Hadjar stole the win with a pass on the penultimate lap.
Whatever the outcome of this spicy title battle, and even if he doesn't claim a first car racing title of his career, Hadjar has proven to be more than deserving of an FIA Formula 2 seat next season.
3. Roman Stanek (Trident)
Stanek has come to the fore in his third year of F3 and is the better-placed of Trident's two title contenders
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Wins: 1 (Imola feature)
Average qualifying position: 5.25
Points deficit: 17
In his third season of F3, Stanek has had a slower rise to the top than his competitors. Finishing 21st in 2020 with Charouz before improving to 16th with Hitech last year, this has been his first real run at the title for the Czech who had just two podiums to show for his first two seasons in the category.
Stanek might have only won one race this year, making a late move on Bearman to win at Imola, but he has shown impressive consistency. The 18-year-old has finished outside the top 12 just three times, two of which were in Bahrain when he suffered punctures.
Although he has a 17-point deficit to make up, Monza is an unpredictable circuit and a return to his early season qualifying form - never outside the top two across the first three rounds - could see Stanek make good headway into that gap.
4. Ollie Bearman (Prema)
Bearman broke his duck at Spa after several near-misses, but a tough weekend at Zandvoort has hurt his title prospects
Photo by: Ferrari
Wins: 1 (Spa sprint)
Average qualifying position: 7.37
Points deficit: 21
Another stellar rookie, Bearman has outshone his team-mates – and much of the grid – in the second half of the season, producing an outstanding run of results culminating in a double podium at Spa despite having never driven at the Belgian circuit before.
The Ferrari Drivers’ Academy junior joined Prema as the reigning Italian and ADAC F4 champion and started as he meant to go on. He crossed the line first in the opening sprint race of the season in Bahrain before a track limits penalty demoted him to second behind Hadjar, and has clocked up five more podiums including that Spa triumph.
The Briton says he started his first F3 season without any expectations, but he surely has exceeded whatever his goals might have been - having outperformed both Martins and Hadjar in qualifying. Although a disappointing Zandvoort weekend that yielded no points resulted in a 22-point swing to Martins, Bearman still leads the Prema trio (against second-year drivers Arthur Leclerc and Jak Crawford) and is likely to be the team’s highest finisher.
Whatever Bearman does next year, he’s certainly made a mark in F3.
5. Zane Maloney (Trident)
The in-form Maloney has won both of the last two feature races at Spa and Zandvoort, and is the year's top qualifer
Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd
Wins: 2 (Spa, Zandvoort features)
Average qualifying position: 4.5
Points deficit: 24
The boy from Barbados has also had a fantastic rookie season, despite only scoring points in half of the 16 races held thus far and retiring four times.
One of those came at Spa in the biggest accident of the season, when he flipped after contact with Oliver Goethe at Blanchimont. After miraculously walking away, the 2019 British Formula 4 champion came back fighting the following day to win after a battle with Caio Collet, proving the 19-year-old has real guts.
Hadjar's team-mate in Formula Regional European last season repeated the feat at Zandvoort a week later, passing Martins before enduring two safety car restarts to take victory. He could have also taken a win in the Imola feature race had he not spun out of the lead on the safety car restart.
Given Trident’s status as the teams' title winner from 2021, with Doohan and Novalak usually to be found near the sharp end of the grid, it’s unsurprising that two of its drivers sit in the top six. But Maloney may be surprised to be one of them given his relative inexperience compared to third-year man Stanek. He is also the only driver so far this year to take two series poles – an impressive feat given the strength of the field – and has the best qualifying average of any of the top contenders.
If he doesn't manage to overturn his 24-point deficit and returns next season, Maloney will definitely be one to watch for the title.
6. Arthur Leclerc (Prema)
Leclerc's second season with Prema hasn't hit the heights many expected, with his qualifying form leaving him much to do in the races
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Wins: 1 (Silverstone feature)
Average qualifying position: 11.25
Points deficit: 25
Given Prema's dominance of FIA F3, having claimed all three titles since 2019 with Robert Shwartzman, Oscar Piastri and Dennis Hauger, it was expected that its 2022 contingent would shine. But few would have anticipated at the start of the year that Leclerc wouldn't be heading its highly-rated trio.
Also a Ferrari Drivers’ Academy member, the Monegasque driver has struggled in qualifying and landed up outside the top 10 on four occasions – starting 20th or lower three times. His only win so far came from his best qualifying of the year, second, at Silverstone.
Leclerc sat second in the standings after a promising first two rounds, yielding second and fourth from 14th and 21st respectively, and again was Martins' closest challenger after Silverstone. But his championship aspirations have been hurt by more difficult qualifying runs at Spa and Zandvoort which meant he was unable to score in either feature race.
Still, a podium at Monza while racing in Formula Regional European in 2020 proves the younger Leclerc brother's prowess at the track. With a 25-point gap to Martins, the title is within reach – but only just.
Leclerc has a mountain to climb to keep his F3 title hopes alive at Monza and will hope for a repeat of his Silverstone success
Photo by: Ferrari
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