Everything you need to know about the seventh round of Formula 2 & Formula 3.
If you want a recap of what happened last time out in Barcelona or missed the sixth round of both Championships, click on the link below for my roundup:
Formula 3 - Race I (Saturday)
After a close qualifying session that saw the top twenty cars covered by one second, it was all to play for when the lights went out for the first race of the weekend. Lirim Zendeli started in pole position with Pouchaire in second and Smolyar in third. Zendeli made a great start and was able to keep Pourchaire at a safe distance behind him as the race progressed.
There was early drama that began with Hughes having to start from the pitlane after failing to get his car going for the formation lap. Then, once the race had actually started, Estner and Novalak both picked up damage with the former losing his front wing and rear tyre and the latter also suffering from a tyre issue. Two laps later, Deledda took himself out of the race by spinning into the gravel at turn eleven. Hughes then retired on lap thirteen after initially making some good progress up through the field.
Piastri and Lawson had a close battle that saw them both go off the track at the end of the Kemmel Straight. Piastri gave the position back a few laps later to prevent himself from getting a penalty and then proceeded to overtake Lawson again, this time with ease, going down the Kemmel Straight once again.
Logan Sargeant had unexpected engine issues and suffered heavily as a result. There wasn't much the American could do as the race entered its final few laps and he was pretty much a sitting duck as both of his PREMA teammates and Caldwell overtook him. But out in front, nobody could touch Zendeli and he went on to become yet another different Formula 3 race winner this season. Pouchaire came in second with Beckmann in third after getting past Smolyer early on in the race.
The rest of the top ten was made up by Smolyar in fourth, Piastri in fifth with Vesti in sixth and Caldwell in seventh. Sargaent finished in eighth, Lawson in ninth and Verschoor in tenth place.
Sargeant's misfortune gave Piastri a much needed boost and helped the Australian driver knock the American off the top spot of the Driver's Championship. Saturday's race certainly helped create an excellent set up for Sunday's Sprint Race.
Formula 2 - Race I (Saturday)
The Feature Race for Formula 2 was always going to a difficult one for the drivers after the loss of Anthoine Hubert at last years' Feature Race at Spa. Before the race, the drivers - joined by some of the prominent figures in Formula 1 - held a minute's silence in his honour. The drivers were also joined by Juan Manuel Correa who was also involved in the tragic accident last year and who hopes to make a comeback into Formula 2 at some point in the future.
When the racing got underway, there was drama from start to finish up and down the track. Samia stalled on the grid and had to be pushed into the pits by the marshals to get his car going and was then able to start the race. However, he later retired when he was over one lap down on the rest of the grid. On lap two, Daruvala sustained front wing damage and then also damaged his tyre in the process, sending him down the order. Lap four then saw a collision between MP Motorsport teammates Drugovich and Matsushita as they went through the double left of Blanchimont, sending Matsushita crashing out of the race. Luckily, he was able to get out of the car quickly and was unharmed. This incident brought out the virtual safety car for a few laps before it was deemed safe to go racing once more.
Zhou was leading the race as those around him pitted, thus giving him a chance to use the alternate strategy to his advantage. But when he came in for his pitstop and rejoined, his tyres were simply not yet up to temperature and he slipped down a few positions. Further down the order, Illot was simply not able to advance through the field whilst Roy Nissany came powering through for what is easily his best race of the season so far. Both he and Zhou (as the latter began to make his way back up through the field once his tyres were up to scratch) made some excellent overtakes that were awesome to watch.
As the final few laps of the race began, Tsunoda did everything he could to try and get past Mazepin for first place but couldn't find a way through to get to the top step of the podium. But a move made by Mazepin against Tsunoda coming into Les Combes resulted in the stewards handing Mazepin a five second time penalty after he'd already passed the chequered flag in first place. Needless to say, Mazepin was fuming, driving into his second place sign in parc ferme and not joining in with the podium celebrations.
The top ten at the end of the race was as follows: Tsunoda (with his second win of the season), Mazepin, Schumacher (a solid drive for him), Deletraz, Shwartzman, Ticktum, Zhou, Nissany, Ghitto and Illot. Nissany's superb drive puts him on reverse pole for Sunday's Sprint Race.
Following the podium proceedings, all three drivers and the Carlin team representative returned to the top step of the podium, holding a French Flag together in memory of Anthoine Hubert. It was a poignant moment and also a great race for Formula 2 which was, for me, a great way to pay tribute to Anthoine Hubert.
Formula 3 - Race II (Sunday)
After taking the Championship lead following Saturday's Feature Race, Oscar Piastri was looking to extend his championship lead over Logan Sargeant in Sunday's Sprint Race. However, the racing Gods had other things in mind for him.
Verschoor started on reverse grid pole position with Lawson on the front row beside him in second place. But Lawson got off to a poor start when the lights went out and found himself going back down to P5. There was also drama further down the field on lap two as Jack Doohan picked up a puncture along the Kemmel Straight and proceeded to retire from the race not long after he made it back to the pitlane.
On the third lap, Sargeant wasted no time in making up for his unfortunate performance in Saturday's race and passed Verschoor on the way into Les Combes to take the lead of the race. From there, the American was untouchable. A virtual safety car came out on lap four when Chovet (in his second Formula 3 race for Hitech as he replaces Max Fewtrell for this weekend who parted ways with the team) crashed into the barriers at Les Combes.
There was some tyre management then by all of the drivers for the next few laps but that didn't stop Pouchaire from making his way past Verschoor for third place. Down in the midfield, Fittipaldi was having a great race, having started down in 26th place and was now up in 13th position! Whilst there are no points on offer there, his determination and skill behind the wheel should be noted here and it was a shame we didn't get to see more of his overtakes.
After his shoddy start, Lawson began climbing his way back up through the field and was able to get past Pourchaire for third place on lap twelve, keeping him behind from there on out. Further down the field, Caldwell (who had been driving rather well up to now) and Peroni made contact which sent the Australian driver tumbling down the order.
Then, as Piastri looked set to keep the Championship battle close despite not being on the podium, he was hit with a five second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage at Raidillon, pushing him down a position when the chequered flag was waved.
Out in front, Sargeant won the race, fixing his weekend and retaking the Championship lead again with just four races to go. Vesti came home in second place in what is curiously his debut at Spa. Lawson clung onto third place in what will have been a frustrating but also decent race for the New Zealander. Smolyar finished in fourth with Pouchaire in fifth. Vershoor was promoted to sixth place ahead of Piastri in seventh, Zendeli in eighth, Beckmann in ninth and Fernandez rounding out the top ten.
There was also contact on the last corner of the last lap between Malvestiti and Das which sent the former spinning around 360 degrees before being able to finish the race. Never a dull moment in Formula 3.
Formula 2 - Race II (Sunday)
Sunday's Sprint Race turned into quite a spectacle from the front of the grid to right at the back of it. Juri Vips in his second race had trouble starting the formation lap so was taken to the pit lane to start the race. This meant that when the grid was forming, Aitken put his car in the wrong grid spot which resulted in him receiving a ten second stop and go penalty which he served later in the race. Matsushita also didn't start the race as his team were unable to mend his car in time following his incident with teammate Drugovich during Saturday's Feature Race.
Up in front, Zhou made a bad start to the race whilst Ticktum shot up into first place ahead of reverse pole sitter Nissany. Nissany had nothing to lose though and promptly retook the race lead in style, showing Ticktum who was in charge. Just behind, Tsunoda made contact with Illot coming out of Les Combes (partly in reaction to not crashing into Lungaard who was rejoining the track) and Illot proceeded to crash out of the race. Tsunoda received a five second time penalty for this and deflated his hopes to proceed any further in the Championship after his win in the Feature Race on Saturday.
As racing went underway again once the safety car went back into the pits following Illot's accident, it was redeployed following contact between Ticktum and Nissany. Ticktum seems dedicated to emulating Formula 1's Romain Grosjean and drove into the back of Nissany coming through the middle part of Les Combes. Ticktum had tried making the move into Les Combes but couldn't make it stick so went off the track, rejoining and driving into the back of Nissany, sending him spinning off the track and into the wall. He then went on the radio to add to his greatest hits and blamed Nissany for the incident, despite the fact that Nissany was on the racing line at the time. This now meant that Shwartzman could take the lead in what was now a very important race for him Championship wise.
There was more fierce racing as the safety car came in again, with Shwartzman stretching out a lead. Marcus Armstrong retired from the race on lap eleven with Schumacher getting past Ticktum and moving up to second place on lap twelve. Zhou was next in line to have a go at Ticktum for a podium position and made his move in excellent style as he always does, claiming the final spot on the podium for himself. The virtual safety car made another appearance following contact between Daruvala and Sato which put the latter out of the race.
As the final laps unfolded, both Mazepin and Ghiotto made their way past a struggling Ticktum (karma if ever there was any) and Ticktum proceeded to slide further down the order and out of any points he might have gotten.
Eleven seconds in the lead, Shwartzman took the win at Spa as well as the lead of the Championship. Schumacher finished in second, scoring a double podium this weekend with Zhou finishing in a respectable third.
After seven rounds, the driver and constructor standings for the top three of both categories look like this:
Formula 3 Drivers:
1. Sargeant - 152 Points.
2. Piastri - 145 Points.
3. Beckmann - 111.5 Points.
Formula 3 Constructors:
1. PREMA - 387.5 Points.
2. Trident - 199.5 Points.
3. ART - 172 Points.
Formula 2 Drivers:
1. Shwartzman - 132 Points.
2. Illot - 122 Points.
3. Tsunoda - 111 Points.
Formula 2 Constructors:
1. PREMA - 238 Points.
2. UNI-Virtuosi - 214 Points.
3. Hitech - 152 Points.
It was an awesome weekend of racing overall and a great way to pay tribute to Anthoine Hubert. Formula 3 had some great action in it and the Championship battle is well and truly on now between Sargeant and Piastri. With only two rounds left, every point counts and it will be fascinating to see how it all plays out. In Formula 2, the Championship battle is also getting quite spicy with three drivers all able to win it and more races left to gather valuable points in than in Formula 3. Illot will need to bounce back quickly if he hopes to remain in contention because neither Shwartzman nor Tsunoda will wait to ensure he doesn't win. I for one can't wait to watch them do it all over again next weekend at Monza.
What did you think of the racing this weekend? Let me know in the comments below.