Dream Formula 3 debut for Piastri
After signalling his championship intentions with a sensational debut win in the opening race of the FIA Formula 3 Championship at the Red Bull Ring in Austria yesterday, Oscar Piastri was back in the points again today, finishing eighth and setting the fastest lap to lead the series.
The 19-year old from Melbourne was always at the sharp end of the time-sheets and traded fastest laps in Friday’s closely fought qualifying session. A time of 1min 19.564s had the PREMA Racing driver on provisional pole but Oscar was ultimately pipped in the closing moments and started the first 24 lap race from third.
He made a strong getaway at the lights and dived between the front row sitters. They raced three abreast into turn one where contact was inevitable. Fernandez squeezed Piastri and spun across the Australian’s bow, ending the Venezuelan’s race there and then. Fortunately, Piastri’s car came through the melee unscathed and he then set off after Lirim Zendeli, passing the young German at turn 3.
From there, Piastri controlled the race, stretching his lead to more than three seconds at one point before saving his tyres. He crossed the line 1.6s ahead of his PREMA Racing team, Logan Sargeant and fellow Australian Alex Peroni returning to F3 after his horrific crash at Monza last year.
“I got a very good start and turn one was very interesting. Let’s say my first 10 seconds of Formula 3 racing were pretty action-packed as I was a little sandwiched between Zandeli and Fernandez, but luckily I had no damage from that. Then I passed Zendeli at turn three and made a gap to get out of the DRS. There was a bit more tyre degradation than we were expecting so in the middle part of the race I really had to make sure my tyres were under control and that there was something left at the end. I just managed to hang on, even though the pace was maybe not quite as good as Logan’s but I had built enough of a gap. There is still some room for improvement on the race pace but I’m very happy I have won, it’s definitely a good start to the year.”
Valuable points were up for grabs again in today’s race but with a reversed top 10 grid from yesterday’s results, finding a way through the traffic was always going to be a challenge.
Oscar was cleanly away from 10th position and made up a position when Sargeant suffered a puncture on lap two. Piastri set the fastest lap of the race with a 1min 21.513s on lap nine and then made up a further position when Peroni retired with a technical issue.
“It was the first time I really experienced dirty air with this car which was more than I was expecting. Given the nature of these tyres, it’s very easy to overheat them, especially when you’re following. I overheated the fronts quite early, and after that, I had a lot of understeer. Finishing 8th, getting the points for that and for the fastest lap as well is a massive bonus. We definitely have some things to work on for the next weekend but hopefully we can continue our form.”
As part of the rescheduled calendar, round 2 of the FIA Formula 3 Championship will also take place at Austria’s Red Bull Ring next weekend, July 10-12.
Images © Prema Powerteam