Piastri continues his championship charge in Budapest

PREMA Racing and Renault Sport Academy driver Oscar Piastri has stretched his lead in this year’s FIA Formula 3 Championship to 26 points following a superb double podium in round 3 at the Hungaroring, Budapest this weekend.

The 19-year old from Melbourne shrugged off a below par qualifying performance on Friday to claim second in yesterday’s feature race.Today, the UK-based Australian fought his way from ninth on the reversed grid to another second place and bagged an extra two points for setting the fastest lap of the race.

After managing only a handful of laps in the dry and overcast conditions of Friday’s practice session, Oscar was keen for qualifying to get underway. However, heavy rain forced the session to be suspended and not restarted due to surface water. Uncertainty followed as to whether it would be held at all but ultimately clearing skies allowed the drivers to return to the track later in the day.

Oscar was amongst the fastest in opening part of the session but ultimately ended up sixth fastest with a time of 1min 52.278s.

“It was not the best qualifying I’d say, especially considering the potential we had after the first set of tyres. With the second set, it was just a bit messy and I didn’t feel as good. We’ll see what race 1 brings. If it’s wet, we have definitely got good pace. Today, it just didn’t happen in the last couple of laps but I’m still confident for tomorrow, and hopefully, we can make up some spots.

A damp track greeted the drivers on Saturday morning. In what has become almost customary this season, there was plenty of chaos at the first corner when the two front row sitters Aleksandr Smolyar and Logan Sargeant made contact. Piastri almost got through the melee cleanly but was then hit by fellow Australian Calan Williams who had spun. But, despite damage to the left rear floor tyre seal he was able to continue and was up into second place when the Safety Car was deployed.

The sun was breaking through when the Safety Car pulled in at the end of lap two, with the field headed by 16-year old Theo Pourchaire, Piastri and Sargeant. Piastri was filling the rear mirrors of the young French driver by lap five but then the race was red-flagged after Liam Lawson’s car dropped oil which caught fire. Some of those following skated off the track so the cars were returned to pit lane while the marshals mopped up. The restart saw everyone away cleanly and the two leaders resumed their battle. However, Pourchaire was able to pull away as the laps ran down and won by a comfortable margin from Piastri who had to fend off Sargeant.

“P2 from P6 is a very good result. Turn 1 was chaotic again, but I seem to get good results after chaotic turn ones! I had a little contact with maybe a little bit of damage, but the pace when it was still wet was really strong, and even once it dried up we went quite as quick as the leader today. I’ll definitely take the points and look forward to race 2.”

It was wet for the start of today’s reverse grid race but Piastri made a strong start and was in seventh position by the end of lap one. He proceeded to pick his way up the order before closing in on Dennis Hauger and David Beckmann battling for second. The pair touched at turn 1 and Beckmann got ahead, leaving Hauger to fend off Piastri. Oscar got the better of the Norwegian driver on lap 18 and then posted the fastest lap (1min 50.721s) to earn the extra points. Up front, the flying Bent Viscaal who had come from eighth on the grid was issued with two five second penalties for incidents during the race. But, when the Safety Car came out on lap 20 after Frederico Malvestiti crashed, the advantage he was trying to build was wiped out. So despite Viscaal being the on-the-road winner, it was Beckmann who was awarded the win from Piastri and Hauger.

“Another second place, which is great from ninth on the grid. I got a good start and we seemed really quick at the beginning but I think before the Safety Car my rear tyres went away a bit so I struggled for a while. After the Safety Car, we were super quick again. Just unfortunate with the last Safety Car as I think we could have challenged for the win. We got another podium, another fastest lap, three in a row on Sundays which is a good record.”

After the triple header of back-to-back race weekends, the championship now has a short break before resuming at the end of July (July 31-Aug 2) for round 4 at Silverstone, UK.

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