Contrasting results for Piastri at Silverstone

It was a weekend of two halves for Renault Sport Academy driver Oscar Piastri in round four of the FIA Formula 3 Championship at Silverstone. After a strong qualifying performance on Friday and second place in Saturday’s feature race, Piastri suffered his first DNF of the season after his DRS actuator locked open and he ended Sunday’s sprint race in the pits.

However, the young Australian retains his championship lead albeit reduced to 18 points over his PREMA Racing team-mate, Logan Sargeant.

Sunshine and high temperatures were the order of the day as early morning practice got under way on Friday. The PREMA Racing trio waited until the dusty track conditions had improved before venturing out and Piastri shot straight to the top of the time sheets on his first flying lap. He stayed within the top three all session, ending up second fastest with a time of 1min 46.463s.

The track temperature had soared to 48c and air temp 34c by the time qualifying took place. Using only the hard compound Pirellis this weekend, the drivers knew they had one or two laps max to set their times. Piastri set a blistering pace of 1min 46.728s on his very first lap but Sargeant and fellow PREMA driver Frederik Vesti managed to go faster on their second laps and for a while it was PREMA 1-2-3. The whole field returned to the pit-lane before venturing out again with 10 mins on the clock. The times continued to tumble as Piastri posted a 1min 46.383s to take provisional pole on his first flying lap but after a cool-down lap, everyone still had enough life left in their tyres to try and improve again. There were purple sectors for Piastri, New Zealander Liam Lawson and Sargeant as they fought out pole position right down to the wire. It was Lawson though who snuck in the best time of 1min 46.257s, with Sargeant second and Piastri third, just 0.126s behind the pole-sitter.

“We qualified third. Not bad, it equals my best result of the season, but obviously I’m a little disappointed because I was on pole until the very last lap and we definitely had the potential for pole. We lost the rear tyres a bit during the last lap and over pushed. Third place is a very good spot and the race is going to be very interesting with tyre degradation. We think we still have a shot for the win and we’ll keep our heads up for tomorrow.”

The hot weather broke with a heavy hail shower on Friday night and it was a much cooler and overcast day that greeted the F3 drivers as they headed out for their first 20-lap race of the weekend. Piastri had a bit of wheelspin off the start and had to work hard through the first few corners to maintain his third place from Max Fewtrell and Vesti. It was mighty close with the Dane through Maggotts but Oscar defended well down to Stowe to see off Vesti’s challenge.

By lap three, Piastri had built momentum, briefly holding the fastest lap as he reeled in Sargeant. Using DRS to good effect, Oscar swept past his American team-mate on the entry into Stowe and then closed down the gap on race leader Lawson. He tried to find a way past down the Wellington Straight and into Brooklands but the Kiwi had him covered. Onto lap 12 and they were nose to tail across the line as the battle intensified, Lawson defending Piastri’s every move, and the latter having one scary moment when he was airborne over the kerbs exiting Stowe! Lawson still held the narrowest of leads but over the radio could be heard expressing concern about his condition of his tyres, still with plenty of laps remaining.

However, we never got to see how the thrilling battle for the lead would be decided as two Safety Car interventions effectively negated the first part of the race and the cars took the chequered flag under the Safety Car.

“We finished second which is a good result. I had a good fight for the lead and I think we could have had a go at trying to get the win but didn’t quite pull it off. The car felt mega, so thanks to Prema for that. It was just unfortunate with those safety cars. The pace was really strong, and we can make some good positions tomorrow.”

The top 10 reverse grid for Sunday’s second race saw Oscar start strongly from ninth position and looking to make up several spots. But, the jostling for the position and a tough run down the Wellington Straight saw him shuffled back to 11th. A quick trip through the gravel ensued at Luffield sent him further down the order to 16th which is where he remained until pitting and retiring.

“Not the best of days. I got pushed off a few times at the start of the race so I lost quite a few positions, and then the DRS stuck open so I couldn’t see the finish. It’s just unfortunate, it wasn’t looking like the best weekend anyway, but I see that compared to the other frontrunners the situation is quite even in terms of luck. I’m not too disappointed as long as next week is okay. Heads up and let’s keep working.”

The good news is that the F3 boys get to do it all over again next weekend when Silverstone hosts round 5 of the championship as part of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix weekend.

Images © Prema Powerteam