Prema Racing’s Jak Crawford took a brilliant first victory in the FIA Formula 3 Championship Sprint Race at the Red Bull Ring. Though the drag-reduction system (DRS) had a major effect on overtaking, Crawford completed his race-winning move on Caio Collet without the aid of the system and held off several cars that had DRS in the final stages of the race.
By Michael McClure
Collet launched from pole, but Juan Manuel Correa passed him into Turn 4 on the opening lap as Franco Colapinto dove down the inside of Crawford into Turn 3. The Safety Car came out later that lap because Rafael Villagómez spun, but it was withdrawn at the end of Lap 3. They restarted in the same order as before until Correa encountered a mechanical issue at the end of Lap 5, elevating Collet to the lead.
A brief virtual safety car period on Lap 9 did not hinder Collet, who had pulled out a gap of 1.5 seconds when Arthur Leclerc, Ollie Bearman and Zane Maloney collided the next lap. The incident brought out the Safety Car, eradicating Collet’s lead and leaving him vulnerable to Crawford, who had crucially passed Colapinto with the aid of DRS entering Turn 3 just before the accident.
It only took Crawford a few corners to close on Collet, and the pair went side by side through Turns 4, 5 and 6 before Crawford finally swept around the outside of the Alpine Academy driver into Turn 7. But he couldn’t stretch out a gap of more than a second, allowing Collet, Colapinto and Leclerc to stay within DRS range of one another.
Crawford withstood the challenge to take his maiden F3 victory and receive the winner’s trophy from Helmut Marko, the boss of the Red Bull Junior Team. After the race, F1 Feeder Series asked the top three drivers about the effect that DRS had on their races.
Crawford leads the train
Though the Red Bull Ring is the second-shortest circuit on the F3 calendar, it has three DRS zones, one each on the straights before Turns 1, 3 and 4. This gives drivers ample opportunity to overtake, but it also means that several cars close to one another can easily end up in ‘DRS trains’ and struggle to make passes.
Crawford explained that the DRS train made his race challenging both when he was in the middle of it early on and when he was leading it in the closing laps.
“The DRS is quite strong, three zones in a row. I think at the beginning, I was just sort of in the DRS train. I was behind two other guys with DRS, so there isn’t much you can do.
“It’s a lot different when you’re in the lead. Once I got into the lead, the first two laps after that, I was pushing like crazy trying to break the DRS. In the end, I wasn’t able to, which made my life difficult in the end because they were coming on the straights.”
Collet loses out
Collet lost a likely win after the safety car period on Lap 10 and Crawford’s subsequent pass on the restart lap. Though he stayed within DRS range of Crawford, he was never close enough to make a move stick.
“I was so happy when I broke the DRS after the VSC, but then one lap later, the Safety Car came [out]. And at the end of the race, I think I didn’t quite have the pace to keep up with Jak, but because of the DRS, I was just quicker and quicker, so I could attack at the end. It plays a big role, and if it’s dry tomorrow, we need to be smart as well.”
Colapinto keeps the leading pair honest
Colapinto’s move on Crawford on Lap 1 was done without the aid of DRS, but he lost the position nine laps later, by the time it had already been enabled. As the eventual race winner closed on and passed Collet, Colapinto sat behind and managed his tyres, hoping that those ahead would encounter wear. Toward the end of the race, he came under pressure from a rapid Leclerc, but the Van Amersfoort Racing driver hung on to third.
“The effect here was really big. Having three [DRS] zones in the race in a row and quite tight corners – so not really high speed – you can follow quite decently there. I just had to use it to try to stay close to them. Maybe I didn’t have as good pace as Jak, but I was just waiting for the end of the race to see how the tyres were going to keep going.
“I just struggled quite a lot. I stayed in the DRS window that is, in the end, important here to at least keep your position, but it was quite difficult for me to attack today. But in the end, the car was really good – enough to stay on the podium, so [I’m] happy about it.”
Header photo credit: Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool
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