The star of the first-ever FIA F3 sprint race on Australian soil was undoubtedly Franco Colapinto. The MP Motorsport driver drove a perfect race, climbing up from sixth place to cross the line before anyone else did. However, a technical infringement on his car cost him the race win, as he was disqualified from the sprint race.
By Daniele Spadi
With a dazzling performance under Australia’s morning sun, Colapinto showed just how good he can be. It was a fast yet controlled drive from the two-time Formula 3 race winner, who used his experience in tense situations such as daring overtakes and late safety car restarts to take the car home in first place.
“The car was on fire – me, I just had to take it to the flag,” he said after his efforts. “We knew that this track was going to suit better our performance, and it looks like it did.”
Unfortunately for the Argentine, he was denied his first race win of the season by a technical infringement. The stewards disqualified the MP trio of Colapinto, Mari Boya and Jonny Edgar after finding out that the keel on each of their cars differed from the approved versions beyond the limits prescribed by the championship’s technical regulations. Not only did Colapinto lose his race win, eventually inherited by Zak O’Sullivan, but he also had to give up the fastest lap of the race he had set in the process.
Starting sixth, the Argentine had a terrific opening lap and climbed to third place after overtaking both Dino Beganovic and Caio Collet and inheriting a position from Oliver Goethe, who sustained a puncture after contact with Hitech’s Luke Browning.
After a safety car period to recover Goethe’s stricken car, the MP driver got by Browning on Lap 5 after an unsuccessful move for the lead on the inside of Turn 9 sent the Briton airborne and left him vulnerable to the chasing pack in the following corner. Colapinto then quickly dispatched polesitter Sebastián Montoya the following lap to take the lead right before the second safety car of the race came out.
From there, the 19-year-old showed just how quick he was compared to the rest of the field, pulling a gap on his nearest competitors at every safety car restart he had to face.
“I was getting the tyres up to temperature quite quick after the safety cars, so that helped me quite a lot to be able to attack and then make a gap quite easily,” the MP driver said after his performance. “I was quite lucky to just overtake [Montoya] and then get the safety car so I could do the restart in front. It was quite helpful to try to open a gap and pull away from the DRS, and that’s what I did.”
A step forward
Though Colapinto came away from the first race weekend in Bahrain with a podium finish in the sprint race, it was clear that the Argentine wasn’t completely satisfied with both his driving and the team’s performance. However, things changed Down Under, as MP turned up with a very quick package right from the get-go in Melbourne.
“It was quite tricky after yesterday. Being P1 in qualifying for almost 25 minutes and losing it in the last three minutes because of the red flags was a bit painful. But today we showed the pace of the car, so [I’m] just happy about that, happy about how the car improved from Bahrain as well,” he added.
“Bahrain is a really special track. It’s not like the European tracks or like Melbourne,” the MP driver said when asked why things didn’t work out the way he’d hoped during the first weekend of the season. “It’s the roughest track on the calendar. It’s a unique track that we’re not going back to, so I’m not really worried about our performance in Bahrain, [which] was not the best.”
With the results of his efforts nullified by the technical infringement, Colapinto will be eager to bounce back on Sunday. He will start the feature race from seventh on the grid.
“We’re going to try to maximise what we have. Today we showed the pace that we had, but of course tomorrow is going to be a bit more tricky,” he said. “In terms of consistency, the car is really good, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the car develops with more consistent push laps.” The four safety car periods in the sprint race meant that there were no more than three consecutive laps under green-flag conditions.
There’s still time for Colapinto to turn things around and make this weekend one to remember if he can put his combination of speed and racecraft to use in Sunday’s feature race. His goal? “We can aim for really good points tomorrow as well – probably a top five or even a podium.”
Header photo credit: Dutch Photo Agency
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