SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 10: Race winner Isack Hadjar of France and Hitech Grand Prix (C), Second placed Victor Martins of France and ART Grand Prix (L) and Third placed Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Prema Racing (R) celebrate on the podium during the Round 5:Spielberg Feature race of the Formula 3 Championship at Red Bull Ring on July 10, 2022 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)
Who’s in the hunt for the Formula 3 title?
Which drivers have the best chance at becoming the newest F3 champion?
Throughout the next few weeks, the Formula 3 drivers will fight to become the next champion of the series. Let’s take a look at the main title protagonists.
Mathematically anyone could still win the title in the final three rounds of the season. But realistically the champion will be one of the current top five drivers.
Made up of two Red Bull juniors, two Ferrari juniors, and an Alpine junior, the top five represent a hopeful future for Formula 1, although it’s hard to say yet whether any of them will make it.
Unsurprisingly, three of those five drivers drive for Prema Racing. But it’s still highly possible that one of the other two will become the first non-Prema driver to become the FIA Formula 3 champion.
1. Isack Hadjar – 104 points
Hadjar was a surprise to everyone in his rookie season of Formula 3. The French driver qualified ninth in the first round at Bahrain and went on to win the first race of the season. Since then he’s taken four more podiums and two more wins.
With three wins to his name, Hadjar is equal with Juri Vips for the record of most wins a Hitech driver has taken in one season. And with six more races to go, he’s likely to make it at least four.
As far as championship hopes go, Hadjar has the advantage of being the leader heading into the final weeks. But he’s tied on points with Victor Martins and is only ahead on countback.
Hadjar also has the disadvantage of being at the statistically worst team of the three represented in the top five drivers. No one expected a Hitech Grand Prix driver to be leading the championship at this point in the season.
As one of two rookies in the top five and at a team that generally performs at a lower level than the others, maintaining his lead in the title fight is going to be tough for Hadjar. He’s been one of the most impressive drivers this season. But anything can happen in six races, and he has three more experienced drivers right behind him in the standings.
2. Victor Martins – 104 points
With just two wins this season to Hadjar’s three, Martins sits second in the standings despite the two having the same number of points.
While Hadjar took the first victory of the season, Martins took the second. He qualified fifth in Bahrain but came through to win the first Feature Race of the year.
Martins took another Feature Race win in Barcelona, and also scored three second places. His consistent points scoring puts him as close as he could be to the lead of the championship behind Hadjar.
Unlike Hadjar, Martins isn’t a rookie. The current ART Grand Prix driver drove for MP Motorsport in his first Formula 3 season and scored one win and six podiums. After finishing fifth in the standings, he joined ART for his second year in Formula 3.
ART has finished third in the teams’ standings every season of Formula 3 so far, with drivers often coming close to the title. With Martins tied on points for the lead going into the final rounds, he’ll have the best chance of any ART driver since Theo Pourchaire in 2020.
Martins has a season more of experience than Hadjar, and will have to use that to his advantage if he wants to take the title. Playing it safe and scoring consistent points could be his way to being the Formula 3 champion.
3. Arthur Leclerc – 95 points
Leclerc is another driver in his second season of Formula 3, and is currently the highest placed of the Prema drivers.
His first season was disappointing, to say the least. While his teammate Dennis Hauger took the title, Leclerc finished last of the Prema drivers down in tenth place. His season was full of impressive performances and he did manage two race wins, but Qualifying largely hampered his ability to score more points.
While Leclerc has fewer wins so far this season, he’s improved on his qualifying pace and scored points more consistently. He’s fewer than ten points behind both the leaders and well within the chance to grab the title in the final races.
But with cracks still showing in his qualifying performances, Leclerc will be hard-pressed to not make any mistakes in the next three rounds. Sitting in the middle of the top five, he’ll be trying to make up ground while also receiving pressure from behind.
While of course the Formula 3 title is what Leclerc is aiming for, all he really needs to do to secure a Formula 2 seat is outperform his teammates. Prema has always promoted the Formula 3 champion to a seat at their team in Formula 2.
And while this might be the first year that they don’t win a title, the highest scoring Prema driver should still safely be in line for a seat for next year.
And so, while all three Prema drivers are fighting for the title in the final rounds, they’ll also be fighting to outscore each other for a chance at the coveted Formula 2 seat at Prema.
4. Jak Crawford – 80 points
Crawford spent his first season of Formula 3 with Hitech, and fared less well than Hadjar did. The Red Bull junior took one podium and finished 13th overall.
But he impressed enough for Prema Racing to sign him for the 2022 season, and he’s kept up with the top performers so far.
Crawford has four podiums and one win so far this season, putting him fourth in the standings. His best weekend was at Imola when he qualified third and finished second in both races.
Crawford will be hoping to do what Logan Sargeant closely failed to do in 2020, and become the first American Formula 3 champion. With American eyes on Formula 1 more than ever before, Red Bull would likely be keen to give Crawford a chance if he performs well.
Taking the title will be hard at this point for Crawford, with 24 points to make up to the leaders. But it’s not unusual to see drivers experience a performance boost later in the season and have a run of good form.
While the title will be a difficult achievement for Crawford, he could very well beat out Leclerc for the spot of top placing Prema driver, which could earn him a seat at Prema’s Formula 2 team.
5. Oliver Bearman – 80 points
Tied on points with Crawford, Bearman is on par with the American driver. But the Ferrari junior is the only driver in the top five who hasn’t taken a win yet this year.
Bearman actually crossed the line first in the first race of the season, but a track limits penalty put him in second, and Hadjar inherited the win. He has since scored three more podiums. But although he hasn’t won in Formula 3 yet, his incredible consistency has put him in the top five.
He has finished every single race this season and scored points in all but four of them. If he continues his consistency and takes that elusive first win, he’ll be on track to be in the hunt for the title. If the drivers ahead of him make mistakes or have bad luck, he’ll be up there.
Bearman is fighting for the title against these drivers, and against the other Prema drivers for a Formula 2 seat. He’s also fighting against Leclerc, a fellow Ferrari junior. The Formula 1 team will be watching their performances, which could be career-changing if the title fight goes one way or the other.
Not far outside the top five are Roman Stanek, Alex Smolyar, Caio Collet, and Franco Colapinto. All of these drivers have impressed at various points in the season. They have an outside chance at taking the title if their form was flawless for the final races.
All in all, the top five are all very close in performance. No one has been flawless or been able to pull away from the rest. Two separate pairs of drivers in the top five are tied on points.
These five F1 juniors are the main drivers in the hunt for this year’s Formula 3 title. But if anything is true about Formula 3, it’s that it can’t be predicted. Anything could happen in the final six races. All anyone can say for sure is that it’s a finale you won’t want to miss.
Feature Image Credit: Getty Images
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