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F3 Feature Race Results: Belgium

An opportunity for Championship leader Gabriel Bortoleto to win on his debut Formula 3 season: can he take it?

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Taylor Barnard wins the Feature race around the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, with Christian Mansell and Nikita Bedrin rounding out the podium in the penultimate round of the 2023 FIA Formula 3 season.

Several drivers were handed penalties after the Sprint race, including Championship contenders Zak O’Sullivan (#3) and Dino Beganovic (#2) (Image Credit: @Formula3 on Twitter)

Championship leader Gabriel Bortoleto has a chance to put the Drivers’ Title beyond doubt after the Feature race and claim the crown at the first time of asking.

Currently 42 points ahead of nearest rivals Pepe Marti and Paul Aron, the Brazilian can win the Championship as long as he stays more than 39 points above any competitors in the Standings at the conclusion of the Feature race.

The preceding Sprint race caused a lot of confusion in terms of handing out points. Initially no points were awarded to any drivers as less than two full laps of racing took place.

However, after an FIA review the governing body decided to give out the full allocation of points as the full race distance was completed. Race victor Caio Collet received 11 points for his win and fastest lap, with Taylor Barnard and Aron receiving nine and eight points respectively.

But that was not all. As customary by now in Formula 3, several drivers fell on the wrong side of the rules during the Sprint. Most notably, Zak O’Sullivan received five extra seconds to his race time for gaining an advantage off-track, and Dino Beganovic had 10 seconds added for his contact with Bortoleto that sent the latter out of race contention.

This dropped both drivers out of the points, seriously hampering both of their Title fights with Bortoleto far in front. Gabriele Mini and Tommy Smith also received penalties.

Marti starts on pole, with Fornaroli starting alongside the Spaniard on the front row. Who will win? Read on to find out.

Opening laps

Even before the race began, Mini clattered the barriers on the way to his grid slot. His car was beyond repair, dropping him out of contention for the race.

The track was still relatively wet in parts, prompting a few drivers, including Aron, to start the Feature on wet tyres.

The formation lap got underway behind the Safety Car, with a debate ongoing as to whether it would be a standing start or a rolling start.

In the end Race Control decided on a rolling start. Marti held his lead into the first corner, but all eyes were on Aron on the wet tyres. The Estonian seemed to have made the right strategy call, and was in the lead by the end of the first sector!

The other drivers on the wets filtered their way through to the front of the field, including Taylor Barnard and Mari Boya up to second and third respectively. Polesitter Marti had dropped to tenth by the end of lap one and continued to drop behind the likes of Ido Cohen and Roberto Faria and out of the points.

Aron had built up an eight seconds lead at the start of lap three. Christian Mansell in P4 had made up 19 positions on the wet tyre.

Mansell made it into the podium positions with a move on Boya around Bruxelles corner.

Oliver Goethe crashed into the barriers at Raidillon, prompting the Safety Car to come out. The pitlane suddenly became very active, with Aron choosing to change onto the slick tyres with the circuit drying out.

Many of those behind him stayed out on the wet tyres however, with Barnard inheriting the lead. Aron dropped to P7.

A pair of PHM Racing by Charouz drivers made errors on track, with Woohyun Shin beaching his car on the kerb and Faria getting stuck in the gravel under the Safety Car. The latter retired from the race.

Safety Car restart

Racing got underway at the end of lap seven. The top six on wets, Aron just behind on dry tyres. Barnard maintained P1 ahead of Mansell, with Nikita Bedrin and Alex Garcia further back.

The slicks were not ready yet on the damp track, as Aron lost touch with the leading pack. Collet got past Aron through Bruxelles on lap eight.

Focussing on the front, Mansell was firmly stuck to the rear of Barnard with the gap at less than half a second. Contact between Luke Browning and Cohen punctured the latter and broke the former’s front wing. Both drivers fell to the foot of the field.

For the minor points positions, Marti was up to P9 with Bortoleto making up positions albeit still down in 14th position.

A little bit of side-by-side action in the battle for the lead between Barnard and Mansell, with Mansell taking to the escape road as a result.

By the end of lap 11 out of 15, the slick-shod runners began to close the gap to the top six on wet tyres. However, Collet in seventh was over thirteen seconds behind Sophia Floersch in sixth; could he close the gap by the end of the race?

Closing stages

Mansell continued to hassle Barnard and had a good run on the race leader on the Kemmel straight. Once again side-by-side up to Les Combes, but no change in position.

Bortoleto with a breath-taking move on O’Sullivan for P11, one more overtake as it stood and he would be crowned Champion. He closed in on Colapinto for the final point but was unable to make it past the Argentinian by the time the chequered flag came into view.

Barnard crossed the line first to take his first win of his F3 career, with Mansell claiming P2. Nikita Bedrin made it a Jenzer Motorsport one-three.

Floersch made history by becoming the first female racer to score points in F3. Collet eventually got past her and Sebastian Montoya to finish fifth on the road.

The gap now between Bortoleto and second-placed Aron: 38 points. The Championship leader would need to have a disastrous weekend and Aron score maximum points for the tables to turn. Make sure to tune in for the Monza round in September for the final round of the 2023 FIA Formula 3 season.

Feature race final classification

Full results can be found here.

Feature Image Credit: @Formula3 on Twitter

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