F3 - Collet breezes to maiden victory in game of survival | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

F3 - Collet breezes to maiden victory in game of survival

30.07.22

Caio Collet brought home his first win in Formula 3 in an impressive fashion, mastering the wet to drying conditions in a race of attrition that caught several of the title contenders out. Starting fourth, the MP Motorsport driver made his presence known, slicing his way through the field and up into the lead before driving off into the distance to finish 8.7s clear of second place Franco Colapinto, who fought hard to hold off the charging Brazilian until the third Safety Car appearance.

There would be plenty of celebrations for MP, as Kush Maini made it a double podium for the Dutch team having carved his way up from P7 to P3 at the chequered flag. Isack Hadjar couldn’t quite cling on to the podium, but fourth place was enough to see him usurp Victor Martins at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.

Oliver Bearman was the biggest beneficiary of a late squabble between his teammates Jak Crawford and Arthur Leclerc to seal fifth, ahead of Martins. Grégoire Saucy secured his first points since the opening round of the season in seventh, as Oliver Goethe kept himself out of trouble to achieve points on his debut. Trident added more points to their tally as Roman Stanek and Zane Maloney rounded out the top 10.

AS IT HAPPENED

Heavily predicted going into the Budapest weekend, the downpours finally began in the lead up to the race. If leading the pack on debut wasn’t enough of a challenge, Goethe faced a rolling start around a soaked Hungaroring. Bunching up the field, the white, black and orange Campos car couldn’t quite keep his car on the racing line and went wide into the final corner.

Not one to let an opportunity pass by, Goethe’s mistake allowed Colapinto to sit on his rear wing, slipstreaming along the pit straight and diving up the inside of the Monégasque driver. Experience paid dividends as Hadjar and Collet also swooped their way past him and up into second and third, as Crawford got the better of Martins up the inside of Turn 5 to move up into fifth.

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No sooner had the racing started than it would swiftly ground to a halt, as David Vidales found the barriers between Turns 2 and 3 and the Safety Car was deployed at the end of the opening lap. Colapinto caught Hadjar napping on the restart, dropping the Hitech Grand Prix back into Collet’s clutches and the MP Motorsport driver wasted no time in diving around the outside of the silver car at Turn 1.

While Colapinto had the advantage of being out front, the pace appeared to be with the MP Motorsport car behind. Corner after corner, Collet tried to squeeze his way past the VAR driver, running out of grip into Turn 13 and despite selling the Argentinian the dummy down the inside of Turn 2, Colapinto’s valiant defence held firm as Collet failed to find a way through.

Although the track temperature continued to rise and the rain began to ease off, conditions were still a challenge for the field to overcome. Brad Benavides locked his brakes into Turn 1, running into the side of Jenzer Motorsport’s Ido Cohen to necessitate the return of the Safety Car on Lap 5.

Learning from his mistake earlier on, Hadjar was immediately alert on the restart, attempting to charge his way around the outside of both Colapinto and Collet. While he couldn’t move up into the lead, he did manage to repay the favour on the MP driver, recreating his overtake into Turn 1 to snatch second momentarily. The pair continued to swap and change positions when Colapinto closed the door on Hadjar, enabling Collet to swoop into second from under him.

In the fight for fourth, Maini was a man on a mission in the second MP Motorsport car, diving down the inside of Martins and then setting about putting Hadjar under pressure, while the leading duo began to pull away from the pack.

Martins’ morning got increasingly challenging and wet conditions led the Frenchman to make a run of errors. Going wide into the final corner left him vulnerable to the PREMAs behind, as Crawford squeezed past him along the main straight and forced him to go side-by-side with title rival Leclerc. Another wide moment on to the slippery run-off area proved costly as the Ferrari Driver Academy member sailed past him and up into fifth.

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Out front, Colapinto continued to prove impossible for Collet to pass. However, a small mistake at Turn 2 gave the Alpine Academy junior the moment he had been waiting for to snatch the race lead on Lap 10. Now with a clear track up front, Collet put his foot to the floor and didn’t look back, giving himself plenty of breathing room with the gap up to 2.7s after only a single lap.

As the spray faded and the tyres waned, the race turned into survival of the fittest as the field attempted to conserve their wet Pirelli compounds to the chequered flag with five laps remaining. Nobody seemed to be immune – Leclerc’s moment of oversteer saw him take a hefty whack over the red and white kerbs at Turn 4, while Hadjar’s overly wide line off on to the run-off at Turn 13 gave Maini a chance to pounce.

The Indian driver had no hesitation in breezing past him at Turn 4 and forcing Hadjar to go on the defensive from fellow Red Bull junior Crawford. It was clear that the Frenchman’s tyres had fallen off their cliff as he slowly started to slip down the order behind Crawford and Leclerc and straight into Martins’ eyeline.

With his heart set on a maiden Formula 3 podium Maini refused to give up the fight, going side-by-side with Crawford on the penultimate lap as the MP Motorsport driver attempted to break the tow. Thankfully for him, the move paid off and the American driver dropped back, ultimately getting caught out in late drama and coming together with his teammate Leclerc.

Although he was able to continue, the damage was already done, and Leclerc found himself unable to turn left into Turn 13, drifting into Martins’ path.

While all the chaos unfolded behind, Collet cruised to his first victory in the third tier ahead of Colapinto and Maini. Hadjar hung on to fourth, as his teammates’ troubles benefited Oliver Bearman, who claimed fifth. Despite the contact, Martins crossed the line in sixth ahead of ART teammate Grégoire Saucy and newcomer Goethe. Trident’s Roman Stanek and Zane Maloney held off Reece Ushijima to take the final points in ninth and 10th, respectively.

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KEY QUOTE – Caio Collet, MP Motorsport

“Really good day today! My first win in F3, I’m really, really happy. I think after yesterday the team deserved that one. Thanks a lot to them for the support this year, it’s been tough, but we got a win. We celebrate today and recover tomorrow.”

THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW

The pendulum has swung and for the first time this season, Isack Hadjar leads the Drivers’ Championship by one point to Victor Martins as 104 points play 103. The late incident has proved costly for Arthur Leclerc who drops back off the two Frenchmen in third on 91. Jak Crawford remains fourth, one point ahead of Roman Stanek.

PREMA Racing continue to lead the way in the Teams’ Championship on 226 points. The top three teams remain the same as ART Grand Prix hold firm in second ahead of Hitech Grand Prix. A 1-3 finish has allowed MP Motorsport to leapfrog Trident into fourth on 113 points.

WHAT’S NEXT?

It’s all to play for in the final Formula 3 race before the summer break and MP will have the chance at doing the double with Alexander Smolyar starting on pole – the lights go out for the Budapest Feature Race at 10:05 local time.