With one round to go, 25 points cover the top six in the FIA Formula 3 title race. What are the chances of championship glory for each of those contenders, and is there a seventh with a shot at the crown?
There have been four different drivers who have been FIA Formula 3 Championship leader this year, and going into the final two races at Monza this weekend (with 39 points up for grabs from qualifying, the sprint race and the feature race) there are seven who could be crowned champion.
That’s almost a quarter of the grid still in title contention, and just like last year it’s a fight between Prema and Trident for team honours. Monza’s long straights should lead to lots of slipstreaming action, but also likely lead to qualifying chaos as a field of 30 cars tries to get clear air for flying laps, and changes to kerbs around the circuit also mean the risk of big crashes has reduced this year at key corners. And with the title contenders saying they do want to fight to the limit with each other, this really could be a weekend that goes down in junior single-seater history.
Across a pre-event media session with select press, and further one-to-one discussions in the Monza paddock, we managed to hear from all of the title contenders ahead of the biggest weekend of their careers so far. Read their thoughts below:
Victor Martins FRANCE ART Grand Prix
1st in standings, 126pts (2 wins, 1 fastest lap)
There have been times this year where ART Grand Prix has really looked unable to provide Martins with a car to fight for pole with, but he has qualified on the front row three times. And when he’s qualified towards the front, Martins has either held position or moved forward and turned it into a win.
Outside of the Prema drivers, only Martins has had a points-free event recently but he’s already bounced back and he’s got team-mates who will support his title bid at Monza. Being points leader means Martin doesn’t have to target victories this weekend, but only title rival Roman Stanek and Franco Colapinto in 10th has gone as loing without winning as Martins.
“I’m feeling great, it’s been two weeks quite excited with the triple-header. We are heading to the last one. I know the track really well, I know the atmosphere is just unbelievable there and to fight for the championship until the end it’s quite exciting and challenging. I’m really looking forward to driving, and I know who will be there to fight until the end.”
“When we were struggling, or when we weren’t on a high, we were maximising everything. And when we were struggling, myself I did some mistakes which were quite important and why I lost some points. But it was kind of not for a long moment, I was always coming back stronger. Also with the team when we were struggling on the car, we always found the solution on the set-up or the approach for the weekend, how to anticipate also for the races.
“I think this we are understanding even better, like round after round, and also this is also because with my team-mates the relationship, the atmosphere is really, really good so we can really help each other and give to the team the right feedback. It’s positive, it’s good to have that, to support everyone in the team. And for sure to fight with the title also with ART GP, it feels good and I want to give them the title.”
“I think the critical moment will start from the quali. But first you need to start well in free practice, get the feeling in the car, the good feedback to the team; feeling confident you can fight for the pole or top three.”
“I don’t want to [have to] think about anything, I just want to push, to be in front, and then I know I will have the scenes behind me to manage if we need to. And also myself I know I will make the job at the right [time]?”
“It will mean a lot if I get that championship. I have been fighting for it since last year. I have always kind of dreamed to be in F3. Watching the previous years of GP3 and who was there. Everyone who has been through this category before to go into F2, they have been winning this championship. So for sure it will mean a lot. Every kind of championship you win gives you confidence, gives you even more motivation and hope of your life, of your career, and for sure this one will mean a lot and it will be a big achievement.
Isack Hadjar FRANCE Hitech GP
2nd in standings, 121pts (3 wins, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps)
The only rookie to have led the points, the only contender to score in every round and the only driver with three wins. Hadjar has already earned himself a move up to F2 with this season but as a first-time title challenger in car racing it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of this weekend in particular and what Hitech GP is capable of at Monza.
“I’m happy to be fighting for the title. Expectations were not that high at the start of the year, but in the end we are fighting for it so I am really grateful for that. The team have done an amazing job, so I’m going to give the maximum and come out on top obviously, but it’s going to be a really long weekend.”
“It’s been a really good season overall, and I think what I can be proud of is our consistency with this [season]. The pace was amazing in every round, except Zandvoort which was a bit difficult for us, but I think we can really be proud of the job done. But it’s not over, and hopefully the best is yet to come this weekend.”
“Obviously qualifying will be the most [important] consideration. I think as long as you make it into the top 12, you can have a really good weekend, it’s quite easy to overtake in Monza. But it’s quite easy to go backwards. So I think as long as you don’t [mess up] quali, anything can happen and you can score big points. Obviously pole is welcome, two points to close the gap. I think qualifying will be key. I know it’s going to be a mess already with traffic and people wanting to have the tow. So I’m working for it, and the hard work will be done in free practice. The first few laps will be really important, and we will be really prepared for pole. So I expect to have at least top five, then a really strong weekend.”
“From my side I have never fought for a championship in my career [until] this one. FIA F3 is quite a big one as a rookie, so I think if I get to win it, it will be just amazing and so rewarding for the team, for all our sponsors through the year, it will be crazy. But I think even if we don’t get it, we did an amazing job and I’ve been really proud about the job done. Let’s give a big push one more time, and if we get it I will be lost for words.”
Roman Stanek CZECH REPUBLIC Trident
3rd in standings, 109pts (1 win, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps)
Stanek started the year with no points at all, but has been methodical since in his rise up the standings. He knows exactly what he needs to do this weekend, and there is additional significance here of setting the best impression on and off-track to convince his backers to dish out the funds needed to race in F2 next year. From what he says, that sounds like it requires him to be champion. Probably the driver with the most pressure on their shoulders, but also the one most experienced to handle that.
“I’m really looking forward to drive here in Monza. It’s a special moment with an Italian team and an Italian track, same as it was in Imola, so the atmosphere is great. The approach is the same for every race for me, try to maximise and try to do my best and get the most out of the car. And I’m sure if we do this, we will be fine. If I do my best, and we with the team do our best it will be good. It will be, it’s an open battle until the last lap in the feature race. So let’s see.”
“It’s something amazing [to be in this position], and I really just enjoy the moment and try to do my best. Even today with the media stuff, I try to do my best. For me the main point is this season, what I’m proud of myself is that I always look back on the weekends, even if it was Bahrain and this, and I always did my best in the weekends. So I look back and I never had something telling me that ‘oh, this one you could do better’. It’s always you could do something better, but I think this made me stronger.”
“In the end, if I qualify in the lead of the race, I cannot avoid what’s behind me. So if Victor is coming behind me in P2, he will take the championship, but this is too far to say. I just want to focus on tomorrow’s quali and do my best. I’m sure if I do my best we can fight for the title.”
“Free practice will be important to get quite a bit of laps to get the confidence with the car. And then qualifying, you know Friday is always qualifying, very important. Especially on this track where it is very tricky, where you can get blocked or you can block someone by accident. The traffic management will be super, super important.”
“This sport, like the junior categories like F2 and F3, they are growing massively and you can really see that the people, they realise now who you are and they support you and they watch the races. So it’s very nice to see this, also. The fans on Instagram, they text you, they support you. So yeah, without all these people I wouldn’t have the possibilities to drive. And also the fans, they motivate me to go higher and to reach my goal.”
“Of course it would mean a lot [to be champion]. It’s part of my project, with the people who support me it’s part of our project. Let’s make the most out of it, and we see after Sunday’s race. It will mean a lot, and I’m ready to fight for it.”
Ollie Bearman ENGLAND Prema
4th in standings, 105pts (1 win, 1 fastest lap)
The Ferrari junior was in strong form, making the feature race podium at four consecutive events, until being caught out in qualifying and then copping a penalty that led to a points-free Zandvoort trip five days ago.
He had been averaging 15 points per weekend prior to that, and has gone from just about to join the season-long Martins-Hadjar battle to continuing to sit some way back from it instead. But he has the pace to lead the Prema charge once more.
“I’m feeling confident. At the end, I’m not looking so close at the title. I just want to do my best job. I hope with a good performance it will be enough to end up fighting, but I’m just focusing, there is no pressure. I just want to do as best as I can.
[Zandvoort] really had [hurt my title chances]. Heading into that round, I was quite close up at the front, afterwards not so much. We knew that qualifying was the goal in Zandvoort since it’s super difficult to overtake, and to have the red flag come in my final run it was I wouldn’t say unlucky because that’s sometimes how it goes, but it was unlucky.
“So, not to miss my final run that would have put me in the top five [on the grid], I think my weekend would have looked a lot different. Now I came away with no points, it’s not the best result, but I’m just looking forward to doing the best result possible in Monza.
“In the end, I’m not going to change my approach [with the title in mind]. I’ll be doing what I’ve been doing all year, just focusing in myself doing the best job I can, not racing guys differently to other guys, just trying to bring home good results. I think it will be an interesting weekend, obviously [Monza] is always an interesting weekend, so we’ll see how it goes.
“That would be amazing [as a Ferrari junior to win] in front of all the Tifosi. I can’t think of a better place to do it, but it will be difficult, no doubt, but I wouldn’t say it adds pressure from their side. They are pushing me along to do as best as I can. It’s a positive relationship there, and I wouldn’t say it adds pressure, just motivation.”
Zane Maloney BARBADOS Trident
5th in standings, 102pts (2 wins, 2 poles, 3 fastest laps)
If you split the season so far into two, then Maloney has been the form man of the second half having comfortably outscored everybody else. But he only scored 19 points in the season’s first half, lost points to a big crash in the Spa-Francorchamps sprint race, spun out of the lead of the Imola feature race and from third at Silverstone as he battled with Ollie Bearman.
“The plan is to just continue doing what we are doing. When you look back at the championship, I lost so many points, 25 in Imola and I can keep going on, but we lost so mamy points this year. So, in one way, it’s nice to be back, but in anothe way, so many missed opportunities this year. The plan is to just do a good job here in Monza.
“Obviously, we need a bit of luck or at least good fortune. So, I’m not focusing on the championship. It’s more just get a good weekend and try to score as many points as possible.
“We can look at each track, but we’ve been quick at every single track. I’m very confident in the team to give me a good car. I think even if we went to Barbados, we would be fast. The team are doing a great job everywhere we go, so that’s not any of my worries. My worries is just to drive as well as possible, and I’m sure if I do that, then I’ll be at the front.
“I think in one aspect, we are a bit of outsiders. We have nothing to lose. 24 points is a lot to catch in one weekend. I had 73 points in the last three rounds. We’ve been going very good with not being outside the podium in the last three rounds’ feature races, so now the plan is to just do a good job.
“I think any of the six of us if we just start looking at the championship is [in a position to be champion] when qualifying maybe goes wrong, so the plan is just to stay out of trouble, stay out of the mind games, stay out of the games and just try to perform.”
Arthur Leclerc MONACO Prema
6th in standings, 101pts (1 win, 1 fastest lap)
The biggest title outsider based on recent form, Leclerc has also been the quietest off-track and has only had two podiums this year so needs some big results this weekend regardless of the title outcome. To get back on level with his less experienced team-mates would also help the Ferrari junior, who who needs to end the year on a high to keep his F1 backing and aid his plans to graduate to F2.
Jak Crawford USA Prema
7th in standings, 90pts (1 win, 2 fastest laps)
Like Leclerc, a title attack was expected from Crawford as a result of being in arguably FIA F3’s best team and also his own rapid pace in his rookie season in Euroformula and FIA F3 last year. Three podiums in the first five races of 2022 showed he could be consistently near the top, but then a few messy races and unlucky qualifying sessions, and sometimes even a lack of pace, has left Crawford with only one top-five finish in the last seven races and a big deficit to the top. A bounceback is needed, and as long as he shows he can be back at the front it probably doesn’t matter too much if it then all ends in tears.
“I mean it’s hard to tell our pace at the moment because it was a bit of a mixed practice session,” Crawford said on Friday.
“But we should be pretty fast. Going into it, just looking to maximise everything, I think first and second is not realistic for me, but third in the championship or anything above where I am is, so that’s what I’ll be aiming for.
“Yeah, I think the guys ahead might be going cautious. But then again it’s Monza, and anything can happen. So there’s also times where I need to attack and times where I need to sort of hold myself back.
He added to Red Bull: “It’s Prema’s home race so I am looking forward to seeing all the fans.
“It’s my first time racing at Monza, when I was running some races in F4 in 2020 I had to skip Monza because of a date class so I’ve never raced at Monza but I know it is quite crazy. I have done a test there back in 2020 so at least I know the track. I guess it’s all about the slipstream and getting the right tow, that’s going to be really important. It’s going to be a crazy fun way to end the season and I am really looking forward to it.”