The dust has settled on the 2020 FIA Formula 3 season, won by Oscar Piastri in the final race of the year at Mugello. In our latest podcast, which you can watch on YouTube, we gave our verdict on the best of the grid
There were 35 drivers in FIA F3 this year, and, while the field wasn’t often spread thin on laptimes, the individual performances of the very best to the strugglers towards the back of the field usually had a distinguishably large margin.
Ranking the best 10 of those drivers as the task of Josh Suttill and Craig Woollard on the latest Formula Scout podcast, and you can read a transcribed version of their debate below:
Those who missed the cut
Craig Woollard: For me, [10th] was a tie-up between Richard Verschoor and Bent Viscaal for this spot and I thought that Verschoor had that little bit more consistency whereas Viscaal only seemed to come alive when it came to the Sunday races, so I think overall it was Verschoor that just edged it in that regard.
Josh Suttill: The thing with this whole top 10, we can only do it on what we’ve seen and through looking at the data and stuff. Obviously, the people on the broadcast on the races we watch are going to be the people at the front. Some people at the back sometimes we never even see what happens with them, or there’s very little information other than looking at the times, so it can be hard to rank them. Taking the Charouz drivers for example. These, of course, could all have been in the top 10 had they been in a different circumstance with a different team, but obviously they’re not so we can only go with what we’ve got.
Just outside of my top 10 I had Verschoor and Viscaal as well, so pretty similar on that as well. Just Verschoor had that little bit of an edge on Viscaal.
10. Alex Peroni
JS: I think a very good comeback from his injury last year. He was really impressive at that first race of the year and did have a couple of good performances throughout the year which is why he’s 10th for me. I guess he didn’t match the peak of that first race again but is that down to Campos not being able to find the same thing or the teams caught up? Is it because that first race was a big outlier with a big start-line crash? There are many different factors at play.
But ultimately, either way you look at it, it was a good second year in F3 for Peroni. I would like to see him nick one of the seats in the back end of the Formula 2 grid. It would be nice to see him move up and get him back on a street circuit, because we know how good he is on them, and there were none of them this year, and he was still really good. So that’s why he’s number 10 for me.
CW: He might have to wait a bit before we get another street race in F3 again sadly.
9. Lirim Zendeli
CW: We both put Zendeli in ninth. I think that’s fair. He wasn’t a particular standout at any point in the year, but he did have a couple of really strong qualifyings, he obviously had that really good win at Spa. I just thought he was deserving of a top 10 spot but there’s so much talent within the field that it’s a little bit difficult to justify placing him any higher.
JS: Zendeli, I marked him down for not winning the Silverstone race which I still think he should have won against Viscaal.
8. Alexander Smolyar
CW: You said earlier [in the podcast] that the results didn’t reflect the performances for Smolyar, which is fair. I put Peroni in that spot, so it’s really difficult to differentiate between some of these drivers.
JS: He’s another one who should have won a Silverstone Sunday race by not weaving excessively! That’s why he’s not a little bit higher. Other than that, really, really strong. Would have got a good result in Hungary had he not been taken out.
CW: He’s another who was just outside of my top 10.
7. David Beckmann
CW: We are in agreement again. The reason I put Beckmann there, similar to Zendeli, is for two reasons. For sustaining a championship challenge, primarily, also for doing so well being called up relatively late in the off-season if you will. But I can’t justify putting him any higher because of his considerable experience and he didn’t win any races on the road.
JS: Yeah, totally agree. Kept his nose clean, scored solidly but unspectacular. Might not be enough for F2.
6. Jake Hughes
CW: We had Hughes and [Vesti] swapped around. Hughes, I think overall had a very strong campaign, but I can’t justify him being any higher [than fifth] based on the vast quantity of experience he’s got at this level.
JS: Yeah, it is mainly that experience thing and it’s just a couple of races that he could have done a little bit better in and maybe extract a little bit more but it’s tough to say. There is a big asterisk with all of the technical issues that he had, and he started the season-opener from the pits. That was perhaps a marker of things to come.
5. Frederik Vesti
CW: I definitely think that Vesti’s second half of the season justifies moving him up from outside of the top 10 to well inside of the top 10.
JS: Vesti had a very impressive second half of the year, but we can’t put him up there even though he was matching Logan Sargeant or Piastri at the end, or even beating them, and the fact is that he simply wasn’t doing that in the middle of the season.
4. Liam Lawson
CW: Again, we had two drivers in the same positions but swapped around. I had Sargeant above Lawson, and you had it the other way around.
JS: Both Sargeant and Lawson made mistakes. Lawson’s biggest one was with Hughes, and Sargeant’s biggest one was with the big one at Monza. But both were very good outside of that.
Lawson wasn’t great in qualifying but is that the Hitech package or is that a one-lap issue? So why did I originally put Lawson above Sargeant? A good question… just a little bit more impressive for me. I can’t make much of an argument because both are similar. Both were impressive. I just wanted to see a bit more from Lawson this year…
CW: While I think Lawson was great in the races, I thought he had one or two prangs that got on the wrong side of other drivers too many.
JS: I do have an argument for Lawson. He was very good in wheel-to-wheel combat, especially against Piastri for example. Whereas Sargeant wasn’t able to make it stick on Piastri often enough compared to Lawson. Tended to race a little bit better so I’ll stick Lawson ahead on that basis.
3. Logan Sargeant
JS: Sargeant was brilliant in qualifying and occasionally strong in the races. Like you said earlier Craig, he did have some good performances in the races, but he did have some very good ones like at Silverstone for example and obviously Monza like you say when he was charging up through the field.
CW: Bit of a surprise package for some but his qualifying was incredible. He only had one or two weekends where he wasn’t quite there, and we did have reservations about his racecraft but he proved a lot of people wrong at Monza up until the point where he had that contact with Vesti. He was totally blameless in the last race contact with Sebastian Fernandez and Zendeli. He did show that he’s got the credentials to have a strong career in motor racing.
2. Oscar Piastri
CW: I’ve gone for Piastri over Pourchaire as number one.
JS: For me, Piastri was brilliant at the start and was very good in the middle of the season. There were good drives such as the Monza round but also had some fairly mediocre performances as well, and when the title pressure was on, he seemed to crumble.
For me, Piastri was slightly underwhelming at the final round of the season, unfortunately. Piastri was let down by a couple of rounds, otherwise, he was fairly consistent.
CW: There’s definitely a very strong case for placing either driver at the top. The reason why I stuck Piastri at the top is because I don’t want to say he crumbled under the title fight. He was very methodical in the way he approached the title fight and he was happy to just pick up those points when it mattered and not necessarily risk going for something he didn’t necessarily need to go for.
It is very easy in a field of 30 to go for a move and it just doesn’t pay off, as we saw with plenty of drivers in the midpack and inexperienced drivers as well.
He was just always in the mix, and that was what set the tone for his championship campaign this year. He was never lost at sea at any point in the season. He did have a couple of retirements which did affect his score at times, but he was strong in lots of different areas. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s the sort of campaign that Mick Schumacher is showing in F2 where he leads the championship.
1. Theo Pourchaire
CW: Josh, you’ve gone for Pourchaire over Piastri as number one.
JS: Pourchaire’s obviously had a difficult opening weekend but recovered over the second weekend and it just tended to build and build from there. He had a couple of so-so rounds but was still picking up the points at places such as Barcelona and Spa and by the end was brilliant.
In the title battle, Pourchaire excelled. Is that because he didn’t have that much to lose? Maybe. Looking at their relative experience levels as well, I think that a big deciding factor is that Pourchaire doesn’t have that much experience and Piastri obviously came from Eurocup and spent a couple of years there. There’s a reasonable age difference between them so an experience difference.
For me, Pourchaire just edges it. And being with ART as well, who are perhaps not quite as strong as Prema as well, overall. Maybe on qualifying, they’re pretty even as well, they were pretty much level, I’d say.
It’s another one where I’m not strongly for Pourchaire being number one but for me, he does tip it based on their experience levels and the curve of their season, the way Pourchaire improved and improved, whereas Piastri was very impressive but I think just tailed off a little bit in a couple of rounds with Mugello being the best example.
CW: For me, Pourchaire had a couple of iffy weekends at the start of the season with a couple of brilliant results – those wins, aside. I think it’s that start of the season that edges it towards Piastri for me. Obviously, experience and age have big ramifications for when we do our Top 50 at the end of the year, which is going to be fun! I think it’s safe to say that there will be a very strong chance to see a fair few of these drivers make the top 10 of the top 50 of all of the junior drivers at the end of the year.
But I think a very, very strong case for either Pourchaire or Piastri being number one, and I am going to have to readjust the order because we’re in total disagreement over who slots where. But I think I am going to have to stick Pourchaire above Piastri.