FIA F3: Sophia Floersch out after contact in second race
In Sunday's dry Formula 3 second race at the Red Bull Ring, Sophia Floersch had her first retirement of the season following an incident with Alexander Smolyar, while Pourchair secured his first victory after Hughes and Lawson collided.
After yesterday's very wet and red-flagged feature race at the Red Bull Ring, the FIA Formula 3 held its fourth race in two weeks on the Austrian racetrack - this time under clear skies and sunny conditions.
Sophia Floersch, coming from her first almost-top15 last Sunday, showed again impressive pace during Friday free practice, when she secured her first top-10 in her F3 rookie season.
Just like in the previous round, the Styrian Grand Prix qualifying proved slightly more challenging for the young German racer, who ran into traffic in her last flying laps and lost precious tenths in a grid that saw 23 cars in one second margin.
In Saturday's race, Floersch lined-up in 20th place and moved up to P19 after a very tricky race under treacherous conditions that caught many drivers off: the Campos driver brought the car home after several battles with some highly-ranked drivers such as Hauger and Stanek.
With F3 implementing a new 10-cars grid inversion in 2020, Jake Hughes found himself starting on pole for Sunday's race, alongside ART's Theo Pourchaire.
Nannini was immediately out during the formation lap due to technical issues, while Sophia Floersch took the start from P21.
When the lights went out, Pourchaire had the better start and moved ahead of Hughes, while it was a clean start from the whole field. Floersch had to go wide into the turn 1 run-off and dropped to 26th position.
But the whole race was defined by an outstanding battle for the lead between Pourchaire, Hughes and last weekend's race winner Liam Lawson. Both on lap 2 and 3, Hughes went side-by-side with the French race leader but could not make a move stick at the main overtaking spot of turn 4. It was only one lap later that the classify was shaken by a marvelous double-pass by Lawson, who found a tiny gap and advanced into the lead after being sandwitched by Pourchaire and Hughes. The four-way battle for the victory continued with Logan Sargeant also close behind and ready to pick up the pieces.
HWA British driver Jake Hughes, now second, was still in Lawson's slipstream and completed the switch-back one lap later at the same corner.
As the cameras lingered on the battles for first place, Sophia Floersch moved ahead of both Calan Williams and Jack Doohan, advancing to P23.
Clement Novalak had a scary moment coming off of turn 6 when the Carlin driver tried to pass Fittipaldi around the outside and went off in the gravel, clipping the yellow sausage kerb that acted once again as a ramp. Novalak caught some big air but rejoined. He pitted to check for damages and lost one lap.
Yesterday's winner Frederick Vesti battled with his teammate Piastri but struggled to advance from his 10th starting position - proving how difficult it is to overtake in such a highly competitive F3 field.
On lap 10, the battle for the lead heated up again, with Lawson able to re-claim first just seconds before the Safety car was called out: Sophia Floersch was forced to retire after being hit by Alexander Smolyar, spun around at speed on the straight leading to turn 2 while side-by-side with the Russian driver. She went backwards in the grass, hit the DRS board and was unfortunately out of the race. She had just managed to pass Roman Stanek for P22.
The crash was investigated by the race direction but was ultimately deemed as a race incident.
Floersch's Campos teammate Alessio Deledda pitted for a new front wing under Safety Car and, at the restart on lap 16, Lawson had a good sprint to maintain the top of the classify. But Hughes wasn't ready to give up just yet and closed in again at turn 3: Lawson and Hughes continued their wheel to wheel action for most of the second half of the race, until the dramatic turning point of lap 21: the Brit tried to go around the outside of turn 4, but Lawson went too deep and oversteered into the path of the HWA car. The leading duo made contact, Hughes went off in the gravel and dangerously crossed back the track out of control, luckily being avoided by the pack behind.
With both the leaders out of the race, the Safety Car was deployed again. Theo Pourchaire thanked and moved into first, followed by Sargeant and Beckmann.
With few laps remaining, the race finished behind the Safety Car and 16-year old 2019 ADAC F4 champion Pourchaire could secure his first F3 victory.
Macau winner Richard Verschoor was fourth, preceding Oscar Piastri - who now leads the championship standings with 44 points from Vesti (37.5) and Sargeant (34).
Sophia Floersch unfortunately had her first retirement of the season and now looks ahead to next weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix to better capitalize on her race pace.