It is fantastic four for Liam Lawson as the young Kiwi collected his fourth FIA Formula 3 podium finish with a superb second-place result at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after pulling off a late move on Formula 3 championship leader Logan Sargeant three laps from the chequered flag.
HWA’s Jake Hughes put up an emphatic performance to strengthen his championship challenge as the 26-year-old cruised to an unrivalled victory up front despite being compelled to see off two Safety Car restarts.
The series veteran stole the lead from pole-sitter Sargeant at Turn 1 after the first restart and never looked back as he gracefully charged to a second career race victory.
Off the line, Lawson struggled to capitalise on a slow start by second-placed Hughes as the Red Bull Junior slotted neatly into formation as a train of cars charged down to Turn 1, Clement Novolak the only notable driver to make progress as the Frenchman muscled his way from sixth to fourth.
The race was neutralised as quickly as kicked off when Silverstone race winner Bent Viscaal was shuffled out of the challenging pack, skating into the gravel at Turn 5 and requiring the services of the Safety Car.
Hughes was electric from the restart on Lap 4 and immediately piled on the pressure on race leader Sargeant. Notoriously difficult to muster a way past, Hughes calling would come three laps later with the assistance of DRS as the Brit scythed his way into the lead at Turn 1.
All the while Lawson was gradually slimming the margin to Sargeant for second as the Kiwi kept his tyres in an ideal operating window, but then had the gap nullified entirely one lap later when fellow Prema Frederik Vesti tottered to a halt at Turn 3, triggering the race’s second Safety Car period.
The Kiwi kept in touch with the leaders off the restart as Oscar Piastri was sent on an uninvited ride over the kerbing at the final corner as the Australian bowled a wide off the restart, falling to sixth.
Sargeant quickly fell off the pace of Hughes and opened the door for Lawson to tuck into the American’s tow and benefit from two DRS-assisted straights to setup a seemingly imminent overtake. There was little pressure from behind as Lawson ditched a languishing Novalak for fourth, pulling out a 2.4s advantage in only a handful of laps.
The Kiwi’s break would come on Lap 20, three laps from the flag, and after several apathetic rehearsals Turn 1 Lawson expertly drove around the outside of his rival to cleanly take away second.
By then the rostrum was set in stone as Hughes comfortably collected his first win of the year, finishing 2.38s ahead of Lawson as the 18-year-old continues to nibble away at the lead of the points leaders to keep his championship ambitions afloat.
The Kiwi will start ninth in tomorrow’s reverse-grid sprint race but will be looking to be more aggressive off the start judging by the difficulty of overtaking in today’s opening affair.