There will be no repeat victory for Liam Lawson in FIA Formula 3 at the Red Bull Ring as the Kiwi crashed out from the lead in a wild tussle with race-long rival Jake Hughes four laps from home.
Lawson, who had started third on the grid, had claimed the lead on lap 11 but a robust attack by Hughes kept the 18-year-old on his toes all race which ended in a graceless clash at Turn 4.
Thus, Theo Pourchaire snared a fortuitous victory to become the fourth different winner of the year as the safety car led home the field to conclude a hectic final race of the weekend.
Logan Sargeant was constantly nestled at the front of the timesheets all weekend and claimed a crucial victory to relaunch his title assault, the American racer leading home David Beckmann to round out the podium.
The Spielberg circuit was bathed in sunlight in complete foil to yesterday’s washout which saw the feature race curtailed after only 15 laps.
A superb launch by Pourchaire from second on the grid allowed the Frenchman to steal the lead from pole-sitter Hughes on the run into Turn 1 as Lawson slotted into the final podium spot.
A four-car battle for the lead quickly emerged as Richard Verschoor latched onto the gearbox of Lawson while erstwhile leader Hughes ducked in and out of Pourchaire’s slipstream in a desperate attempt to hit the front.
The duel for the lead was inevitably going to allow Lawson to have a bite for the front which he pulled off with a sensational move on the fourth tour at Turn 4 on both Pourchaire and Hughes to elevate himself from third into the lead.
But the three DRS zones that characterise the Austrian venue meant Lawson’s lead was only temporary as Hughes powered back to the front in an unchallenged move one lap later at the same corner.
The young Kiwi then spent the next three laps analysing his rival, and when the opportunity arose Lawson darted up the inside of Hughes at Turn 4 once again on lap 11.
The race was then neutralised almost immediately as Aleksandr Smolyar clashed with Sophia Floersch on the exit of Turn 3, sending the Campos machine on a one-way trip into the wall and requiring the Safety Car to bunch the pack up once again.
A perfectly judged restart by Lawson ensured the Red Bull junior maintained the lead with eight laps in hand.
But when DRS was activated on lap 19 out 24, Hughes rapidly reeled in his prey, the margin up the front fell to nil. The pair traded the lead on multiple occasions with the shrewd Kiwi consistently placing his car on the ideal line to keep his rival at bay.
However, four laps from the chequered flag, Hughes put a lunge on the leader at Turn 4 which ended in a clumsy incident as Lawson oversteered into his rival, putting both cars out on the spot and gifting victory to a fortunate Pourchaire.
The incident will be investigated post-race with Hughes adamant Lawson was at fault in an unnecessary incident which could come back to bite the Kiwi in a rapid-fire, truncated season.
Meanwhile, Lawson may well argue that Hughes had no right to the position and merely drove himself off the road and turned into the Hitech GP machine.
The F3 grid will head to the Hungaroring next week in the final round of the opening tripleheader of the 2020 campaign.
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