Liam Lawson has kept his improbable FIA Formula 3 championship hopes alive with a strong recovery drive to consolidate his fifth podium finish of the year despite falling as low as seventh after a shaky start.
The Kiwi holds onto fourth in the driver standings which has seen the points lead swap hands for the second time in two days as race winner Logan Sargeant annexed Prema teammate Oscar Piastri at the head of the championship table.
It was far from easy for Sargeant who was made to resist a late onslaught of pressure by Frederik Vesti after taking the lead on Lap 3 of 17.
The two were almost ten-seconds clear of Lawson at the chequered flag, the Kiwi left with mixed emotions after a potential win slipped from his grasp. But the tidy haul of points does keep him in the hunt as the F3 championship with four races left to play out.
In an all Toyota Racing Series alumni front row, Lawson bogged down off the line as he slowly puttered towards Turn 1 while pole-sitter Richard Verschoor maintained his early advantage.
As the gaggle of cars sorted themselves out across the opening lap, the damage of Lawson’s opening lap woes were identified and the Kiwi had slumped to sixth and under immense pressure from Alexander Smolyar.
Race leader Verschoor was barely surviving the onslaught by Sargeant, yielding the lead on the third tour as the Prema breezed to the front of the field in a classic DRS-assisted move. Vesti would follow his teammate one lap later as Verschoor clung onto the final podium position.
Lawson’s dreadful start did have its silver lining when he bullied himself back past Oli Cadwell after a mistake by the British driver to reclaim fifth just before the Virtual Safety Car was deployed to recover Hitech rookie Pierre-Louis Chovet who had collected the tyre barrier at the end of the Kemmel Straight.
Tyre temperature dramas were the blame for his difficult race yesterday but once Lawson was unable to get his rubber in the ideal window off the restart he was able to swing back the momentum of his race in his favour and he begun to pursue after Pourchaire who was engaged with his battle with Verschoor.
Verschoor seemed vulnerable along both of Spa’s two lengthy straights as he dropped behind Pourchaire, Lawson and Smolyar in the space of mere corners.
Lawson’s battle with Pourchaire was the most engrossing in the field and after multiple laps of sitting in his rival’s tow, Lawson benefited from the DRS on the exit of Eau Rouge and flew past the Frenchman on Lap 12 to steal the final podium position.
Pourchaire would boldly fight back at Les Combes but had his opportunity abruptly cut off by Lawson, allowing Smolyar to leapfrog his ART teammate for fourth.
Eight seconds was the difference between Lawson and the two leading Prema’s who were embroiled in their own duel for the spoils.
Vesti would draw within eight-tenths of Sargeant as the pair commenced their final lap. But despite his relentless pursuit to reel in his rival, Vesti wouldn’t offer a contest for the victory, content to settle for his second top-three finish of the year.
F3 will now have back-to-back rounds at Monza and Mugello over the next fortnight to close out the championship with the Italian Grand Prix up first over September 5-6.
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