Liam Lawson has seen off two caution periods and a late-race challenge by ex-Toyota Racing Series racer Richard Verschoor in today’s final FIA Formula 3 race at the Red Bull Ring to claim his maiden victory in the series.
The series sophomore was able to snare the lead on lap seven of 24 before powering out of DRS range, extending his advantage to a whopping 2.8s at one stage before the Pukekohe man was forced to fend off a two-lap shootout following a late safety car restart to clinch that coveted first victory.
For the first time ever, Formula 3 would reverse the Top 10 of yesterday’s race results, compelling young Australian rookie Oscar Piastri to start from the fifth row with plenty of overtaking to do.
Pole-sitter Clement Novalak maintained the lead after a speedy getaway as a hard-charging David Beckmann powered from fourth to second by the time the field reached Turn 1.
Lawson then immediately went on the attack to challenge Beckmann, braving it out around the outside of Turn 5 as the Kiwi pounded on the pressure, unfortunately having to yield a handful of corners later.
Up front and Novalak proved to be vulnerable as Beckmann rapidly latched onto the rear wing off the race leader, executing a shrewd DRS-assisted move into Turn 4 to claim the lead.
Further back, Logan Sargeant, who finished on the podium in yesterday’s race, picked up a puncture after clashing with Brent Viscaal putting an end to a turbulent weekend for the American racer.
With three DRS zones to play with, Lawson was able to slim the advantage of the leader, and when Novalak made an error at Turn 3, the Kiwi was able to steal P2.
And it wouldn’t end there for the flying Kiwi, the Hitech GP pilot quickly catching race leader Beckmann before snaring the lead on his seventh tour.
The biggest question hovering over Lawson’s head once gaining the reins of the race was whether he could fend off the challenging pack now in a DRS-less position.
However, a wild duel for second between Beckmann, Novalak and Verschoor meant Lawson could build out his lead past the critical one-second window and out of DRS range.
The race was briefly neutralised when race control deployed the Virtual Safety Car to recover Alex Peroni who had grounded to a halt between Turns 3 and 4.
It could have been a more significant accident as an unsighted Theo Pourchaire clashed with the slowing Australian driver, escaping with only front wing damage.
A hot-headed Verschoor immediately went right back on the attack off the restart, grabbing second on lap 16 off Novalak.
The chasing pack was ultimately quicker than Lawson, eating out as much as seven-tenths out of his lead on certain laps but too often battled among themselves and allowed the Kiwi to drive away into the distance.
However, with the chequered flag in his grasp, a safety car was deployed to clear debris on the exit of the final corner, diminishing Lawson’s lead to essentially nil.
But a restart on the penultimate did little to deter Lawson who powered over the line in a very composed restart. With no DRS in the final laps due to the safety car, Lawson’s lead was slightly more protected and he brilliantly fended off a late challenge by Verschoor to hang on and duly claim his maiden victory and make a powerful title statement on the rest of the field.
Lawson will be back at the Austrian venue next week for two more races as the Kiwi continues his title assault.
|27||Logan Sargeant||+1 lap|