Frederik Vesti has claimed his maiden FIA Formula 3 victory in a curtailed opening race which had its proceedings red-flagged on lap 15 of 24 as the forecasted heavy rain washed out the Red Bull Ring.
The Danish driver led from pole-position to settle into an undisturbed rhythm and looked set to cruise to an unrivalled victory before race officials suspended the race as the rain continued to increase in intensity.
A lightning start by Lirim Zendeli meant he charged from the third row of the grid to claim second with David Beckmann snared the final spot on the rostrum.
After his reverse-grid race heroics last weekend, Liam Lawson would gain two spots in the shortened race to finish eighth and will start from third in tomorrow’s race which fortunately is forecasted to be staged in the dry.
Ashen skies brought scattered showers moments before the start of the race, causing havoc among the teams as drivers split the strategy to start on either wet or slick tyres.
The vast majority of the top-10 opted to take the start on the extreme wet compound as a narrow band of inclement weather began to strike Turns 3 and 4.
Consequently, those who gambled on slicks were compelled to return the pitlane on the formation lap understanding the risk of an accident was too dire.
Vesti nailed the initial getaway as Zendeli got a spectacular launch to leapfrog himself from sixth to second by the opening turn, briefly stealing the lead as the young German racer bravely tried to hang it around the outside at Turn 3.
Mired down on the fringes of the top-10, Lawson failed to improve on his initial fifth row qualifying position as the spray made chasing his rivals a tricky predicament.
The Kiwi did eventual muster an overtake on Australian rival Alex Peroni in a graceless move at Turn 4 as the duo made side-to-side contact.
Vesti had established a comfortable one-second margin at the head of the field before the Virtual Safety Car was deployed due to Alexander Smolyar collecting the barrier on the front straight and showered the circuit with debris.
Three laps of green flag running greeted the field before Clement Novalak suffered a left-rear puncture at the final corner, sending the Frenchman on an undesired pirouette which duly saw the requirement of the Safety Car to neutralise the field.
A sublime restart by Vesti allowed the race leader to storm away from the field, drowning out the challenging pack in a roster’s tail of spray.
But as the heavens continued to open Roman Stanek beached himself in the gravel at the penultimate turn as further back Sebastian Fernandez spun across the circuit, collecting an unsighted Federico Malvestiti in a heavy crash.
In response to the wild weather, race control waved the Red Flag to suspend the session though the weather showed no signs of lifting and after 20-minutes waiting in pitlane, the race was officially declared, crowning Vesti his first victory in only his third start.
The F3 grid will have one more race at the Styrian circuit tomorrow evening from 7.30 pm NZT.
|28||Roman Stanek||+1 lap|
|29||Clement Novalak||+1 lap|