Lirim Zendeli dominated the opening Belgian race to clinch his maiden Formula Three victory, whilst the championship battle threw up a potentially decisive twist.
Zendeli got a clean start to lead from Theo Pourchaire with both drivers holding position throughout, whilst David Beckmann rounded out the podium after getting past Aleksandr Smolyar on lap seven as the Russian rounded out the top four finishers.
Speaking post race on his maiden F3 win, Zendeli said; “It’s been a really good weekend, with pole position and a win.”
Oscar Piastri meanwhile benefitted from engine issues for Prema teammate and championship leader, Logan Sargeant as the Australian finished fifth ahead of Frederik Vesti, Olli Caldwell and Sargeant who slipped to eighth ahead of Liam Lawson and Richard Verschoor who completed the top ten.
Piastri therefore reclaimed the championship lead with five races left of this season with a five point gap to Sargeant, as Beckmann improved to third in the standings but 30.5 points off the Australian with 113 points at maximum on offer across the final races.
HWA Racelab’s Jake Hughes suffered a disastrous start to his race when he stalled from 12th on the grid, which left him starting from the pit lane only to retire near the end with collision damage from a clash with Cameron Das.
Zendeli meanwhile got a clean getaway to lead Pourchaire at the start with both drivers holding position throughout, despite Pourchaire trying to keep Zendeli within sight during the opening stages and after a two lap Virtual Safety Car caused by Campos’ Alessio Deledda spinning at Campus and beaching his car in the gravel.
Smolyar meanwhile struggled upon the restart as he found himself trading third place with Beckmann before the German eventually made his podium clinching move with DRS on the Kemmel Straight on lap seven, leaving the Russian clinging onto fourth come the flag.
Piastri held onto his starting position of eighth throughout the opening five laps before forcing his way round the outside of Verschoor into the Bus Stop Chicane at end of lap six to take seventh, from which he then unleashed qualifying style laps to catch Lawson who had passed the Dutchman in exact same corner on the opening lap.
Lawson eventually was caught by Piastri at the start of lap 10 with both drivers banging wheels upon entry to Les Combes, with Piastri keeping his foot down to take sixth upon rejoining the track.
Caldwell and Vesti meanwhile demoted Verschoor on that same lap to tenth which the young Dutch driver held to the flag.
Vesti however got Caldwell with DRS into Les Combes two laps later to take eighth whilst Piastri handed sixth back to Lawson to avoid a penalty for illegally gaining a position with a off-track move.
Sargeant however hit engine issues which allowed Piastri to get past into fifth on the run towards Eau Rouge and ultimately retake the championship lead.
Vesti meanwhile passed Lawson then Sargeant with DRS along the Kemmel Straight on laps 13 and 15 to clinch sixth ahead of Caldwell, who got past Sargeant using the same maneuver on the final lap to take seventh from the American who consequently has a five point deficit to Piastri in the championship fight.
Lawson had slipped to ninth but held off Verschoor and Sebastian Fernandez to the line to leave him and Verschoor on the front row for tomorrow’s reverse grid race, as Verschoor clinched that important reverse pole ahead of what is forecast to be a wet race.
|1||Lirim Zendeli||Trident||17||38m 04.971|
|2||Theo Pourchaire||ART GP||17||+ 4.047|
|3||David Beckmann||Trident||17||+ 5.704|
|4||Aleksandr Smolyar||ART GP||17||+ 15.043|
|5||Oscar Piastri||Prema||17||+ 15.633|
|6||Frederik Vesti||Prema||17||+ 19.085|
|7||Olli Caldwell||Trident||17||+ 22.818|
|8||Logan Sargeant||Prema||17||+ 22.967|
|9||Liam Lawson||Hitech GP||17||+ 24.571|
|10||Richard Verschoor||MP Motorsport||17||+ 24.894|
|11||Sebastian Fernandez||ART GP||17||+ 25.585|
|12||Jack Doohan||HWA Racelab||17||+ 26.878|
|13||Matteo Nannini||Jenzer||17||+ 27.881|
|14||Alex Peroni||Campos||17||+ 30.168|
|15||Dennis Hauger||Hitech GP||17||+ 30.625|
|16||Calan Williams||Jenzer||17||+ 30.853|
|17||David Schumacher||Carlin||17||+ 33.975|
|18||Frederico Malvestiti||Jenzer||17||+ 35.054|
|19||Igor Fraga||Charouz||17||+ 25.725|
|20||Michael Belov||Charouz||17||+ 36.455|
|21||Lukas Dunner||MP Motorsport||17||+ 37.018|
|22||Pierre-Louis Chovet||Hitech GP||17||+ 39.200|
|23||Bent Viscaal||MP Motorsport||17||+ 39.501|
|24||Roman Stanek||Charouz||17||+ 1m 30.840|
|25||Cameron Das||Carlin||17||+ 1m 41.379|
|26||Enzo Fittipaldi||HWA Racelab||17||+ 1m 50.868|
|27||Andreas Estner||Campos||17||+ 1 Lap|
|29||Jake Hughes||HWA Racelab||12||Damage|