Spa F3: Zendeli takes maiden win in first race

Lirim Zendeli took his maiden FIA Formula 3 race victory with a commanding lights-to-flag win in the first race at Spa-Francorchamps, while engine issues cost Logan Sargeant his championship lead.

Spa F3: Zendeli takes maiden win in first race
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Trident’s Zendeli, who was denied a first F3 win on the final lap of the second sprint race at Silverstone earlier in the season, led every lap from pole position to secure his maiden victory in the series.

The opening lap proved to be unusually uneventful for the front runners, with the top eight drivers on the grid remaining in their grid positions by the time the field had passed through Les Combes for the first time.

Just as second-place starter Theo Pourchaire posted the fastest lap of the race to reduce Zendeli’s race lead, the virtual safety car was required on the third lap to recover Alessio Deledda’s beached Campos Racing machine.

Zendeli resisted the pressure from Sauber junior Pourchaire as the race restarted and the 20-year-old was able to build a small advantage at the front of the field.

2018 German Formula 4 champion Zendeli maintained that lead all the way until the chequered flag to hand Trident its third successive race one win at Spa in the championship in as many years.

17-year-old Pourchaire earned his fourth podium of the year in second place with David Beckmann, who passed Prema’s Sargeant and ART Grand Prix’s Alexander Smolyar early in the race, completing a double-podium finish for Trident.

A fourth-place finish marked SMP Racing-backed driver Smolyar’s best result of his FIA F3 rookie season.

Sargeant was running in fifth place when he encountered suspected engine issues that dropped him into the clutches of his teammates, including his main title rival, Renault junior Oscar Piastri.

Piastri passed the ailing Sargeant on the run to Eau Rouge for fifth place with just three laps to go, and then the third Prema of Frederik Vesti demoted Sargeant to seventh place on the next lap.

18-year-old British racer Olli Caldwell eased past Sargeant on the run to Les Combes on the final lap of the race, leaving Sargeant in eighth place at the chequered flag.

Piastri banged wheels with Red Bull junior Liam Lawson and ran off the track at Les Combes whilst attempting to overtake earlier in the race, before Piastri decided to hand the position back to Lawson.

Piastri re-passed Lawson a couple of laps later and finished in fifth place following Sargeant’s engine woes, which was enough for Piastri to vault ahead of his team-mate into the lead of the drivers’ championship with just five races to go.

Lawson struggled for pace and fell down the order to finish in ninth place ahead of ex-Red Bull junior Richard Verschoor, who will start Sunday’s race two from reverse-grid pole position.

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