Wins for Guanyu Zhou and Pierre-Louis Chovet at F3 Asian Championship 2021 Season-Opener

Wins for Guanyu Zhou and Pierre-Louis Chovet at F3 Asian Championship 2021 Season-Opener

30.01.2021: • Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema’s Guanyu Zhou leads championship after dominant victories in Races 1 and 2 • Pinnacle Motorsport’s Pierre-Louis Chovet triumphs after tense battle for Race 3

•    Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema’s Guanyu Zhou leads championship after dominant victories in Races 1 and 2

•    Pinnacle Motorsport’s Pierre-Louis Chovet triumphs after tense battle for Race 3

•    Podiums for Formula 3 debutant Dino Beganovic, Roy Nissany, Jehan Daruvala and Isack Hadjar

The F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA got off to a roaring start at the Dubai Autodrome, with China’s Guanyu Zhou sweeping to victory from pole in the first two races of the season for the Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema team, and 18-year-old Frenchman Pierre-Louis Chovet powering to his maiden series win in Race 3 for Pinnacle Motorsport.

Joining Zhou on the podium after Race 1 were Hitech Grand Prix’s Roy Nissany in second and Mumbai Falcons India Racing Ltd.’s Jehan Daruvala third. In Race 2, however, the form book was turned on its head when Zhou’s team mate and Ferrari Driver Academy talent, Swede Dino Beganovic, followed him across the line after just his second career Formula 3 race, while 16-year-old 3Y Evans GP Frenchman Isack Hadjar was third.

Race 3 proved to be the most dramatic, however, with Chovet decisively reclaiming his pole advantage from Nissany to take the win ahead of Beganovic, the Israeli FIA F2 driver having to settle for third.

After three of the 15 races of the 2021 season, Zhou tops the Driver Classification at the end of Round 1 on 50 points, leading Chovet by a single point. An outstanding Formula 3 debut for Beganovic puts him third in the standings, just three points behind Chovet and nine points clear of Nissany in fourth.

Hadjar is fifth ahead of Hitech Grand Prix’s Red Bull Junior driver Ayumu Iwasa, Mumbai Falcons India Racing Ltd.’s Jehan Daruvala, BlackArts Racing’s Cem Bolukbasi, Iwasa’s team mate Reece Ushijima and Pinnacle Motorsport’s Alessio Deledda who is contesting his second season of the championship.

The F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA now moves to Abu Dhabi’s F1 circuit, Yas Marina, for Rounds 2 and 3 from February 4-7.

Race 1

After a close-run qualifying session it was Guanyu Zhou who emerged on pole for the opening race of the season, with Pierre-Louis Chovet alongside ahead of Roy Nissany and Jehan Daruvala on the second row. As the lights went out, Zhou got a perfect start off the line, but the less experienced Chovet dropped down the order as Nissany and Daruvala both used the slipstream to power past.

While Nissany was initially able to start reeling in Zhou, his gains were short lived and it wasn’t long before the Israeli’s mirrors were filled with Daruvala and, a few laps later, Chovet. By the end of lap 10, Dino Beganovic, contesting the first Formula 3 race of his career, had joined the fray having climbed from P7 to fifth, setting the scene for a thrilling four-car battle in the closing stages.

Zhou continued his relentless charge towards the flag and the first victory of the season, eventually crossing the line with a margin of almost seven seconds. Behind him, Nissany, Daruvala, Chovet and Beganovic continued to battle it out as the clock ran down, but ultimately crossed the line in the same order.

Ayumu Iwasa made gains to finish sixth from P10, ahead of Cem Bolukbasi, Isack Hadjar and Patrik Pasma.

There was disappointment for the BlackArts Racing pair of Zdenek Chovanec, who was unable to take the start, and team mate Rafael Villagomez who retired after contact with Daruvala’s team mate Kush Maini. Maini was able to rejoin the race, at one point taking provisional pole for Race 2 with a fastest lap, before Zhou bettered his time in the closing minutes. Nevertheless, the Mumbai Falcons India Racing Ltd. driver had done enough to secure a front-row start.

Race 2

There was drama even before the lights went out for the start of Race 2, when a technical issue prevented Kush Maini from taking his place alongside Guanyu Zhou at the front of the grid, a crushing disappointment for the 20-year-old Indian driver. Behind Zhou on the second row was Dino Beganovic with Pierre-Louis Chovet, who had finished just off the podium in Race 1, alongside.

Zhou once again made a quick getaway from pole, but 3Y Evans GP’s Isack Hadjar had a blinding start from P5, diving past Chovet to go third. Another driver to make gains off the start was Alessio Deledda, the Pinnacle Motorsport Italian climbing to fifth by the end of the opening lap.

Just as the competition began to intensify, the safety car was called out after an incident between BlackArts Racing’s Rafael Villagomez and Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema’s Amna Al Qubaisi which resulted in early retirement for the pair.

The safety car intervention saw Zhou’s margin evaporate, but the Chinese ace had no problem at the restart, comfortably pulling clear of Beganovic who immediately came under pressure from Hadjar, with Chovet not far behind the Frenchman.

Behind the top four, Deledda was under fire from Hitech Grand Prix’s Ayumu Iwasa, the Japanese driver eventually finding a way past the Italian. Likewise, Mumbai Falcons India Racing Ltd.’s Jehan Daruvala was on the back of Hitech Grand Prix’s Roy Nissany, a plucky move on the final lap of the race seeing the Indian get by to cross the line in seventh.

Zhou took his second win in as many races, this time crossing the line 2.108 seconds ahead of Beganovic, with Hadjar taking the final podium place. While Zhou had continued his dominance of the opening round with a second flawless pole-to-flag run, there was no doubt the young guns amongst the field were ready and able to upset the form book.

Race 3

Pierre-Louis Chovet made a good start from pole, and led the field into turn 1. However, over what proved to be a hectic opening lap, Roy Nissany found his way through to grab the lead, with Dino Beganovic also muscling past the Frenchman to go second, before dropping down to fourth behind Roman Stanek.

The opening lap saw the dramatic retirement of Guanyu Zhou, who had started from P4, after an incident involving the Mumbai Falcons India Racing pair of Jehan Daruvala and Kush Maini. Daruvala was able to rejoin the race, and embarked upon a truly epic comeback which saw him fight his way up through the field to eventually cross the line in seventh, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. Maini also rejoined, but wasn’t able to replicate his team mate’s comeback and finished last.

At the front of the pack meanwhile, Nissany had pulled a lead of more than two seconds from Chovet, but the Frenchman was closing – and fast. Sniffing victory, Chovet forced Nissany to employ every defensive move in the book, before finally forcing him to succumb to his unrelenting challenge. The battling pair had allowed the chasing pack to close up, however, and Beganovic took advantage of Chovet’s move to follow him past Nissany and up into second.

Lap 10 saw Stanek retire following racing incident, promoting Hitech Grand Prix’s Ayumu Iwasa to fifth ahead of team mate Reece Ushijima.

Chovet, meanwhile, didn’t put a wheel wrong on the way to his maiden series victory, crossing the line with a 1.832 second advantage over Beganovic, with Nissany in third head of Hadjar, Iwasa, Ushijima and the heroic Daruvala.

- NIkki Kemp photos F3 ASIA


30.01.2021 / MaP

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