Spa, Belgium

Heading to round 6 of the Championship, the FIA F3 weekend had a slight reshuffle due to supporting the Total 24 Hours of Spa, forcing the weekend to kick off on Thursday with free practice and qualifying. 

The qualifying session complicated matters for the team with the unpredictable weather of the Ardennes forest, causing a wet track for one session then dry for the other. Callum Illot battled against Lando Norris for pole position in both sessions but could only manage a 2:11.291 around the 7.004 kilometres long track, resulting in a P2 start for all three races. Ferrari backed Guanyu Zhou finished P9 in the first qualifying session and claimed a respectable P3 for Race 2 and 3. The Championship leader Maximilian Günther took a triple P4 for all three race starts, after improving in the second session. For Mick Schumacher it was a difficult qualifying but ended with a P13 as his best result. 

With the sun emerging for race 1 the team was ever hopeful for a podium finish. Illot had a good start and was all over Norris for P1, but unfortunately hit the curb and caused a safety car, which left him with a drive through penalty. Günther managed to get into P2 in the early stages of the race, Zhou held P10 and Schumacher stormed his way from P14 to P8. At the restart everyone held their positions, before a fight for P7 unfolded with Ferdinand Habsburg and Harrison Newey, both loosing positions to Schumacher. As the last 10 minutes arrived Günther lost P2 to Nikita Mazepin after defending the position and crossed the line in P3. Mick Schumacher showed sensational talent throughout the race and topped it off as he overtook Ralf Aron for P6 after a wheel-to-wheel battle. Zhou took P12 and Illot gained two places to P14. 

It was a tense but clean start for race 2. Early contact between Norris and Guanyu Zhou ended both their races, which meant Callum Illot went into P1 followed by Maximilian Günther in P2. Mick Schumacher had another flying start, jumping into P10. For the next 5 laps it was a constant thrilling battle for P1 with the teammates nose to tail. Günther won the battle and held onto P1 until the last stages of the race. The German then began to struggle to hold off Habsburg and Joel Eriksson eventually crossing the line in P3 once again. After starting strong Illot begun to drop down the field unable to defend his position and finished P7. For Schumacher it was a steady race having had a great start, he maintained his pace and took P9 after overtaking Joey Mawson on the last lap. 

# 3 – Maximilian Günther
“In race 1 I scored good points. My start was good and I was second after the opening lap. Then, I wasn’t able to attack Lando because the balance of my car wasn’t perfect. That was also the reason why Nikita was able to overtake me a little bit later. Third place was all I could do and despite the fact that towards the end the other guys were quicker, I’m also happy with third place in race 2. I had a positive start again and I gained two positions. Then I had a really good fight with Callum. We swapped positions many times. I was in the lead for most of the time and tried to pull away but it wasn’t possible. Again for me P3 was the maximum but I’m happy for the outcome considering that one of the main title contenders didn’t score points. We will keep improving and I’m positive for tomorrow.”

# 8 – Guanyu Zhou
“In race 1 we went for a different kind of set-up compared to my team-mates but in the end it didn’t work out. I was also one of the few drivers on old tires so the grip was not good and I kept sliding. In race 2 I made a great start and after the Eau Rouge I was fighting for second place. I was in front of Norris before braking. Turning in I left space for more than one car but I still got hit and spun around. The floor was damaged so I had to pit and retire.”

# 25 – Mick Schumacher
“We managed to go quite a bit to the front and score some points which was what we were planning  and hoping to do; and I am happy it turned out well. For tomorrow we have to see what the weather conditions will be as it’s quite difficult to say here at Spa, but for sure I’m looking forward to race 3.”

# 53 – Callum Ilott
“It was an up and down day. In race 1 I was involved in an early incident and the subsequent penalty pushed me to the back, while in race 2 the pace was there and I had a great fight for the lead with Maxi. Unfortunately, the rear tires dropped off quite a bit so I had to settle for P7. I will start from pole tomorrow, let’s hope for a clean run.”

Callum Illot set off from pole in race 3 after Norris received a penalty due to the contact with Zhou at Les Combes chicane in race 2. However, it was the Chinese driver who initially took the lead from his teammate before the start of a 4 lap battle between them for P1. Günther was taken out the race after a side by side battle with Jake Hughes, causing a safety car. On the restart Zhou lost the lead to Norris and tried to clinch back P3 from Illot  for the remainder of the race. Schumacher started strong once again climbing the field lap by lap crossing the line for the final time in P8 after speeding past Newey on the last lap. With a few minutes remaining on the clock, Illot and Zhou fought for P3 nose to tail but the Brit lost the last spot on the podium to the fellow Prema Theodore driver.

# 3 – Maximilian Günther
“I had a good start and I was battling at the front. I wanted to get Callum’s slipstream and although I left enough room on the outside while moving, the car behind still went for the same spot and we made contact. That’s racing, now we will regroup and go back on-track at Zandvoort still as the championship leaders.”

# 8 – Guanyu Zhou
“After yesterday being taken out early I started well and was one on the fastest cars. I was in the lead but then the safety car bunched us up and then I got passed easily with the slipstream. Unfortunately we then suffered from rear degradation. At the last lap I fought back to take third place and I am very happy with the result“.

# 25 – Mick Schumacher
“We enjoyed another solid performance today finishing in the overall points again. We continued to improve throughout the weekend which is definitely positive especially on a challenging track like Spa. I look forward to be back on-track after the summer break.”

# 53 – Callum Ilott
“Starting from the pole I was a little bit of a sitting duck due to the slipstream on the long straight. After a good first part of the race, towards the end I felt a drop from the rear tires right after setting my fastest lap, and the car became a little nervous, similarly to what happened in the previous race. At that point I just held onto the tires to finish in fourth place.”

Heading to Zandvoort in two weeks time (19-20th August), Maximilian Günther holds onto the Drivers Championship by 18 points and Prema Theodore Racing maintains it’s strong lead in the Team Championship.

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