By delivering a superb drive at Sochi, Norwegian racer Dennis Hauger claimed the 2021 FIA Formula 3 Driver Championship with two races to spare as Race 1 at the Black Sea venue was anticipated due to weather concerns for Saturday.
Starting from P4 on the grid, the 18-year-old Red Bull Junior driver was on a real mission as he stormed back towards the front to P2 and even challenged for the win in the final lap. It was his ninth podium of the season, adding up to the three poles and four wins achieved so far.
Coming from a difficult qualifying session, Arthur Leclerc posted a valuable P7 finish, showing outstanding race pace and craft. The 20-year-old Monegasque sliced his way through the pack to bring home good points. Unfortunately, Olli Caldwell had to settle for P17. Struggling with his set-up, the British racer was not helped by the change of schedule, which hampered his chemistry with the car in unexpectedly dry conditions.
After completing another chapter of its long and successful F3 history, PREMA Racing will now head into Race 2 and 3 with the goal of securing the Team Championship.
Dennis Hauger: "This title means everything to me, getting back after a difficult year and winning the championship is unreal. It's been a great season with PREMA, and I'm really happy that we finished on top. Today's race was quite good as well, as we managed to work our way up and almost take P1. I feel like I didn't take unnecessary risks. I had a decent pace, and from qualifying where we weren't the strongest, we did some changes in the right direction. Obviously, when you see a gap, you have to go for the gap, so I went for it, and I really enjoyed the racing. It's the best feeling I ever had for being second.
If I had to pick the highlights of the year, taking pole and victory in the first race at Barcelona was special because it gave me a good start and a confidence boost. Coming from P12 to P1 in Red Bull Ring was also amazing. But even at Spa where we had a bit of a downfall, we worked hard as a team to get some points there as well.
Consistency was the key. I had an excellent connection with the team straight away, and I have to say a great thank you to everyone involved. Putting the work down with the team, the preparation, getting set for the races, and traveling has been hard work but extremely enjoyable as well."
Arthur Leclerc: "Qualifying was a bit difficult from my side, I struggled a bit with positioning and putting the lap together as well. Then in the race, we went from P14 to P7, and I was quite happy as we had a really good pace. Since the beginning of the season, we have known that the race pace was our strong point, and we have benefitted from it today. I need to keep working on qualifying to become even stronger in the future."
Olli Caldwell: "We really struggled with setup today, trying to put the car together for what was set to be two wet races in the dry, then finding out we had the race today, unfortunately really hurt us. It's tough to take, on the final weekend of what's been a positive year but we're ready for tomorrow and will keep fighting to the last lap. Congratulations to Dennis, I'm determined to seal the teams' title for Prema as well this weekend."