SPIELBERG, Austria (4 July 2021) – Jak Crawford had his most competitive weekend in FIA Formula 3 competition, scoring a career-best finish at the Red Bull Ring.
But it could have been even better. With a little luck, the 16-year-old Red Bull Junior Team driver from Houston might have had a pole, a race win, and another podium.
“Ever since the free practice, when I was second, I was up there,” Crawford said. “The speed was always top three, top five, but we only walked away with a few points. Quite sad, a bit unlucky, but at least we know the pace is there.”
After being placed eighth and fifth in first two the opening weekend races, he ran near the front in the following two 24-lap events, only to suffer heartbreaking problems in both of them.
Job one was qualifying, which was Crawford’s Achilles heel in both of his opening weekends in Barcelona, Spain and Le Castellet, France, where tire strategy kept him out of the top 12 in qualifying and came back to hurt him in all three races both weekends.
At Red Bull Ring, he had his best qualifying effort, leading the Hitech Grand Prix squad with his fifth-place result after being third until the closing moments of the session when traffic on a final flyer kept him from pushing for the front row.
“I was on a lap for pole when I got blocked,” he said. “But we knew the potential was there. We got fifth, which was good, but the potential for a pole was definitely there, for sure.”
Starting eighth in the opening 24-lap race Saturday morning, Crawford was held up on lap one in turn three and slipped back to 10th in the early laps. He then began working his way back to the front. He took fifth on lap 21, and nearly took fourth with two laps remaining before apparently finishing fifth. However, he was penalized for an incident when he was forced off track by another driver who also received a penalty or pushing Jak off the track, and was classified eighth – his best result of the season.
“The first was difficult, for sure, because I was in a DRS train and trying to be smart and strategic,” he said. “Unfortunately, I ended up getting a time penalty when I got bumped off the track and I kept my position. That was unfortunate, because even though I finished fifth in the race, there were a lot of penalties for track limits and I would have ended up second in the race.”
Starting fifth for the second race Saturday afternoon, Crawford gained two positions on the opening lap and took second on lap nine. Gaining on the leader only 1.2 second ahead and preparing to use the DRS to try for first, Crawford suddenly lost all the compression in his engine and pulled off to the side.
“I started the second on new tires, and the others in front of me were on new tires as well,” Crawford said. “I was catching the leader, and then my engine just gave in and wasn’t running at all. We really had the pace to win, for sure. At least we showed our potential.”
Crawford ran a steady race in Sunday’s finale. Lining up fifth per his initial qualifying time, Crawford ran fourth on the opening lap and then settled into fifth, where he remained for most of the event. Unfortunately, he had contact while fighting for position, resulting in a lost front wing and a 26th place finish.
“The third race was more difficult because we started on the used tires from the second race and I was very vulnerable,” Crawford explained. “Also, my new engine was not as good. I was getting lucky with the positions I was gaining. After the last safety car restart I lost the DRS I had and I got into a big battle, and it ended with contact – not the best move by me.”
The next F3 event will be at the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary on July 30-August 1. However, Crawford will compete at that circuit this weekend in the Euroformula Open Championship, where he won two races and finished second in his most recent weekend of competition.
“Running the Euroformula Open race is definitely going to help, because I’ve never been to Budapest,” Crawford said. “It’s definitely a new track for me. I get a test day this week on Thursday before the real weekend starts, so that track time should be good for learning the track. Also, I’ve done quite well on the simulator there, so hopefully I will be able to put it on the track as well.”
Images courtesy Red Bull
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