Dragon HitechGP’s Jake Hughes took a dominant pole-to-flag victory in Round 7 of the F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA at the Shanghai International Circuit today, continuing his perfect record of winning every race he has started so far this season. In a storming return to the championship, having missed out on the Ningbo triple-header earlier this month, Hughes crossed the line more than five seconds ahead of team mate and championship leader Raoul Hyman to take his fourth series win.
Third across the line, having rocketed from sixth on the grid and after a superbly-executed, late-race move on Macau’s Charles Leong, Tomoki Takahashi took his second podium finish of the season so far.
Local hero Liu Zexuan, who joined the championship in Round 2, took the Masters class win for new team Emc2 Racing ahead of compatriot Yin Hai Tao of ZEN Motorsport, and B-Max Racing Team’s DRAGON of Japan.
Hyman’s second place finish sees him retain his place at the top of the Drivers’ Classification with eight races of the inaugural season remaining, but team mate Hughes is now just 16 points adrift. Fastest in Qualifying 2, and having hammered out a string of fastest laps in Race 7, Hughes has the advantage of pole position starts for both Races 8 and 9. Absolute Racing’s Jaden Conwright, sixth in Race 7, drops down the leaderboard to third, seven points behind Hughes but 20 clear of team mate Akash Nandy of Malaysia in fourth.
Yin continues to lead the Masters Classification, and now has a 32-point advantage over Hata, with Liu in third on 88 points.
Following a second formation lap, after M-Sport Asia’s Akash Gowda stopped on the first warm-up lap, Hughes led the field away at the start with Hyman in hot pursuit. Behind the pair, Leong was immediately on the attack to ZEN Motorsport’s Yu Kuai, pulling alongside and getting past to complete a Dragon HitechGP 1-2-3 in the running order. Takahashi was on the move, though, and up to fourth in the order ahead of Nandy and Yu when the Safety Car was called out after BlackArts Racing’s Louis Prette was left stranded trackside. Super License driver Takashi Hata was another early retirement, driving into pitlane after just four laps.
With 13 minutes remaining, the Safety Car released the field and Hughes immediately pulled clear of the pack. Behind him though, Hyman went wide on the exit of the final corner allowing team mate Leong to get alongside. Takahashi was also in the mix, with Nandy keeping a watching brief behind the trio. Hyman held firm, but the fracas had allowed Hughes to run away with the lead.
“It’s good fun [to be back with the championship],” said a delighted Hughes. “I enjoy driving the car and for Dragon HitechGP. It’s my first time here in Shanghai, so I’m enjoying the circuit. I said it in Malaysia, that I was at my maximum. Maybe I got on top of the car bit quicker in Malaysia, but it’s definitely closer here. It was a good race for me, but I was pushing all the way. Yesterday in qualifying, I got pole by one tenth and one-and-a-half tenths which shows it’s much closer here.”
As Leong and Takahashi were locked in battle for the final podium place, behind them Yu dived on the inside of Nandy and up to fifth in the order. The final minutes of the race were packed with drama. First it was the turn of SVC Asia’s Jeremy Wahome who made an impressive run on the outside to dive past Liu before pulling clear to cross the line eighth behind Nandy, who had lost another place to Conwright before the flag.
Having battled hard all race, and with just two minutes to go, Takahashi finally found his way past rival Leong to claim the final podium place and with it, the valuable championship points.