F3: Shwartzman secures Sochi pole to set up title showdown

Robert Shwartzman
Robert Shwartzman

Robert Shwartzman switched on the styled when it counted, scoring his first pole position since Round 1 in Barcelona, to put himself within touching distance of the FIA Formula 3 crown. The Russian was rampant on home turf, fighting off strong sprints from both of his teammates to finish at the peak of a PREMA Racing 1-2-3. Jehan Daruvala secured second in the dying embers, while Marcus Armstrong settled for third.

With the title at stake, PREMA duo Shwartzman and Daruvala were first out on track and set fast flying laps, but both had to settle for a place beneath Free Practice pacesetter Marcus Armstrong.

Despite them starting so strongly, Niko Kari continued his upward turn of form to snatch provisional pole from the grasp of PREMA, climbing ahead of them with a lap of 1:53.845. Shwartzman found another gear shortly after to leap to the peak of the times, just ahead of Armstrong and the Finn.

The cars dived into the pits for a freshen up ahead of the second stint and Kari returned in similarly determined fashion, once again going top thanks to a purple sector 2. This forced Shwartzman to find further pace once more and yet again he obliged, returning to P1 with a time of under 1m 53s.

Armstrong attempted to better his teammate, but a slight wobble lost him time and he could only manage second. Meanwhile, Kari looked to have given it all he had, as slow second and third sectors cost him.

When the checkered flag was waved, the two title challengers had one last shot at pole and went head-to-head. Daruvala crossed the line first and briefly took P1, but he was shunted to second when Shwartzman nailed the perfect lap, firing in three purple sectors.

The title challenger now holds a 37-point lead in the Championship with just 44 left to play for. He starts ahead of his main rival Daruvala tomorrow, followed by the third PREMA of Armstrong. Kari and Christian Lundgaard complete the top five, ahead of Jake Hughes, Pedro Piquet, Leonardo Pulcini, Jüri Vips and Max Fewtrell.

The enthralling title battle could come to a close tomorrow morning, when racing returns at 10.15am (local time).

Qualifying Results

POS

DRIVER

TEAM

TIME

LAPS

1

Robert Shwartzman

PREMA Racing

1:52.583

14

2

Jehan Daruvala

PREMA Racing

1:52.775

14

3

Marcus Armstrong

PREMA Racing

1:52.853

13

4

Niko Kari

Trident

1:53.191

12

5

Christian Lundgaard

ART Grand Prix

1:53.274

14

6

Jake Hughes

HWA RACELAB

1:53.340

12

7

Pedro Piquet

Trident

1:53.349

13

8

Leonardo Pulcini

Hitech Grand Prix

1:53.451

13

9

Juri Vips

Hitech Grand Prix

1:53.530

13

10

Max Fewtrell

ART Grand Prix

1:53.539

13

11

Felipe Drugovich

Carlin Buzz Racing

1:53.550

12

12

Logan Sargeant

Carlin Buzz Racing

1:53.643

12

13

Richard Verschoor

MP Motorsport

1:53.824

14

14

Bent Viscaal

HWA RACELAB

1:53.842

12

15

Raoul Hyman

Sauber Junior Team by Charouz

1:53.877

14

16

Devlin DeFrancesco

Trident

1:53.882

13

17

Yuki Tsunoda

Jenzer Motorsport

1:53.938

13

18

Ye Yifei

Hitech Grand Prix

1:53.943

13

19

Teppei Natori

Carlin Buzz Racing

1:54.001

12

20

Sebastian Fernandez

Campos Racing

1:54.046

12

21

Lirim Zendeli

Sauber Junior Team by Charouz

1:54.112

14

22

Fabio Scherer

Sauber Junior Team by Charouz

1:54.145

13

23

Liam Lawson

MP Motorsport

1:54.557

13

24

Simo Laaksonen

MP Motorsport

1:54.757

13

25

David Schumacher

Campos Racing

1:54.889

13

26

Andreas Estner

Jenzer Motorsport

1:54.912

13

27

Keyvan Andres

HWA RACELAB

1:55.068

11

28

Alessio Deledda

Campos Racing

1:56.251

12

29

Leong Hon Chio

Jenzer Motorsport

1:57.166

10

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