Joey Alders crowned 2020 F3 Asian Champion in dramatic season finale

· Dutch talent seals title in Thailand with race to spare

· Pinnacle Motorsport Jack Doohan suffers repeat of puncture heartbreak

· BlackArts Racing takes clean sweep of Driver, Team and Masters Classifications

BlackArts Racing’s Joey Alders of The Netherlands was crowned 2020 F3 Asian Champion after a dramatic season finale at the 4.554km Buriram International Circuit in Thailand today. The 20-year-old clinched the crown in the penultimate race of the season when title rival Jack Doohan of Pinnacle Motorsport retired with a puncture while leading from pole for the second time this weekend. The 17-year-old Red Bull Junior driver finished runner-up in the final standings, with Hitech Grand Prix’s Nikita Mazepin third.

The 2020 F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA title earns Alders 18 FIA super licence points, with Doohan taking 14 and Mazepin 12. With the top nine all earning super licence points, drivers who also pocket the potentially career-boosting credits are Absolute Racing’s Jamie Chadwick (10 points), Pinnacle Motorsport’s Pietro Fittipaldi (6), Yu Kanamaru of BlackArts Racing (4), Chadwick’s team mate Devlin DeFrancesco (3), Pinnacle’s Sebastian Fernandez (2), with Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai of China taking the final point.

It was a banner day for BlackArts Racing when Masters driver Thomas Luedi beat rival Paul Wong of Zen Motorsport in both races, winning the class title by 23 points. The China-based outfit also lifted the Team Classification title, beating Pinnacle Motorsport by 29 points and becoming the first Asian team to lift the crown while also taking a clean sweep of all three championships. Absolute Racing finished third in the Team standings ahead of Hitech Grand Prix.

First on the road in both Race 14 and 15 was guest driver and outgoing champion Ukyo Sasahara for Hitech Grand Prix, bidding farewell to the series in dominant style. Points classification winner in Race 14 was Chadwick, taking her first championship victory ahead of Alders and Fittipaldi. The win catapulted the W Series champion to fourth on the final classification leaderboard behind Mazepin. Fittipaldi was second over the line in the race, but later forfeit the points win after being handed a post-race penalty.

Race 15 saw consolation of sorts for Doohan as he took the points classification win from Chadwick, who also finished her season with a flourish and another podium finish, with newcomer Mikhael Belov of BlackArts Racing in third.

Race 14

Heading into the penultimate race of the season, Joey Alders knew he only had to finish third to clinch the title, even if rival and pole-sitter Jack Doohan won the race. Doohan made another superb getaway as the lights went out, soaring clear of the pack and pulling away. Ukyo Sasahara followed in the tracks of the Australian, but behind the pair was a frenzied jostling for position.

Pietro Fittipaldi got a sensational start from P5, as did Jamie Chadwick ahead of him on the second row, but the Brazilian was unstoppable, powering up into third at Turn 3 on the opening lap. Chadwick fought back, but Fittipaldi had the bit firmly between his teeth.

Now in fourth, Chadwick next came under pressure from fast-moving series newcomer Mikhael Belov, shod with fresh tires. Alders, meanwhile, had dropped down the order from P3 to sixth by the end of the opening lap, ahead of Yu Kanamaru and Tommy Smith.

Nikita Mazepin, who had lost a place off the start, recovered quickly, diving past first Smith and then Kanamaru to climb to seventh.

Fittipaldi, meanwhile, had closed the gap to Sasahara in second, getting in his slipstream and mounting a spirited attack on the Japanese driver. A lap later though, Chadwick was filling Fittipaldi’s mirrors. However, Belov also joined the fray in a close three-way battle, forcing Chadwick to defend and allowing Fittipaldi some breathing space.

Alders, meanwhile, remained down in sixth as Doohan pulled out a race lead of just under two seconds from Sasahara, who was now unchallenged in second ahead of Fittipaldi, with Belov was once again challenging Chadwick for fourth. The Russian made a bold move at Turn 4, going around the outside of Chadwick and powering through Turns 5 and 6 to make it stick and claim the position.

Belov next took the fight to Fittipaldi up ahead, diving up the inside of the Brazilian and into podium contention, an impressive run from his P7 starting position.

With four minutes remaining, Fittipaldi fought to reclaim third from Belov, while behind him, Chadwick now faced a challenge from Alders.

At the front though, there was high drama when disaster struck for Doohan for a second time, a puncture again halting the 17-year-old’s run to the flag. The Australian limped back to the pits, his championship hopes crushed.

After his sensational run, Belov too ran into trouble when he was handed a 10 second penalty, demoting him to fifth.

Sasahara took the flag, although ineligible to score points as a guest driver, followed across the line by Fittipaldi. However, the Brazilian was handed a post-race five second penalty for gaining an advantage when leaving and rejoining the track, demoting him to fourth on the time sheets and third in the points. Chadwick therefore took the points victory, her first of the season. After Doohan’s retirement, points for third were more than enough to secure Alders the title and his 11th podium finish in 14 races.

Belov classified fifth after his penalty, but had the satisfaction of having set the fastest lap of the race, ahead of Yu Kanamaru, Yu Kuai and Mazepin.

Thomas Luedi took the Masters win from Paul Wong, thereby strengthening his position at the top of the category leaderboard as the championship headed towards its final race of the season.

Race 15

There was disappointment for Fittipaldi before the season’s final race even got underway when he was sidelined in the pits from his P3 grid position. As the lights went out for the final time in the 2020 season though, Sasahara blasted away from pole and was never headed on his run to the flag.

Behind him, Chadwick made a good getaway from P2, but almost immediately came under fire from Doohan, who tore past her on the opening lap at Turn 4. Further down the order, meanwhile, Wong saw his Masters title aspirations evaporate when he spun at Turn 1. Although he was able to continue, his classification rival Luedi had gained an unassailable lead and headed off to the flag and the 2020 Masters title.

Belov was quickly on the move off the start and rapidly up to sixth from his P8 grid position behind Mazepin and Yu Kuai. As Sasahara and Doohan pulled away in front, Chadwick led a tightly-packed seven-car train, each driver waiting for their moment to climb up the order.

The first to make a move was Mazepin, who went up the inside of Yu Kuai but then ran wide, allowing the Chinese driver to reclaim fourth. Moments later though, Yu Kuai himself ran wide and Mazepin needed no second invitation, snatching fourth. Next it was Belov who filled Yu Kuai’s mirrors, the Russian and Tommy Smith both passing the Zen Motorsport driver, demoting him to seventh ahead of Yu Kanamaru and Alders. He eventually finished ninth.

The final minutes of the 15-lap race saw Belov close up and challenge Mazepin, the two Russian drivers locking horns. While Mazepin held on to fourth, he was handed a five second time penalty for driving standards which dropped him down to eighth in the final classification and saw Belov take a podium finish on his championship debut weekend.

Sasahara took the flag for the final time with the series, followed by Doohan and Chadwick. Fourth was Ku Kanamaru ahead of Smith and Alders. Fittipaldi was classified tenth after an heroic run from the back of the grid after his unscheduled pre-race pit stop.

Driver quotes – Race 14

Joey Alders (BlackArts Racing) – 3rd Race 14 and 2020 F3 Asian Champion
“Overall the season went very well. We had real consistency. Out of 14 races, we missed three podiums so had 11 podiums. We had a consistent season which I think is the key for a good championship. A big thanks to the BlackArts Racing team and the engineer. They did an amazing job giving me a good car for the whole season, and I’m really happy with that. It’s really fair racing. If I’m not mistaken, we didn’t have any first lap incidents and I don’t think many championships can say that. It’s really fun to drive this championship!”
Jamie Chadwick (Absolute Racing) – 3rd Race 14
“It was a busy race for me. We had good pace all the way through. I battled with Pietro for most of the race. I knew Belov had a new tire on so it was hard to keep him behind. Fortunately, he had a 10 second penalty, so that gave us a position, and then obviously Jack’s issue gave us another one. I’m a bit lucky but hopefully we can have a good afternoon and take a few more podiums.”

Driver quotes – Race 15

Jack Doohan (Pinnacle Motorsport) – winner Race 15
“The championship has definitely helped me [in my preparation for the FIA F3 Championship], particularly with tire management and qualifying strategies. Going forward, trying to get the redemption I didn’t get this title. It’s going to be tough but with HWA at my back I think we can do a good job next year. Obviously, the goal is to win the title, but I have plenty to thank the Asian F3 Championship that I’ve been able to gain a good foundation going forward into our new chapter.”

Jamie Chadwick (Absolute Racing) – 2nd Race 15
“Actually, it was a bit of a quiet race for once in the championship. I got a good start and slotted into P3. Jack got a better run than me into Turn 4 and managed to get past. We lacked a little bit of pace at the beginning of the race but managed to find our way and slot into third for the majority of the race. It’s been a good end to the year.”

Mikhael Belov (BlackArts Racing) – 3rd Race 15
“The target was just to finish top five. I used all the chances I could. My thanks to the team. The target was to save the tires to the end of the race, take the finish and score some points.”

Thomas Luedi (BlackArts Racing) – 2020 Masters Champion, class winner Races 14 and 15
“We started [Race 15] off well and then I saw Paul had spun on the first corner, so from then on we just tried to bring the car home. It’s been a wonderful season, my second in the F3 Asian Championship and we went to some amazing circuit. I think I learned a lot. My thanks to the team, BlackArts Racing. They’ve done an awesome job all year and it’s been really great!”