Zane's Blog #1 - A tricky trip to a welcome podium



Zane enjoyed the best weekend of his first FIA Formula 3 season in round six at the Hungaroring in Budapest. Only 14th when a red flag stopped Qualifying just minutes before the end, he then made the best of an extra three minutes to leap up to second. He went on to score points in both races for the first time, finishing 10th in Saturday’s Sprint Race, his weekend crowned with second place in the Feature Race, his first podium of the season. Here’s Zane take on things:

Yeah, Budapest was very tricky. I was P2 in practice on Friday with a bit of traffic as well, so it was looking good and we had the pace straight away. In Qualifying, we have three runs and two sets of new tyres. On the first run, I was second of the old tyre runners which was very good. And then the second run, on new tyres, was a very good lap other than one corner, I had a missed upshift and lost three to four-tenths, so that's why I was down in 14th. Then with the red flag, it was very nerve wracking, but as soon as we were able to go back out, I knew that the pace was there. I was still very nervous, but I was able to get good lap in, not a perfect lap, not as good as a lot of the laps I did for the weekend, but it was good enough for second, which I was very happy about.

In the Sprint Race, it was very wet, so it was just about bringing it home and I was able to score one point, which of course wasn't ideal, but still it was a decent race, with decent pace.

For the Feature Race, its about getting a good start, seeing what we can do at the start and then having a good race from there. And I had a good start, but I got pushed a bit wide on the exit of turn one, which meant I couldn't get the lead; after that I just had to kind of hold on to second. The tyres were finished at the end, the wet tyres, because the track had really dried out. It was very difficult to keep the tyres going, but we were able to hold on and finish second. It was a close finish for second, but I knew that I would always be able to get it because the situation was very difficult with the tyres.

Towards the end of the race in Budapest, Zak O’Sullivan was carving his way through the field, having switched to dry tyres, and finished fourth. Looking after tyres is clearly important, but also deciding when to switch from wets to dries is, too. Would Zane have considered that?

In F3, the tyres are very difficult to keep alive in general during the race and especially with wets on a drying track, it was even more difficult. So yeah, they were really going off at the end. There were the slick runners who boxed for slicks and came back towards us at the end of the race, but when you're in P17/P18 it's not a big risk to do that, so that's why they did it. Whereas anyone in the top five, it would not be too clever to take that risk. So it's hard to say: obviously, if I had boxed I would have won the race by 30 seconds or so, but when you're second, it's too risky to do, especially in F3 where there's not meant to be pit stops. If the team had really thought we should have done it, they would have called me in. But to be honest, running in second, if they called me in, I'm not sure if I would have stopped unless I knew all the information. So yeah, I think in the end the wet runners did the best thing. The ones that were further up, but of course it was quite tricky at the end to keep the slick guys from coming back when they had so much more pace.

Earlier in July, Zane had raced at the British GP at Silverstone, where he had previously seen action on his way to the British F4 title in 2019. After two years of Covid restrictions, British fans were keen to be trackside again, so the crowd was massive. Zane’s thoughts on the meeting:

Yeah, the crowd was crazy at the British GP. On Friday, it took us an hour and a half to get out of the circuit and that was pretty much the same coming to the circuit and leaving every day. It wasn't the biggest crowd I've ever raced in front of, I think Imola was probably the craziest crowd with obviously everyone in Italy supporting Ferrari, whereas in England they don’t just support one team as there's many teams from England. So yeah, it's a bit different but the crowds were still crazy and they also knew a lot about F3 and F2 and not just F1. So that was really cool.

Zane has often said F3 is crazy. With 30-car entries, there’s enormous scope for problems finding a clear track in Qualifying, then keeping out of trouble in the races. How does the team plan for that?

With the 30 cars, it is almost impossible to get a perfectly clear lap in Practice, in Qualifying. You have to rely on the team a lot to help you with that stuff, because of course we can only see probably 100 metres ahead and 100 metres behind, so we just focus on the driving. Luckily, my team manager Giacomo is amazing at dealing with the strategy, so he guides us on that. And he's gotten it perfect every session so far this year. So hopefully that continues, he's really amazing at that, so we're able to get as clear a lap as possible on the track with 30 cars. 

The end of the season for Zane will be a big ask – back-to-back weekends at the Belgian, Dutch and Italian GPs, starting on August 26-28. Look out for some more in-depth background towards the end of this month.