FIA Formula 3 Championship competitor Johnathan Hoggard ends his campaign on a high at the Sochi Autodrom in Russia
Johnathan Hoggard followed up his most impressive qualifying performance of the FIA Formula 3 Championship season with his joint-best race result as the campaign came to a close at the Sochi Autodrom in Russia at the weekend.
With the championship organisers making a late change to the schedule, opting to race closer to Europe than the planned finale in the United States, there was little time to prepare for the weekend, meaning the 20-year-old from Weston Hills used the single practice session to learn the track and where best to position his car.
Heading into qualifying he drove superbly in his Travel Planet-backed Jenzer Motorsport machine, finishing third quickest and a mere 0.039s from the car ahead, only 0.173s from pole position, and 18 places higher than his closest team-mate.
Hoggard said: “It was a good weekend. Practice was what it was, it was about learning the track and then we went into qualifying just trying to focus on improving with the new tyres.
“It was an amazing qualifying session to do so well and to get third in the end because it wasn’t even that far away from first.
“Even on the first run when I was eighth I was looking down the timing board because there was one of the TV screens in front, and I was like ‘oh it’s another terrible qualifying, I’m not even in the top 20,’ and I looked up and was ‘oh, I’m eighth’.
“For the last run the time was quite similar to what I had done in practice, so I thought it wasn’t going to be that good, but I looked at the times and I was second at that point.
“I thought maybe on a second push lap the front-runners were going to go a lot quicker, but they didn’t.”
For the opening race of the weekend, which was brought forward at late notice owing to the poor weather forecasted for the Saturday, Hoggard lined up 10th on the grid with the top 12 qualifiers reversed, but he slipped back a few places during the early stages of the 20-lap contest.
Fighting back to 12th spot, he then decided to hold position knowing it would give him pole position for race two, where the top 12 finishers are reversed.
Sadly, he didn’t get to start from the head of the field as the second race was eventually cancelled due to the amount of rain which had been falling at the venue, leaving him just one final contest, where he would start from his third-place qualifying position.
Hoggard explained: “At the start of the first race I had a couple of mistakes which cost me some places but then I got to back to 12th.
“I knew about the reverse grid for race two, so I didn’t really want to make up or lose any places. I managed it accordingly and finished 12th but it was a shame that race two was cancelled as I was meant to be on pole.
“It was dry for the F2 race on Saturday, but it was frustrating because we sat there waiting to go and never ended up racing. I think what made it worse was I was going to start on pole.”
Getting a good start in the third race, Hoggard held third position but driving with awareness and maturity, realised the drivers behind him were much faster.
Not wanting to risk a non-finish, he decided not to fight too strenuously to hold his position, knowing a strong finish was better than ending off track, eventually coming home sixth and equalling his performance at Spa-Francorchamps in August.
Hoggard added: “I started third for the final race of the season. I got a good start and first couple of laps, but I could see that the drivers behind me were quicker, so I didn’t really want to fight and lose time because we had a bit of a gap.
“I let them pass and tried to minimise how much time I was losing being overtaken, because I was struggling quite a bit with the pace.
“It was just the people we were around. It’s not the reverse grid race, so we were around the championship leaders, and I think our car was quite good on one lap pace, but over race distance it got worse and worse.
“I was struggling to keep the pace consistent lap after lap. In qualifying, maybe you could do a slower lap and then have a good next lap, but you can’t afford that in the race, you just have to keep a minimum pace and unfortunately theirs was a lot higher than mine.”
Joining the FIA Formula 3 Championship after the first rounds in France and having missed the pre-season test, the BRDC SuperStar performed well despite having raced at just one of the five remaining venues.
His results improved week on week and, after his first weekend in the car, outperformed both of his team-mates - the main benchmark a racer can have.
Hoggard said: “The season has gone really quickly, to be honest and it’s a bit of a shame that it’s finished so early.
“I think it has been a good experience with the team and learning everything. It was quite nice to visit to all the tracks that I haven’t been to before and race in Europe for the first time.
“I have to say a big thank you to Travel Planet and Jenzer Motorsport for the incredible opportunity, to the BRDC for their guidance through the SuperStar programme, and Motorsport UK for helping me as part of Team UK. I really appreciate everyone’s support.”
Hoggard will now enjoy some time at home with his family before preparing himself for the 2022 season.