The springtime Italian weather affected more than just Formula One as the Williams Driver Academy also raced at Imola in Formula 2 and 3 last weekend. Despite the tricky conditions, there were pole positions, race leads, and points scored for every one of our drivers.
Closer to home in the East Midlands, the newest member of the Williams Driver Academy, Ollie Gray, took to Donington Park in British Formula 4. Ollie’s first weekend as a member of the Williams family saw him leave the popular circuit with two trophies in a stellar debut for his new team Carlin.
Despite limited running in a red flag heavy Free Practice, Roy Nissany's experience shone through on a wet Friday when he took a terrific P6 in Qualifying during the late stages of the session. Roy’s impressive qualifying lap meant he started the Sprint Race in fifth.
Saturday's dry conditions helped Roy leap off the third row and into P4. He briefly battled F3 champion Dennis Hauger for P3 out of Tamburello before slotting in behind the Norwegian at the Villeneuve chicane.
Roy drove excellently to manage his single set of Pirellis through the race and extended a gap to those running behind. As the laps ticked down, the Israeli used his remaining tyre grip to close in on Hauger ahead. But Roy ran out of time before he could pass, finishing just 0.5s off a podium place.
Sensational starts were a regular feature for the DAMS No16 at Imola, and his rocket off the line in the Feature Race almost defied belief. Roy jumped up from P6 to battle Ralph Boschung for the lead into Turn 1 before swooping around the outside of the Swiss driver to snatch first place.
Two early safety cars allowed Roy to make his mandatory pit stop without losing time, and he re-emerged in 10th, but with all those ahead of him needing to stop.
Unfortunately, he drifted wide on the exit of the final Rivazza corner, and his collision into the wall ended his race prematurely.
Nevertheless, his Saturday points haul does mean Roy has grabbed points this season in three out of three rounds.
Roy pictured in Bahrain where he secured hard-earned P8 in March’s season opener
Logan Sargeant's Imola weekend didn't get off to the best of starts, as his spin on the wet track left him without the chance to set a practice lap, thanks to three red flags. Logan proved his adaptability, however, by storming to the reverse grid pole thanks to a qualifying performance that had him finish P10.
Logan's getaway from the front row wasn't quite so strong, and he slipped down to P5 before the first corner. However, the American soaked up pressure from quick drivers behind him throughout the race to only drop behind championship leader Felipe Drugovich in the final laps.
The Florida native fared better in Sunday's Feature Race with a clean start that had him keep his P10 position. Polesitter Juri Vips crashed out on the sixth lap to promote Logan to ninth, and his pit stop in the resulting safety car period meant he sat in P13 but with medium tyres that would last the race duration.
As the laps ticked by, the impressive pace from the 21-year-old had him on the tail of P6, which would become third place once the frontrunners had pitted. Then, with DRS assistance, Logan surged down the pit straight to claim the position.
Unfortunately, the Williams Academy Driver ran wide later that lap at the Variante Alta to fall back, but still managed to finish the race in a respectable P7.
Logan fought hard in Imola to claim a P7 finish
Formula 3's qualifying took place on a drying Imola track, and lap times improved as the session progressed. Zak O’Sullivan showed pace when the circuit was wettest early on, but his time was only good for 21st as a dry line emerged. However, O'Sullivan surged to P2 as the clock ticked down before finishing the session in P8. Unfortunately, a post-qualifying penalty had the teenager fall just outside the top 10 to start both races in P11.
A great first lap in Saturday's Sprint Race had Zak up four places in P7 and battling his way up through the field. However, after fighting for points-paying positions, Zak's day ended in the barriers after skidding across the gravel at the first Rivazza.
Sunday saw a wet track surface but blue skies for the Feature Race. O'Sullivan and his Carlin team hoped any rain would hold off and started the race on dry tyres. It wasn't certain that the decision would pay off as he dropped down to P13 in the low-grip conditions. But Zak managed to keep the car on the road as others didn't, and he was soon in 10th place on a rapidly drying circuit.
As the race leaders and podium contenders lost their cool and spun out or crashed, the sole Williams Academy driver in F3 stayed calm to cross the line in P7. After Oliver Bearman received a post-race penalty, Zak was promoted to P6 to grab his first Feature Race points of the championship.
Zak pictured arriving at the Williams Driver Academy pre-season camp with Logan
Although it was a first race weekend wearing Williams colours, Ollie Gray is no stranger to British F4 after contesting the championship in 2021, finishing in P7.
At the competition’s season opener at Donington Park, Ollie was right at home at new team Carlin and put the lessons learned at Grove to good use, setting qualifying times that saw him start Race 1 and Race 3 on the second row in P4.
Ollie’s teammate and fellow F1 Academy Junior, McLaren's Ugo Ugochukwu, started Race 1 from pole position but would fall behind Gray off the line while Ollie jumped to P2. As race leader Alex Dunne opened a gap, the two Carlin drivers kept each other occupied as Ugochukwu looked to get back ahead. Ollie made sure to keep his new teammate in his rearview mirrors and crossed the line in P2.
Race 2 had the top ten qualifiers reversed, putting Ollie in P7 and very much amongst the midfield. Although he improved to sixth place, hopes of climbing the order fell flat after a tangle with Aiden Neate at Redgate ended Ollie and Neate’s race. The stewards deemed it a racing incident – something our Driver Academy member agreed was fair.
It was back to the second row for Race 3, where fourth-placed Ollie had teammate Ugochukwu for company. But, again, Gray was the better starting Carlin and took P3 initially while Ugo slipped down the order. Then, as with Race 1, Ollie’s pace meant he comfortably held off any challengers and went on to take his second trophy of the weekend, leaving him P2 in the championship.
Formula 2 and Formula 3 will return to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix weekend from 20-22 May.
Ollie Gray is back in action with British F4 at Brand Hatch's Indy Circuit from 14-15 May.
Ollie is the latest addition to our exciting Driver Academy. Get to know him a little better as he answers 22 Questions (below)
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