British Formula Three kicks off its new-look 10-event, 30-race calendar this weekend with a visit to Oulton Park, and series organisers are bullish about this being one of the best years yet for the championship.
Mindful of the role now being played in Formula One by 2008 and 2009 champions Jaime Alguersuari and Daniel Ricciardo – and alert to the competition from the new GP3 championship – the series is keen to promote itself as the fast lane to the top.
Races will be held at Spa, Hockenheim, Magny-Cours and Silverstone, with the deliberate aim of giving young hopefuls experience of grand prix venues, and the increase from two races a weekend to three is intended to offer more seat time and greater value for money.
With race finance as tight as ever, some faces from last season – such as rookie of the year Riki Christodoulou and race-winner Wayne Boyd – are missing from the season-opening entry list.
But organisers are more than pleased with the names they have secured, claiming: “Talented drivers are flocking to British F3 from South America and Asia, as well as from closer to home, because it provides the best grounding and experience that money can buy for a young track star.”
The new format will see races of 30, 20 and 40 minutes, with a partially-reverse grid for the second one. Only two sets of dry-weather tyres will be allowed per meeting so, with the final race being the longest, pure speed alone will not be enough.
Stephane Ratel, chairman of series promoter SRO Motorsports, predicted: “With 30 races and a bold new format, Cooper Tyres British F3 is on the threshold of a superbly exciting season. The teams are to be congratulated on their efforts in assembling such an impressive entry. It bodes well for the continuing growth and stability of British F3.”
Favourites are likely to be Carlin – by sheer force of numbers if for no other reason, as they have six entries in the field. Jean-Eric Vergne is tipped by many for the title, but he will be pressed hard by team-mates Adriano Buzaid and James Calado.
The latter is funded by the Racing Steps Foundation, which has taken Oliver Turvey all the way to GP2, and he is joined at Carlin by fellow Brit Rupert Svendsen-Cook.
Fortec are fielding an all-British line-up, with last year’s British F3 National champion Daniel McKenzie partnering Oli Webb.
At Hitech Northern Ireland’s William Buller, a member of the MSA’s Team UK, races alongside Gabriel Dias, while Alex Brundle moves across from Formula Two to drive for T-Sport. Jay Bridger and Hywel Lloyd both return to the series, for Litespeed and CF Racing/Manor respectively.
Raikkonen Robertson Racing are entering three cars, driven by Columbia’s Carlos Huertas, Brazilian Felipe Nasr and Daisuke Nakajima, brother of ex-F1 driver Kazuki.
The national class so far has just two confirmed drivers, British pairing James Cole and Menasheh Idafar of T-Sport. A possible third car may come from Team West-Tec.