Up to four teams could be missing from the entry list for the 2016 FIA European Formula 3 Championship season, with the record-breaking entry from 2015 looking likely to be significantly reduced this year.
Junior formulae stalwarts Fortec Motorsports, Double R Racing, Signature and Team West-Tec F3 are all struggling to attract drivers with budgets, and with the final entry date looming, this years grids could be as low as twenty cars, down from the high of thirty-six in 2016.
Fortec are possibly looking at switching their attention over to EuroFormula Open, where budgets are significantly lower, with team boss Richard Dutton not prepared to lay down the €21,000 entry fee per car if drivers are not forthcoming.
“We’re talking to drivers but there don’t seem to be any with a budget,” said Dutton to Autosport. “It’s thin out there: unless something happens over the weekend I’m not going to put in €21,000 per car for an entry.
“I think the FIA have overestimated the market – they seem to think there are a lot more drivers out there than there are.
“We’ve got two cars ready for FIA, but we’re looking at following Carlin and doing two in Euroformula Open, which you can do for virtually half the money, and we could convert them back for Macau.
“It’s really sad we can’t find drivers for FIA and we won’t quit F3 for sure, but we have to do whatever the market demands.”
West-Tec engineering chief Mick Kouros blames the current technical regulations for the decline in entries, with smaller teams unable to make use of the same development programmes as the teams with healthier budgets and wealthy investors.
“The grey areas within the FIA regulations have allowed aero developments to be exploited where the smaller teams can’t afford to compete,” said Kouros.
“Drivers are looking at other things where they feel they can be competitive, because in F3 they feel they can only drive for one of the big three.”
Double R Racing boss Anthony Hieatt has admitted his team have already turned its back on racing full-time in European Formula 3 in 2016 to focus on its MSA Formula and BRDC F4 campaigns, although he will still enter cars in the Masters of F3 at Zandvoort and in the Macau Grand Prix.
“I’ve switched off the Euro F3 programme now – MSA Formula and BRDC F4 is us,” said Hieatt. “I’m not interested in doing it on a wing and a prayer and making these billionaire boys look better.”