When Jonathan Palmer announced that his precious BRDC series would be upgraded to “Formula 3” status, there wasn’t too many surprised faces, especially since the ‘Formula 4’ name now seemed out of place and it was time it embraced a new beginning.
Now fully re-branded as the BRDC British F3 Championship, the quality has gone from strength to strength with 20 drivers competing in this weekends Silverstone round, once again, cementing its success.
As for the car, it’s now faster and more powerful; There will be some that would argue for future change, but for the time being it creates a logical and cost effective alternative to racing in the European Formula 3 Championship. Whether it can ever mount a serious challenge to it and the Formula Renault alternative will be up to the MSV, FIA and Palmer himself.
Despite a slow start to the season, Ricky Collard proved to be one of the most consistent front runners, a trait he’s taken from his MSA Formula campaign last season. The Carlin driver has lead their run for the title picking up 3 victories so far this season building up a 37 point buffer to the competition.
While Collard will be looking for revenge on his missed title opportunity last year, another driver who will be determined not to finish second is Thomas Randle.
The Australian, who finished runner up in his home nations’ Formula 4 championship, knows that this will be a make or break year for him as he looks to move up to the international series. He’s had a strong season so far including a eight race run of top five finishes.
Collard knows that this may be his best chance at a title, but with all of his rivals having had at least one bad weekend, the BMW backed driver will need to avoid any bad luck as the season enters its second half.
Whether you consider BRDC British F3 a true promotion from the FIA’s British based F4 series, the drivers certainly believe so, with 6 of the top 7 competing in MSA Formula last season it’s proven a real opportunity for the forgotten front runners.
The first round of the season, at Snetterton, proved to be a coming of age weekend for Enaam Ahmed. The Douglas Motorsport driver picked up a triple podium as he beat even the the highly regarded Lando Norris.
Since his impressive start, Ahmed has struggled to keep form and will be looking to get his championship challenge back on track. He narrowly (0.171s) missed out on victory at Oulton Park and has now fallen 82 points off Collard, but there still me be time to catch up if he can put in a consistent second half of the season.
Much like his 2015 championship campaign, Matheus Leist could become an outside contender, the Brazilian has received minimal attention recently but has a real opportunity to prove he’s still a future star. Sitting only two points behind him in the standings is Toby Sowery.
While the former MSV F3 Champion is used to success, this will be first full season he’ll be against such highly rated competition. The pressure will be on the 19 year old to perform as he knows a title could see him get an elusive drive in a higher series, something the young Brit has been unable to land until now.
With Norris only doing part of the season, it’s likely that we could see a four way championship fight with four teams and three different nationalities. Collard and Randle will not want the disgrace of finishing as runner up for a second year in a row, while Sowery will look to become the first British driver to claim two different F3 crowns. Leist meanwhile, cannot afford to spend another year chasing opportunities.
Three drivers sit just behind the front runners, gradually picking up points and improving as the year goes on. Jan Jonck spent much of 2015 at the back of the ADAC F4 grid and as a result expectations were low of the Dane. Since then, Jonck has continued to record strong finishes becoming a regular in the midfield and a natural qualifier.
He isn’t the only SWR driver to catch the attention of the paddock, with team leader Thomas Maxwell continuing to prove that consistency is key in a championship which heavily punishes retirements.
Enzo Bortoleto‘s Brands Hatch podium was dismissed by many on account of him starting from reverse pole, but at Oulton Park the Brazilian proved he was genuinely there on merit. His crash at Rockingham may have been his low point of the season, but that plus Ameya Vaidyanathan‘s crash have proven the safety of the new Tatuus-Cosworth machines.
As the season has progressed, some drivers appear to have dropped the ball, with Aleksanteri Huovinen and South African Sisa Ngebulana unable to repeat their results from the opening round. Both remain highly rated though and podiums could be on the horizon for the two internationals.
Going into Silverstone, many fans will be happy to see Norris back in the British F3 car, with Colton Herta once again stepping to the side. He won’t be the only change in the paddock though, as Vaidyanathan pulls out on doctors orders.
Elsewhere, Harrison Scott jumps into the empty HHC Motorsport car, hoping to develop his skills on home turf before he heads back to the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Series. Testing this morning has already proven that he has the ability to take on the Carlin duo and their rivals, but it’ll be the results of Norris and Scott that could decide the championship for the rest of the competition.