With the 2017 BRDC British F3 Championship fast approaching, thecheckeredflag.co.uk looks ahead to the second season under the F3 regulations and the fifth season of the BRDC format.
Last years championship saw a titanic battle between Ricky Collard and Matheus Leist in the closing rounds, culminating in a dramatic crash from the points leader, effectively handing the title to Leist going into the final day.
The quality of the drivers does not appear to have dropped as two of the top five return for another shot at the title. Enaam Ahmed had his eye on a second season since the tail end of 2016 and with the BRDC F3 Autumn Trophy behind him, will go into the season as title favourite.
Ahmed will be helped by the fact he’s had an entire winter of testing with the Carlin team, though may have his work cut out beating recently announced Toby Sowery.
The Lanan Racing driver was unable to move up and will return to the team that helped him collect five victories over the course of last season, more than any other driver.
The pair is unlikely to have it all their own way though, with Ben Hingeley returning with the Fortec Motorsport team. The former Formula Jedi champion made great strides at the end of 2016, picking up two podiums and a pole in the final two events. He also left the recent Media Day as the fastest competitor.
Completing the drivers who have raced in the series before, are; Chris Dittmann Racing‘s stalwarts Omar Ismail and Jeremy Wahome, as well as James Pull and Cameron Das of the Carlin team. The latter comes into the season as the reigning US F4 Champion and three races in the Autumn Trophy at Snetterton.
Das though will not be the only American as Chase Owen heads the re-branded Hillspeed by Cliff Dempsey Racing squad. The Formula Ford outfit brings along some of their own talent, filling out the three cars with Nick Worm and Jordan Cane, who will compete when he turns 16 in May.
In total eleven of the nineteen competitors will be from overseas, proving the international appeal of the F3 Light series in direct competition with Formula Renault, EuroFormula Open and FIA European F3.
While they may not hail from the UK, some of the names will be familiar to the British audience though, with Douglas Motorsport signing Callan O’Keeffe and Petru Florescu.
Florescu will commit to EuroFormula Open, though will run a partial campaign in the series, similar to Lando Norris last season, while O’Keeffe returns to full-time racing and will be an outside title contender, after twice finishing seventh overall in Formula Renault.
Hingeley meanwhile is by no way the only Fortec driver as he’s joined by FIA Formula 4 graduates Nicolai Kjaergaard, from the British series and Manuel Maldonado from the Italian.
Maldonado, nephew of the ex-Formula 1 driver Pastor Maldonado will have a lot of expectations on his shoulders after failing to pick up points in Italian F4.
Quality over Quantity
Meanwhile, Chris Dittmann Racing announced the signing of French F4 race winner Tristan Charpentier in the past 24 hours, along with Guilherme Samaia in the Double R Racing team.
As the defending drivers champions, pressure will be on Formula 3 Brazil race winner Samaia to follow in Leist’s footsteps. First though, he’ll have to beat his team mates Harry Hayek and Jamie Chadwick.
Chadwick, the 2015 British GT (GT4) champion has taken an unusual direction for her career, as she begins a potential two-year journey in the category. Her pedigree will mount the pressure on the 18-year-old, though testing has shown that she may not be winning the series in her first season.
Completing the list of announced drivers will be Aaron di Comberti, joining Sowery in the Lanan team. Like a few other graduates, results may be hard to come by, but the team may yet bring a driver to fill the third car at the half way point.
Sadly though, two teams did not announce any drivers for the current season. After getting two of their drivers on the podium in the last race last season, Sean Walkinshaw Racing has not made an appearance during testing, just like P1 Sport.
P1 bought their cars off the outgoing HHC Motorsport, though have made little in roads during the last few months. Despite not signing any driver, the team has pre-reserved a tent at Oulton Park.
With 19 drivers announced, the field has dropped only one competitor from the opening round last year, ensuring the fans will be in for another quality season over the championship’s eight rounds.