Season Review: BRDC British F3 – Ahmed’s Crowning Glory

by Connor Jackson

Without a doubt 2017 has seen Enaam Ahmed cement his name in the BRDC British F3 Championship history books. Over the year the London-born teenager recorded thirteen victories, one more than Ayrton Senna when he secured the British F3 title back in 1983.

Though unlike Senna, who spent the year battling with Martin Brundle (the pair won all but one race that year) Ahmed has left the competition in his wake.

Even prior the half way point, the question became ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ he would clinch the title.

Before the year started, Ahmed had won the BRDC British F3 Autumn Trophy with Carlin, giving him a few extra months of testing with the team. 2016’s third place man; Toby Sowery would also return, but it became clear at the opening round that Ahmed already had the upper hand.

Oulton Park saw many optimistic for the new year and with rookie Cameron Das on pole, the weekend looked open to anyone, as Sowery took the lead into the first corner. Ahmed would chase him until the closing stages when a brave move into Old Hall edged Sowery onto the grass and Ahmed into his first win of the year.

Little did we realise at the time, but this would be the start of Ahmed’s clean sweep of the weekend as a retirement for Sowery put him on the back foot. The Carlin’s asserted themselves as the team to beat, with Ahmed, James Pull and Das locking out the podium in the final race.

Ahmed showed his first sign of weakness at Rockingham, as Das took more poles and a triple podium while the leader was involved in an incident in race two. This would be the last of Ahmed’s misfortune though, as Snetterton graced him with yet more wins.

A poor weekend for Das saw Pull come into the frame, but all eyes would turn to Jordan Cane who won in only his second F3 race. The recently turned 16-year-old had quit Hillspeed by Cliff Dempsey Racing to join Callan O’Keeffe at Douglas Motorsport before his debut. It proved to be inspired, with Cane picking up three wins throughout the year.

Ben Hingeley (#77) had a solid second season, recording four wins, the second most, after Ahmed (Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography)

Sowery saw himself back towards the head of the field at Silverstone after his shocking opening round, but despite wins for himself and Ben Hingeley the pair seemed notably behind the Carlin’s in terms of raw pace.

Spa-Francorchamps was no different. Hingeley became the only driver to beat Ahmed after he’d qualified on pole position, as he started a second half crusade. The Carlin driver did not let his weekend slip though, putting in one of his finest fight-backs to win the reverse grid race from eighth.

The race itself would set a tone for James Pull. The then 17-year-old had failed to win a race all season and another second proved to be a tipping point as his title bid faltered yet further.

Brands Hatch and the return to Snetterton saw Ahmed take two double wins, though at Brands the star would arguably be Krishnaraaj Mahadik who surprised many by taking a win on his second race back in the series after Sowery was disqualified.

At Snetterton, only Sowery and Pull remained in the battle to beat Ahmed. Some poor results for Pull saw his chances wither, ensuring that as the final race rolled around, it would be Ahmed who sealed his championship with a win and one round to go.

Sadly the fight for the runners-up spot would also be virtually decided as Sowery left to pursue a Lamborghini Super Trofeo event. Pull easily secured himself as vice-champion, despite not winning a race all season, while a strong conclusion saw Hingeley get promoted above Sowery, with Das and O’Keeffe further back.

Enaam Ahmed celebrating his Championship win with James Pull (left) and his team (Credit: BRDC British F3)

Challengers

Having only finished fourth in last years F4 British Championship, many may not have expected Pull to be such a threat in 2017, but the Singaporean-born racer proved that he was just as deserving as the competition to fight for the title.

Minimal finances may hinder his progress in 2018, but had it not been for Ahmed, Pull’s consistency may have been a talking point from the season. Sadly he will likely be hindered that he finished 164 points adrift from a driver the same age and in the same car.

Hingeley meanwhile will probably be slightly more upbeat on his result, as one of only two non-Carlin’s to regularly challenge the leaders. Four wins puts him second to Ahmed, though a double retirement at Brands Hatch put pay to a chance at being vice-champion.

Elsewhere, he made an impact in EuroFormula Open, (more than F3 rival Das) and with a move to the GP3 Series potentially on the cards, looks set to further his career away from the UK.

Less can be said about Sowery this season. The Lanan Racing driver seemed dejected after he realised he’d lost the title in Snetterton and to drop a position on your return to a feeder series will never look good on the drivers CV.

In the long-term though, his one-off trip to China may be more beneficial than he realises. While his days in single-seaters seems numbered, a promising career could yet be opening up internationally.

Coming from the United States to a brand new environment was always going to be tough, but in only his second year of competition, Das could yet build a legacy for himself. Being present at the recent launch of the F3 Americas Championship car could be a sign of his future endeavours.

Cameron Das (#28) was Ahmed’s closest challenger at the start of the season, but fell away with two podiums in the second half (Credit: Nick Smith / TheImageTeam.com)

Very often the forgotten front-runners, the Douglas Motorsport team has once again been one step behind the leaders, though Cane’s rise to form will almost certainly make him 2018 title favourite should he come back for a second season.

As for his teammate O’Keeffe, his return to racing has hardly been as smooth as he would have liked; three podiums, bad luck and failing to beat a partner four years his junior may see the South African head towards LMP3 for next season.

A Field of Potential

Behind the top seven drivers, only a few made a serious impact, as a clear divide was present throughout 2017. One driver who did close this gap was Chase Owen, the American was the fields elder statesman, but a podium in the final event ensured he was the only midfield competitor to stay above Cane.

Elsewhere, one-off podiums for Omar Ismail and Jamie Chadwick, both in the same race, ensure they won’t end their season empty-handed. But much more was expected from both who already have a multitude of experience behind them, whether it be BRDC F4 or GT4.

Nicolai Kjaergaard‘s quiet season ended with a bang after being denied a maiden win as O’Keeffe crashed into him at Donington. Despite this he remained above Fortec Motorsport teammate Manuel Maldonado, who might find the hype around his family legacy reduce if he continues to struggle in 2018.

The success of Matheus Leist last season will arguably have been a driving force behind Guilherme Samaia‘s decision to switch from Brazilian F3 to British with Double R Racing, but other than two well deserved podiums, failed to challenge the top seven in any other race. A second season, in a Carlin, may be a different story if the Surrey team give him the chance.

Jordan Cane (#86) proved to be an unpolished diamond, becoming the series youngest ever winner despite missing the opening two rounds (Credit: Nick Smith / TheImageTeam.com)

Elsewhere, Jeremy Wahome will be disappointed with his second year, while Nick Worm and Aaron di Comberti both cut their seasons short. Harry Hayek could have made more of an impression, but being hospitalised after a crash in Snetterton practice will almost certainly see him move back to Australia.

A number of others would make one-off appearances, but only Mahadik, who not only collected a win, but was on pace with many of the challengers and Alex Quinn, would come away with any silverware, proving how difficult it was to simply enter and dominate.

There is little promise of an Autumn Trophy this season as talks fell through, ensuring all the teams will focus their efforts on the 2018 campaign, which could see a whole new generation of drivers.

Ahmed’s success ensures, he’s now one of the four finalists for the 2018 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award.

While 2018 may provide a different story, the records that Ahmed has set this season will likely last long into the future, as the year one man was untouchable.

Silverstone proved to be a bogey track for the Carlin’s, with the team failing to win as Toby Sowery (#51) saw the chequered flag twice (Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography)

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