At the start of the year, the championship had looked like it would need to be hard-fought by Linus Lundqvist as the Swede lagged after the opening round. This would end up being in complete contradiction to the second half of the BRDC British F3 Championship campaign, when it soon became a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ for the eventual 2018 champion.
The man who had bettered him during that poignant opening round at Oulton Park; Nicolai Kjaergaard, would eventually hit back at Donington Park, cutting the lead by 66 points during a dire round in which Lundqvist should have wrapped up the title.
Of course, this was only the final stage in a season-long battle that had begun with the pair battling for the win during the opening race of the year.
The Oulton Park weekend was best known for Billy Monger’s first podium of the year during in his first return to single-seaters since his accident last year, in which he lost part of both his legs. The drive to third and reaction of the crowd as he stood on the podium would come to define the 19-year-olds season.
Away from the spotlight, another Carlin driver; Kjaergaard would hit back in the third race to take a temporary championship lead that was soon lost after the opening Rockingham race later that month. His fight back up to second from near the back, past Lundqvist gave him momentum, but another crash at Snetterton again dropped him valuable points.
After the first three rounds, the Dane had only finished one race outside the top two, compared to Lundqvist’s three, but the Swede’s three victories to Kjaergaard’s two and the fact the Double R Racing driver hadn’t retired from a single race gave him a healthy 30 point gap.
Lundqvist had not just been battling with Kjaergaard though, as Kush Maini had quickly developed into a championship contender. A podium in the opening round quickly gave the Indian confidence and a maiden win soon followed. It would make up a three race-string in which the three locked out podium spaces.
When Kjaergaard’s form dipped by Silverstone, Maini seemed the most likely to continue the fight to Lundqvist, but likely frustrated by only the singular win, had also dropped the ball by Spa-Francorchamps.
This gap at the top allowed Tom Gamble to thrive. The Brit had already secured a maiden win at Rockingham, but a run of four podiums in five races ensured four names were now prominent atop the table.
Lundqvist failed to win a race at Brands, the first time he’d failed to secure a win at a round all season, but worse was to come when multiple engine changes and a first lap crash, destroyed his Donington weekend. Kjaergaard had used the opportunity to narrow the gap by over a half, but a return to form from the Swede saw him win the opening race at Silverstone as the Carlin driver once again failed to make it to the finish.
A nullified rest of the weekend meant Lundqvist would secure not just the title, but also the Sunoco Whelen Challenge, earning him a drive in the Rolex 24 next month, having already taken part in the recent GP3 Series test.
As for Kjaergaard, his fortunes look less clear as the Infinity Sports Management driver will likely assess a move to Europe next season.
Maini eventually hung on to third, despite a troubled second half, as fellow Indian driver Krishnaraaj Mahadik would claim fourth in the series. Mahadik burst onto the scene last year with a win in his debut weekend, but endured a much quieter first half the year.
While Maini had scored all but one of his podiums before the Summer Silverstone round, Mahadik scored all but one of his after. The Double R Racing driver benefitted from the success of teammate Lundqvist and ended the season just eight points behind; though unlike Maini, would not score a win.
Gamble ended the calendar year with two wins and although lost the battle for third, would still pick up the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award earlier this month. The Fortec Motorsports driver had been a team leader for much of the season, despite it being the Ginetta Junior drivers first year in single-seaters. An impressive accomplishment for a driver who proved to Lundqvist’s (now in his fourth year of open wheel racing) equal at Silverstone.
After the hype that had surrounded his maiden podium, Monger soon settled into a much quieter season, again seeing silverware at Spa, Donington and the Silverstone Final. His third at Donington proved to be bittersweet after a pole position on Saturday was squandered in the opening race after a mistake at the chicane.
Of course, Monger was not the only name in the paddock linked with the Formula 1 paddock; Manuel Maldonado soon became a reverse grid specialist, winning in two of the first three events. He recently spent the post-season F3 test driving for Carlin, but the Venezuelan, cousin of F1 race winner Pastor, will have to shine if he’s to prove himself in a third season.
Rounding out the top eight in the championship would be another race winner, Jamie Chadwick, who became the first female to win a British F3 race. A sublime drive at Brands saw her drive around the outside and break away from the rest of the pack, taking the win as Pavan Ravishankar (already a reverse grid winner) was penalised for a jump-start.
Elsewhere, Jamie Caroline rekindled his British F4 rivalry with Lundqvist in the latter half as he was handed the car in replacement of Clement Novalak. The 2017 F4 champion quickly recorded two wins and two further podiums over the three rounds he was given in the car.
Along with Kjaergaard and Sun Yue Yang, that made three Carlin winners over the season, with the team recording victories at 1/3 of all the races.
While Ayrton Simmons, Cian Carey and Hampus Ericsson all made guest appearances towards the end of the season, Jordan Cane found himself without a drive by the midway point.
The 17-year-old had only been called up last-minute after Alexandra Mohnhaupt’s spot at the Douglas Motorsport team was made available. Unfortunately, an accident in the second race, put him in bandages and ended his weekend early. Just before the second round at Rockingham, it had been confirmed he would stay for the season, picking up two podiums by Silverstone, ensuring he was fifth in the championship.
This would prove to be his last outing though, as a frustration and a lack of budget saw him end not just his season, but racing career early after an emotional post on social media.
Sasakorn Chaimongkol and Tristan Charpentier would pick up a two podium places each over the year, as Josuf Owega proved to be consistent during his first year of single-seaters. Meanwhile Joshua Mason ended the year with a win after the reverse grid race was red flagged after two laps, due to intense rain that eventually called off the rest of the weekend.
The Tatuus-Cosworth will continue to be used for next season, as the series enters the winter in limbo about its licence to use the “Formula 3” name ends at the end of the year.
With two drivers already signed for next season and the face of F3 entering a new era in Europe, the British series could yet remain one of the strongest junior series in Europe.