Carlin have been a dominant force in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship in recent years, and have new honours to fight for this season.
Winning three of the last four Drivers’ titles with Enaam Ahmed, Clément Novalak and Kaylen Frederick, the Farnham team is arguably the best-placed to take the new Teams’ Championship.
Hitech GP pushed Carlin all the way last season, with Frederick only securing the Drivers’ title ahead of Kush Maini in the penultimate race at Silverstone.
The new standings are determined by each team’s best two results from each race, thus not disadvantaging two-car entries such as new entrants Arden Motorsport.
They got off to a near-perfect start at the 2021 season opener at Brands Hatch GP, leaving Kent with the lead in both championships.
O’Sullivan bounces back quickly
Zak O’Sullivan leads the Drivers’ Championship after the first of eight triple-headers this season.
In taking a third-place, a maiden win, and producing an impressive drive from 17th to seventh in the reverse-grid Race 3, the 16-year-old has seen his name writ large at the top of the table.
He’s four points ahead of part-time entry Ollie Bearman (Fortec Motorsports), and 17 ahead of second-placed Hitech’s second-year driver, Reece Ushijima.
He finished his Ginetta Junior season over 150 points ahead of the next rookie, 2020 British F4 title rival Casper Stevenson, missing out on the F4 title by four points to Luke Browning.
He, perhaps more than most, will be desperate to make amends this year.
He said of his first weekend in British F3: “Qualifying gave us a good start to the weekend and even though I didn’t have the best start in race one, I was still able to get the podium…
“The full reverse-grid race three was a bit exciting! I didn’t want to be too risky but there were a few gaps I went for and was then up to seventh from 17th.
“Overall a really good start to the year.”
Mansell Mania back at Brands
Australian Christian Mansell might be no relation to 1992 Formula One World Champion Nigel, but had plenty of reason to revive ‘#MansellMania’ on Twitter throughout the weekend.
His World Champion namesake won at the Kent circuit in 1985 and 1986, and not to be outdone, Carlin’s #21 took Race 3 honours in stunning style.
He moved from seventh to first by the bottom of Paddock Hill as Reema Juffali and Max Marzorati tangled, and, aided by two safety cars, he would not relinquish the lead to leave Brands Hatch fourth in the standings.
Race 1 and 2 brought 24 points after starting 13th in both, a decent points haul after two races which saw him gain places to eighth and tenth respectively.
“That start was just something else and I honestly don’t think I could have asked for more from that race,” he said afterwards.
“We had safety cars but everything just went our way out there.
“It’s just a surreal experience to be winning races already and I couldn’t be any happier really.”
Aron steadily improving
An American driver in a blue and fluorescent yellow Carlin took the title last season, and but for number and helmet, the set-up is the same in 2021.
Whether Bryce Aron can deliver the punchline remains to be seen over the remaining 21 races, but he showed clear progress throughout the weekend at Brands Hatch.
Qualifying 13th for Race 1 and 12th for Race 2 made things difficult, but he improved both times, to take tenth and ninth-place finishes before the reverse-grid shook things up on Sunday afternoon.
The rule change to base the reverse-grid on qualifying for this year proved to be a blessing for Aron, who started eighth and profited from the retirements of Juffali and Marzorati ahead of him to take fourth place in Race 3, just two tenths behind Dexter Patterson (Douglas Motorsport).
He was positive about the progress he made over the three days from testing on Friday to the final race on Sunday.
“I’m really happy with how we’ve progressed – I want to say thanks to the team and my engineer Jimmy for everything we’ve done this weekend,” he said.
“I struggled at he start of that final race but I was able to make positions around the outside where I could.
“Unfortunately, we just missed out on the podium, but I’m still so pleased with the result.”