Formula 3

PREVIEW: FIA Formula 3 Championship – Silverstone

4 Mins read
Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited

Victor Martins arrives at Silverstone with a six-point lead in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, though four drivers celebrate their home race this weekend.

Three of those are Formula 1 junior drivers, Trident‘s returning Jonny Edgar at Red Bull, Oliver Bearman at Prema Racing is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and GB3 champion Zak O’Sullivan is a Williams Academy Driver.

Japanese-American Reece Ushijima is racing under the British flag in F3 this season, and took his first points with Van Amersfoort Racing in Barcelona.

Bearman, O’Sullivan and Ushijima all went wheel-to-wheel in GB3 at Silverstone last August, with O’Sullivan winning Race 3 ahead of Bearman, while Ushijima took his first two GB3 wins at Hitech GP‘s home circuit in the earlier round in June.

O’Sullivan has been the standout performer at Carlin so far this year, taking all 13 of the team’s points to date.

“I think it’s somewhat going in the right direction,” he told the Championship ahead of the weekend.

“The situation we find ourselves in isn’t ideal. We thought the season would have gone slightly better than it has so far.

“We’re trying to regroup and find a different direction to go into and try to improve the car as much as possible.

“Hopefully it starts to gel a bit more from now onwards but there’s no guarantee.”

He started from pole for the Sprint Race in Bahrain alongside Bearman, but his tyres and challenge faded as he eventually finished sixth.

“As a team, we’ve been struggling quite a bit with the car to get it into a proper working window.

“I think we’ve had flashes of strong pace, particularly at Imola in the wet, so I’m hoping for a bit more rain this weekend. We’re working on it.

“It’s not a short process unfortunately but we’ll see what we can do.

“It doesn’t take much of a mistake in Qualifying to drop you down a row or two on the grid… Any kind of small mistake or hindrance can cost you pretty badly.”

O’Sullivan returns to home turf for the first time since taking the GB3 title at Donington Park in October, and is looking forward to meeting an increased fanbase around the F1 support paddock.

“It means a lot. It’s the home race for the team and also Williams. It’s a cool track. I think we’re lucky enough as British drivers to have a really cool home race so hopefully we can put on a show.

“I think I’m lucky enough to have done about as much running as the other British drivers around here, so I think we’ve got a bit of a home advantage.

“It’s one of the only old-school tracks still on the calendar, [it’s] really high speed, quite like Zandvoort actually with the middle sector, Maggotts, Becketts and Stowe.

“With the fans, it’s pretty much rammed and even on Thursday there’s a queue to get into the track so I’m looking forward to seeing them all on Saturday and Sunday.”

Meanwhile, Hitech, based just across the road in Silverstone Business Park, opposite Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team‘s revamped factory, enter their home race fourth in the Teams’ Championship, between Trident and MP Motorsport.

Carlin, as the other British team on the FIA F3 grid, sit eighth after finishing rock bottom last season and eighth in 2020 and ninth in 2019, despite winning the 2021 GB3 Teams’ Championship and leading the 2022 edition.

F3 doesn’t test at Silverstone, and its abrasive surface will present a real challenge to the drivers who will have to manage their tyres in Sunday’s Feature Race.

Isack Hadjar, Jak Crawford and Arthur Leclerc have never raced at Silverstone before, though Crawford tested Douglas Motorsport‘s GB3 car there in May.

Only Juan Manuel Correa and Federico Malvestiti have raced F3 machinery at the Northamptonshire circuit, while Zdenek Chovanec will have to re-adapt quickly on his return to the series with Charouz Racing System, filling a seat which has already been taken by Ayrton Simmons, David Schumacher and Lirim Zendeli.

Zendeli came second in Race 2 in 2020 after being jumped by Bent Viscaal on the final lap.

Prema arrive at Silverstone with a 22-point lead in the Teams’ Championship, with Martins’ ART Grand Prix a further 23 points ahead of Trident.

Alexander Smolyar can’t compete in the UK due to sanctions imposed in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so Filip Ugran steps back up to FIA F3 with MP Motorsport alongside competing in Euroformula Open this year.

Ushijima is also looking forward to the closest he will come to a home race this year.

“The level of competition in F3 is a lot harder [than GB3], so if I can win at Silverstone in an F3 car that’d be a big deal for me.

“Having lived there it’s the nearest thing I have to a home race. It’s going to be difficult, but if the team and I just continue improving, and every lap we do with a purpose, I can’t see why we can’t get a win or a podium.

“In the race, it gets more difficult with how abrasive it is, but it’s probably the track I’ve done the most laps around and I can’t complain about any lap I’ve done.

“Tyre management will be really difficult considering how many high-speed corners there are; even in GB3 we had a lot of issues with the tyre there.

“It’s no secret that tyre management in this Championship is really important. I think if you just drive as smoothly as possible and keep out of trouble, then it won’t be too difficult.”

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Stickler for track limits, covering the GB3 Championship and the FIA Formula 3 Championship. Twitter: @MCallanderMedia
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