Antonio Fuoco was a popular chap on the FIA European F3 Championship trail. The Italian is a favoured youth in red at the moment.
A member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Fuoco grabbed the Formula Renault Alps crown in 2013 and was expected to create a storm in Formula 3 this year.
And for a time, he did.
Victory at the opening European F3 round Silverstone was deserved, as he made his presense felt alongside fellow rookies Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen.
It would not continue though. As the year progressed, so too did Ocon’s and Verstappen ferocious pace, while Fuoco appeared to stagnate through weekends.
Too often Fuoco appeared to panic early in weekends, as his fellow rookies marked their territories. The fallout from Friday practice errors had the penalty of rendering his weekend mute before it had truly begun.
In any other year, Fuoco may have been considered a quick, but flawed rookie, but the performances of Ocon and Verstappen only served to shadow the Italian.
…or perhaps the bar was set far too high in the first place.
This year was, indeed, only Fuoco’s 2nd year of racing and while winning the FR Alps category last season was impressive, to expect the Prema Powerteam man to storm the European F3 championship in a similar manner was probably a touch ambitious.
Both Verstapeen and Ocon are special talents and all eyes will be on them as they progress forward in 2015, but one should not count Fuoco out so easily.
He will have the new Italian F4 champion Lance Stroll alongside him at Prema, and possibly Brandon Maïsano and Jake Dennis, so the interteam battle will not ease up any time soon.
For now though, Fuoco’s impressive fanbase continue to show their support irrespective of his results. This band of fans – always in red – appeared at a large number of his events, enthusiastically waving banners and flags.
At Imola, Fuoco rewarded his fans with a 2nd place finish in Race 3, having taken a 2nd win at the Red Bull Ring two rounds earlier. This will need to happen more often if he wishes Ferrari to maintain its level of support in the future.
French racer Arthur Pic is to stay with Campos Racing for a 2nd season in the GP2 Series.
The 23-year-old brother of former-F1 driver Charles Pic joined the F1 feeder category this year after competing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series for three seasons.
In what has been programme peppered with speed, consistency and occasional anonymity, Pic lies in 7th position, having taken one podium at Monza and a surprise race victory in Hungary.
Pic’s Hungarian success marked the height of Campos Racing’s return to the GP2 Series, following their takeover of the slot left by Barwa Addax. Of the 114 points scored by the Spanish team, Pic has scored a very impressive 110 of them, with the other four made up by Auto GP champion Kimiya Sato and one-round interloper Alexander Rossi.
Understandably happy with the decision to stay with the team, Pic sees a championship campaign on the horizon in 2015. “I am delighted to be extending my partnership with Campos Racing into next season. It is now up to us to carry our momentum into the winter and ensure we are in the title hunt next year,” stated Pic.
“We have taken tremendous strides together in 2014, which is particularly encouraging given that I am a GP2 rookie and they are returning to the championship.”
Keen to emphasise the significance of their achievments thus far, Pic added: “I also have an excellent relationship with [team principal] Adrian Campos and the whole crew, so there is a mutual desire to succeed which made it natural to stay together for a second season.”
The 2014 season has been something of a turnaround in form for Pic, who appeared to enjoy racing on the faster wearing Pirelli tyres, as opposed to the rock hard Michelin tyres utilised in Formula Renault. After a three-year stint that saw Pic only manage one win and two podiums, the adaptation to GP2 has been rather impressive.
Team boss Adrian Campos agrees: “[Pic’s] work this season has been incredibly good; he never gives up and his results have not gone unnoticed. We’re sure he will be fighting for the title and we will support him fully in doing so. It is a pleasure to work with such a fast, mature and professional driver.”
There is still the matter of the 2014 season finale at Abu Dhabi, where Pic will be aiming to overhaul Johnny Cecotto Jr and Stefano Coletti for 5th in the final stanndings.
The newly created MSA Formula has found buyers for all thirty-two cars for its inaugural season next year.
The category, which will be replacing British Formula Ford, has attracted twelve teams to its programme, including single-seater powerhouses Arden International, who operate in GP2, GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5 as well as Carlin Motorsport (GP2, GP3, FR3.5 and F3), Fortec (FR3.5, FR2.0 and F3) and Double R Racing (F3).
Other entries include former Formula Ford runners Falcon Motorsport, JTR, MBM Motorsport, Richardson Racing and SWB Motorsport. National Formula Renault squad Scorpio Motorsport will also join as will British GT squad Team Pyro and Renault Clio and Ginetta stalwarts JHR Developments.
The unveiling of the MSA Formula also spurned Arden to extend their own Young Racing Driver Academy to F4, as noted by team principal Garry Horner. “We have been actively supporting grass roots driver development through our association with the Young Racing Driver Academy and see our move into MSA Formula as the logical natural progression to that involvement.”
Powered by the Ford EcoBoost, the championship will be Britain’s version of the FIA Formula 4 concept and will act as a support category for the British Touring Car Championship from next season onwards, continuing Formula Ford’s previous slot.
Such was the demand for the series, Head of Ford Racing in Europe; Gerard Quinn had a tricky job on hand to ensure every proposal was a serious one. “On the day we unveiled the car we received 70 provisional orders. This translated into a remarkable 50 cash deposits for cars, so together with the MSA we have had to look carefully at every proposal. The great news is that MSA Formula has generated such excitement and anticipation that it has attracted 12 quality teams,” commented Quinn. Teams that have purchased cars will begin to receive their chassis come the end of this year.
The champiosnhip will be open to competitors who are 15-years-of-age and who have achieved an International C Karting licenece and have completed an extended ARDS course.
Ford’s week was further improved when it was revealed that the new-for-2015 Spanish F4 Championship will also be utilising the Ford EcoBoost units for its inaugural season. Like the MSA Formula, Spanish F4 will also run with Mygale chassis and offers a prize fund of €420,000 over the course of the season.
According to Carlos Garcia, President of the Spanish Federation, “It’s a championship that was needed in Spain to reprise the success of Racing for Spain. Thanks to private investment is now a reality.”
It is thought the cost for a season in Spanish F4, which will include seven race weekends and several pre-season tests is to be around the €140,000 mark.
Conor Daly is to return to the GP2 Series for next weekend’s season finale at Abu Dhabi.
The American will rejoin the Venezuela GP Lazarus team having last raced from them at Spa-Francorchamps in August.
Since then, Daly has missed the two rounds held at Monza and Sochi, where he was replaced by Sergio Campana.
Following his promotion from the GP3 Series, this has proved a tricky season for Daly who has suffered numerous car failures and malfunctions. Since his last European round, Daly has been testing the new Indy Lights car and has been attempting to secure a full-time IndyCar drive for 2015.
FIA European Formula 3 champion Esteban Ocon has become the first junior-series level champion to join the field for the Race Of Champions in Barbados this year.
Ocon joins a whole host of other champions on the grid, which includes multiple Le Mans 24 Hour race and 2013 WEC titleholder Tom Kristensen; Lotus F1 racer and reigning ROC Champion of Champions Romain Grosjean and five-time V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup.
Also competing at the end of year special will be Ryan Hunter-Reay (Indy 500 winner and IndyCar champion), Petter Solberg (WRC and World Rallycross champion), Kurt Busch (former NASCAR champion), José-Maria Lopez (WTCC champion) and Susie Wolff (Williams F1 development driver).
The teenager, who is a member of Lotus junior team, recently tested for both Ferrari and Lotus as prizes for his title winning efforts. During a season where he won nine races, Ocon finished well ahead of F3 veteran and fellow rookie Max Verstappen to clinch the crown with Prema Powerteam.
Ahead of the ROC, Ocon said, “To come to the Race Of Champions is a dream come true. When I was a kid I came to watch it at the Stade de France in Paris so I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything works.”
For Fredrik Johnsson, organiser of the ROC, the addition of Ocon makes for an enticing prospect. “Esteban is one of the most exciting young talents in world motor sport at the moment so we are intrigued to see how he gets on at this year’s Race Of Champions.”
Remembering Heikki Kovalainen’s unlikely ROC victory against WRC legend Sebastien Loeb in 2004, Johnsson added, “We’ve had a long history of giving young chargers a chance to take on the legends and they often give the superstars a serious fright. Esteban is no exception and no one will want to be drawn against him.”
This will prove to be a step into the unknown for the 18-year-old, who has only ever raced open-top cars. “The main challenge will be to drive a car with a roof because I’ve never even tested one before – I don’t even have a driving licence! But it shouldn’t be a problem; I’m good at getting on the pace so I will adapt quickly, then we’ll see how far I am from the best.”
Johnsson, too, was keen to acknowledge Ocon’s achievements at such a tender age. “What’s most incredible is that he has achieved so much so young – all before he has even passed his driving test. That means he can’t even drive himself to races but he makes up for that on the track. The Barbados crowd are in for a real treat when they see him race.”
While also competing for individual titles, Ocon will also partner Grosjean in the Nations Cup. “I’ve known Romain for three years, ever since I started coming to the Lotus F1 Team factory. So I’m really looking forward to teaming up with him and hopefully we can achieve a good result for Team France on Saturday,” Ocon said, before adding, “Then it will be even better to try and beat him in the individual Race Of Champions on Sunday…”
After a year’s absence owing to troubles in Thailand, the Race of Champions moves to Bushy Park Circuit in Barbados from December 13th – 14th. More drivers are expected to be added to the entry list in the coming weeks.
Leading European Formula 3 and Formula 4 team Prema Powerteam have revealed a plan to refocus their operation ahead of the 2015 season.
The Italian squad, who took both the European F3 and Italian F4 titles with Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll respectively, have decided to stay in those categories, but are withdrawing for Formula Renault Eurocup and Alps.
Prema Powerteam have a rich history in Formula Renault, having helped the likes of Formula One racer Kamui Kobayashi, IndyCar’s Ryan Briscoe and current European F3 racer Antonio Fuoco to titles respectively.
As the De facto Ferrari junior team, it appears the team has realigned their efforts to focus upon the FIA ladder. Meanwhile Fuoco is likely to spend a second season in European F3 with Prema and is set to be joined by Lance Stroll, with Brandon Maïsano and Jake Dennis also in the runner for the other two seats.
The team also competes in the Italian F4 Winter Trophy at Adria.
Day done, round done, season done. Max Verstappen may have lost the runner-up spot in the final round of the FIA European F3 championship to Tom Blomqvist, but his band of Dutch supporters celebrated regardless.
With only the Macau Grand Prix left on the Dutch driver’s F3 register, the 17-year-old Verstappen will soon have graduated from this level and proceed to a Formula One drive with Red Bull’s smaller sibling, Toro Rosso.
Mind you, despite the wailing from select portions of the sidelines, Verstappen has enjoyed plenty of Formula One experience already. Numerous simulations led to runs in a two-year-old STR machine, before ‘The Son of Jos The Boss’ debuted during Free Practice One at the Japanese Grand Prix a month ago.
Verstappen impressed then and with further mileage under his belt has impressed repeatedly ever since.
In terms of driving a Formula One machine, Verstappen is absolute natural, although his occasional cut-and-thrust nature does mean that he can appear somewhat rough around the edges when dealing with some of the media.
But like everything, that will come easier with time and experience, but only as long as he is allowed to grow and mature in a reasonable manner.
For now though, many of Verstappen’s faithful probably saw him compete up close for the last time in a long time at Hockenheim recently. Those bearing Max flags and paraphernalia will miss this, but hopefully, they will also continue to support him onward.
There was something of an ominous tweet on the official Florida Winter Series page recently that appeared to slip most people by.
Although the website, which had been closed since this year’s Florida Winter Series concluded, reopened a few weeks ago, it now appears that the series may already be no more.
A tweet posted on the Florida Winter Series’ official twitter page announced that, “We are sorry to tell you that FWS will no longer take place in 2015. We apologise for any inconvenience it may cause.”
Earlier this week, I attempted to contact the series media delegate in the hope of garnering further information, but nothing has been forthcoming as of yet. The Florida Winter Series account has been dormant ever since the last tweet, although due to its relative inactivity that may mean nothing at all.
It is an unfortunate development as this year’s running of the series proved rather popular amongst drivers; however it is unknown at this stage what size entry count the Florida Winter Series had been looking to attract for its 2nd edition. The 2015 programme had already shrunk from the four events of this year to three set for January and February.
Had the series gone ahead, it would have faced growing battle for a share of the young driver market, as both the Toyota Racing Series and Formula Gulf 1000 categories ramp up their 2014/15 “winter” activities; however the latter may begin with a rather small entry count. It is also unclear at this stage if the FIA Formula 3 Winter Series in the Middle East will happen.
Although the Florida Winter Series was backed by the Ferrari Driver Academy, rumours emerging from Italy this week told of the new Ferrari management’s relative ambivalence toward its academy programme.
Reflecting upon the Florida Winter Series, Luca Baldisserri – head of the Ferrari Driver Academy – commented recently that, “The Florida Winter Series was a one of a kind experiment. The format of the championship gave those taking part the opportunity to tackle a first hand experience of what would await each of them in the coming season, rather than just a theoretical one and I sure that each one of them benefited from the competition.”
Baldisserri added: “It was a competition that took place on track, but also involved work on driving technique, as well as learning how to read a race and how to concentrate during qualifying.”
Should the Maranello squad choose to close the Ferrari Driver Academy – which includes Raffaele Marciello, Antonio Fuoco, Guanyu Zhou and Lance Stroll in its programme – it would mark a very disappointing change of track from the famed team.
Renault Sport Technologies and Michelin have announced that they are investigating a possible switch to 18-inch tyres for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series for the 2016 season.
The entities are also looking into introducing 17-inch tyres for their Formula Renault 2.0 categories.
Renault Sport conducted tests at both the Riccardo Tormo circuit in Valencia and at the Circuit de Cataluña just outside Barcelona to discover whether the changeover will be feasible. The initial runs proved positive, with further tests planned for the coming months.
Although the collaboration between the two parties commenced several months ago, the fruits of their labour is only now being born. Following several in depth simulations, the recent tests offered Renault Sport and Michelin an opportunity to study and understand any changes that may occur should the series officially change to these larger units.
In these tests, they examined the results of changing tyre dimensions with regards to grip and performance of suspension units, while also detailing effects at top speeds. With several modifications in place, factors such as wear rate, road holding and potential depreciation of other mechanical elements were also studied.
According to Renault, cars running the 18-inch tyres showed an improvement of up to one-second-per-lap compared to contemporary tyres constructions when they ran at the same circuit earlier this year’ however this does not take into account change of climactic conditions.
Michelin already supplies 18-inch tyres to the FIA Formula E Championship and have been keen to point out that they will not return to Formula One unless the top category adopts 18-inch tyre regulations, as noted by Michelin Motorsport’s Technical Director, Nicolas Goubert. “Michelin has been championing the principle of 18-inch tyres in Formula 1 since 2010. For our Group, motorsport is above all an incubator for innovation.”
“To demonstrate the benefits of our vision, we decided to use the opportunities presented by our associations with existing partners,” adds Goubert. “The process got off to a successful start within the framework of the new Formula E Championship where the all-electric Spark-Renault single-seater cars use 18-inch tyres. Now, after promising tests, Renault Sport Technologies has accepted to provide us with access to the World Series by Renault which is a tremendous springboard for drivers looking to reach Formula 1.”
Should Formula One choose to go down such a route, it would place Formula Renault in a commanding position for those drivers wishing early experience of such technology. It would be a welcome development for the World Series by Renault category, whose reputation suffered to the GP2 Series this season.
Jean-Pascal Dauce, the Motorsport Director at Renault Sport Technology, acknowledges this factor. “The championships organised by Renault Sport Technologies provide the best possible grooming for young drivers as they target joining the sport’s elite,” notes Dauce. “Should F1 decide to change the size of the tyres it uses, the World Series by Renault will be ready to reaffirm its mission as a school for champions.”
Dauce continues, “Over and above the issues of performance gains and savings regarding mechanical wear, such a switch would only entail minor changes to the cars. At the same time, the latter would contribute to bringing down costs without turning our back on innovation which is something that is dear to us.”
For Michelin Motorsport’s Nicolas Goubert, the long term goal is clear cut. “We are delighted to be exploring this innovative avenue with such a partner and we are confident that, by 2016, the cars will race on bigger-diameter tyres. In any case, the experience of our work with Renault Sport Technologies will allow us to amass valuable data for the development of future-generation Michelin tyres.”
These are not the only alterations set out for pan-European championship. Renault Sport also recently announced its 2015 season calendar; with the series’ 11th season undertake several noticeable schedule changes.
Beginning under the World Series by Renault banner at Motorland Aragon in April, FR3.5 will once again visit Monte Carlo in May as support of the Monaco Grand Prix, before rejoining World Series by Renault at Spa-Francorchamps at the tail end of May.
Thereafter, FR3.5 visits the Hungaroring (June), before making its return to the UK for a round at Silverstone in late August. A round at the Red Bull Ring has also been revealed, but has yet to be given a date, although it is believed that it will slot in between Hungaroring and Silverstone.
In September, the series goes to the Nürburgring and will then make a return to the Le Mans Bugatti circuit for the first time in six years, before finishing once again at Jerez on the third weekend in October. Rounds at Monza and Moscow have been dropped; however the series has not ruled out a return to Russia at some point in the future. A possible Chinese round has also been discussed, but only if the money is there to make it work.