“Thoughts on the British F3 Series”
When news regarding the truncation of the British F3 Series was made known yesterday evening, there was a feeling of disappointment, if not shock.
At the Autosport International Show earlier this month, mentions of British F3 were all too often met with a sense foreboding and even a call to the Carlin team last week was left a deathly feel of uncertainty.
However one must be honest about the realities of motorsport in these difficult times. As the United Kingdom and a number of the wider European territories crest upon the cusp of a triple dip recession, budgets have continued to rise to absurd levels.
It’s easy to recite the joke “how much is a budget; how fast do you want to go?”, but when the numbers being touted for a seat In Formula 3 creep around £700,000 (plus), it becomes easier to baulk at the ridiculousness of it all.
By all accounts a season with a decent team in Formula Renault 3.5 lingers around the £1.2 million mark, while the GP2 and GP3 Series’ could set a driver back around £1.8 million and £1 million respectively.
Money has always been a tricky issue in motorsport, especially in times of economic pressure – the key is not to get so blasé about economic difficulties that the sport ends shooting itself in both feet.
Yet budget is not the only reason we will see very little of British F3 this year. SRO have had a few hazardous moments over the years and while the intentions and desire to make single-seater racing successful have been there, luck and the best decisions have not always been on their side.
Outside of SRO, Formula 3 has borne witness to a rising level of politicking from a few within the FIA and the manufacturers. With less than seven weeks to the start of the European F3 Championship, the balance of performance for this season’s engines have yet to be declared.
On the driver’s side, more and more wish to race on international Grand Prix certified tracks. While the likes of Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Donington, Thruxton and Snetterton (amongst others) are all highly regarded, they have become quietly irrelevant to many of those looking to Formula One.
They simply are no longer sexy.
Further afield, Europe is awash with a plethora of single-seater championships in and around the level of Formula 3 that all offer different challenges and rewards, yet few stand out as definitive weed killers.
Aside from the three international Formula 3 championships in Europe, there are a number of national F3 categories, as well as Formula Abarth (Italia and Europe), the seemingly endless number Formula Renault series’ and GP3 (there are probably others). These markets have merely served to spread fields thinly across and in terms of equipment, it appears economies of scales have not come into effect.
But do not get me wrong. No championship anywhere – whether it Formula One, World Endurance Championship, NASCAR or even something as unloved as Formula Two – has a right to survive.
Maintaining health comes not by revelling in an extensive history, but by nurturing its present day health while securing the future. That also means preserving its assets and consumers, whether they be drivers, suppliers, manufacturers, sponsors and – ultimately – fans.
Cluttered markets with plenty of unnecessary categories, vested interests, expensive fees, politicking from all sides and a confused approach to technical regulations…
This isn’t just a Formula 3 problem, this is a motorsport problem and it needs to be fixed.
Maybe it’s time the powers in these various factions stopped talking about the crisis in lower level motorsport and instilled a plan to preserve them.