Lewis Hamilton topped the opening practice session of the 2017 Formula One season at Albert Park.
The Mercedes driver registered a best lap of 1:24.220s on the Pirelli ultrasoft tyres to gap teammate Valtteri Bottas by over half-a-second.
Daniel Ricciardo headed a Red Bull 3-4, albeit on the slower soft tyres, with the Australian falling just shy of Bottas’ best.
Max Verstappen was four-tenths off of Ricciardo’s time, just edging the Ferrari’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. While only the opening practice, the gap to Hamilton marked a slightly disappointing result for the Ferrari duo, both of whom looked very speedy during pre-season testing.
Ferrari did, however, resist running through much of the session, leaving much of their rimed circulation to the final twenty minutes.
Felipe Massa took 7th in the session for Williams, while his new teenage teammate Lance Stroll recorded the 13th fastest time in his first practice. Romain Grosjean was the first driver on the track in these more aggressive 2017 cars and the French-Swiss racer secured 8th for the Haas.
Fernando Alonso was the fastest of the under pressure McLaren’s, with the former champion 14th on the sheets, while new teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was bottom of the times in what looked like an unhelpful Honda-powered machine.
Esteban Ocon (Force India) and Jolyon Palmer (Renault) missed chunks on the session due to work ongoing on their cars – the recorded 16th and 19th respectively.
Something came up during the week that at first I assumed would be pretty simple to throw together.
A conversation on Twitter between Sam Collins of Racecar Engineering Magazine and fellow user Davin Sturdivant was brought to my attention when it turned to costs and the nature of the regulations and how their framework affects engineers – or potential engineers.
The latter will be addressed in another post, but touch on the former. Admittedly the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I either did not have the answer or did not have up-to-date answers.
Speaking to an active F3 team principal on Thursday, who wished to remain unnamed, a few details were fleshed out.
It is important to remember that while the regulations remain tight, Formula 3 is not a spec series and as such incurs costs that are not strictly present in single-make categories, such as GP2, GP3 or Formula 3.5 V8.
On the other hand, when one considers the open nature of technical regulations in Formula One and in LMP1, one might consider the benefits of an open-reg formula such as Formula 3 to be pivotal in the development of both drivers and engineers.
We must not forget – and we so often do – that the likes of Formula 3 are learning categories. They exist to develop drivers (and to a lesser obvious extent engineers) in the practical world of motor racing.
Totting up superlicence points is all well and good, but is utterly irrelevant if the driver does not learn and this is why a category such as Formula 3 matters. But that is an argument for another day (and oh boy, is that an argument)!
Anyway, according to the unnamed team boss, “The minimum cost [for a full season of European F3] is about €600,000, but that is if you exclude a winter test programme, which for ten days can add up to €100,000. There are also twelve test days during the season – six private and six official.”
From an initial standpoint that does seem like a hugely expensive season; however the amount of track time available for drivers in F3 is significant compared to similar categories, where testing is heavily restricted and race weekend track time is poor.
For example, a race weekend in the European Formula 3 championship consists of ninety minutes of practice, two qualifying sessions and three races that run to approximately thirty-five minutes apiece. In some instances, drivers are clocking up close to 8,000 kilometres of track action per season (although this would most likely be in the higher spectrum of track testing, etc.)
Continuing, he notes, “You also have to consider covering hotels, food, travelling, accident costs, spares, etc., which can add another €40,000.”
The team manager acknowledges that (unsurprisingly) manual labour is the most expensive cost – your driver will be teamed with well-qualified engineers working to an extremely high level. “After that, it’s engines and tyres.”
It is key to note at this point that the FIA have acted to reduce costs for next season onward by banning wind tunnel testing by teams and ensuring that the cost of engines for the year is capped at €65,000 (for 10,000km of usage), which will also cover installation, ancillaries, maintenance.
Previously, the engine costs were €50,000, but the wording of the regulation meant that cost only covered the engine block and omitted elements such as maintenance. The rewrite of this regulation is believed could save teams approximately €20,000-40,000 per season, depending on who you talk to; however while admitting the savings, the manager was rather disparaging commenting that, “It’s a little bit like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.”
One of the drawbacks of spec series’ or categories that utilise spec components, is that it closes the market and can allow to a manufacturer to set their own price range, which at times is not representative of the actual market value; however our unnamed team manager commented that Dallara – who provide chassis and spares – are fair when it comes to pricing, but he notes, “All suppliers do cheap deals when they enter, but then there is generally a leap in prices to make it work. You also work with ATS wheel rims, which come to around €25,000 for the season.”
The Formula 3 regulations are now locked in until the end of 2019, but as I reported in a feature for Racecar Engineering earlier, this will bring life of these regulations to eight years.
Given that there will unlikely be any new cars bought by current teams (unless warranted by excessive damage), many of the cars on the grid will be eight years old by the time 2019 finishes. To combat concerns regarding the structural integrity of chassis, the FIA are introducing a safety upgrade kit to bolster the life and strength of the cars, but as one might imagine, the teams will cover this cost. “Next years regulations help in some ways, but then again, there will be a €25,000 upgrade kit and then another €10,000 for spares with that.”
At a time when sponsorship can hard to come by, Formula 3 remains an expensive business. “All-in-all, you might need between €750,000-800,000. That doesn’t include Macau, which would, maybe, be another €50,000. Something like GP3 is cheaper, but then it has fewer events and they test far less.”
Formula 3 has a lot of positives and negatives. Open regulation cars and tonnes of test time in support of a popular series like DTM and – thankfully – no reverse grid nonsense to artificially boost the morale of otherwise mid-grid drivers; however it is still a hugely expensive category and it is the sheer scale of that cost that saw drivers numerous drivers turn to other championships in 2016.
Newly crowned FIA European F3 Champion Lance Stroll secured his second race win of the weekend in stellar style, finishing nearly eight seconds ahead of George Russell and another two ahead of Callum Ilott.
The Prema Powerteam man led from the off, while Russell and Ilott fought over the runner-up prize into the opening corners.
In the only race this weekend not interrupted by the safety car, Stroll showcased his prowess, as he edged away from the chasing pack over almost all of the race’s twenty-two laps.
Such was the Canadian teenager’s confidence, he even registered the fastest lap of the weekend – a 1:35.876s – on the final tour. Having already secured the title in race two, Stroll appeared confident and happy within himself prior to the start and that really showed in this performance.
Russell had a trickier time as he kept Ilott at bay for the duration. Starting from the cleaner side of the grid, the Hitech GP man was able to slip by his van Amersfoort rival on the run down to Tamburello, securing the place under braking on the run into the chicane.
Thereafter Ilott held Russell close – often within one-and-a-half seconds – but he could not do enough to pressure Russell into an error. It was a good result for Russell, who now finds himself just 36 points shy of Maxi Günther in the standings.
Ralf Aron passed Joel Eriksson for 4th place on the opening lap and the pair remained relatively close as the race aged, but like the battles ahead, Eriksson could not close in of his Estonian rival to make a move.
Anthoine Hubert and Mikkel Jensen secured 6th and 7th respectively, having started in those positions; however Nick Cassidy proved the biggest mover as he climbed from 13th on the grid to 8th by the end.
David Beckmann led a gaggle of cars home across the line. The German headed a close battle with Guan Yu Zhou (10th), Sergio Sette Camara (11th) and Günther (12th) – the quartet were covered by 1.757s across the line.
Ben Barnicoat had a difficult race. Initially running 8th, the Hitech GP endured a tricky mid-section to the race, losing five places in the process, before his pace began to recover.
There were incidents at the start, when Niko Kari and Nikita Mazepin suffered offs, resulting in retirement for Kari and then Ukyo Sasahara destroyed his right rear suspension on lap three.
Harrison Newey also damaged his suspension with an off at the halfway mark, resulting in his retirement.
Prema Powerteam’s Lance Stroll claimed both race two and the FIA European Championship crown at Imola this afternoon.
Joel Eriksson continued his solid run to finish 2nd, while George Russell extended his lead over Nick Cassidy in the battle for 3rd in the standings.
Starting from pole, the Canadian teenager eased into a comfortable lead early lead from Russell, who had initially edged ahead of Eriksson.
Thereafter Stroll built a gap of approximately 2s, but as soon as Stroll got into a rhythm, the race was punctured by a safety car period, with three in total neutralizing the race.
The first came on lap three when Callum Ilott spun into the gravel at Rivazza and became beached in the sand. This came moments after another incident in which Ilott fell from 6th place, solidifying what has been a tricky weekend so far for the young Briton.
From the lap six restart, Stroll again build a lead of over 2s, only for that to be truncated when title rival Maxi Gunther binned his Prema Powerteam machine exiting the final bend, pitching him hard into the barrier from 12th spot.
Although Günther’s lowly position would have given Stroll the championship, this non-score confirmed Stroll’s crown.
On the lap 11 restart, Eriksson locked onto the rear of Russell, eventually retaking 2nd from the Hitech racer a tour later, but despite the charge, the Motopark man had nothing for Stroll and settled into a 2nd position a couple of seconds adrift of the lead but also comfortably ahead of Russell in 2rd.
There was one final stoppage when David Beckmann crashed at Tosa from 6th place, but come the lap 18 restart, Stroll continued to press his confidence and dominance on the race, again pulling away from the field and winning with sublime ease, as if he were in a different class.
Eriksson ran home a welcome 2nd ahead of Russell who doubtful have few complaints following that result.
Ralf Aron propped up what has been an inconsistent year with a drive to 4th, having taken both Harrison Newey and Ilott off the line. From there he stayed, although he fought hard to keep Guan Yu Zhou at bay in the latter tours.
Zhou enjoyed a good run up the order. From outside the top ten, he passed Günther, Anthoine Hubert, Cassidy and Newey, but also benefitted from offs by Sergio Sette Camara, Ben Barnicoat and Mikkel Jensen, all of whom fell from points playing positions.
Hubert came home 6th, thanks in part to a late race contretemps between Zhou, Newey and Cassidy. From 8th in the final few laps, Hubert took Cassidy and Newey, when Cassidy attempted an unlikely move down the inside of Zhou at Tamburello, inadvertently blocking Newey as he rejoined the track.
From there the Frenchman stayed ahead of Cassidy and Newey to maintain 6th, 7th and 8th across the line. Both Newey and Cassidy will be a touch disappointed with their final positions having run 5th and 6th at various points in the race.
Yesterday’s race winner Niko Kari came home 9th, despite starting 18th. The Finn calmly closed up the order, while also taking advantage of the misfortune of others.
Nikita Mazepin took the final points finish, when the resurgent Camara suffered another incident two laps from the end, which took him out of the race.
Red Bull Junior driver Niko Kari took his first FIA European F3 race victory at Imola today thanks to a wonderful move around Lance Stroll.
Stroll, who led for much of the race, took 2nd place, with Joel Eriksson not far behind in 3rd spot.
The Finn started from the front roll and initially chased Stroll, but took advantage of the draft after a second safety car restart to pull his way around the outside of the Prema Powerteam driver in Tamburello.
From there, Kari managed a narrow gap over Stroll, while the Canadian secured several fastest laps in his chase, but the teenager was unable to overhaul his Motopark rival.
It was a welcome result for Kari, who has endured an inconsistent year that has been peppered with some podiums, points results alongside several anonymous drives.
Stroll’s 2nd place finish may not be too disappointing. The Canadian came home ten positions ahead of his teammate and championship rival Maxi Günther to extend the points lead to eighty-six.
Eriksson fought an impressive battle to secure the final podium spot, with the Swede rising up the top eight taking Anthoine Hubert, George Russell and Nick Cassidy to eventually rise to the top three. Retirements and issues for David Beckmann, Sergio Sette Camara and Callum Ilott helped Eriksson’s position.
Cassidy initially started well, rising from 5th on the grid to 3rd off the line, but the Kiwi could not hold Eriksson at bay and had to do with 4th, while Russell secured 5th for Hitech following a sluggish start.
Hubert came home 6th for van Amersfoort, but it was a less fruitful result for the Dutch team’s other two drivers Callum Ilott and Harrison Newey. Ilott had been been running in the lower reaches of the points by halfway, but an off on lap 11 dropped him to 17th. After climbing back up the order, Ilott challenged Newey for 12th, only for the teammates to force each other off at Tamburello, with Ilott taking a long ride through the gravel travel trap. Both finished well outside the points.
Guan yu Zhou enjoyed a long battle with Ilott, before the latters off, but stayed on track to take 7th, ahead of Ralf Aron, whose mistake on lap nine left him battling for 8th. Ben Barnicoat secured 9th for Hitech, while Mikkel Jenson took the final point for Mücke with a 10th place finish/
The first safety came about when Pedro Piquet had a solo off at the Rivazza on lap five. The second safety car was released when Beckmann and Camara had an apparent coming together near Tamburello on lap 13.
Swedish racer Joel Eriksson finally claimed his maiden FIA European F3 victory at Spa-Francorchamps today.
In a dominant display, Eriksson headed Anthoine Hubert (van Amersfoort) for the duration, while George Russell (Hitech GP) outfought Prema Powerteam’s Lance Stroll to the final podium place.
Eriksson immediately launched into the lead when poleman Russell bogged down, dropping momentarily to 13th place. Thereafter Eriksson maintained a narrow but decisive lead of Hubert, with a mature and confident performance that earned Motopark their first win of the season.
Initially Ben Barnicoat (Hitech) and Callum Ilott (van Amersfoort) ran in 2nd and 3rd positions, but both disappeared at the end of the opening lap – Barnicoat with a puncture and Ilott following a spin.
Their misfortune promoted Hubert, Nikita Mazepin (Hitech) and Stroll; however Stroll was quick dispose of Mazepin as he began his chase for the front.
After riding high early on, Mazepin continued to fall down the order, as Cassidy, Russell, Günther and Niko Kari all pushed past. Behind the top group, the recovering Russell disposed of the main gaggle of cars on the opening lap.
Once by the Russian, Cassidy and Russell battled it out for 4th, with the Hitech man nailing the position on lap 8. It would not take long for Russell to catch Stroll, but the Briton had a tougher time with the Canadian.
Eventually getting close to Stroll on lap 14, Russell passed Stroll in the Bus Stop, only for Stroll to re-pass his rival just before Eau Rouge a few corners later. Stroll then clung to the rear of Stroll and danced around the outside of the Prema man at Les Combes to claim 3rd,
The duo did it all over again a lap later following a brief error by Russell that allowed Stroll to retake the advantage; however when Russell took the Canadian around the outside of Les Combes for the second time, there were no mistakes and the battle for 3rd was done.
Stroll eventually took 4th ahead of Cassidy, Günther, Kari, while Mazepin ended the day in 8th, although he still enjoyed enough of an advantage of Mücke duo Mikkel Jensen (9th) and David Beckmann (10th) to maintain his top-eight finish.
Hitech GP’s George Russell streaked to victory in the second FIA European F3 Championship race of the weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.
Russell headed Motopark’s Joel Eriksson and Mücke’s Mikkel Jensen after 16 laps of the iconic Belgian circuit.
After a solid start, the young Briton was swallowed up on the first run down the Kemmel Straight by Eriksson, Jensen and Hitech teammate Nikita Mazepin.
After a quick move to retake Jensen, luck played into Russell’s hands, as he was then promoted to 2nd at the end of the opening lap when Mazepin’s car came to a halt at the Bus Stop.
Although Eriksson built a reasonable lead of just two seconds early on, Russell drew closer to the Motopark man, before launching an attack on lap five. While not initially successful, Russell eventually passed Eriksson on the following tour as he drafted by his Swedish rival prior to Les Combes.
From there, Russell built a lead of over 7s to claim a well executed victory that draws him back toward the battle for 3rd in the championship with Nick Cassidy (Prema Powerteam) and Callum Ilott (van Amersfoort).
Eriksson struggled for balance as the race aged, but he had enough over Jensen to solidify the podium, while Jensen was not troubled by the battle for 4th behind him.
Anthoine Hubert (van Amersfoort) won that battle for 4th, heading Ilott (5th), Pedro Piquet (6th, van Amersfoort) and Maxi Günther (Prema). It was a fight initially led by Günther, but with the Prema drivers struggling for balance in dry conditions, Günther could only fall back down the order, with the German left to pick up 7th.
Günther’s teammate and championship rival Lance Stroll finished last when a first lap puncture – following a hit from Ukyo Sasahara – took him out of contention. Amidst all this, David Beckmann (Mücke) challenged Piquet for a time, but was forced to pit when a broken front wing dropped him down the order.
Guan Yu Zhou made up for his Race One mistake to take 8th ahead of Ryan Tveter (9th, Carlin) and Niko Kari (10th, Motopark).
Ben Barnicoat (Hitech GP) fought hard to take the final point position from Kari in the latter laps, but repeatedly lost out in the faster sections of the circuit. The Briton could have been in contention for bigger points, but stalled from his 5th on the grid at the beginning of the formation lap.
FIA European F3 Championship leader Lance Stroll extended his points lead over Prema Powerteam teammate Maxi Günther with victory at Spa-Francorchamps.
Stroll headed runner-up Günther and Hitech GP’s Ben Barnicoat at the chequered flag under safety car conditions, however prior to the late race neutralisation, the Canadian was drawing away from the pack with consummate ease.
The race began under safety car when heavy rain created several rivers and pools across the circuit. Eventually starting on the sixth tour, Stroll immediately built a strong lead over Günther, while Barnicoat battled with Nick Cassidy (Prema) over the final podium spot.
For a time, the Barnicoat / Cassidy battle was a fraught one, as the paired dueled from La Source, through Eau Rouge and over the top of Radillon, with Cassidy passing Barnicoat, before the Hitech man retook his Kiwi rival.
Thereafter Barnicoat stretched his gap to Cassidy, but was unable to catch the distant Stroll and Günther. Cassidy consolidated 4th spot to take twelve championship points.
George Russell finished 5th in his Hitech GP entry, but had to battle around Harrison Newey (van Amersfoort Racing) to do it. Newey maintained 6th place – his first top-six finish in Formula 3.
Mücke’s David Beckman secured another points finish in 7th place, but not after a controversial clash with teammate Mikkel Jensen at La Source on lap 8. The clash took Jensen out of the running completely and promoted Ralf Aron (Prema) to 8th, despite the Estonian enduring an off at La Combes on the ninth tour.
Ryan Tveter and Alessio Lorandi (both Carlin) ended the race in 9th and 10th positions respectively. It was not a good day for Carlin – Weiron Tan crashed his Carlin machine at La Combes on the penultimate lap, bringing out the safety car which would eventually end the race.
Callum Ilott (van Amersfoort) could do nothing from his low starting position and crossed the line a disappointing 16th place. Also mixing it up were Anthoine Hubert and Guan Yu Zhou who collided clumsily in the Bus Stop on lap 7, with the subsequent damage finishing Hubert’s race early.
Italian chassis constructor Dallara have dominated the Formula 3 category for much of the last two decades. Long term success with Prema Powerteam, Carlin, Signature and Mücke, as well as the departed ART Grand Prix, have seen the company effectively become the defacto manufacturer as time passed.
That’s not to say Formula 3 has become a closed door to other constructors. While the likes of Dome and Mygale has dipped their toes in the water to test the current regulations, only the Russian-based ArtLine Engineering have stepped up to challenge Dallara.
ArtLine have a long road ahead of them and the team admit that their first attempt at a current car was simple in some ways, but controversial in others. Seemingly boxey and rudimentary aero works along the engine cover and sidepods disguise some neat tricks, among them additional turning vanes on the front wing, vertical vanes on the diffuser and neatly curved bargeboard panel.
Their initial exhaust design fell foul of the stewards, mainly due to its concept of exhausts peering either side of the engine cover. That it would have required Neil Brown Engineering to homologate an additional exhaust specifically for that purpose also contravened the regulations.
ArtLine started slowly at the penultimate round at the Nurburgring – they needed to, but they are not so far away from the competition. At only 2.5s off during qualifying at the European F3 finale, ArtLine have made plenty of progress but still have much to do.
Don’t be surprised if they show up in 2016 with more to offer.
Antonio Giovinazzi claimed victory at a cool and grey Hockenheimring this afternoon, to secure the runner-up spot in the FIA European F3 Championship.
Giovinazzi’s run was not without its challenges, as the Carlin racer was pressed by 2nd and 3rd place racers Jake Dennis and Felix Rosenqvist for the duration.
Despite this, the Italian racer led from start-to-finish and he vaulted from pole position, although it did look for a moment as if Dennis had the best position as the field poured through the NordKurve.
Defending the lead, Giovinazzi ran well wide over the run-off area, arguably gaining a pace advantage over the chasing pack, with Dennis and Rosenqvist slotting into the next two places. Although Dennis raised the issue over the team radio, the incident went without investigation – a matter that irritated the Prema Powerteam driver no end.
The racing would be halted briefly on lap two when a spinning Alexander Albon brought out the safety car when he car became stuck by the turn one barriers.
Giovinazzi enjoyed a brief stint in the lead when the race ran green from lap four, only for the event to be neutralised again when Nabil Jeffri’s overenthusiastic and ill-judged divebomb on Tatiana Calderon at the hairpin resulted only in a very broken Motopark car and a spun Carlin.
From the lap eight restart Giovinazzi led again with a slightly reduced margin, but it was all to change one tour later when Rosenqvist passed Dennis for 2nd position. Immediately the Swede began to reel Giovinazzi in, with Rosenqvist holding the leader to a gap of 0.6s for several laps.
Giovinazzi did endure one scare on lap ten, when he ran wide at the hairpin, leaving the door wide open for Rosenqvist; however Rosenqvist was not close enough on that occasion to slip by.
Come the two-thirds marker, Rosenqvist started to hit trouble when a failing gearbox began to cost him time and did eventually rob him of 2nd place on lap 17, when Dennis slotted by – admittedly the Englishman was met with no defence.
Thereafter the top two stayed as is, but Rosenqvist’s mechanical woes almost caused to fall behind Maxi Günther, but the Swede had enough over his new teammate to maintain the podium places.
Out front Giovinazzi held a gap over Dennis, with the Italian taking his 6th F3 win of the season and the runner-up position in the European Championship.
Günther enjoyed a battle of his own throughout the race as he held the experienced Alexander Sims at bay for the duration – this despite Sims having a huge off on the opening lap, when the Hitech GP man took his Dallara for a trip through the bumpy run-off area exiting the Mobil 1 corner.
Mikkel Jensen scored a solid 6th place position, helped quite a lot when Albon spun off and Lance Stroll dropped behind the Mücke man. Race One winner Stroll continued in 7th place for the rest of the running, although there was far more excitement over the fight for 8th and 9th, as Sergio Sette Camara fought tooth and nail with George Russell, a fight eventually won by the Brazilian.
Russell was hardly soft in his approach – several times from lap 11-17; the Briton was either alongside Camara or past the Motopark racer, only for the Brazilian to retake the position upon corner exit.
As the pairing held each other up, Markus Pommer joined the fight, but the former German F3 racer ran out of laps to extract more points from the race. In the continuation of another disappointing weekend, Charles Leclerc took 11th and the final point, having fought off the intentions of Callum Illot in the latter stages.
Leclerc’s lowly finish drops the Monegasque racer to 4th in the championship, behind Dennis. With Dennis starting on pole tomorrow and Leclerc starting 16th, it is unlikely that we will see much change in the ultimate when the chequered flag waves on the season tomorrow.