This weekend sees the beginning of the 2011 British Formula 3 Series and where better than the historic motor racing temple that is Monza.
While not within the bounds of the UK, Monza is an almost fitting venue for a championship entering its 60th anniversary year – its own history apparent in some of the names that have graced British Formula 3 since its inception.
Over the last six decades, the series has born witness to some stunning talent and landmark battles.
When a formula can boast a history with names as evocative as Ayrton Senna, Sir Jackie Stewart, Nelson Piquet Sr., and Emerson Fittipaldi.
Other famous names such as Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, David Coulthard, Dario Franchitti and Will Power have also been notable competitors, while more recent graduates Sergio Perez, Jaime Alguersuari, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne look set to star in the future.
Now as the field descend upon Monza, twenty-one drivers from six teams will be looking to make their own mark on that illustrious history.
Beyond the Monza taster, the series moves to the Easter meet at Cheshire’s Oulton Park, before dates at the new Snetterton ‘300’ circuit and Brands Hatch. Come July, three rounds will follow on the continent as the series takes on visits to the Nurburgring (Germany), Paul Ricard (France) and Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium).
Thereafter, there will be a five week summer break, before the championship draws to a close with events at Rockingham, the revitalised Donington Park and Silverstone (October).
14-16 April Monza, Italy 23/25 April Oulton Park, UK 14/15 May Snetterton 300, UK 18/19 June Brands Hatch GP, UK 01-03 July Nürburgring, Germany 15-17 July Paul Ricard, France 28-30 July Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium 03/04 September Rockingham, UK 24/25 September Donington Park GP, UK 07-09 October Silverstone Arena, UK
Lasting a little under six months, the British Formula 3 Series takes in ten rounds, each with three races.
The competitors will be faced with a busy opening day, comprising of an early practice and a pre-lunch qualifying session, before the first race the each weekend commences. This initial salvo – lasting 30 minutes – registers full points (20,15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1), with a grid formed by the second fastest time of each runner. The fastest lap will garner a further point.
The second race is formed from the finishing order of the first race with a reverse order of sorts, with the victor from race one drawing his starting position from lots – should he pick “6th”, then the top six will all reverse. This 20 minute sprint garners reduced rewards, although the top ten still score, with points dividends dished out in 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 format.
An extra two points will be awarded to the driver with the fastest lap.
In addition to this year’s British Formula 3 series will be pitstops taken during the second race, albeit only in four events. Between the second and seventeenth minute of the sprint races at the Nurburgring, Paul Ricard, Rockingham and Silverstone.
At least two tyres are to be changed in the stop, which may help give the competitors some scope of strategic analysis.
The final race of weekend – running to forty minutes – is designed to test stamina, racecraft and mechanical ease. Its grid is established by the fastest qualifying times and as with race 1, full points are awarded.
Although, drivers covet the trophies they win, for many a equally tempting end-of-season award will a test in a World Series by Renault car.
British Formula 3 teams such as Carlin and Fortec Motorsport are already well established in the category, which is also becoming recognised as one of the toughest junior formulae in the world.
More to come…
Come back tomorrow as I take a look at the challengers for the 2011 British Formula 3 series and their respective teams.