With the first green light of the 2011 British Formula 3 series drawing ever closer, twenty-one aspiring talents from six teams will be challenging for the championship.
But who will be the one to lift that precious crown, as the series celebrates its 60th anniversary.
At this early stage, there is little doubt as to which team are the early favourites.
Having carved out three consecutive Formula 3 Champions, Carlin Motorsport once again bring several serious title contenders to the fore; however this season the famous blue and yellow decals – as worn by the Red Bull Junior drivers – will not adorn any of the Carlin cars, or any other machinery for that matter.
So who will be the ones to beat and more importantly, who will be the driver that defeats all. Let’s have a look.
31) Felipe Nasr (Carlin Motorsport)
At this stage, Carlin’s Felipe Nasr is my out-and-out title favourite. Having won the 2009 Formula BMW Europe Series, Nasr finished a very strong fifth in his debut British F3 season last year. Pre-season testing has seen the quick Brazilian further showing his colours with some devastating runs and with Carlin on his side, he may be tough to be beat.
Verdict: A bright prospect and one to follow. Championship favourite without a doubt.
21) Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin Motorsport)
Another star with potential, Rupert Svendsen-Cook made his mark last year with a win in his first F3 weekend at Oulton Park. Thereafter, the Briton clocked up numerous points finishes during the guts of the season, but he knows there will be some very strong competition for the title – especially from within the Carlin camp; however the 20-year-old is fully aware of the task at hand.
“I really want to win the championship and I’ve prepared really, really hard over the winter to achieve that. I am with the best team, with the best people, so now it’s down to me to do the job.”
Verdict: A title contender – and a strong one at that.
1) Carlos Huertas (Carlin Motorsport)
This could be a make-or-break year for the 19-year-old as he enters his third British F3 season. In two full seasons, Huertas has recorded six podium finishes from forty-nine starts and while the Colombian has shown a good deal of speed in the pre-season tests, he still has no race victories in junior formulae. It is a statistic that will continue to dog him until it is broken.
Verdict: Regular in points with the occasional win, but not much else.
2) Kevin Magnussen (Carlin Motorsport)
The young Dane possesses plenty of promise – an element shown repeatedly in last year’s German Formula 3 series, where he finished 3rd overall. His attitude in the run-up to the season starter has been impressive, but there are still questions as to whether he can emulate his father’s 1994 British F3 success.
Verdict: He’ll be a big winner; but remains to be seen whether he can do it this season.
6) Scott Pye (Double R Racing)
Double-R Racing’s new signing, Scott Pye, enters the British F3 fray fresh from taking the British Formula Ford title; however as has been seen many times, Formula Ford success has not always led to results in F3. The Australian will be out to make his mark, but his pre-season form, though, was inconsistent at best.
Verdict: A danger – when he’s on it.
7) Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing)
Pietro Fantin is something of a curiosity. The 17-year-old from Curitiba has had only one previous year in cars, taking 9th overall in the F3 Sudamericana Series, with three wins; however the Brazilian only competed in nine of the twenty-four races. He made several invitational appearances in British F3 last year, but without the same level of results.
Verdict: An unknown element in the mix, but one that has shown pace on occasion.
22) Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin Motorsport)
Following a promising F3 rookie in 2010, Jaafar enters this year brimming with confidence, and while he may not be in the title running come October, expect him to take several race wins.
Verdict: Quick, with the potential to disturb the championship fight. His role in the outcome of the series could be pivotal.
32) Jack Harvey (Carlin Motorsport)
Despite an excellent run in last year’s Formula BMW Europe category, Jack Harvey lost the title on the final day to Robert Frijns. He will be out to make his mark as soon as possible and with the talent he has displayed in the very recent past, he may do just that. He turns 18 the day before the first race at Monza – he’ll be hoping to celebrate with a good early showing.
Verdict: Expect Harvey to interrupt the title runners on occasion with some strong results.
5) Pipo Derani (Double R Racing)
One of the little surprises of pre-season running has been Pipo Derani. The former Brazilian Karting Champion has struggled somewhat since his move to cars, but signs of improvement are showing – so much so, he may occasionally rob valuable points off of the title contenders. Like Harvey, Derani won’t be champion this year, but there may well be plenty of silverware in the near future.
Verdict: His improvement in F3-type machinery is there, but there is still some way to go.
3) William Buller (Fortec Motorsport)
Following on from his début year at Hitech, Buller moves to Fortec looking to step up the order. Too many races in 2010 ended with the Northern Irishman claiming the final point scores, but this year he will need more than that – much more – and he knows it.
“I have prepared as well as I can and it’s been going quite well. I’m in my second year, so I know I should be strong in the championship. The title is the only aim: it’s my second year so there are no excuses.”
Verdict: 2011 may be an improvement on last year, but by how much?
4) Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport)
“Blips of speed” is probably the best way to describe 18-year-old Lucas Foresti – indeed, last year the Brazilian recorded too many off days, though occasionally punctuated by solid points scores. He is mentored by ex-F1 and CART driver, Roberto Moreno, so it will be interesting to see if Moreno’s extensive knowledge rubs off.
Verdict: Inconsistent. May lie behind the main challengers, while occasionally pipping them too.
8.) Riki Christodoulou (Hitech Racing)
New Hitech signing Christodoulou originally took to British F3 in 2009, before a short transfer to Formula Renault UK. Although the Briton scored a win and four podiums two years ago, it is difficult to see how much of an impact he can make with his Hitech Dallara this year.
Verdict: There may be point scores in 2011, but it may also be difficult to sustain a season long challenge.
11) Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing)
A veteran of Formula 3, the 26-year-old Lloyd signed with Sino Vision Racing following several years with his own family squad. It could be a key move for the Welshman, who has struggled somewhat to adapt since his move up to the International Class in 2009.
Verdict: A decent runner, but not one that may touch the leaders in races.
12) Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing)
Lloyd’s teammate, Adderly Fong makes his second season appearance in British F3 with little fanfare. The 20-year-old has yet to win a race in car racing and will be hoping to break his duct this year.
Verdict: This may be a long season for the Sino Vision pair.
15) Yann Cunha (T-Sport)
The reigning F3 Sudamericana Champion has had a tough time during the pre-season running. Despite his South America success, Cunha has often trailed some way behind teammate Menasheh Idafar in the tests – something that will need a swift cure.
Verdict: A winner in Brazil, but can he replicate that form on European shores?
16) Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport)
The Anglo-Bahraini displayed excellent wet weather skills on his way to last year’s National Class Championship. Idafar does have pockets of occasional speed, but whether he can string results together through an entire season is the big question.
Verdict: There is a solid talent here; but it needs to be harnessed remains.
23) Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport)
The Formula Renault UK graduate has shown a solid pedigree in the lower formulae, but the Exeter native will need to make his mark quickly if he is to underline his potential. It is a huge step up – his future may depend on how he deals with the promotion.
Verdict: May have a hard year ahead with Fortec, but future success is a possibility.
24) Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport)
A completely unknown entity. The Malaysian did not take part in any pre-season running, but comes to F3 from two seasons in Formula BMW Europe where two podiums was his reward.
Verdict: Judging purely by results, Ilyas will need to step up to make the grade.
27) Bruno Mendez (Hitech Racing)
Like Ilyas, Bruno Mendez did not make an appearance during pre-season testing; however that’s not to say he does not have experience. As the 2009 European F3 Open Champion, Mendez took to the World Series by Renault category, only to struggle.
Verdict: The Spaniard will need a big year to repair his slightly battered reputation.
The Rookie Class
Only two runners will be taking the full season in the Rookie Class – Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) and Kotaru Sakurai (Hitech). Upon early inspection, Hylkema’s experience may be enough to give him this title in October, but the youthful Sakurai may not blossom until next year.
At 16, Sakurai has a long road ahead of him; however the 21-year-old Hylkema needs to start showing title winning form now.
As for the six teams, it is difficult to see beyond Carlin right now. There successes in recent years have displayed a confidence that shows no sign of dissipating.
Double R Racing has also been Champions in recent years, but since the Raikkonen / Robertson group sold the squad in 2009, results haven’t been quite so forthcoming. Both Fortec Motorsport and Hitech may upset with occasional top results, while T-Sport and Sino Vision have work to do to join the likes of Carlin at the top on a regular basis.
International Class Champion: Felipe Nasr
National Class Champion: Bart Hylkema