The 2012 British Formula 3 Series takes in a number of historic and famous locations as it weans its way around the UK and Europe, but few are more prestigious than the Grand Prix de Pau in the beautiful south of France.
Inaugurated in 1900, the race did not become a regular feature until 1933 when Formula Libre contested the tough streets. Since then, numerous categories have flashed around the normally quiet roads, hills and laneways, including Formula 2, Formula 3, WTCC and of course, Formula 1.
Marcus Wittmann was the victor when Formula 3 returned to the famous streets in 2011 following an absence of five years, but with Wittmann now moved on, the onus falls to a new generation to pick up the crown of Pau.
Many famous names have graced the winners step come Sunday afternoon in the Pyrenees town. Current Formula 1 racers Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean have found success in Pau as have endurance racing notables Benoit Treluyer and Anthony Davidson.
A further look into the race’s history and names like Jack Brabham, Jochen Rindt, Francois Cevert, Rene Arnoux and Patrick Depailler have all tasted Formula 2 success in Pau, while Jean Alesi, Gil de Ferran and Juan-Pablo Montoya won their respective Formula 3000 races.
Formula 1’s has enjoyed three brief sojourns in Pau, most notably during the 1960s when Jim Clark twice etched his name on the trophy.
Initially a British Formula 3 weekend only, this year’s event brings with it an added emphasis due to the addition of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship. Mixing several Formula 3 Euro Series competitors may help to swell the field up to at least twenty-five entries.
Reigning Macau Grand Prix champion Daniel Juncadella will be looking to add Pau to his list of achievements. The Spaniard currently leads the European F3 Championship following two victories at the opening round in Hockenheim last month.
Indeed, there is something of a Spanish flavour at the top of the standings.
Not far shy of Juncadella in the points in Carlos Sainz Jr. The Carlin racer is the leading British F3 competitor in the European standings and has responded brilliantly since a sometimes-difficult opening set of races at Oulton Park during the Easter weekend.
Since then, Sainz Jr has picked up two wins at the follow-up British F3 round at Monza, with a pair of 2nd places behind Juncadella in Hockenheim. It is quite a turnaround for the 17-year-old (and let’s not forget he is only 17) who at times looked under a great deal of pressure at Oulton.
Sainz Jr is the only British F3 racer to have registered for the European Championship – something that may press on his shoulders as the weekend progresses. When one considers that he is also taking part in the F3 Euro Series this year, it is easy to see why Sainz Jr appears to – occasionally – have a lot on his plate.
One of the surprises of the British F3 Series thus far has been Puerto Rican pilot Felix Serralles. The Fortec teenager has taken two early victories to catapult himself into 2nd in the championship, only a single point ahead of Carlin regular Jazeman Jaafar.
Early championship favourite Jack Harvey lies in 4th, a further two points adrift of teammate Jaafar, following a tough weekend in Monza.
Behind the leading pair in the European Championship, Swede racer Felix Rosenqvist will be looking to move closer to the top spot, while Sven Muller and Raffaele Marciello sit a distant 5th and 6th respectively. Former-British F3 pilot William Buller is 4th in the series, but will be competing in GP3 this weekend instead.
But the season is young and all of these things could change virtually overnight on the French streets.
Those who don’t have the pleasure of being in France can catch all of the action – including the support races – on Motors TV from 1.10pm on Saturday, starting with the crucial 30-minute Sprint Race.
On Sunday, broadcast for the Feature Race will commence from 12.45pm on Sunday, again followed by a number of support events from the Pyrenees.
For now though, it’s time to think of slick airports, with quick passenger turnover times and plenty of affordable food and comforts to keep the mind at bay. All that will have to wait though – I’m off to Gatwick instead.
British Formula 3 Championship (after Round 2) 1. Carlos Sainz Jr. (74 points) 2. Felix Serralles (66) 3. Jazeman Jaafar (65) 4. Jack Harvey (63) 5. Pipo Derani (48) FIA European F3 Championship (after Round 1) 1. Daniel Juncadella (50 points) 2. Carlos Sainz Jr. (36) 3. Felix Rosenqvist (30) 4. William Buller (20) 5. Sven Muller (10)