There has been much mirth surrounding the subject of Formula Three since my last visit to the series on the streets of Pau last month.
While accidents at this level are to be expected – this is a learning category after all – the level of chaos and destruction witnessed at Monza a few weeks ago unnerved even the hardest supporter of the category.
That was followed this weekend by some equally astonishing manoeuvres at this weekend’s round at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium – manoeuvres that left Formula Three stalwart Felix Rosenqvist fuming after he had been collected in all three races by Antonio Giovinazzi, Lance Stroll and Markus Pommer.
The on track behaviour at these famed circuits was nothing short of abysmal, with a number of moves and accidents leaving Stefano Domenicali (President of the FIA Single-Seater Commission) and FIA President Jean Todt very angry indeed.
These were not accidents born of slight missteps or minor misjudgements, but rather incidents steeped in the very definition of incompetence. The clash between Stroll and Giovinazzi toward the end of Curve Grande at Monza was shocking mainly because of its violence, but when Brandon Maisano blocked and then chopped Gustavo Menezes on the approach of Les Combes at Spa on Saturday, the consequences could have been far worse.
In that incident, Menezes flew into the air, landed on the Armco on trackside, breaking his rollhoop bar in the process, rendering his helmet the main point of contact as he slip upside-down toward the run-off area. The heavy scratch marks across his helmet bore the marks of heavy evidence.
The lack of awareness, acknowledgement of rivals and the track limits only served as a red flag – but maybe this can be turned into a good thing. It is no secret that driving standards across the entire route of junior motorsport have been rather lacking in recent years. Whether it GP2, GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 or the plethora of Formula Renault 2.0 series’, the manner in which some of the ‘talent’ have conducted themselves has left much to be desired.
Even categories as high as the FIA Formula E Series and the Verizon IndyCar Series has played host to some dreadful, amateurish driving at times this year, so it is clear that this is not a Formula Three problem alone. This is made all the more disappointing when the actions of some truly talented individuals at the front of these categories lose out on top results, because someone in their mirrors has failed to grasp onto the fact that life does not possess a restart button.
Yet surely this is the catalyst – the moment where standards of race driving are flagged for what they are; an opportunity to teach young drivers about the importance of not chopping, weaving and mindlessly dive-bombing; a chance to make sure those behind the wheel know that the white lines around the circuit are not merely decorative.
And this is where the likes of the FIA really need to make things happen and really stamp down.
For his clash with Rosenqvist (and other frontrunner Mikkel Jensen), Stroll was banned from taking part in Race 3 at Spa this weekend – good. Perhaps we should see this action more often and if Stroll (et al) commit another brainless infraction this year, then bar them for an entire race weekend.
If that is what it takes, then do it and if after that, they still have not learned, then the problem really is in the hands and minds of the driver.
Meanwhile, I will leave you with Rosenqvist’s thoughts following this weekend and of the coming race meeting, which takes place at the Norisring. “To be perfectly honest, I think these are the worst driving standards I have ever experienced. It is just impossible to race among some of the guys out there, and it doesn’t matter how cautious you are; I was extremely careful in the final race and still got spun around by a driver who had just been handed a drive-through penalty. It’s such a shame this is happening, because the championship is fantastic and the organisers are trying their best to address the issues.”
Rosenqvist continues, “Some of the new kids seem to think we’re in a video game, and if it goes on like that at the Norisring we are in real trouble. It’s a wall-lined circuit with lots of slipstreaming and heavy braking zones, and I have to admit I’m feeling concerned going there. It is possible to race at a high level and to do it in a respectful manner; I think Charles (Leclerc) is a good example of that. Let’s hope for a more sensible weekend in Germany.”