Home Features 2013 FIA F3 European Championship season review

2013 FIA F3 European Championship season review

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
Photos: FIA F3 European Championship

Photos: FIA F3 European Championship

The inaugural season for the revamped European F3 championship was met with a lot of excitement from all sides involved, but, ultimately, wound up being the expected evolution of the F3 Euro Series – a great grid with some fascinating racing, yet still mostly dominated by Prema and Mucke despite the involvement of the two big British squads.

It was a Marciello – Rosenqvist show, but that didn’t mean there weren’t lots of people to watch all around the grid – veterans, regional F3 graduates and ambitious upcomers from ADAC Formel Masters and Formula Pilota China alike. Below, we give you the rundown of the drivers who headlined FIA F3’s first year…

Raffaele Marciello1. Raffaele Marciello

Italy, Prema Powerteam, age 18

489.5 points, 13 wins, 19 podiums, 12 pole positions, 7 fastest laps

After lighting up the F3 Euro Series with a powerhouse debut season in 2012 following two decent campaigns in Italian single-seaters, the pressure was on Marciello in 2013 as the Ferrari protege came into the championship as the favourite (further bolstered by Pascal Wehrlein’s DTM promotion).

Over the first four rounds he took six wins from 12 races despite losing one due to a technical infringement. Many were ready to call it there, but a dreadful weekend at Spielberg severely decreased his lead. The pattern continued for the rest of the year. A phenomenal weekend at Nurburgring would be followed by an absolute shocker at Zandvoort and, due to the inconsistencies, he had to wait until the last round to officially become champion.

It was not perfect – he noticeably struggled when not in the lead and seemed to falter when Prema wasn’t the best car at a given round. But he was often so eerily untouchable that you tend to forget the bumps. Having set the pace in GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 testing, he looks set to continue his winning ways next season with the latter series his likely destination. Season rating: 8/10

2. Felix RosenqvistFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 8, race 2, Zandvoort (NL)

Sweden, Mucke Motorsport, age 22

457 points, 10 wins, 18 podiums, 4 pole positions, 10 fastest laps

2013 marked Rosenqvist’s third year in European F3, after a stellar debut in 2011 and a very up-and-down 2012. After Wehrlein was called up to DTM, the Swede quickly slotted into the status of Mucke’s chief title hope and fully lived up to that title as the season went on.

The severely rainy opener at Monza wound up being his worst showing of the year, as from that point on he began reliably increasing his points tally. When Marciello faltered at Spielberg, Rosenqvist took advantage with a stunning triple victory and then scored more points than anyone at the Norising. Just like Marciello, he also had some crucial points losses, stalling on the grid at Nurburgring and going off in qualifying at Vallelunga. Still, each time, the Swede fought his way back into the points, fighting for every single position.

It wasn’t enough in the end, but it sure made an impression. His F3 tenure should be over now and, while he hasn’t been that prominent in post-season testing, he would be a very welcome addition to the GP2 or the FR3.5 grid. If not, his Mercedes and Mucke ties should create a DTM opportunity. Season rating: 8

3. Alex LynnFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 7, race 3, Nuerburgring (D)

United Kingdom, Prema Powerteam, age 20

339.5 points, 3 wins, 14 podiums, 5 pole positions, 4 fastest laps

After three years with Fortec, which included a Formula Renault UK title and a solid debut season in British F3, Lynn secured a Prema deal for his European move and was soon one of the potential title contenders.

The first rounds went rather according to plan, as he reliably made the points and fought for podiums, even taking a maiden pole at Silverstone. At another British track – Brands – he finally took his first victory and later added another at Norisring. There were some issues and inconsistencies mid-season, but that was ironed out quick, as he made the top eight in the final eleven races of the championship, adding yet another victory at Vallelunga. Having secured third in the standings, he then confidently won the prestigious Macau Grand Prix.

Another year of F3 seemed to be the plan, but after the Macau triumph, the Briton instead lined up a switch to GP3 with Carlin. He’s also been accepted into the Red Bull Junior Team, which should provide a clear path of progression for his career. Season rating: 8

4. Lucas AuerFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 10, Hockenheim (D)

Austria, Prema Powerteam, age 19

277 points, 1 win, 9 podiums, 3 fastest laps

Auer might be the nephew of the President of FIA’s Single-Seater Commision – one Gerhard Berger – but nepotism has nothing to do with where he is right now. He broke into FIA F3 on merit, having taken the 2011 JK Racing Asia title in his debut year and then finishing third in German F3 in 2012.

Not a lot of people mark their first race in a championship with a podium – but that’s what the Austrian managed at Monza, following it up with a similar success at Silverstone. He kept reliably bagging points throughout the first half and inherited his first victory when Marciello was disqualified at Brands.

There was a bit of pattern change in half two, as Auer reliably finished within the top seven, yet only managing the occasional podium. He briefly challenged Lynn for third in the standings, but wound up settling for fourth. He’s already sealed the deal to do a sophomore FIA F3 campaign, switching to Mucke, with who he’ll surely be expected to challenge for the title. Season rating: 8

5. Harry TincknellFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 1 Monza (I)

United Kingdom, Carlin, age 22

227 points, 1 wins, 2 podiums, 2 pole positions

Having been mostly UK-bound for the early years of his single-seater career, Tincknell had a big jump ahead of him in the switch to European F3, despite having two previous years in the British series.

But from race one Tincknell adapted exceptionally well. He scored in all three races at Monza and then held on to his first win in the series from pole at Silverstone. At Brands, he added another podium, but that’s where standout performances came to a halt as the Briton continuously put in solid but unremarkable weekends, before a return to form at Hockenheim with three fifth-place finishes.

He still seems to lack that one final tenth, but the fact that he’s second only to Rosenqvist in total points finishes is one to be proud of. Mentored by Allan McNish, Tincknell has been linked with a move into the LMP2 class of endurance racing and it’s hard to imagine a driver more perfect for the role.?Season rating: 7

Jordan King6. Jordan King

United Kingdom, Carlin, age 19

176 points, 2 podiums, 1 fastest lap

The highest-placed driver without prior F3 experience in the standings, Formula NEC runner-up King was a more than welcome addition to the grid, but ended up surpassing expectations.

The initial adjustment phase, which yielded some quality finishes yet also a bit too many retirements, was over at Spielberg, where King snatched his first podium in the series. From that point on, he was reliably a force at the front, with four fourth-place finishes and another podium at Zandvoort.

Having also added the British F3 title to his CV in 2013, the young Briton really put himself on the market, testing in a number of series after the season was over. Still, he is expected to stay in FIA F3, where he could look to end Prema’s dominance. Season rating: 8

7. Tom BlomqvistFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 5, Spielberg (A)

United Kingdom, EuroInternational, age 19

151.5 points, 3 podiums

Another Formula Renault UK champion in the field, Blomqvist scored a Red Bull Junior Team spot after a strong 2012 and stayed on for a sophomore year in FIA F3.

Having joined EuroInternational, who he knew from a grandiose part-time campaign in German F3 last year, Blomqvist was rather surprisingly left by himself, as the second seat of the car was unfilled for most of the season. That did not make things easy for him or the squad and, together, they were often rather inconsistent. Still, the talent and experience showed – he scored three podiums in the first three rounds and was generally a reliable points finisher, which allowed him to repeat his rookie year’s result of seventh place.

As Red Bull have been pretty ruthless when it comes to selection, in both past and present, one tough year proved enough for Blomqvist to lose his backing. Still, it seems he won’t be lost without it, as he’s heavily tipped to join Carlin for a 2014 campaign in FIA F3, with backing from KFC Indonesia alongside Gelael and Giovinazzi. Season rating: 7

8. Pipo DeraniFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 7, race 3, Nuerburgring (D)

Brazil, Fortec Motorsports, age 20

151.5 points, 3 podiums

After a promising rookie year in Formula Renault NEC was followed up by three difficult campaigns in various F3 championships, the Brazilian needed to perform big-time in 2013.

But, while his team-mates got up to speed in the FIA F3 championship rather quickly, Derani had a very tough adjustment period, scoring a rather paltry 18 points over the first five rounds. However, just when Fortec began losing drivers and struggling for results, something clicked for Derani. At Nurburgring, he was suddenly the team leader, taking two podiums as he doubled his pre-round points tally. More strong weekends followed, capped off with another podium at Vallelunga and, finally, he firmly took over as the top Fortec driver in the standings – something that seemed completely implausible halfway through.

His season culminated with a third-place finish in the prestigious Macau GP. Shortly after that, Derani announced a switch to Road to Indy’s Pro Mazda series for 2014. He’s earned that one fully. Season rating: 7

9. Sven MullerFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 1 Monza (I)

Germany, ma-con/Van Amersfoort Racing, age 21

122 points, 1 podium

The 21-year-old ADAC Formel Masters graduate was tipped for great things in FIA F3 after a stellar rookie year with Prema in 2012. However, plans came undone when he was not retained by the Italian squad, forcing him to secure a quick move to the familiar ma-con squad.

The partnership wouldn’t last all year as Muller, who was routinely quick but kept narrowly missing out on podiums and being involved in way too many crashes, switched to Van Amersfoort Racing come Zandvoort. While that didn’t dramatically improve his results, he found some welcome consistency and managed a great final weekend at Hockenheim where he finally took his first podium of the year.

It seemed rather likely that Muller could stick around as one of F3’s experienced drivers, but he wound up securing Porsche backing for a season in the Carrera Cup Germany, where he has the potential to build a long career in sportscars. Season rating: 7

10. Alexander SimsFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 9, Vallelunga (I)

United Kingdom, ThreeBond with T-Sport, age 25

112 points, 5 podiums, 1 fastest lap (12/30 races)

When T-Sport needed a replacement driver for the departing Buller, they wisely opted to call up McLaren GT3 man Sims, who further solidified himself as an exceptionally handy guest driver in 2013.

He made that especially apparently in his four rounds with T-Sport, as he climbed into the top ten in the standings with a very limited schedule. Stepping in at Norisring, he immediately showed frontrunning pace, confidently taking two top-five finishes. At Nurburgring, he gave the team their first podium of the year, and while Zandvoort didn’t go so well, he was the man of the moment at Vallelunga, taking podiums in all three races on a track generally dominated by Prema.

Combined with his outright brilliant guest showings in GP3, Sims has duly returned into the single-seater limelight, despite the rather above-average age. It’s fair to say he’s earned at least one crack at GP2 or FR3.5, but if he continues in single-seaters, another year at the F3 level is more likely. Season rating: 8

Felix Serralles11. Felix Serralles

United States, Fortec, age 21

104 points, 2 podiums, 1 fastest lap

Fortec’s chief hope in F3 after coming within one round of the British crown, the talented Puerto Rican had some serious expectations to live up to in his first year in the European championship.

The season started well enough, too. As Fortec were coming to grips with the new challenge, Serralles delivered some good finishes in the first two rounds before hitting a jackpot at Hockenheim, where he finished runner-up twice. His season would completely come apart after that. He left Spielberg and Brands empty-handed and, following two decent enough showings at Norisring and Nurburgring, would not score again for the remainder of the year, consistently hitting trouble and seemingly struggling due to a back injury remission. The absolute lowpoint came at the Hockenheim finale when, after colliding with Estonian Kevin Korjus, he deliberately ran into the latter’s car and was excluded from the race.

Having missed Macau, Serralles has now joined series newcomers West-Tec for 2014. He’s surely talented enough to succeed, but there are issues that need ironing out. His career will hinge on whether he can do that as soon as possible. Season rating: 6

Josh Hill12. Josh Hill

United Kingdom, Fortec, age 22

56 points, 1 podium (15/30 races)

Coming out of what is perhaps the most successful racing family in single-seaters, Hill finally entered the big leagues in 2012 when he took third in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC. Pressure was again on to perform this year as he lined up the switch to European F3.

The first two rounds at Monza and Silverstone weren’t the easiest, as he often failed to maximize his pace and only took two points finishes. But at Hockenheim, it all suddenly clicked as Hill took a very impressive podium finish in race two. He’s remained largely on-pace for the next two rounds, despite some rather inconsistent performances.

Midway through the rather promising season, Josh officially called it quits on his motorsports career, instead focusing on music. Season rating: 7

13. Eddie Cheever, Jr.FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 2, Silverstone (GB)

Italy, Prema Powerteam, age 20

50 points

After a good sophomore year in Italian F3, Cheever was finally given the nod to the European scene, and remained with Prema for his rookie year in the FIA series.

As matching his teammates would probably have been a rather tall order, his occasional points finishes early on were a pretty decent start. However, there wasn’t much in the way of noticeable improvement at mid-season, where he had a seven-race non-scoring streak, as he continued to struggle with converting decent qualifying results into points. It wouldn’t have been a season to be remembered fondly, but his performance on home turf at Vallelunga was genuinely encouraging, as he took his best finish of the season in fourth and his second-best – a fifth place.

He might be done with single-seaters after this year, as news has been circulating that he’s lined up a seat in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. Season rating: 6

14. Pascal WehrleinFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 1, race 2, Monza (I)

Germany, Mucke Motorsport, age 19

49 points, 1 win, 3 podiums, 2 pole positions, 2 fastest laps (3/30 races)

After an outright stunning rookie year in F3 Euro, Wehrlein was set to come back for a title campaign, but was called up at short-notice by the Mercedes DTM squad.

He still got to do the opening weekend at Monza and showed just what we’d be in for if he stuck around, with a double pole and a victory in tricky conditions.

His rookie year in DTM went alright after all, despite some rather noticeable bad luck. He’ll surely stick around for another year in touring cars at least, but, as we’ve seen previously, there’s always a chance he’ll be back to running open-wheelers at some point down the line. Season rating: N/A

15. Nicholas LatifiFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 1 Monza (I)

Canada, Carlin, age 18

45 points

After a rather quiet, if promising, rookie single-seater year in Italian F3 and a TRS campaign, the Canadian youngster wound up making the huge FIA F3 jump with Carlin.

Surpisingly, it took Latifi just one round to adapt – in race four of the season, he suddenly took a very impressive fifth-place finish and then had a number of other standout results as the year went on.

There was not much in the way of consistency, which explains the 45 points, but the pace shown by Latifi was extremely promising for a single-seater sophomore. He deserves another year in FIA F3 at the very least and looks rather set to get the chance, potentially switching to Prema. Season rating: 7

Will Buller16. William Buller

United Kingdom, ThreeBond with T-Sport/Fortec, age 21

39 points (15/30 races)

If Buller’s Formula Renault 3.5 venture was the really good part of his season, his fourth year in Formula Three, on the contrary, didn’t quite go to plan.

After some very promising pre-season tests with the T-Sport squad, he was expected to fight at the front, but the pace just wasn’t there. His brilliant opening race, where he went from 12th on the grid to fourth, wound up his best result of the year. Opting for a change of scenery after just four rounds, he signed up to race with Fortec, but, after his debut round with them yielded no points, the Northern Irishman called it quits on European F3, focusing on the British series instead.

While his F3 efforts this year have been extremely par for the course, he has shown something special in 3.5 and is expected to make the full-time switch in 2014. Season rating: 6

17. Antonio GiovinazziFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 10, Hockenheim (D)

Italy, Double R Racing, age 19

31 points

After British F3 was scaled back, the ultra-promising Formula Pilota China champion wound up getting a European F3 drive in just his second year in single-seaters.

To say it was a challenge would be an understatement, as both he and the team lacked the experience to regularly fight for points. Yet Giovinazzi still looked very competent – he routinely finished on the outskirts of the top ten, picking up the occasional point and noticeably improving along the way. Much of his season was hurt by poor qualifying – he hadn’t started higher than tenth before the Hockenheim finale. The German track, however, seemed to suit him and Double R reasonably well and, having made it in the top ten for all three grids, he almost doubled his points total in one weekend.

Largely reliant on the backing of his teammate Sean Gelael, as the rookie duo will move higher up the field for 2014 by joining Carlin, where Giovinazzi in particular could shine. Season rating: 7

Lucas Wolf18. Lucas Wolf

Germany, URD Rennsport, age 19

28 points, 1 podium

A year ago, the underexperienced ADAC Formel Masters graduate surprised Formula 3 with a podium in his otherwise tough maiden season and, as such, was deserving of another European F3 campaign with family-run team URD Rennsport.

Admittedly, with a severely increased grid, it was always going be much harder to replicate the feat. And, for most of it, Wolf was achieving results par for the course – only managing to break into the top ten on one weekend and often involved in incidents. However, the Spielberg weekend midway through the season saw Wolf fight on an entirely different level. He qualified for all three races in the top three and, despite one DNF, managed to bag a podium.

It’s tough to see where 2014 will take the young German – it’d make sense to stay in F3, but he’s tried his hand at GT3 racing and might end up switching his focus. Season rating: 6

Michael Lewis19. Michael Lewis

United States, Mucke Motorsport, age 22

23 points (27/30 races)

Having not been retained by Prema after an up-and-down rookie season in F3, American Michael Lewis struggled to find another seat on the grid and was not there for the opener, after a predicted deal with Romeo Ferraris fell through.

He was, however, the obvious choice for Mucke to replace the outgoing Wehrlein and stepped into the German’s seat from round two. Still, it was Rosenqvist’s year in the team, as the rest seemed to struggle – and the American was no exception. A quiet and ultimately disappointing second year saw him race mostly on the outskirts of the top ten, picking up the occasional points but failing to achieve standout results.

At 22, the California native could afford another year in F3, but looking for outside alternatives seems more sensible – he’s definitely capable enough to adapt to the Road to Indy racing scene should it come to that. Season rating: 5

20. Dennis van de LaarFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 10, Hockenheim (D)

Netherlands, Van Amersfoort Racing, age 18

22 points

Dutchman Dennis van de Laar was a surprise promotion for Van Amersfoort Racing, joining their FIA F3 squad after just one midfield year in German F3.

As such, rookie season struggles for inevitable. To van de Laar’s credit, he adapted rather quickly, scoring in the opening two races when the Dutch squad’s car was showing very promising pace.

The promising start didn’t seem to lead to much and, by the end, he was outclassed by new teammate Muller, finishing with a best result of sixth to the German’s podium. Still, it was a decent enough rookie season and one that van de Laar will be hoping to follow up on, having secured a deal to race with Prema in 2014. Season rating: 6

21. Jann MardenboroughFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 1 Monza (I)

United Kingdom, Carlin, age 22

12 points

There’s one thing that always prefaces any discussions of Mardenborough’s results – that being, his background. The GT Academy winner didn’t come from karting and, instead, is one of the “gamer turned racer” types. His first season in cars came in 2012, when he looked spectacularly sharp in British GT.

A new challenge beckoned for 2013 in the form of single-seaters and FIA F3 in particular. And, while Mardenborough doesn’t have the background to match any of his competitors, he’s shown a rather remarkable ability to adapt, being a rather consistent factor in the midfield from the get-go.

His best finish did come in the penalty-fest that was the Norisring opener and his 12 points pale in comparison to Latifi’s 45, yet, on sheer pace, he was mighty impressive. He has tested in FR3.5 and GP3 and looked impressively ready for a switch, but his single-seater efforts are probably not his main focus. Season rating: 7

22. Roy NissanyFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 10, Hockenheim (D)

Israel, Mucke Motorsport, age 19

11 points

After two midfield years in ADAC Formel Masters, Nissany opted for the rather huge leap to FIA F3 – admittedly, a move that worked out well in the past for others.

However, Rosenqvist was the only driver this year capable of consistently bagging points in the orange car and Roy was no exception. To his credit, it was a better season than expected – while he was often amongst the backmarkers, he was more than capable of fighting for the occasional point.

His middle of the season was probably stronger than the end, yet it still wound up painting a nice picture. He’s earned the chance to be retained by Mucke for 2014. Season rating: 5

Mitch Gilbert23. Mitch Gilbert

Australia, Mucke Motorsport, age 19

10 points

After finishing fourth in his rookie German F3 year, Gilbert looked more than ready for the FIA F3 switch and lined up a very good seat with Mucke.

So, not much was indicating that a “nightmare” year was upcoming. But, in the end, that’s what happened. He was surprisingly lacking pace over the few opening rounds, often running with the backmarkers, and, while points and other decent finishes started coming in in the second half, it was not enough to salvage the year.

But those things happen. And, indeed, Gilbert has shown his considerable talent before and has what it takes to bounce back from a tough year. A change of scenery will suit him well for 2014, as he looks to be a prime candidate for a Fortec seat. Season rating: 5

24. Andre RudersdorfFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 7, race 3, Nuerburgring (D)

Germany, ma-con, age 18

3 points

German youngster Andre Rudersdorf came into 2013 after two titles the previous year, but, when compared to FIA F3, both were pretty minor (Austrian F3 and German F3 Trophy Class).

So, with a smaller team like ma-con, all Rudersdorf really needed to do was run on-pace and, for the majority of the running, he lived up to the mission.While let down by his qualifying efforts (making the top 20 on the grid only twice), he’s generally been neat and tidy in the races, which allowed him to pick up three points.

Should be retained by ma-con for 2014 and will hopefully strive to become a more prominent part of the top ten. Season rating: 5

25. John Bryant-MeisnerFIA Formula 3 European Championship Mid-Season Test Hockenheimring (D)

Sweden, Fortec Motorsport, age 19

2 points (6/30 races)

The Swede, recovering from an injury that sidelined him for pretty much all of 2012, spent most of this year racing German F3, but did try out the final FIA F3 rounds with a clear goal of stepping up to the category in 2014.

He’s made an impression, too, managing to mostly keep up with the other Fortec drivers in both qualifying and races. Reliably in the midfield on his debut, he would record five top-16 finishes and, among them, picked up two points. If this was the audition for 2014, you’d have to imagine that he passed it. Season rating: N/A

Daniil KvyatFIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 7, Nuerburgring (D)

Russia, Carlin, age 19

1 win, 7 podiums, 5 pole positions, 2 fastest laps (21/30 races)

Red Bull Junior Team’s Daniil Kvyat was a surprise part-time acquisition by Carlin, as the Russian was simultaneously signed up for GP3.

Ultimately, it turned into a double campaign and one Kvyat could be mighty proud of. He took an against-odds pole during his first round and, while struggling with starts, still managed to convert that into a podium. He was masterful at Spielberg, taking a triple pole but ultimately finishing runner-up to Rosenqvist on all three occasions. Finally, he managed to convert his fifth pole into a win at Zandvoort and then capped off his campaign with several other strong finishes.

Sure, there were off rounds, but they weren’t due to any inherent lack of pace. And, with this kind of FIA F3 guesting on his resume and a GP3 title, Kvyat, who was promoted by Red Bull into an F1 seat for next year, can make that step with his head held high. Season rating: 8

The rest of the field

Double R’s Sean Gelael and Tatiana Calderon did not wind up scoring points, although it wasn’t for the lack of trying, especially on the Indonesian’s part. Gelael, thus, has probably fulfilled his goals for the huge step to FIA F3 and, at 17, remains a very interesting prospect.

Dmitry Suranovich began the season with Fortec, but ended up retiring from racing altogether after the first round. Alfonso Celis and Ed Jones both appeared in one-offs with the British team at later stages.

Mans Grenhagen was extremely promising in testing for Van Amersfoort Racing, but couldn’t convert the pace into any points and was replaced after one too many crashes. Spike Goddard was competent but quiet in his first season with T-Sport, albeit finding himself in a fair share of incidents in wheel-to-wheel racing.

Sandro Zeller had a tough year after a somewhat encouraging rookie season in 2013, while Romeo Ferraris couldn’t really find themselves in a position to fight for points during the several appearances with Gary Thompson and Michela Cerruti.

Kevin Korjus and Stefano Coletti checked off an appearance each to qualify for the Macau GP. Finally, Toyota Racing Series New Zealand double champ Nick Cassidy was very rapid on his two guest rounds, but never quite managed to convert the pace into a standout result.