The significance and popularity of the FIA F3 European Championship continues to increase as the 2015 season gets underway at Silverstone this weekend.
The rapid rise of Max Verstappen from karting to Formula 1, using F3 as a brief stepping stone, cast additional spotlight on the series late last year.
Combined with a rookie champion in Esteban Ocon, that story has conspired to turn the championship into a real breeding ground for young and exciting drivers, with rookies flocking to the series in droves to try to repeat the heroics of Ocon or Verstappen.
Among them are a couple of drivers trying to make the leap straight from karting, as well as a couple of Verstappen’s old competitors who impressed in their own first car racing seasons last year.
In all, a massive 36 drivers are entered for the season. It’s a quite remarkable turnaround from the 11 full-time entries of 2011. The quality doesn’t run all the way to the back, but even though it’s quite a subjective measure, it’s not hard to argue the number of genuine talented drivers goes well into double figures.
Despite the variances in experience, the fight for race wins and for the championship looks open between numerous drivers, and simply getting into the points will be difficult even for drivers who’ve got used to success in their careers up to this point.
Prema remains the team to beat, with Ocon last year being its fourth consecutive European F3 champion. The Mercedes-powered team was given a good run for its money last year by Volkswagen-propelled Carlin though, and this season could be closer still. As last year, their four-man driver line-up is all-new, but it contains a great mix of experience and potential from 23-year-old F3 veteran through to 16-year-old F4 champion. As usual, Prema kept its cards very close to its chest during pre-season, making exact form hard to predict.
1. Felix Rosenqvist
Sweden, age 23
2014: European F3, eighth; Macau GP winner
12 months ago, Rosenqvist staying on for a fourth year in European F3 seemed remarkable. So what does that make a fifth year? Runner-up to Raffaele Marciello in 2013, a lack of funds prevented him taking the next step but Mercedes have been loyal enough to keep backing him in F3 (having not given him a DTM chance).
2014 was certainly tough for Rosenqvist until the very last race, when he won Macau at the fifth attempt. He had won just one of the 33 European series races before that, even though that also came with a big prize in the form of the Pau Grand Prix.
He now leaves Mucke Motorsport for Prema, and that change might make all the difference and see him run away with the title. On the other hand, we saw last year that experience counts for little in F3 at the moment. He’s up against some super talented youngsters again this year – including within his own team – and will have to be at his best to beat them all.
2. Jake Dennis
United Kingdom, age 19
2014: European F3, ninth
Dennis might have been upstaged last year by some of his fellow rookies, but he still showed promise in his debut F3 campaign. After a slow start he looked particularly good in the middle of the year, and was on course for a fine top-six finish until a tough final few rounds.
His backers the Racing Steps Foundation chose to move him from Carlin over to Prema for 2015, and for a while it looked like he would have the role of team leader at the squad that’s run the last four Euro F3 champions.
Rosenqvist’s arrival threatens that considerably but at the same time, it perhaps takes some of the pressure off too as losing out to a driver of such experience shouldn’t break his career. Where the pressure does remain is with needing to look good against a talented crop of rookies, and to help prevent his old team beating his new one to the title.
24. Brandon Maisano
France, age 21
2014: Italian F4, Trophy winner
A former member of Ferrari’s academy who was Formula Abarth champion in 2010 and spent two years in Italian F3, Maisano’s career was rescued from the scrapheap last year, even if it meant starting all over again in F4 as an experienced team-mate for new Prema arrival Lance Stroll.
After taking six outright wins (he had to settle for the Trophy classification as he was too old for the main Championship), the relationship with the Strolls has deservedly continued into the Toyota Racing Series earlier this year – finishing runner-up to the Canadian and winning more races than anyone else – and now F3.
Maisano’s two years of past F3 experience in Italy – the second with Prema – could stand him in very good stead and help him to shine among the crop of series newcomers. The maturity that comes with age could help too, although it was he that got into too many scrapes in New Zealand, not Stroll.
25. Lance Stroll
Canada, age 16
2014: Italian F4, champion
Joining Ferrari’s academy as an 11-year-old, Stroll made his single-seater debut last year and was Italian F4 champion in just over three months having dominated the campaign. He soon followed that up with another success in the Toyota Racing Series.
What Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen did last year means that another title isn’t impossible in F3 as a rookie, but he’s got three team-mates who will be tough to beat alone, nevermind the rest too. There would be no shame in needing a learning year to get up to speed at this level, but given the impressive maturity he’s shown so far, it wouldn’t be a surprise for him to exceed modest targets.
His father’s wealth means that a place in Formula 1 is probably just a formality once he tallies the necessary superlicence points. With ten under his belt from F4, a top-two placing in F3 would take him over the magic 40 mark, but he won’t reach the new minimum age of 18 until October 2016 anyway.
Carlin built its reputation upon years of success in British F3 but it wasn’t really until last year that it began to show a similar sort of form in the European series, with Tom Blomqvist winning six times and taking second in the points. The lead Volkswagen-engined squad is now the toughest rival for Prema and has the returning driver that was highest-placed last year as part of another six-car assault, which also features a couple of rookies who could really impress.
3. Antonio Giovinazzi
Italy, age 21
2014: European F3, sixth
For a while it looked as if Giovinazzi would move onto Formula Renault 3.5 for this year, together with his long-time team-mate Sean Gelael and his family’s ‘Jagonya Ayam’ KFC backing, but the Italian has instead stayed behind in F3 for a shot at the title.
As the best-placed driver from 2014 to return, he’s well placed for that and has continuity in staying with Carlin. The 2012 Formula Pilota China champion was a little disappointing for over half of last season but was one of the strongest in the final four rounds, during which he claimed two wins and four other podiums.
If he can carry that form through to the start of this season against mostly new competition – and testing’s looked positive in that sense – he could be hard to beat. Giovinazzi’s been an under-the-radar talent up to now, but this is a perfect opportunity to make a name for himself.
4. Gustavo Menezes
United States, age 20
2014: European F3, 11th
Menezes joins Carlin for his second year at this level, and conventional wisdom would suggest that the British team will provide a more competitive package for him this year, despite what the superhuman Verstappen managed alongside him at Van Amersfoort last year.
Now in his third season of F3 in all (he was fourth in the German series in 2013), Menezes is now one of the more experienced drivers in the field and will be expected to perform as such. That won’t be easy though given the calibre of some of the rookie crop, including within his own team.
He will need to make quite a step forward to rival the likes of Giovinazzi, Rosenqvist and Dennis for the title, but he could be a more regular fixture in the top half dozen or so this time, and improving upon the two podiums he got at Spa last year.
9. Tatiana Calderon
Colombia, age 22
2014: European F3, 15th
Calderon is one of the most prominent female drivers on the junior single-seater scene at present and with good reason, having shown flashes of real promise such as Pro Mazda podiums, a Florida Winter Series win and a fifth place in F3 at Spa last year.
2015 will be her fourth full season in F3 machinery however, so there’s some pressure to perform on a more consistent basis. Joining Carlin – with strong support from VW through its involvement with the FIA’s Women in Motorsport initiative – gives Calderon the most competitive team she’s had yet.
The late collapse of the Signature-Renault project last year left her with a last-second deal to race a Jo Zeller-entered car and the early rounds were difficult. Beginning with that Spa result though, she scored points at every remaining round, and will hope to build on that this year.
10. George Russell
United Kingdom, age 17
2014: BRDC F4, champion
One of the stars of this year’s rookie crop, BRDC F4 champion Russell was initially looking at a season in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 after winning the final race of last year as a guest, but stepped up his ambitions after receiving the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award and secured an F3 seat with Carlin.
There’s little to suggest he’s going to be out of his depth with such a jump, as he’s been among the very front-runners in pre-season testing. Fighting for the title may be too much of an ask, but on the other hand it would be foolish to rule it out, either.
The former double European junior karting champion has impressed significantly in single-seaters already, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him add to his growing reputation again in F3.
26. Ryan Tveter
United States, age 20
2014: Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, ninth
Carlin is running something of an extended foreign exchange trip for racing drivers at the moment, with Tveter being the second American in their European F3 squad at the same time as the British team takes drivers stateside with their new Indy Lights programme.
Tveter joins Menezes in teaming up with Giovinazzi under the Jagonya Ayam banner, although the two Americans do bring personal funding too. As a rookie, his targets are likely to be more modest than those of his team-mates, but he’ll still want to impress with the same tools at his disposal.
Having not raced karts, Tveter is still playing catch up in terms of experience and this is certainly another big step. However, he showed encouraging pace at times during his two years in Formula Renault 2.0 and claimed a podium in the NEC last year, even if he barely troubled the scorers in the very competitive Eurocup.
30. Callum Ilott
United Kingdom, age 16
2014: Karting, European champion
In normal circumstances, a driver making the leap from karting into F3 wouldn’t have many expectations around them. But Ilott does so as a recruit to the Red Bull Junior Team, and that essentially makes him the man they’ve chosen to follow in the footsteps of Verstappen.
Can that successful experiment ever be repeated? Ilott doesn’t graduate from karting with quite so many honours as his predecessor, but he is the CIK-FIA European champion, and also won the WSK Super Master Series last year. He got some early single-seater mileage under his belt in the Toyota Racing Series, where he impressed with his pace and could have done more than take three P4 finishes were it not for a number of incidents.
He’s looked quick in pre-season testing, rarely far off the pace of team-mates Giovinazzi and Russell, so it doesn’t look like speed will be a problem. If he can master his racecraft he could make headlines, but should things go awry his future prospects can hardly be written off immediately?either.
Prema’s nearest challengers in previous seasons, Mucke seemed to be playing catch up last year with the new engine regulations but were competitive enough for Lucas Auer to finish fourth in the standings, and the team ended the year with a one-two in Macau. Its all-new five-man line-up for 2015 lacks much experience, but includes two second-year drivers moving up from less competitive teams and two who finished one-two in ADAC Formel Masters last season.
5. Santino Ferrucci
United States, age 16
2014: European F3, 19th
Having started his single-seater career in his native United States, Ferrucci made the step into European F3 once he turned 16 part-way through last year. With a Eurointernational team that struggled for most of the season, he quickly impressed, scoring a fifth and a fourth on his second weekend at the Norisring.
He only went on to score two further points, and a switch to the Fortec team didn’t work out internationally (he did win twice on a one-off in British F3) until Macau, when he brought his car home in a fine eighth place.
A move to Mucke Motorsport should enable him to show off his skills more often, and in some ways he has an experience advantage over many as he’s one of only seven 2015 drivers that competed on a regular basis last year. He began this year by showing good maturity and consistency to take third in the Toyota Racing Series, even if the pace wasn’t there to win until the final round.
6. Michele Beretta
Italy, age 20
2014: European F3, 28th
Runner-up in Formula Abarth in 2013, Beretta had a tough first season in F3 last season. He lacked pace and was often only seen on the TV feed when involved in an incident, which was unfortunately a frequent occurrence.
In his defence, Beretta was driving for a Eurointernational team that was struggling without an experienced lead driver. This Mucke quintet lacks experience too, but the team is proven and Beretta has three well-rated team-mates against which he can be compared.
Pre-season form suggests that he could indeed make a good step forward this year despite the strength of new arrivals, with his times comparing well to his team-mates and often placing him in the top half of the field.
27. Mikkel Jensen
Denmark, age 20
2014: ADAC Formel Masters, champion
Jensen really marked himself out as one to watch last season with a commanding run to the ADAC Formel Masters title, going against the pre-season expectations that favoured others. In his second year in the series, he got 10 wins from the 24 races.
The champions of such national entry-level series – like Stroll and Russell too – are usually deserving of a competitive seat in F3, and Jensen has got that with Mucke. He has done enough to secure some factory Mercedes backing to boot.
He’s put in some impressive performances in testing over the winter, and even though he’s a rookie, he could well be capable of leading the Mucke charge.
28. Maximilian Gunther
Germany, age 17
2014: ADAC Formel Masters, second
For Gunther, read much of what was said about Jensen before. He finished runner-up in both of his seasons in ADAC Formel Masters, so graduates to F3 as a similarly exciting prospect. He ought to probably have won the ADAC title last year but found that Mucke had lost ground to Neuhauser, the team Jensen raced for.
His chances of racing in F3 didn’t look certain until the entry list was revealed, but it’s a deserved climb up the Mucke ranks for team protege Gunther, who’s the sort of quick young German driver that Mercedes should be getting behind.
Like Jensen, he’s shown some good competitiveness during testing, and is another member of the rookie crop who could shine this season.
35. Kang Ling
China, age 18
2014: Selected FR2.0 Alps, national F3, GP3 races
After a year in French F4 in 2013, Ling switched from series to series last year, starting off with three rounds in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps followed by two in German F3 and one in British F3 and finishing off with a GP3 entry.
If he stays in it for the full season, a Mucke F3 seat should be competitive and give him a good chance to show what he can do. He’s got plenty of team-mates to learn from, too.
However, he’s not shown much in his career yet to suggest he can be a factor in such a large grid, and he hasn’t done so in pre-season testing either.
Van Amersfoort Racing
The strength of teams can often be seen to be determing factor in F3, but last year Van Amersfoort proved the importance of a strong driver, going from just one podium in 2013 to ten wins with Verstappen in 2014. Now hoping to maintain that form, talent over experience is key to the VAR approach and although its 2015 F3 line-up features three drivers no older than 17, it’s an exciting one.
7. Charles Leclerc
Monaco, age 17
2014: Formula Renault 2.0 Alps, second
There’s a number of exciting rookies coming into F3 this year but out of all of them, Leclerc could just be the most promising. One of Verstappen’s biggest rivals in karting, he too will make his F3 debut with Van Amersfoort. Unlike Verstappen, he’s got the advantage of not being a single-seater newcomer.
Leclerc’s maiden car racing season saw him finish second in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps to third-year driver Nyck de Vries, and take three second-place finishes from six guest starts in the Eurocup.
A protege of Nicolas Todt and long-time friend of fellow French Riviera racer Jules Bianchi, Leclerc has shown some remarkable pace in pre-season testing, topping four of the six official sessions. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him translate that into race wins and quite possibly even a title challenge.
8. Alessio Lorandi
Italy, age 16
2014: Karting, Winter Cup and Margutti Trophy winner
Lorandi is another than can be placed in the pile of drivers taking their lead from Verstappen, particularly so as he makes an identical step up from karting into F3 with Van Amersfoort after the Dutch driver introduced him to the team.
He has an impressive karting resume, including being the 2013 world junior champion. Last year in his first and only season at senior KF level, he won the Winter Cup and Andrea Margutti Trophy and came second in the WSK Super Master Series and Champions Cup.
Van Amersfoort are setting more modest targets for Lorandi than they did for Verstappen, which is proving to be wise based on pre-season form. Indeed, unlike Verstappen or Ilott, Lorandi’s first F3 race will also be his first single-seater race. He needs to be allowed a learning year at this level, and anything more will be a bonus.
29. Arjun Maini
India, age 17
2014: BRDC F4, second
Completing Van Amersfoort’s trio of star rookies, Maini steps up to F3 after running his then team-mate Russell close for the BRDC F4 title last year. He then went on to impress with his speed in the Toyota Racing Series, arguably deserving more than fourth place in the final reckoning.
Initially discovered by Force India’s ‘One in a billion’ talent search of which he was the winner, Maini is now mentored by Karun Chandhok and enjoys mutual support from JK Tyres.
His TRS campaign showed he’s got some rough edges, but he had previously demonstrated an ability to stay out of trouble in F4, without which he wouldn’t have held the points lead going into the final round. If he can put everything together at once, he could really impress.
A leading team in the Euroformula/F3 Open, West-Tec expanded into the European championship last year and enjoyed a very decent first season, with its experienced lead driver Felix Serralles being a regular top ten finisher and ending up 12th in the points. The team could miss that experience in 2015, but both their new signings have shown promise in lower categories and could mix it with bigger names.
11. Fabian Schiller
Germany, age 17
2014: ADAC Formel Masters, eighth
Schiller made his debut in F3 machinery with West-Tec at the final round of last season’s Euroformula Open and now makes the step up to the FIA championship.
That comes after spending two years in ADAC Formel Masters with the family’s Schiller Motorsport team. In that time he claimed three victories, with one from a reverse grid in 2013 and two last season.
He’s unlikely to be on the same level as fellow ADAC graduates Jensen or Gunther, but he’s shown enough promise to indicate he won’t be out of his depth here either. He did place as high as third in one pre-season test, but that was in the wet.
38. Raoul Hyman
South Africa, age 18
2014: BRDC F4, third
Hyman deal to race West-Tec’s second car was only announced last week, but he has got quickly up to pace and was sixth quickest in the morning of the Silverstone test day, which was just his third in the car after two days of private running at Snetterton.
His prior two years of single-seater racing came in BRDC F4, and was a title contender for the entirety of 2014 before ending up third. He went well in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC testing last month, but eventually chose to follow his former rivals Russell and Maini in stepping up to F3.
The lateness of Hyman’s deal could put him at a disadvantage at first, but he could well have what it takes to do some giant-killing with West-Tec as the season goes on.
After a good first year in the European series in 2013, Fortec had a torrid time last year with its initial two drivers leaving midway through the season, even prompting the team to skip a couple of rounds. But after ending 2014 with a better display in Macau, it has secured a four-car line-up for the new season, landing a big-name talent and also holding onto the drivers that finished one-two in the final British F3 championship. That’s a much better base to start from this year.
12. Pietro Fittipaldi
Brazil, age 18
2014: Protyre Formula Renault, champion
With a big name, a big sponsor and big talent, Fittipaldi could be considered something of a coup for Fortec for 2015. Backed by a couple of Carlos Slim’s telecoms brands, the grandson of Emerson dominated the Protyre Formula Renault series last year.
After success in lower NASCAR ranks in America, Fittipaldi’s single-seater career began steadily in 2013 but he made a big step forward last year, winning ten of 15 races in Britain’s now-defunct FR2.0 series. He showed well against tougher opposition in the Alps series, too.
With Fittipaldi looking likely to be the team leader despite his rookie status, this season may have to be written off as a year for learning the ropes in F3, but don’t discount him from getting among the frontrunners on occasion.
14. Matt Rao
United Kingdom, age 20
2014: British F3, second
As one of Fortec’s two drivers fighting over the British F3 title last year, Rao was able to give a significant boost to his career, which had previously included the Duratec class title in Formula Ford and a year in Protyre Formula Renault. He now makes the natural move to the European championship.
Rao was possibly the quicker man in British F3, taking five wins rather than his rival’s four, but a lack of consistency cost him.
He’s generally been the second quickest of the Fortec drivers in testing behind Fittipaldi and featured in the top 20 on one day in Valencia, but the competition here will ultimately be a very big step up from what he’s done before.
31. Martin Cao
China, age 22
2014: British F3, champion
Competing in single-seaters in Asia from 2008 before heading to Britain and joining Fortec for two years in Formula Renault, Cao has the prestige of becoming the last ever British F3 champion in last season.
The European series will be a big step however, despite getting that year of experience under his belt. He did do one round at Imola late last year and then went okay in Macau, often running inside the top 20.
He’ll be doing well if he can repeat that kind of form, but he has often been towards the tail end of the times in testing, and that’s a place to be avoided this year with non-qualifiers being a possibility at circuits with smaller capacity.
32. Peter Li
China, age 21
2014: British F3, fifth
A former rival of Cao’s in Asian Formula Renault, Li went on to enjoy success in GTs and was Asian champion in 2013. The single-seater bug remained though and Li contested the British F3 season with Carlin last year in an older F308.
He now joins Fortec to follow Rao and Cao in stepping up to the European championship.
He does have one disadvantage compared to them though, having only raced the latest-spec Dallara once, on his Carlin debut at Brands Hatch in 2013. In terms of competition, he maybe has the biggest step up from what he’s been up against before.
Having run Tom Blomqvist to seventh in its first season in the European championship in 2013, Eurointernational took a step backwards in terms of results last year, and wasn’t helped by lead driver Riccardo Agostini walking away after three rounds. For this year, team boss Antonio Ferrari has acquired a strong driver pairing which should help to move it forwards again.
15. Nicolas Beer
Denmark, age 19
2014: BRDC F4, 20th
Beer could be regarded as the fourth BRDC F4 graduate on the European F3 grid, but his time in the series last year ended just four rounds having only managed one podium. Eurointernational picked him up and gave him his F3 debut in the German series, and he was due to do a full season there until the category folded.
Fortunately the resources were found to move into the European series, and although this will be a much tougher challenge for Beer, he’s got what it takes to go well. In 2013 he finished fourth in ADAC Formel Masters, demonstrating his potential.
A heavy crash at Imola disrupted his pre-season programme but he was firmly inside the top 20 at Silverstone. For most of the year he’ll benefit from a high-calibre team-mate, and although he’ll be on his own this weekend, he does at least have track knowledge.
16. Marvin Kirchhofer
Germany, age 21
2014: GP3, third
For the second year of trying, the 2013 German F3 champion has secured a Euro F3 programme alongside his main focus in the GP3 Series. And Kirchhofer’s sophomore GP3 campaign certainly is his priority, because he’ll even miss the Silverstone F3 opener due to the last day of a GP3 test on Friday.
He’s certain to miss the Spa round too because of a clash and his pre-season F3 mileage has been limited, but he was inside the top 10 at the Silverstone test. Look out for him particularly in the six Hockenheim races – his record there is six wins from eight starts in three years.
After last year’s struggles, getting Kirchhofer on board is a big deal for Eurointernational, and one believed to have been made possible by Mercedes. If it comes off, the long-term benefits could be big for all parties.
T-Sport had a difficult time in the 2014 European championship with its regular driver pairing racking up just three points between them. There was a reminder of what it was capable of in Macau however, when Nick Cassidy finished up with a podium on just his fifth weekend in an F3 car. While that got the Kiwi a Toyota deal in Japan, the team has attracted just a single low-key rookie to run this season.
17. Julio Moreno
Ecuador, age 19
2014: Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, 22nd
On his own as a rookie at T-Sport in such a large and competitive field, Moreno faces an uphill struggle this year. He has spent the past two seasons in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, where he only managed a best result of 12th last year despite being with a race-winning team in Manor MP Motorsport.
He does have some form as a single entrant however, having made the top 10 in both Silverstone races in 2013 with JTR. A repeat result at the British circuit this weekend on his F3 debut would be quite a feat.
It might be his best chance of a strong performance though thanks to track knowledge, having began his career in British Formula Ford in 2012, finishing fourth. He was mid-pack in this week’s test at the circuit, too – much stronger than in Valencia.
Double R Racing
After a competitive showing with Giovinazzi in 2013, Double R’s single-car 2014 European programme only lasted six rounds after South American champion Felipe Guimaraes cut short his campaign. Like fellow British team T-Sport though, it was another to look good in Macau with a strong driver behind the wheel, with Roberto Merhi taking fourth in the last race before his F1 debut. Double R’s 2015 signings are unlikely to repeat that sort of result, but should hopefully complete the season at least.
18. Nicolas Pohler
Germany, age 19
2014: Euroformula Open, 12th
Pohler enters the championship with two years of F3 mileage and one in a Dallara F312 under his belt from the Euro Open. Finishing 12th in the standings last year, his best race finish was sixth but did qualify in the top five on three occasions.
Pohler’s another that started out in ADAC Formel Masters, spending one season there before moving onto F3 Open’s Copa Class for the F308 chassis. His career to-date doesn’t mark him out as one of the rookies to watch but in Double R, he’s got a great team to learn from about top-level F3.
If the Silverstone test results translate roughly into the qualifying order though, he will start the season towards the rear.
19. Matt Solomon
Hong Kong, age 19
2014: Formula Masters China Series, second
Solomon arrives in Europe having built up a good reputation for himself in Asia in his two years racing cars so far. He was fifth in Formula Masters China in his rookie season and then improved to second last year, winning five races.
He also famously won a GT race alongside Mika Hakkinen in 2013, and is being guided by the Finn together with F1 driver manager Didier Coton. There’s backing from sportscar squad Craft-Bamboo too.
His plans to move into F3 with Double R were apparent with tests relatively early last year, and he placed well at Silverstone earlier this week. Making an impression against such opposition will be tough, but he’s shown some potential.
Champions with Edoardo Mortara in 2010, Signature pulled out of F3 just a year later when the Euro Series was struggling to attract drivers. Its attempts to return last year were delayed by the Renault engine it was to run lacking pace in testing and their cooperation being shelved. But now with VW power, the team has partnered with the Lotus F1 Team and sister management firm Gravity again to get two promising rookies for 2015.
20. Dorian Boccolacci
France, age 16
2014: French F4, second
After Ocon, Boccolacci is Gravity’s next French protege. But having had just one year of single-seaters in French F4 and by making his F3 bow with a team returning after three years away, any immediate expectations will be considerably lower.
The winner of two WSK KF titles and the CIK-FIA KZ2 Super Cup in 2013, Boccolacci had to play second fiddle to the more experienced Lasse Sorensen in F4 last year. He was still impressive though, including taking two wins on the streets of Pau – watch for him there again this season, given most other rookies won’t know the track.
Despite a promising start, Boccolacci’s pre-season form has been rather modest and his focus for this year may have to be on learning rather than results. Hopefully taking an early step up to F3 – when Formula Renault 2.0 may just have been wiser – won’t harm him in the long term.
21. Alexander Albon
Thailand, age 19
2014: Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, third
Albon was a star in karting as a European junior champion and world cup winner in 2010 and the world vice-champion at senior level a year later, but he’s gone a little under the radar so far in his single-seater career.
His time as a Red Bull protege ended after a difficult rookie campaign in FR2.0 in a faltering team, but he showed glimpses of promise in 2013 and then put together a consistent campaign to take third in the Eurocup last year.
He might have only won one race so far (in the 2014 NEC) but he remains a driver with potential, and some very competitive pre-season showings suggest that he could feature regularly in the points this year.
The Oschersleben-based Motopark team last took part in European F3 at the end of 2011, but went on to dominate the German series in the following three years. Now it’s back and in some force too, with a five-strong line-up. Its reputation has helped it to secure some good prospects as part of a quintet with varying levels of F3 experience, although none have done a full season in this category.
22. Nabil Jeffri
Malaysia, age 21
2014: German F3, second
For a driver who did a straight-line Formula 1 test for Tony Fernandes’ Lotus team at 16-years-old in 2010, it’s taken Jeffri a long time to get to F3. That was his first of three years racing Formula BMW in Asia, yielding fifth, third and second in the standings.
These days enjoying backing from Mercedes F1 title sponsors Petronas, Jeffri has spent the past two years in German F3, and finished second with Motopark last season.
Moving up to the European series with the team is the natural next step, but it remains to be seen whether he has the pace to really compete at this level as testing was nothing to write home about in terms of the timesheets at least.
23. Sergio Sette Camara
Brazil, age 16
2014: F3 Brazil, eighth
There are drivers in Motopark’s quintet with five or eight years of car racing experience, but Sette Camara is embarking on his first full season out of karts. He made his Euro F3 debut at Imola last year with Eurointernational and was on the pace, but also did five rounds of his native series.
He qualified on the front row on his debut and later took a pole position, although race results were harder to come by with one podium from the ten starts. He would prove his pace again when he did the last two rounds of this year’s Toyota Racing Series, consistently inside the top ten in esteemed company from his arrival.
He’s looked competitive in pre-season testing and could well be capable of some standout results once he gets a bit more experience in race conditions.
33. Mahaveer Raghunathan
India, age 16
2014: Italian F4, 12th
Motopark’s second 16-year-old gained the bulk of his racing experience so far in Italian F4 last year, joining from round two and finishing the year in particularly competitive form with four sixth-places from the final five races. He’s also appeared in JK Asia, FMCS and MRF Challenge since 2012.
European F3 is a big step up from what he’s done before though, and he hasn’t shown the same kind of form as Camara in testing. In fact, he’s quite regularly been in the bottom few places.
He’s made it clear he’s moving into F3 in order to improve his driving though, so some progress during the year should please him even if top results are hard to come by.
34. Markus Pommer
Germany, age 24
2014: German F3, champion
Pommer made a name for himself in Formula 2 in 2012 when he won three races on his way to fourth in the standings, and although he switched to the Porsche Supercup for the following season, he returned to single-seaters last year and dominated German F3.
That was hardly a surprise though, given he’d previously competed in the series between 2009 and 2011. He had a chance to shine in a parallel programme in Auto GP with top team Super Nova and although he finished third, more might have been expected.
Getting into FR3.5 or GP2 has seemingly been out of reach, but moving into European F3 with Motopark is a good move. As one of the most experienced drivers in the field, the pressure will be on to perform, but much will depend on how competitive the Motopark package is.
36. Sam MacLeod
United Kingdom, age 20
2014: German F3, fourth
MacLeod moves into European F3 having gained experience in a number of different series last year, including four wins in Britain and an appearance in Japan. His main programme was in Germany though with Van Amersfoort, where he finished as the best non-Motopark driver, winning three times.
He now joins up with Motopark and will be looking to continue the promise he showed both last year and at the start of 2015 in the Toyota Racing Series. He began the five-week championship by continuing to let incidents get in the way of his speed, but was the highest scorer in both of the final two rounds and finished up fifth.
He hasn’t stood out particularly in testing, but it would be a surprise if MacLeod doesn’t produce some strong performances from time to time.
Silverstone ? 10-12 April
Hockenheim ? 1-3 May
Pau ? 15-17 May
Monza ? 29-31 May
Spa ? 19-21 June
Norisring ? 26-28 June
Zandvoort ? 10-12 July
Spielberg ? 31 July-2 August
Moscow ? 28-30 August
Nurburgring ? 25-27 September
Hockenheim – 16-18 October