Home Formula 3Asian F3 2019 International Formula 3 season review

2019 International Formula 3 season review

by Formula Scout
The Regional Formula 3 concept continued its global expansion this year, as the prevalence of the traditional series decreased. Josh Suttill and Elliot Wood review the 2019 season in F3, from America to Italy

W Series

When pre-season title favourite Jamie Chadwick sealed the first-ever W Series title, you’d be forgiven for thinking the inaugural season stuck to the script. However, the all-female series’ debut wasn’t short of surprise and drama both on and off track.

The Hockenheim season opener went pretty much to plan for Chadwick. She topped every session and only blotted her copybook once with an opening lap mistake at the hairpin which handed the lead to Sarah Moore. She wasted little time in reclaiming the lead, and never looked back.

Round two at Zolder saw a masterclass from former Formula V8 3.5 racer Beitske Visser, who beat polesitter Chadwick on the run down to Turn 1 and took victory by 8.451 seconds.

Chadwick and Visser were once again the class of the field at Misano. Fabienne Wohlwend ended Chadwick’s pole streak, but fell to third on lap one. Visser hounded Chadwick all race, but eventually finished half a second adrift.

The Norisring race belonged to ex-Renault junior Marta Garcia. The 18-year-old dominated all-weekend long, while Visser beat Chadwick to second place to slightly reduce the latter’s points lead.

Garcia

Emma Kimilainen may well have been among that title fight had she not been sidelined by a nasty collision with Canadian Megan Gilkes in the season opener. She made her return at the Norisring with a solid fifth place. Two weeks later, she upstaged home hero Visser to take a remarkable win from pole at Assen.

Alice Powell proved to be Kimilainen’s closest rival in that race, taking the lead on the opening lap but then being pressured into a mistake at the first turn later on and conceding the position.

Powell would have her moment in the sun in the season finale at Brands Hatch. She started second but overtook the title-chasing Chadwick. Kimilainen followed her through at Paddock Hill Bend to round off her stellar return.

Chadwick then slipped to fourth to a brilliant overtake by Visser, but being off the podium was enough to become champion.

Garcia was unable to use her Norisring victory as a springboard to a late-season title challenge. She rounded off her season with ninth and eighth place finishes. Powell’s title chances evaporated with successive DNFs through no fault of her own at Misano and Norisring. Without her injury, Kimilainen would no doubt have also been in the mix, and all three should be a consistent threat to Chadwick and Visser next year.

Wohlwend showed flashes of brilliance, but her lack of experience at this level was demonstrated on multiple occasions. Still, for someone used to racing a Ferrari 488, she can be very proud with sixth in the points and the third-best qualifying record.

Miki Koyama quickly became a fan favourite with her charge from 17th on the grid to sixth at Hockenheim. This soon became her party trick. She had the 11th-best qualifying record but was seventh in the standings, despite a clumsy and pointless second half to the season.

Moore took eighth in the championship. Unfortunately, Hockenheim proved to be her peak, but she was a consistent top-10 qualifier and finisher. Vicky Piria, who was 10th in Euroformula Open in 2013, ended up ninth, with fifth on home soil at Misano her best finish of the year. Rounding out the top 10 was South African Tasmin Pepper.

The 29-year-old has had a lengthy absence from single-seaters, but starting the season with four points finishes was enough to secure her spot on the 2020 grid. In contrast, Jessica Hawkins had to wait until the penultimate round of the season to score her first points. Fortunately, it was the first of two seventh-place finishes and was enough to seal her 2020 drive. She tied on points with American?Sabre Cook,?whose ninth-place at Brands Hatch guaranteed her championship return.

This left Caitlin Wood and Gosia Rdest out in 13th and 14th. They starred at Assen, finishing in fifth and sixth, and deserve, at the very least, reserve driver roles next year.

Arguably the biggest underperformer of the season was Esmee Hawkey. Though new to single-seaters, she qualified in the top 10 on four occasions, including a stunning third on home soil at Brands Hatch. However, she stalled on the grid at Brands, meaning ninth at the Norisring was her only points finish of the year.

Naomi Schiff also registered just two points. Vivien Keszthelyi got to start four of the six races and did score, but fellow reserve Sarah Bovy failed to score and only made two appearances as a mechanical error stopped her from starting at Zolder.

Shea Holbrook had a miserable year. She had the worst qualifying record and finished no better than 12th, only ahead of Bovy and third reserve Megan Gilkes. The Canadian was benched at the Norisring and unintentionally caused Kimilainen’s sidelining, but did win the non-championship reversed-grid race at Assen in remarkable circumstances.

With at least six new drivers, more races and Formula 1 superlicence points now available, Chadwick will have an even-tougher fight on her hands for the 2020 title.

Asia

After a first season which attracted high-key drivers and a Winter Series that attracted even more high-profile headlines, Asian F3 had a quiet second season which was once again dominated by Hitech.

Ukyo Sasahara, once a star of Formula Renault in Europe, continued his career rebirth by beating Red Bull-backed team-mate Jack Doohan. Between them they won 13 of the 15 races, eight of which were claimed by Sasahara.

It was actually a late call-up that resulted in Sasahara driving Hitech’s #1 car, and both he and Doohan were beaten to the first pole of the season by Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao. The Asian FR champion was less race-sharp than his opposition though and Sasahara took two wins on the trot before Doohan responded with one of his own.

Doohan was the presumed championship leader given Sasahara, who was focusing on a Porsche Carrera Cup Japan title campaign, was down for no further rounds. He did turn up for the next round at Thailand’s Buriram track though and took another two wins.

Hitech expanded to encompass Jackson Walls at Suzuka, where Doohan surprisingly looked more of a match for Sasahara. Doohan would have taken a triple win were it not for a mechanical failure, but he still closed the points gap after Sasahara followed his inherited race two win with ninth place in race three after being penalised for spinning poleman Petr Ptacek.

Sasahara was back on top of his game in the first visit to Shanghai, winning all three races. Doohan skipped on his Euroformula Open commitments to compete but had his weakest weekend yet. The season finale was also at Shanghai, and local driver Cao showed the progress he’d made across the season by making two stunning starts and wins, while third and fourth was enough for Sasahara to wrap up the title early.

Usually behind Sasahara, Doohan and Cao was BlackArts Racing’s Brendon Leitch, who took five podiums. Cao’s team-mate Eshan Pieris was a lonely fifth in the standings, ahead of part-timers Walls and Jordan Dempsey (Pinnacle Motorsport).

Americas

Global Racing Group’s Dakota Dickerson’s sought to replicate his United States F4 champion predecessor Kyle Kirkwood by following up with F3 Americas success, and while he succeeded in doing so, it was in a far less dominant way.

Benjamin Pedersen finished on the podium in all but one of the races in his part-time campaign last year, and he returned in 2019 aiming for the title. Deciding to race in BRDC British F3 meant he once again entered less than two-thirds of the American season, but still won seven races to team-mate Dickerson’s five and left the season opener as the points leader.

The absence of the Dane afterwards didn’t actually lend itself to Dickerson, as Abel Motorsports’ Jacob Abel made the most of tricky conditions at Road Atlanta to take his first two wins and the points lead. Dickerson finally took control at Pittsburgh with a triple win, as 2018 runner-up Baltazar Leguizamon ended his season early after five second places in eight races.

Pederson returned with rigour at Virginia and won six of the eight remaining races, as Abel also chose to skip rounds. This meant Dickerson wrapped up the title a round early at Road America, despite not winning a race since Pittsburgh.

Pedersen, with his higher scoring average, was a comfortable second in the standings, way ahead of one-time winner Mathias Soler-Obel (Velocity Racing Developments), Abel and James Roe Jr (GRG).

Australia

It took 10 years for John Magro to win the Australian F3 title, and he did it in style by going undefeated for R-Tek Motorsport.

He won all 18 races of the six-round season in his HWA-powered Dallara F311, the newest car on the grid. He kicked off the season with, beyond the obvious three wins, a new lap record at Winton and the end of a long losing streak. After making a poor start from pole in race one and having to fight back to take the lead, Magro took his first win since 2017.

At Morgan Park Raceway he had an easier time, then took another lap record on the championship’s visit to The Bend Motorsport Park. Magro equalled the consecutive win record at Sydney Motorsport Park, then sailed to success at Wakefield Park and Queensland Raceway.

Josh Buchan, winner of the Mount Panorama Formula Ford 50th Anniversary event at the start of the year, took one pole for Gilmour Racing and was second in the standings.

The rest

Former F3 Euro Series driver Sandro Zeller took his fourth Austrian F3 Cup title for his father’s team Jo Zeller Racing.

The 27-year-old dominated much of the season, only being beaten three times in the first 12 races. His grip on qualifying was weaker, especially when the F2000 Italian Trophy series shared the grid, and Regional F3 racers Alessio Deledda and Tom Beckhauser were two of the career-minded drivers who beat Zeller to pole or victory.

The Hungaroring season finale held on the same weekend as the Euroformula season closer acted as a ‘passing of the baton’ for the biggest championship using the Dallara F312/F317 car. Andrea Cola – runner-up to Zeller in the Austrian standings – claimed the Italian title, while Beckhauser succeeded Cola as the FIA Central European Zone champion.

Some in the?MSVR F3 Cup this year got distracted by the prospect of competing in Euroformula, leaving Chris Dittmann Racing’s Cian Carey to take a second successive title.

CF Racing’s Stefano Leaney won four of the first six races as an invitational entry in his Dallara F317, before switching to an older car to be eligible for points. He continued his winning streak after making the switch, with his time on the top step finally being ended at Silverstone by team-mate George Line and Carey.

Leaney returned to victory at the poorly contested Brands Hatch Grand Prix round in August, where Team Fox Racing’s Darragh Daly also won. Three more wins for Leaney in the remaining six races only put him fifth in the standings, with Carey taking a comfortable title win over University of Wolverhampton driver Shane Kelly.