BRDC British Formula 3 has attracted a Formula 2 team to its grid for 2020, as well as an international line-up of drivers that harks backs to the series’ glory days. Here is a team-by-team guide to the upcoming season
As Indy Pro 2000 has unexpectedly found itself at the top of the junior single-seater ladder in America, BRDC British F3 now represents the highest echelon of single-seaters in Britain outside of the two weekends that Formula 1 will be visiting this year, and that could continue to be the case in the future.
Euroformula and the Formula Renault Eurocup have dropped their trips to Britain, and Formula 2 and FIA F3 Championship are only bound to racing there as long as F1 is – and that’s a future often under threat. Britain’s exit from the European Union (and this year’s global coronavirus pandemic) means international single-seaters are going to be scarcely seen off the continent from now on, and it will make more sense for the local teams and drivers to, well, stay local.
That’s a trend to look out for in the long term, but has already begun with Hitech GP’s arrival in BRDC British F3 and been explored in this feature. For now, let’s look at who will be out to succeed Bruno Giacomelli, Stephen South, Derek Warwick, Matheus Leist, Enaam Ahmed, Linus Lundqvist and Clement Novalak as winners of BRDC-backed British F3 championships when the season starts at Oulton Park on August 1/2.
Neither Kaylen Frederick or Nazim Azman were de facto frontrunners last year, but they each won as many races as Carlin’s title winner Novalak, so the signs are there that the team’s 2020 line-up is ready to win from the off.
Frederick took pole on his debut, and didn’t depend on the reversed grid races for podiums or wins. The American is hugely talented, but is yet to really live up to his potential in car racing. He admitted last year’s transition to British racing was a tough one, and now he knows all the circuits – and the Carlin team – he should really be quicker.
The only data at hand to prove that would be the two-day pre-season Snetterton test back in March, which he very narrowly topped.
Azman was one of three drivers to finish every race in 2019, and switches teams from Chris Dittmann Racing. The Malaysian won twice, but his best finish in a non-reversed grid race was fifth and he was some way off making the top 10 in the points. His pace isn’t an issue, as he was a Formula 4 frontrunner in Asia and Spain in 2018, and started this year by going third fastest in British F3 testing.
Carlin’s third driver is Guilherme Peixoto, who was a star of Brazil’s karting scene before stepping up to single-seaters in United States F4. He was one of the top rookies, taking two podiums on the way to sixth in the points. F3 is a leap, but potentially a better use of track time than being in a 30-car US F4 field, and he was fourth fastest at Snetterton.
Chris Dittmann Racing
Ayrton Simmons’ run to third in the points last year made CDR a popular destination for this season, and Nico Varrone has placed himself as the driver to potentially beat Simmons’ achievements.
The Argentinian entered three rounds with Hillspeed last year and claimed an impressive first win, and he’s all but guaranteed to add to that in 2020 now he has the budget to do a full season.
The 19-year-old finished raced in Formula Renault 2.0 before F3, and became the final ever champion of the VdeV Single-Seater Challenge in 2018. His scintillating Esports form during lockdown may not be indicative of real-world success, but having such a productive off-season can only be a good thing ahead of a season start when many haven’t been testing.
Josh Skelton will be his team-mate and also looks well prepared for success. His two years in British F4 may have only resulted in two wins, but he was fourth in the points last season and went on a record run of nine podiums in a row. With CDR having proven it’s a top team, and without a F3 Cup programme to focus on (due to social distancing concerns), it could support not only one title contender but two this year.
Asian F3 frontrunner and Walter Hayes Trophy winner Jordan Dempsey has also tested with the team.
The driver who had their British F4 podium record taken by Skelton was Kiern Jewiss, and he only has eyes on the F3 title this year. He made his car racing debut with Douglas in Ginetta Junior, picking up three wins in his year racing a Ginetta G40, then really stunned to win the British F4 title with Double R Racing in 2018.
That innate driving ability was still on show in British F3 last season, but three different categories in three years perhaps proved too much – especially with a lesser-fancied team like Douglas. Jewiss is still the driver who attracted Ferrari’s interest while in F4 and had the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award age limit lowered to accommodate his achievements, but to only win once last year and come fourth in the points was undoubtedly a disappointment – despite it probably being the most competitive top four British F3 has had since its revival.
Once he got on top of the car he was on fine form, and was the top scorer in the second half of the season by some margin. His pre-season testing pace was inconclusive, but he needs to be winning to get the backing to continue his career.
His Belgian team-mate Ulysse de Pauw kept him on his toes last year, and was ahead in the points at the halfway mark. He claimed two podiums and definitely has the ability to win this year, and will be on very good footing if he beats Jewiss.
Douglas completes its line-up with Jordanian karting graduate Manaf Hijjawi, whose car racing debut in MRF Challenge over the winter resulted in a win and fourth in the points. Getting within a second of the pace in pre-season testing suggests he could be a dark horse in F3 this year.
Double R Racing
Double R has promoted is F4 line-up of Sebastian Alvarez and Louis Foster to F3, and this familiarity should help them adapt to the next step.
Admittedly, Mexican talent Alvarez was nowhere in his rookie F4 season, but upped his game on his return and led the points until his car set on fire in the title decider. The hard work he put in to bring himself to that position is a strong sign, and Foster said the rivalry between the pair during 2019 raised the standard they were operating at.
The continuation of that rivalry will be great to see regardless of if it’s at the front or the middle of the pack, and so far it does look like it’s Foster who has taken better to the upgraded Tatuus MSV F3-016.
Foster finished third in British F4 with six wins to Alvarez’s five, but ended up 54 points behind his team-mate. He was a single-seater rookie though, having been title runner-up in Ginetta Junior the year before.
Double R’s third driver is returning race-winner Benjamin Pedersen, who moves from Douglas. His F3 experience means he has to be a title contender now, given he was Formula Regional Americas runner-up in 2019 and still racing in that series.
Going back up to three cars may be a boost for Lanan, which fields Joshua Mason for a third successive season, British F4 graduate Bart Horsten, and single-seater rookie Piers Prior.
The last of those three drivers claims the team has “taken a punt” on him and his lack of car racing experience, but there’s more than just a feel-good story around the 22-year-old’s signing. In fact, Prior’s impressive results in his few starts mark him out as potentially the strongest of the Lanan drivers.
Mentored by Joey Foster, Mason showed improvement in MRF Challenge over the winter, but has so far lacked the pace to be at the front end in British F3 despite two reversed-grid wins. He needs to rise up the order to prevent the need for another season in British F3.
Horsten convincingly led Arden’s line-up in British F4 last year, even more so as he was making the move from Australian Formula Ford. A second year in F4 to go for the title might have made more sense for 2020, as he would have two years of circuit knowledge before entering F3. That doesn’t mean making move up straight away is a bad thing, and he can be very quick, but don’t expect him to be in the top five in the points come the end of the year.
The frontrunning British F4 team was supposed to add a British F3 programme last year but never actually raced. Its delayed debut may be for the better, and it could be winning races in its rookie campaign in the reversed grid races.
Carter Williams has followed the team up from F4, and the 21-year-old American now knows British racing very well. He came to the UK in 2018 as team-mate to Foster at Don Hardman Racing in BRSCC National FF1600 and made the podium, then looked even stronger in British F4 last year with JHR with three wins to his name. Admittedly there was a lot of bad luck that season and some costly errors of his own, which prevented him being in the top five in the standings.
His upwards trajectory should continue and he can’t be ruled out of fighting at the front if JHR gets a handle of the car quickly. The only issue is Williams is unlikely to contest the full season due to a small budget.
Fellow FF1600 racer Max Marzorati will be his team-mate and is another part-time entry, which will hurt his learning curve.
He finished 11th in last year’s FFord Festival, and is a race-winner in Renault Clios, but has otherwise not shown the same level of race pace as Williams. What’s encouraging is both drivers and the team are very enthusiastic for the season ahead, and grateful they have the chance to compete at all, and will be working as hard as anyone to get good results.
Were it not for two on-track mistakes across the whole season, Johnathan Hoggard would very likely have won the British F3 title with Fortec in 2019. That he didn’t shouldn’t have stemmed the demand for a seat with the team, but it is currently headed to the season opener with just Danish racer Christian Olsen on its books.
The 23-year-old had primarily raced in prototype sportscars, but has also been a regular winner in historic F3 across Europe since 2016. He has won twice at the Nurburgring’s Oldtimer GP meeting, and is unbeaten in Zandvoort’s FIA Historic F3 European Cup, but his focus now is on making a career in modern single-seater machinery.
It will be exciting to see how he handles the switch from the lairy cars of the past to the smoother demands of the current generation of junior single-seaters. What won’t help his adaption is the current lack of a team-mate, but Fortec’s expansive knowledge and his own varied experience should be an asset. He was also second fastest in pre-season testing.
There are two cars out for Hillspeed, one of which will be driven by Oliver Clarke. The 16-year-old karted in Britain and continental Europe before travelling to America to chase his car racing dream.
His rookie US F4 campaign in 2018 wasn’t much of a success – there were only two points finishes – and a second season was ended after two rounds and a far stronger start. Greater things are expected of Clarke, and standing on the podium would be a great way to celebrate Hillspeed’s 50th anniversary.
The team proved it could win last year with Varrone and Sasakorn Chaimongkol, and the return of the latter for a third season should be an asset in continuity. While the Thai hasn’t tested during the off-season, and the car has changed slightly in its characteristics, his experience could mean he improves on last year’s eighth in the points.
With no W Series or Motorsport Games F4 Cup to look after, the Hitech name has embarked on its first domestic programme since 2011 by joining BRDC’s British F3 series. The original David Hayle-run Hitech Racing outfit won the 2007 British F3 title, and there’s been considerable demand since to bring the two names back together.
Oliver Oakes’ Hitech GP squad has two cars to run, with American-Japanese teenager Reece Ushijima its first named driver after the coronavirus-blamed cancellation of his deal to race in the FR Eurocup.
Ushijima only made his car racing debut in FF1600 at Anglesey last November, and finished on the podium twice.
He then went on to compete in the MRF Challenge, scoring points in every race and twice setting the fastest lap. Several days of Eurocup testing were completed before he ended those plans, and that running will mean this level of single-seaters won’t be an unknown for him come Oulton Park.
There will no doubt have been a lot of interest in the second Hitech seat, despite the team being new to the series, as there is the chance to stick with the squad through FIA F3 and F2 on the way to F1 – an equivalent opportunity only ART Grand Prix, Carlin, Exclusive Autosport, MP Motorsport and Prema can offer across the globe.