The BRDC British Formula 3 season gets underway at Brands Hatch this weekend, with the biggest opening round grid since 2016 and a prize two-day FIA F3 test on offer for this year’s champion
A stacked field of 19 cars will be on the grid of BRDC British Formula 3’s season opener, consisting of drivers with varying experience levels, with series returnees joined by an open-wheel rookie and graduates of Formula 4 and Formula Ford 1600.
Since BRDC British F3 was revived in 2016, four of the six champions have come from Carlin, and the team was again in form in the final pre-season test at Brands Hatch, with all three of its cars in the top four. But it’s difficult to read too much into the laptimes from just one day of public running, especially as it was held in mixed weather conditions, with teams having spent much of the winter testing privately.
After title-winning seasons in 2016 and 2018, Double R Racing has not appeared on this year’s grid. But Carlin is unlikely to have things all its own way against some strong opposition, especially with a championship format that rewards consistency as well as outright speed. Fortec Motorsports and Hitech GP both have competitive three-car line-ups this weekend, and the latter team was an immediate title contender last year in its first season in the championship.
Former Formula 2 team Arden is making its series bow this year, as is Elite Motorsport, which is moving into single-seaters after years of success racing Ginetta sportscars. And, with Chris Dittmann Racing bringing back Ayrton Simmons, who was third in the championship for the team in 2019, this year’s title fight could be the most open yet.
This season will feature eight rounds, each consisting of three races, and will once again include a visit to Spa-Francorchamps. The fully reversed grid race at each round also remains, where points are available for positions gained. There will be added incentive to win the crown this year as well, with the champion to be run by Carlin and Hitech for one day each at an official post-season FIA F3 Championship test. The series has added a teams’ championship for the first time, with the two highest placed cars of each team contributing to their points tally in every race.
Leaving F2 at the end of 2019 was a change of direction for Arden, and British F3 is now the new direction it has chosen. And, as with its other racing programmes, it will use the series as a springboard for drivers from its affiliated Young Racing Driver Academy. It will run Alex Connor and Frederick Lubin, who both raced with the team in British F4 in 2020.
Connor is the more experienced of the pair, winning three races and finishing fourth overall in his second season, and made the step up to Regional F3 earlier this year for Evans GP in Asian F3, scoring a best result of sixth. Lubin was runner-up in British F4’s Rookie Cup in 2020 in his first season out of karts, and edged team-mate Connor in last week’s Brands Hatch test.
Carlin will field three rookies, two of which come from racing with the team in British F4, who all have the pedigree to shine.
Zak O’Sullivan won nine races but missed out on the British F4 crown by four points in 2020, so will have a title-winning point to prove in F3. The BRDC Superstars member topped the final pre-season test day at Brands Hatch last week, suggesting he could be one of the drivers to beat from the start. He will be joined by Christian Mansell, who won one race and finishing seventh in British F4 as team-mate to O’Sullivan last year.
Bryce Aron makes his slicks-and-wings debut in the team’s third car, having raced FF1600 machinery in the UK over the past 18 months. The American impressed during a full season in BRSCC National championship last year and, with the backing of Jeremy Shaw’s Team USA Scholarship, was a frontrunner at both the FFord Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy – finishing third in the latter. He was fourth fastest at the Brands Hatch test, indicating he may quickly be on the pace at this level.
Chris Dittmann Racing
Chris Dittmann Racing also have a three car line-up, filled by drivers who shared a seat between them in the series last year.
The return of Ayrton Simmons on the eve of the season has bolstered its chances. Simmons is aiming for the title in his second full season in the championship, after finishing third in 2019 with the team. He competed in the first four rounds of Euroformula last year with Double R, then returned to British F3 score an impressive double victory at Brands Hatch during a one-off outing with CDR, and netted a further two podiums during a second cameo with JHR Developments.
Max Marzorati competed for the team in the final two rounds in 2020, having also raced for JHR earlier in the year. The former FF1600 racer now returns for a full season, having worked four jobs over the winter to raise a budget, which should give him a better platform to shine.
Alex Fores is currently only down for the season opene, having entered two rounds with the team last year. The 21-year-old has plenty of experience in F3 machinery from UK club racing in the Monoposto Championship and F3 Cup, where he was title runner-up with CDR last year, and was quicker than his team-mates at last week’s test.
Douglas have confirmed two drivers for the season, as it tries to add to the 12 race victories claimed in the series with the likes of Enaam Ahmed, Thomas Randle, Kiern Jewiss and Jamie Chadwick.
Reema Juffali joins the team after two years in British F4 with Double R. The 29-year-old, who has also competed in F4 United Arab Emirates and the MRF Challenge, is the first woman from Saudi Arabia to race in single-seaters.
Dexter Patterson also makes his debut at this level after coming 22nd in the Italian F4 points last season in his first year in cars. The Scottish teenager, who won the WSK Super Master Series during a highly successful Sauber-backed karting career – was less than a second off the pace in seventh place at the most recent test. He will be wanting to bounce back from 2020.
Elite’s aiming big by running three drivers in its maiden campaign, having acquired the chassis previously raced by Lanan Racing, who have now bowed out of the series. The team have fielded the last four champions in entry-level sportscar series Ginetta Junior, and its 2020 champion Tom Lebbon stays in its ranks as he steps into single-seaters straight at the F3 level.
Lebbon’s team-mates will be racing in the UK for the first time, and are part of the Seven GP driver development programme, run by Mexican racer Picho Toledano. Spanish karting star Javier Sagrega – who competed in four rounds of Spanish F4 last year – is joined by Mexican teenager Jose Garfias, who came fourth in last year’s NACAM F4 season.
Fortec had a truncated 2020 – missing the first three rounds of the season – after being a race-winning force with the likes of Tom Gamble and Johnathan Hoggard previously. But the team look set to return to winning ways this term with a top line-up.
After one-and-a-half seasons in British F4 with Fortec, Roberto Faria was immediately on the pace when he stepped up to British F3 for a part-time campaign last year, finishing on the podium at the season finale. The 17-year old Brazilian, who also competed in Asian F3 over winter for Motorscape, will be aiming to continue that momentum now back in the UK.
Mikkel Grundtvig was confirmed as the team’s second driver this week after taking part in a private test at Silverstone just before the Brands Hatch one, with pandemic restrictions preventing him from travelling to the UK last year to race in British F4. The 18-year old has mainly raced in his native Denmark until now, with one spell in French F4, claiming victories in Danish F4 over 2018 and ’19 and then winning in the Danish Endurance Championship last year when his UK move fell through.
Ollie Bearman was also a late addition to the squad for this weekend’s season opener. The Briton will be competing part-time alongside his continental F4 commitments with Van Amersfoort Racing. Bearman took a pole and two podiums at last weekend’s Italian F4 season opener, having been a race-winner in the series – as well ADAC F4 – as a rookie last year.
Hillspeed won’t be on the grid for now, but don’t yet rule out a 2021 appearance. It ran Sasakorn Chaimongkol and Oliver Clarke to seventh and eighth in the points last year, and Chaimongkol won a race for Hillspeed in 2019. There is one Bristol-based driver looking for a British F3 seat, and while he’s tested with a rival team it’s likely Hillspeed is where a seat vacancy lies.
Hitech is stepping up its efforts in its sophomore season in British F3 after a stunning first campaign, expanding to three cars, with two of its drivers already having a season under their belts in the series.
Reece Ushijima remains with Hitech after taking two podiums as a rookie in 2020, and previously racing briefly in FF1600 and MRF Challenge. The American-Japanese also competed in Asian F3 over winter and came 12th in the points.
Bart Horsten has switched to the team after making the podium three times for Lanan last year. Prior to that, the Australian was a race-winner in British F4. The 17-year old was second fastest at the Brands Hatch test day behind O’Sullivan.
Sebastian Alvarez will make his long-awaited series debut this weekend, having had a planned season with Double R called off cancelled last year due to the pandemic. The Mexican had a strong season in British F4 alongside Euroformula race- winner Louis Foster at Double R in 2019, and narrowly missed out on the title. It will be interesting to see how race rusty he is.
British F4 frontrunner JHR competed in selected rounds of British F3 last season and, with no confirmed drivers for the year so far, may dip in and out of the championship again this term. Carter Williams ran with the team at selected rounds in 2020 and is aiming to race in the series again this year, so the American driver is someone who could potentially return.