The Asian Formula 3 championship plans to run its 2021 season exclusively in the United Arab Emirates over five consecutive weekends in January and February.
The proposed calendar, which would alternate between the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Autodrome, is designed to minimise travel and quarantining as a result of worldwide travel restrictions around the coronavirus pandemic.
It would start on January 22-23 at Yas Marina and conclude at the same venue on February 19-20. Two visits to Dubai would be separated by another round in Abu Dhabi. At three of the five rounds, Formula 4 UAE will be on the support bill.
“Under the prevailing restrictions on travel and quarantine requirements brought about by the pandemic, we believe a condensed, Middle East-based season could be an attractive proposition for teams and drivers,” said Davide De Gobbi, General Manager of championship organiser Top Speed.
“The mid-January starts offers the potential for teams to ship their cars to the UAE, while open entry to and travel between Abu Dhabi and Dubai negates the need to quarantine during the season.”
Depending on the restrictions at the time, drivers and team personnel may be required to quarantine for two weeks before the season starts, but the start date would allow travel after the new year.
Asian F3 began in 2018 operating out of China and Malaysia, and first visited the UAE for two rounds in January 2020 when the series switched to a winter calendar.
That move made the championship attractive to drivers chasing additional superlicence points after the FIA changed its rules to enable drivers to score points from two different series in a calendar year so long as they don’t overlap.
Eighteen superlicence points are available for the Asian F3 champion, a title won by Joey Alders in 2020. Formula 2 racer Nikita Mazepin got 12 points for finishing third, while Haas Formula 1 tester Pietro Fittipaldi secured his superlicence by finishing fifth.
Asian F3 said it was “currently canvassing teams on the proposed calendar, and the FIA has offered no objection to the format given the impact on motorsport worldwide brought by the pandemic”. Using two different layouts at Yas Marina would allow it to meet the superlicence requirements to run on three different circuits.
The calendar would put Asian F3 directly head-to-head with the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand, which races a version of the same Tatuus Regional F3 chassis and is planning to run on the same five weekends in 2021, keeping to the same format of consecutive events that it has run successfully since 2012.
Even though TRS’s former champions include Lance Stroll, Lando Norris and Robert Shwartzman, the FIA offers only 10 superlicence points for the winner.
New Zealand’s borders remain closed to almost all arrivals, with the TRS organiser stating in July that it was in discussions with the government regarding possible exemptions for drivers from overseas.
It is also trying to encourage local participation, with Toyota Gazoo Racing New Zealand announcing a COVID-19 support package of up to NZ$500,000 (£259,875) to contribute to budgets for Kiwi drivers aiming to race in TRS in 2021 or 2022.