BRDC British F3 was no exemption to pandemic pressures this year. After its foray into Esports with the likes of Will Power, it finally got going at Oulton Park with a thrilling season that had nine winners in 24 races
The title fight went down to the final race, and one of the contenders was a late entry – Kush Maini with new team Hitech GP. He was rapid in the pre-event test at Oulton, as was Carlin’s Kaylen Frederick and Double R Racing’s rookie Louis Foster. There was no particular standout coming into the season, but the likes of Frederick, Maini and Foster, as well as Chris Dittmann Racing – which ran Ayrton Simmons to third in the 2019 points – were all expected to do well.
The nature of BRDC British Formula 3 – which features fully reversed grids for some of its races – and the frantic nature of the season as a result of the pandemic means that consistency and maximising the reversed grid races was often rewarded heavily. Clement Novalak won the 2019 title that way, despite Johnathan Hoggard taking far more victories.
A few calendar squeezes included some rounds having four races per weekend and the axing of the ‘away day’ at Spa-Francorchamps. The additional races at some events made up for the loss of the Belgian classic.
Consistency against race wins again became the tone in the title picture. The winner of the first race – Douglas Motorsport’s Kiern Jewiss – never faced such highs again after capitalising on jumped starts by poleman Foster and Frederick.
Frederick found his stride later in the weekend and showed evidence that he could be the man to beat as he left Oulton with the points lead. But more eyes were on single-seater racing rookie Piers Prior winning the reversed grid race for Lanan Racing.
Foster bounced back at a slippery Donington Park as Frederick crashed out – the other side of his title narrative. However, that crash in particular didn’t matter as the results were taken early due to the chequered flag erronously being shown early.
Douglas’s Ulysse De Pauw came out on top in race two of the weekend, as the conditions worsened through the weekend, and Frederick rebounded in fine style with a classy victory in race three.
Brands Hatch, however, was an utter nightmare for Frederick. In the four races there, he picked up just 17 points, had several offs, and slipped back to fifth in the standings. Simmons returned with CDR and starred with two wins.
But it was Maini who came to the fore and asserted himself not just as a consistent threat for race wins, but for the title as well. He scored a whopping 95 points that weekend and held a small lead over Jewiss, who kept in contention with a run of top fives, CDR’s Josh Skelton, Foster and Frederick. At this point, it was clear that this title race was incredibly close.
Donington was visited three times in the season (no other circuit was visited more than once) and the second visit featured three different winners. Frederick controlled race one as Foster struggled after a difficult qualifying. This put him in contention for the reversed grid contest, and he went and won it.
But the weekend went to Maini, who won race three and extended his point lead as the picture became more and more like a Maini versus Frederick bout. Jewiss’s abrupt exit from the championship while still in contention only solidified that.
Two bizarre officiating mistakes came at Snetterton. The chequered flag was shown early in qualifying, immediately rescinded, and the session continued. The results were then overturned. In the races, Frederick won in the wet first race which featured erroneously shown safety car boards as Maini struggled, but the Hitech driver was able to bounce back in the second of four races. The championship leader would later deem the latter error as “stupid”.
Conditions were abysmal on the second day, and Foster and De Pauw prevailed as Frederick stood on the lower step of the podium for the first time in a race with a grid set by qualifying. Maini, however, struggled immensely and scored a smaller amount. This slashed his lead down to nine points. Foster and De Pauw were still in contention, but needed an upturn of form in the final two rounds. Carlin’s Nazim Azman, who won the reversed grid race at Brands Hatch, was 71 points back in fifth.
A crucial weekend for the leaders at Donington was commanded by Frederick. He took two wins on the same day as the weather pushed the first race back to Sunday. Azman triumphed in the reversed grid contest, as Maini only notched up a third in race three and a handy number of points for overtaking in race two.
De Pauw was mathematically in contention going into the Silverstone finale, but realistically it was between new leader Frederick (420) and Maini (407). The return of national lockdown put the event at threat, but everything ultimately went ahead.
Not much separated Frederick and Maini in qualifying. Frederick critically took pole for and then won the first race, and gained five places from his starting spot in the second as he and Maini battled very hard on track in very challenging conditions. The title appeared to have been won as Maini then struggled, but Prior got past Frederick late on and the title fight continued into the final race. Up front, Double R’s Benjamin Pedersen became the ninth race winner of the season.
Frustratingly, the presence of Sky meant that there was no livestream for the finale, in which Frederick only needed to finish to become champion. Not only did he finish, but he took the win, to become the United States’ first British F3 champion. In a reverse to 2019, it had been winning frequently rather than being consistent that had been the way to the title.
Formula Scout’s Top 5 British F3 drivers
5. Ayrton Simmons
Yes, Simmons only took part in two rounds. But the Euroformula regular was rapid in his two appearances. He showed up the rest of the field by rocking up at Brands Hatch and winning twice and was also right in the mix at Silverstone with a couple of podiums. Frankly, no other driver put in a performance season-long that was consistently strong enough to warrant a spot on the top five. There is a lot of curiosity within this writer as to exactly how well Simmons would have performed had he been there throughout the season, and whether that would have elevated him much higher on this list.
4. Ulysse De Pauw
A consistent threat for wins and podiums and a driver who absolutely stunned in the wet at times as well, De Pauw deserves a spot on this list on that basis alone. That goes without mentioning two victories and some very effective reversed grid races – gaining at least a few spots in every one except the race he won from pole. Where the driver who finished third in the championship misses out is in qualifying – he’s the only driver on this top five to have not taken a pole. Sure, he often made up for it in the races, but that’s a glaring omission from his 2020 record.
3. Louis Foster
Foster gets the nod over De Pauw on this ranking for two significant reasons – his rookie status and for impressing more frequently in qualifying. The British Formula 4 graduate was never realistically in the title hunt as the year came to a conclusion but three wins – including a fine one at a dreary Snetterton – was superb. He was just as effective as De Pauw in the reversed grid races (and won one from sixth on the grid) and often found himself with less work to do because of his superior grid positions. A few mistakes – including a jumped start on debut – and some anonymous races mark him down.
2. Kush Maini
It was a very fine effort for a driver to step in with a totally new team at the last minute and take the title to the wire, but the younger of the Maini brothers narrowly misses out on the top spot. He was slightly more effective than Frederick in the reversed grid races but often failed to maximise when his rival faltered. The big exception was at Brands Hatch, which was a very fine weekend performance and perhaps his strongest. There were times, particularly in the wet, where Maini underperformed which is another couple of marks down. He can hold his head up high after forming a title challenge though.
1. Kaylen Frederick
There were times where Frederick looked like he was doing everything he could to lose the title. Those occassions were way too frequent for the champion to easily take top spot for this writer’s liking in particular, with his Brands Hatch weekend being, quite frankly, a total disaster.
On the flip side, the way he bounced back from those setbacks, and the way he emphatically dominated some of the nine races he won was quite something, and hopefully were lessons learned going up the single-seater ladder. Under different points systems, his outright pace would have been rewarded more than it was in contrast to British F3’s consistency-based format.