British F3 organisers have taken the decision to slash the 2013 calendar to just four events in an attempt to keep the series alive.
With a lack of demand from drivers for seats in the championship this year, the category will now only visit Silverstone in May, Spa-Francorchamps in July, Brands Hatch in August and the Nurburgring in September. That means the 2013 title will be contested over 12 races rather than the previous 30.
Teams and drivers from the FIA F3 European Championship may be tempted to enter the four weekends of racing, while cars from the F3 Open and German F3 Cup will also be eligible to compete.
The Silverstone, Spa and Brands Hatch rounds are set to benefit from live television coverage.
Revised 2013 British F3 calendar:
Silverstone: 25/26 May
Spa-Francorchamps:? 25/27 July
Brands Hatch:? 10/11 August
Nurburgring:? 21/22 September
With its history of producing star names in Formula 1, the state that British F3 finds itself in is sad to see. While it remains in existence in a briefer form in 2013, it’s unclear where it’s long-term future lies.
High budgets are an obvious issue, and in the current climate there are consequently fewer sufficiently-funded drivers hunting for seats at F3 level. However, there is more to it than that.
Aided by a revamping from the FIA, the European F3 Championship (n?e Euro Series) has saved itself from the brink and is attracting a large, high quality grid for the coming season. The same can be said for GP3.
British F3’s near-death comes 12 months after Formula Renault UK was cancelled, eventually for good. There’s a similar story in Formula Renault 2.0, where Eurocup organisers have had to limit the grid for this year to 36 cars having bettered that during 2012, while the regional NEC and Alps series also have over 30 cars at each race.
With the additional costs incurred by a pan-European championship, drivers are not opting to go there for budgetary reasons. It is simply evident that all young drivers want to race on Grand Prix circuits, rather than waste their time with trips to Oulton Park and Snetterton.
At first that preference seems to make sense, but the timing of this shift is peculiar.
With drivers having more and more access to simulators (particularly those with cash to spare), track knowledge should not be as important as it once was. In F1, knowledge of the circuits is a long way down the list of priorities when choosing drivers, if it’s even there at all.
This issue was clear from the way that British F3, along with rival ‘national’ championships on the continent, was offering increasing numbers of events on mainland Europe. Prior to its culling, the 2013 calendar was set to have a 60-40 split of UK and European rounds. In a way this gave drivers what they wanted, but in reality it didn’t really make sense. What motives were there to do a ‘British’ championship on European circuits, over a ‘European’ championship on European circuits?
The same tactic had been deployed by the Italian, German and F3 Open (formerly Spanish) championships, but to little effect. The Italian series has been shelved after mustering just ten cars at the end of last year, while the German and F3 Open series are struggling to attract much quality or quantity for 2013. There is no point in multiple F3 championships covering the same territory, all trying to appeal to the target market of drivers. They should function as a national series if the market is there, or not at all.
If, for whatever reason, drivers are not interested in national championships anymore, there isn’t much that can be done to save British F3. The only thing it can do is try to offer F3 racing for a slice of a European championship budget, but I doubt that’s possible.