Jonny Edgar’s 2022 aspirations hit a setback as he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. However, the Briton is now back in FIA Formula 3 and aiming to conquer the podium a few times before the season ends.
The Red Bull junior was one of drivers tipped to challenge for the FIA Formula 3 Championship crown coming into 2022. With one year of experience under his belts, he left the struggling Carlin for Trident —the reigning teams’ champions and driver’s runner-up with Jack Doohan— with sights sets high.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan. Following an extremely tough opening round in Bahrain, Edgar was forced to withdraw from the next two rounds at Imola and Barcelona to recover from Crohn’s disease which he had been diagnosed with.
According to the definition supplied by the United Kingdom’s National Healthcare System, Crohn’s is a lifelong condition where parts of the digestive system become inflamed. It affects people of all ages and the main symptoms are diarrhoea, stomach aches and cramps, fatigue and weight loss for no apparent reason. Nowadays, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but treatment does exist through medicines and surgery that can reduce and control symptoms, allowing for a normal life.
Edgar finally got back in the car at Silverstone earlier this month, and spoke with Formula Scout about his return to racing from a three-month hiatus and more in the most recent FIA F3 round at the Red Bull Ring.
“I think now it’s okay,” Edgar replied when Formula Scout asked if the illness could have an impact on his career long-term. “The issue was that we didn’t know what it was for so long. I got so ill and I lost so much weight before we knew what the issue was. Now, we know what it is and I get treatment for it.
“I don’t think it will ever be bad again. It can happen that maybe some weekends I’ll be ill in the future, but I’ll never have an issue like I did at the start of this year. So, I think once I get back to full strength again, I think there will be no issues for the future.”
Edgar had lost around 13kg in the weeks leading up to Bahrain’s season-opener and his condition worsened after the event, staying 17kg under his normal weight.
“In Bahrain, I knew I was ill. And then after Bahrain, I think the week after, we had a discussion with the team and it was actually me and the team together that decided it was best to stop and miss a few races because with how ill I was, it was not possible to drive properly.”
The Briton had qualified in 15th place and, despite making progress in the races —he finished 13th in the sprint and 11th in the feature race—, he was far off the pace of his team-mates Roman Stanek and Zane Maloney, who ran at the front of the field.
“It was not a nice decision to make, but it was my decision. I agreed that it was the only thing to do really,” Edgar said about having to vacate his seat.
At that point, Trident recruited Oliver Rasmussen, who raced in FIA F3 with HWA Racelab in 2021, to take over its #1 car.
The Dane already had plans in place for 2022, having signed with Algarve Pro Racing for the IMSA Endurance Cup and Jota Sport for the World Endurance Championship, both in LMP2 category. However, the former programme was called off due to the team’s relationship with Russian’s G-Drive and Rasmussen committed to replacing Edgar in FIA F3.
Rasmussen’s FIA F3 comeback only lasted two rounds, with a best finish of seventh in Imola’s sprint race, as Red Bull junior Edgar’s quick recovery caught everyone himself included— by surprise.
“I definitely didn’t expect to be back as early as Silverstone. When I stopped, obviously I had lost so much weight and with how ill I was I expected maybe, at best, I would be doing the last three races of the season.
“But I recovered quicker than I expected and Trident, Giacomo [Ricci], called and asked if it was possible, if I could race. My training was getting a bit better, I was gaining weight again, so we said I would do it.
“I knew it would be difficult the first few weekends because I’m still not back to 100% fitness and I think this will still take a while. But I was at a good enough level to be able to race and it was nice to be back racing again.”
The decision on returning to the cockpit at Silverstone was made one month before the event, resulting in Edgar having to do a lot of catch-up work.
“It was quite busy because with the training I was doing I was kind of slowly building back to kind of a normal training, and then, when we decided I would be racing, I had to start to do more training, which was difficult. And also, I was busy going to Trident, checking the seat was all okay, doing the sim and things like this. So, the four weeks were all pretty busy and the time went quite quickly,” he explained.
Edgar’s Formula 4 career developed mostly in Italy and Germany, where he won the ADAC F4 championship, with his single-seater debut coming in a Spanish F4 cameo at Paul Ricard.
That, together with FIA F3 not going to Silverstone in 2021, meant Edgar’s first time competing on home soil since his karting days happened just a few weeks ago.
“It was my first time racing in England in single-seaters actually. So, it was a nice one to come back for,” Edgar admitted.
“The weekend, I think practice was really good and then qualifying was a shame. We had quite big understeer, which we didn’t expect, and also race one. So, qualifying 14th, I didn’t expect going into the weekend to be better. But I think without the understeer it could have been a lot better. Then for race two, we changed the car, which was a big improvement and I managed to go from P14 to P8, which was really good.”
Edgar ran as high as sixth during the race, but dropped two places after a late safety car restart and finally came home in eighth to score his first points of 2022.
“Only Zandvoort is harder physically on the calendar. Silverstone and Budapest are quite hard. I think Zandvoort is a little bit harder, but it’s definitely one of the most challenging tracks to come back to,” the Briton said and recognised that he had “started to struggle at the end” of the first race meeting of his return.
Asked about what is still missing, Edgar pointed out again the fitness as the area where he has the most room for improvement.
“Obviously, I think it’s still like with the driving now, I’m not back to like the normal because of how much weight I’ve lost. And I’d say physically I’m still not back to 100%. It felt good to be back in the car, but I still think now and for the rest of the season I can keep improving as I get stronger,” Edgar, who isn’t afraid of setting the podium as a goal, added.
“I think for the remaining rounds [the target] it’s just to keep improving and hopefully get some podiums and maybe a win if possible, it would be nice. I just want to try and do the best results possible.”