Photos: Formula 3 Euro Series
PaddockScout takes a look back at an incident-packed season of the Formula 3 Euro Series and the drivers involved…
2012 turned out to be the final year of the Formula 3 Euro Series as we know it, before it fully morphs into the FIA F3 European Championship next year. After a tough couple of seasons for the category recently, this year saw something of a renaissance with larger grids and a title fight that went down to the very last race. The racing however did leave something to be desired on several occasions and made GP2 races look fairly well-mannered.
Daniel Juncadella eventually triumphed as expected, but only after being pushed all the way by a pair of impressive rookies in the shape of Pascal Wehrlein and Raffaele Marciello. Here’s our review of their seasons and the rest of the regulars.
1. Daniel Juncadella
Spain, Prema Powerteam, age 21
240 points, 5 wins, 10 podiums, 5 pole positions, 6 fastest laps
The Spanish young talent entered his third season as the overwhelming title favourite, after finishing eighth and third the years before. While finances haven’t exactly been much of a problem for him after he secured backing from Astana, he had to deliver a dominant campaign this year to prove that he’s good enough for the next step up the ladder. Well, eight rounds and 24 races later we can conclude he’s pretty much done just that.
Still, it was far from a perfect season as although Juncadella never really lacked pace he was involved in his fair share of accidents that won’t look too good on his resume. A particular low point of his season came when he had a win taken away and replaced with a DSQ during the round at Norisring, as he achieved that win after punting two other contenders off the track. Another disqualification came his way at Nurburgring, where a start from pole turned to disaster when he attempted to block Rosenqvist and ended up pushing the Swede into the barrier.
At the same time, Juncadella was easily the most consistently quick man in the series, regardless of what track it was, and that consistency, plus the uncanny Vettel-like ability to run away with races after one lap gave him the title in the end. Don’t let the points fool you – he would’ve had much a bigger gap to his closest rivals if the final round of the season didn’t go so bad for him.
Winning the F3 title gave Juncadella a prize F1 test with Ferrari and, with the season over, he’s tested in every GP2 post-year session so far with Rapax. He looks likely to make that move after some impressive times, although the DTM with backers Mercedes could also be an option. Season rating: 8
2. Pascal Wehrlein
Germany, Mucke Motorsport, age 18
226 points, 1 win, 10 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap
For Wehrlein, F3 Euro Series was quite a step up from the ADAC Formel Masters series in which he raced for the two previous years, claiming the title in 2011. However, not a lot of people could have seen him managing it so well as the German wonderkid, in only his third year of car racing, has managed to beat many F3 regulars with shockingly impressive? consistency on his way to second in the overall standings.
Wehrlein wasn’t exactly the class of the field when it came to one-lap pace but was very much on it in the races, especially in the latter half of the season. Cruelly denied his first win of the season during the second Norisring race which he started from pole but ended up collected by Buller in the tricky conditions, he picked it up one round later, making the most out of Juncadella’s messy start. From that point onwards, he turned into a consistent podium finisher and very nearly challenged Juncadella for the title in the end.
With just a single win to his name but nine other podium finishes, Wehrlein’s maturity and stability allowed him to stay in contention against far more experienced drivers for the majority of the season. It’s unclear what the future holds for him but staying in F3 for another year could be a good idea. Then again, his Macau performance (fourth place) suggests that he might just be ready for a promotion to a more competitive series. Season rating: 9
3. Raffaele Marciello
Italy, Prema Powerteam, age 17
219.5 points, 6 wins, 10 podiums, 2 pole positions, 6 fastest laps
Even though he’s been member of the Ferrari Driver Academy since the end of 2010, the Italian’s performance this year was one of the most surprising revelations of the grid. After third in Formula Abarth in his debut year in car racing and third in Italian F3 the year after, Marciello now has another grand season to add to his resume and he’s only about to hit 18 in December.
While Juncadella and Rosenqvist were the seeming title contenders before the start of the season due to their sheer experience, the first half of the season has shown that the Ferrari protege could easily match the pace of either of them, as he started scoring win after win and was toe-to-toe with his Spanish rival after four rounds of the season. However, as the season went on to its second half, some consistency problems started to emerge, as Marciello failed to capitalize on Juncadella’s multiple mistakes and ended up losing out to Wehrlein for second. Running into the back of Buller’s car in the beginning of the final race of the season effectively capped off his streak of misfortunes.
Still, the raw pace was always there and the sheer amount of wins Marciello has accumulated in 2012 is nothing short of spectacular, considering his experience. The Zurich-born Italian has already tested with Fortec in FR3.5, but doing another year in F3 might be a good idea, considering he still has to iron out some rough sides to his driving. Season rating: 9
4. Felix Rosenqvist
Sweden, Mucke Motorsport, age 21
212.5 points, 4 wins, 8 podiums, 3 pole positions, 3 fastest laps
After Rosenqvist’s unexpected victory in the Masters of Formula 3 in 2011, many expected him to fight for the Euro title in his third year of F3 racing. Alas, it was not to be, as, after a very decent first round at Hockenheim, Felix ended up in a streak of lacklustre qualifying and race performances, which effectively put him out of contention and pretty far down the standings.
Still, the season wasn’t all bad as Rosenqvist finally found his form in the latter half of the year, scoring feature race wins at Zandvoort and Valencia before winning both race one and three from pole at Hockenheim. The late-season form was good enough to promote him to fourth in the points, quite close to the title contenders and, with one more round at Hockenheim or something, he could’ve very well fought for it.
While 2012 will probably not be the most fondly-remembered season of his career, Felix did manage to score an important second at the Macau Grand Prix. Having done no testing in higher-level series so far, it is unclear where he might end up next year, but something like GP3 or FR3.5 would be a sensible choice. Season rating: 7
5. William Buller
United Kingdom, Carlin, age 20
182.5 points, 2 wins, 7 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap
2012 has been a very busy year for Will Buller, who was entered into two simultaneous full-time campaigns with Carlin. His effort in the Euro Series was much more impressive than his GP3 run, which should’ve been expected, considering that Buller had previously had two years of British F3 to get acquainted with the machinery.
At certain points of the season, it almost seemed like he could fight for the title, but, just as his rivals Juncadella and Marciello lost all consistency closer to the end of the year, Buller seemed to lack in outright pace, which was, perhaps, a sign of fatigue due to the busy schedule.
Still, for most of the year he was a consistent podium contender, even recording two reverse-grid race wins to his name. He should’ve had a third one, too, for the first race at Norisring, but the officials weirdly decided not to promote the rest of the field after Juncadella’s DSQ.
Buller tested for Comtec in FR3.5 in the final post-season test and has the money for a step up, but he could aim even higher and end up in GP2 next year. Really, only time will tell. Season rating: 7
6. Sven Muller
Germany, Prema Powerteam, age 20
172 points, 1 win, 6 podiums, 2 pole positions, 1 fastest lap
Another rookie who surpassed expectations this season was Sven Muller who, like Wehrlein, graduated to F3 after two years of ADAC Formel Masters (he was third in Wehrlein’s title year). While it took him quite some time to adapt to the machinery, he found his feet in the series around the halfway point of the season and looked mighty impressive from there. In fact, were he a bit luckier, he could’ve been right up there with Wehrlein, challenging for the title.
The definite season highlight for Muller was securing a double pole at Zandvoort and while the first of those was converted into a respectable second-place finish, Muller wasn’t so impressive when he tried to replicate or improve on that feat in race three. In rainy conditions, the start of the race was given under the Safety Car and, as green flag racing was just about to begin, Muller suddenly broke way too early on the start-finish straight, which resulted in a massive crash involving him and Marciello – an incident he was later penalised for with a five-place grid drop for the next event.
Still, the sought-after maiden win came at Hockenheim, where Muller lined up in fourth on the reverse grid for race two and ended up taking the win, passing Wolf for the lead with three laps to go.
After a very impressive rookie season, the future looks bright for the young German and it is rumoured that Prema will continue to provide him a seat in the series in 2013. Season rating: 8
7. Tom Blomqvist
United Kingdom, ma-con Motorsport, age 18
157.5 points, 2 podiums
Seventh might not have been the highest position in the standings that Blomqvist aspired to reach this year, but to see him top the “Sons of Former WRC Champions” category was quite surprising. A member of the McLaren F1 Driver Program, he was signed by the Volkswagen-supported outfit ma-con, but both he and the team were significantly hampered by not doing any pre-season testing.
Still, Blomqvist proceeded to have a steady, consistent season, in which he finished in all but one of the races. He might not have been particularly impressive in qualifying sessions (in fact, for the majority of the season, that was his biggest problem) but he was easily on it in the races and that meant he was consistently scoring points while others were involved in unnecessary collisions. At Red Bull Ring, he scored his first podium in the series (in a reverse grid race) and then added another to his tally in a feature race at Valencia.
Considering his decent debut season and his German F3 appearances in 2012 (which were limited, but consistently dominant), it’s no wonder he seems to have secured another year in the series, this time with the Italian outfit Eurointernational. Season rating: 7
8. Michael Lewis
United States, Prema Powerteam, age 21
127 points, 1 win, 5 podiums, 1 fastest lap
It’s rare to see a driver from the States trying his luck in the junior ladder that leads to F1, but it’s even rarer to see one who shows enough promise. Lewis is, perhaps, one of those rarities, as his second place in Italian F3 in 2011 clearly proved, but this year he didn’t deliver nearly as impressive of a performance when facing tougher competition.
He was, again, not particularly quick in qualifying sessions throughout all the season, but displayed an amount of impressive performances over the year. Among those was a long-awaited maiden win in the reverse grid race at Valencia and another four podium appearances. Still, unlike Blomqvist, the American could not make up for the lack of one-lap speed with consistency as he was involved in his share of collisions, some of which were undoubtedly his fault.
Still, for a first year in the Euro Series, it wasn’t a bad effort and certainly warrants a continuation of the campaign, should Prema or any other teams go for him in 2013. Season rating: 5
9. Carlos Sainz, Jr.
Spain, Carlin, age 18
112 points, 2 podiums, 2 pole positions, 1 fastest lap
As far as pre-season expectations combined with actual season results go, 2012 has pretty much been the textbook definition of “disappointing” for Carlos Sainz, Jr. It was hardly predictable, but the 2011 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC champion enjoyed massively uninspiring runs in both British F3 and, mainly, in this very championship.
He’s always had the pace, no doubt, as the Red Bull Junior Team driver is obviously no slowcoach and proved that by taking a double pole for the first round of the championship at Hockenheim. The two second-place finishes he would earn there would somehow remain his only podium finishes of the year as, from that point on, he’s been pretty much nowhere near. After a confident performance at Brands Hatch, Sainz’s campaign went completely downhill as he negated decent qualifying runs by frequently partaking in (and, often, causing) avoidable and unnecessary collisions. The absolute low point of his season was the third race at Nurburgring where his frankly ludicrous move ended what could be a major recovery drive from points leader Juncadella.
Despite the unimpressive season behind him, Sainz Jr remains a Red Bull-backed driver and has tested in all the post-season sessions of FR3.5 so far. He looked very competitive in those, yet, according to the latest rumours, he will be making a switch to GP3, which should be good enough to further hone his wheel-to-wheel skills at this stage of his career. Season rating: 5
10. Emil Bernstorff
United Kingdom, ma-con Motorsport, age 19
91 points, 1 podium
Runner-up to Wehrlein in the 2011 season of ADAC Formel Masters, the British youngster also made the leap to F3 Euro Series, but wasn’t nearly as successful. Yet, as part of a new team and still obviously a rookie at this level, he did well enough, rounding up the top ten of the regular points scorers in the standings.
The first three rounds only yielded 11 points for Bernstorff but at Norisring he scored his maiden podium finish which seemed to kick off a series of consistent midfield performances. Obviously, with all of the adapting out of the way, it would be really nice to see Bernstorff continue in the series next year, as he’s clearly talented enough to deserve another shot. Season rating: 6
11. Lucas Wolf
Germany, URD Rennsport, age 18
36 points, 1 podium
Another ADAC Formel Masters graduate (finishing eighth in both seasons that he contested), Wolf proved, perhaps, a touch too inexperienced for a championship of this level. He managed to score, surprisingly, in the first two races of the year, but what followed was a long streak without any points. There was improvement towards the end, including a very impressive reverse-grid podium at Hockenheim, but, in the points, he remained way too far off the top ten.
If URD Rennsport continue their campaign in the series in 2013, we could see Wolf have another stab at it, but, otherwise, I’d imagine he has to prove himself at a national Formula 3 level first. Season rating: 4
12. Sandro Zeller
Switzerland, Jo Zeller Racing, age 21
For somebody who spent multiple years racing around in various levels of F3 (including a title in the local F3 Austria series in 2011), 23 points over the course of an entire season is nothing too impressive. Then again, Sandro Zeller earned all of those in an older-spec car (running a Dallara F308 while everyone else, including his teammate, was contesting in an F312), so you can never be too sure. He did outscore his teammate, but it’s really hard to make any definite judgements about a season spent in such inferior machinery. Season rating: N/A
13. Andrea Roda
Italy, Jo Zeller Racing, age 22
Having spent three years in Formula Renault 2.0 Italy (with one podium finish throughout) and two years in Italian F3, Roda made the step up to the Euro Series in 2012 and was, rather expectedly, a consistent backmarker. His best finish of the season was an eighth place at Zandvoort and that was only due to a high retirement rate.
If he has the money, he could continue racing in the category in 2013, but this year’s performance wouldn’t exactly justify it. Still, he could very well be a late-maturing talent, since that’s something true of quite a lot of Italian single-seater racers. Season rating: 3
14. Luis Sa Silva
Angola, Angola Racing Team, age 22
14 points (7/8 rounds)
Throughout his quite lengthy junior single-seater career Sa Silva has managed a number of impressive results, including being runner-up to Matheo Tuscher in the 2011 season of Formula Pilota China. This season, however, he probably won’t be too proud of as, just like Roda, he was consistently at the back. Still, he did manage a very respectable seventh at Nurburgring, keeping some serious opposition at bay, and could’ve potentially outscored Roda if not for withdrawing from all three races at Brands Hatch. Season rating: 3
15. Philip Ellis
United Kingdom, GU-Racing, age 20
0 points (3/8 rounds)
Ellis impressed in 2011, winning the Formula Lista Junior title in his first year of car racing. However, his campaign in F3 so far proved rather unimpressive and, among all things, way too short, as he only got to contest three rounds in the year. The jump from Formula Lista Junior to F3 Euro Series does seem like a bit of a tall order so, for next year, I would hope to see him in a national F3 championship of sorts. Season rating: N/A