Several returning stars are expected to challenge for this year’s FIA Formula 3 title, but a few rapid rookies could well upset the order. Craig Woollard previews the full field
The FIA Formula 3 Championship, like Formula 2 and Formula 1, returns this weekend in Bahrain. In fact, it’ll be the first time that the Sakhir circuit has hosted the series (and the first time for F1’s third tier since 2015) and is one of several major changes to the calendar and to a season that doesn’t have a clear-cut favourite from the offset.
The format is identical to that of F2’s new format, right down to the adoption of designated sprint and feature races with a difference in race distances, which wasn’t the case before. The top 12 from qualifying still gets flipped for Saturday’s sprint race, with increased emphasis on the feature race on Sunday, with considerably more points awarded than on Friday and Saturday.
Other changes to the calendar include Imola joining the calendar for the very first time (even including the GP3 era) and the return of Silverstone and Monza, the latter infamous for its qualifying chaos. Meanwhile, two of the less popular circuits – Paul Ricard and Sochi – have dropped off.
Unlike in F2, this year’s rookie crop has come from a varied background. Drivers have stepped up from Formula 4, while others have jumped from Formula Regional, Euroformula, GB3, with even a dabbling of sportscar drivers for good measure. As ever, 30 drivers will race for 10 different teams – one of them new to the series if not to F3. Here’s your rundown of this year’s field, with one driver set to succeed Dennis Hauger as champion.
It’s a totally fresh line-up for last year’s teams’ champions Trident, and it will be looking to improve further on its performances from last year and push for the drivers’ title too. Like several of its key rivals, it appears to have a great mix of experience and freshness, with all three drivers still only 18.
1. Jonny Edgar Britain, 18
2021: 18th in FIA Formula 3
Edgar didn’t have the equipment at hand to showcase his potential last year but moving to one of F3’s undisputed top dogs will have to put the Red Bull junior in contention not just for wins but for the title too. After all, he was so impressive in F4 that it feels like only a matter of time before he cracks this championship.
2. Roman Stanek Czech Republic, 18
2021: 16th in FIA F3, 12th in Euroformula
Stanek has had a turbulent pair of seasons for in this championship to date, having stepped into it so young, but there have been glimpses of what made him such an interesting prospect in F4 back in 2019. With Trident, and in his third year, he is absolutely going to have to perform. He was quick in the final, sand-affected, test in Bahrain.
3. Zane Maloney Barbados, 18
2021: 4th in Formula Regional Europe
After impressing in the Formula Regional European Championship last year, Maloney rounds out Trident’s trio. The speed was regularly there last year, even if the results sometimes weren’t and he slipped down the order on occasion. But, with a bit of consistency and if he’s able to crack this championship early – and testing suggests he might – he can surely be a threat for race wins, especially on a Saturday.
A dominant force of seasons past in this championship, the Italian outfit will be looking to bounce back by taking both championships after losing its teams’ crown to Trident last year. Despite that, the team still has very few obvious weaknesses. It has one returning driver, one rookie and one driver who moves over after impressing with a rival last year.
4. Arthur Leclerc Monaco, 20
2021: 10th in FIA F3 2022: Formula Regional Asian champion
Fresh off the back of taking the Formula Regional Asian Championship crown, Leclerc will need to have a far stronger second year in several ways. While race pace and overtaking were often not an issue, qualifying up the order and keeping it on the track seemed to be one more often than not. With some consistency, the Ferrari junior can fight for the title here too.
5. Jak Crawford United States, 16
2021: 13th in FIA F3, 3rd in Euroformula 2022: 6th in FRAC
Red Bull junior Crawford showed a really strong turn of speed last year with Hitech GP even if the results didn’t necessarily come frequently. Putting in consistent race performances seemed to be a trouble for him, but he showed improvement as the year progressed, and was Euroformula’s fastest driver whenever present. He has a really good chance at taking the title this year.
6. Ollie Bearman Britain, 16
2021: Italian F4 champion, ADAC F4 champion, 14th in GB3 2022: 15th in FRAC
Recent Ferrari recruit Bearman comes in perhaps as the most highly-anticipated rookie in the field and with good reason after his devastating performances in two of the most revered F4 championships last year, taking both crowns. We’ve also seen what he can do in slightly stronger machinery already, taking a FRAC podium on his first weekend in a Regional car and nabbing a GB3 win last year in its souped-up F4 cars. He’ll be looking to succeed where Theo Pourchaire came up slightly short and go straight from F4 to win F3 at the first time of asking. And he should be right up there.
ART Grand Prix
A team that perhaps pushed a little too hard last year and slipped down the order as a result, ART picks up a Formula Regional champion to partner last year’s rookie of the year and its experienced driver who continues his inspiring comeback from horrifying injuries.
7. Victor Martins France, 20
2021: 5th in FIA F3
The Alpine junior ticked so many boxes last year and looked comfortably the most complete of the rookie drivers, so merely has to finesse what he showcased with MP Motorsport last year, use his experience to benefit himself and the team, and without question he should be able to fight for the title this time around.
8. Gregoire Saucy Switzerland, 22
2021: Formula Regional Europe champion
Saucy was a bit of a surprise at the front of the FREC timing screens so regularly in 2021, having previously never won a single-seater race. He used his early form to good effect and took the crown, even if his performances weren’t always overly convincing. He sticks with ART for a third year in as many championships, and he’ll be looking to prove that last year was no fluke. At 22, he’s one of the older rookies of recent years.
9. Juan Manuel Correa United States, 22
2021: 21st in FIA F3
Correa explored several avenues for his second year of racing after his career-stunting injuries in F2 back in 2019, including those in the United States, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see him back in FIA F3 for a proper crack at the title. Last year was an enormous challenge, and exactly where he’s able to get to as his recovery continues will be a curious subplot to this year’s events, but if he’s back to the form he was showing in 2019 then he can totally be a contender here.
MP has faced some last-minute uncertainty over its driver line-up after Alexander Smolyar appeared to have dropped out along with his main backer due to sanctions against Russia, but he remains part of the team for round one. That distraction aside, this has been a team on the up, and with its returning driver it could be a threat for the title.
10. Caio Collet Brazil, 19
2021: 9th in FIA F3
If there’s a dark horse for the title, it is perhaps Collet. He showed all of the potential last year to be among the top drivers, especially in the wet, but he often didn’t quite string things together in qualifying. With MP driving forward, and if he’s able to crack qualifying, then Collet may be able to get in the mix, and should Smolyar be absent after Bahrain, he will likely be the sole MP driver fighting for wins and the title if so.
11. Alexander Smolyar 20
2021: 6th in FIA F3
Despite a statement on social media that he (along with main backer SMP Racing) wouldn’t race in F3 amid sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and he wasn’t featured in any of the championship’s promotion ahead of the season, Smolyar is still set to race with MP in Bahrain. Whether he will be around for the whole season or not remains unclear and all of this distraction will not have helped his preparations. Either way, he’s a very handy driver whose results with ART didn’t really flatter his performances over the last two years.
12. Kush Maini India, 21
2021: 11th in Asian F3, 30th in WEC (LMP2)
A BRDC British F3 runner-up two years ago, Maini returns to racing after being absent for much of last year. He did, at least, do the Asian F3 championship at the start of the year and a one-off World Endurance Championship cameo in LMP2. Expect a touch of rustiness, but Maini should be able to get himself in contention for decent reversed-grid results at the very least.
Charouz Racing System
After vaulting up the championship order last year, utilising all of Logan Sargeant’s experience, Charouz will be aiming to carry that momentum forward, although that will be an enormous challenge.
14. Laszlo Toth Hungary, 21
2021: 32nd in FIA F3
Toth was a driver who didn’t get a huge amount of airtime in 2021 with Campos Racing, except when he was in some kind of trouble, so he’ll be looking to put that to right this year. However, testing didn’t seem to give that indication.
15. Ayrton Simmons Britain, 20
2021: 2nd in GB3, 35th in FIA F3
Last year’s GB3 Championship runner-up, by some distance it should be said, stays with the team he debuted with in FIA F3 at the end of the year. Simmons has often showcased plenty of ability in the past but has had to work hard for budget, so just getting to F3 is an achievement in itself. He did, at least, look the most comfortable Charouz driver in testing.
16. Francesco Pizzi Italy, 17
2021: 20th in FREC
After a difficult season in FREC, a step up to FIA F3 seems like a bit of a surprise for Pizzi, who was very impressive in F4 two years ago. He believes the condensed weekend format could suit him, but this may be more of a learning year than anything.
Hitech Grand Prix
Hitech has undergone some big pre-season changes with Oliver Oakes back in full control and primary sponsor Uralkali departing, but it was one of the real surprises of testing with one of its drivers looking like a persistent threat. It has, in recent years, looked to have a setup that only some can get their head around, so this poses an interesting challenge to its trio.
17. Kaylen Frederick United States, 19
2021: 22nd in FIA F3
The final BRDC British F3 champion had a difficult time last year with Carlin, not helped by injury. Having spent the last three years with that team, how he adapts to Hitech will be an interesting challenge. This year will have to be much stronger, but it looks like he might have the capacity to do so if he can get to grips with the setup.
18. Isack Hadjar France, 17
2021: 5th in FREC 2022: 3rd in FRAC
Hadjar’s performances in recent years earned him a Red Bull junior slot and he’s already put it to good effect in FRAC with Hitech, finishing third in that championship. He was searingly quick in testing in the run-up to the season, so there is a sense of there being a driver cut from the same mould as Liam Lawson, who was very impressive with this team back in 2020. Another dark horse.
19. Nazim Azman Malaysia, 20
2021: 4th in Euroformula
BRDC British F3 and Euroformula race-winner Azman makes the move to FIA F3 for 2022 with Hitech, but getting the car high up the grid over one lap seems to have been his biggest issue in recent years. He’ll have to get on top of that quickly in FIA F3. He’s likely to be there to pounce in high-attrition races though: he hasn’t been non-classified in any race since 2018!
Last year was very tough for the Spanish outfit, but it at least showed the capabilities to fight at the front in the right circumstances. It has three young drivers with a good amount of potential on its books, so if the car is quick then there’s every chance that it can be a threat frequently in 2022, maybe even in the feature races.
20. David Vidales Spain, 19
2021: 10th in FREC
Vidales, a bit of an Imola specialist, erupted on the scene by winning there on his car racing debut in Formula Renault Eurocup in 2020. That has not quite translated into sustained results, and last season was disappointing, but he has shown plenty of potential. 2022 could be the year that he perhaps realises some of it. He’s made a good impression in testing with a team that, under founder Adrian Campos, provided his early mileage in cars.
21. Hunter Yeany United States, 16
2021: 33rd in FIA F3, 12th in FRegional Americas, 14th in Indy Pro 2000, 24th in GB3
After impressing in 2020 to take the United States F4 title, Yeany spent last year racing in a multitude of championships, including FIA F3. His performances with Charouz last year were nothing to write home about, but the 16-year old still has plenty of time to get to grips with this championship.
22. Pepe Marti Spain, 16
2021: 3rd in Spanish F4 2022: 2nd in FRAC
Marti has already raised a few eyebrows in 2022 having really pushed Leclerc for the FRAC title, despite going winless in that championship. Now he steps up from F4 with the Campos team he raced with in Spain last year, and given the promise he’s shown in the past year, it will be interesting to see what he’ll be able to do despite his limited experience.
Jenzer made one of the most curious signings of the season right before the start of the season, bringing in an immensely experienced driver for the first round as it looks to climb up the order and recapture some of the form Yuki Tsunoda showed back in 2019.
23. Ido Cohen Israel, 20
2021: 24th in FIA F3, 27th in FREC
Cohen spent a sizeable chunk of last year towards the back with Carlin, and so this is perhaps a sideways step at best for him. If this is anything other than another year mired in the lower reaches of the midfield, it will be a bit of a pleasant surprise.
24. Niko Kari Finland, 22
2021: No racing
The biggest ‘what the!?’ signing of the season and coming right before the season-opener in Bahrain. Kari comes in having not done pre-season testing, when countryman Patrik Pasma was behind the wheel instead, and having not raced in this championship since 2019. The former Red Bull junior has also raced in F2 and the European Le Mans Series in LMP3 in recent years but sat out 2021 altogether. It is unsure who will race for the rest of ’22 at this stage.
25. William Alatalo Finland, 19
2021: 11th in FREC
Kari’s compatriot Alatalo was a podium finisher in FREC last year with Arden, and again with JD Motorsport in Formula Renault Eurocup the year before. He’s a consistent runner, although outshone by team-mates in recent years, but this is a good opportunity for him to help push Jenzer forward if there is no obvious leader to replace Kari after round one.
Perhaps surprisingly, given how potent it is in a number of other championships it races in, Carlin has struggled in FIA F3 to date. Once more it brings the most recentGB3 champion to the series and has an F4 champion to boot as well as a relative unknown.
26. Zak O’Sullivan Britain, 17
2021: GB3 champion
It’s been a pretty crazy winter for O’Sullivan, who has added membership of the Williams Academy and winning the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award to his growing CV. He’s been involved in two slightly strange title deciders in the last two years, but it will be a surprise if he’s fighting for the title this year. Whether he’s able to deliver better results than his predecessors at Carlin will be a fun subplot.
27. Brad Benavides Spain/United States, 20
2021: 13th in Euforomula, 26th in FREC
Benavides has floated about in Euroformula, Eurocup and FREC on-and-off in recent years but has not been able to sustain a full season in any of those championships, and thus it makes it a real challenge to judge exactly what he is going to be capable of this year. He wasn’t spectacular in Euroformula last year with Carlin, but will at least have familiarity with the team.
28. Enzo Trulli Italian, 16
2021: 7th in Euroformula, F4 UAE champion
Like Benavides, Trulli spent half a season with Carlin in Euroformula last year and will have the same familiarity with the team as a result. But it was not there where the son of 2000s F1 star Jarno impressed. That was in F4 UAE, where he rocked up and stormed to the title, beating Dilano van’t Hoff by a point as well as Marti to name a few. It will be an uphill climb, but Trulli could quietly impress a few this year.
Van Amersfoort Racing
The final team is also FIA F3’s newest. The European, Euro Series and German F3 greats join what is very much a different F3 championship to what it knows, but the HWA Racelab outfit it purchased at least had some mild success in this championship. It also looked quick in testing. It brings a FREC-turned-sportscar driver and a GB3 race-winner to partner a returning driver from last year.
29. Franco Colapinto Argentina, 18
2021: 6th in FREC, 4th in ELMS (LMP2), 3rd in Asian LMS (LMP2)
Dovetailing LMP2s and even a bit of GT3 racing with FREC contributed to Colapinto’s single-seater season taking a very long time to get going in comparison to his 2020 in Eurocup. But all of this experience means that, despite his rookie status, Colapinto is a really good driver for VAR to move into this championship with. The expectation should be that he will be the one to lead the team and testing times looked really strong, for what they’re worth.
30. Rafael Villagomez Mexico, 20
2021: 29th in FIA F3, 8th in Euroformula
Last season with HWA was pretty much a write-off other than a learning year for Villagomez, who also raced in Euroformula with VAR and is an important part of the team’s expansion onto the F1 ladder. If VAR can make a step forward with this package, then the logical expectation should be for Villagomez to do the same. Points will be the first target, but is never easy in a 30-car field.
31. Reece Ushijima United States/Japan, 19
2021: 4th in GB3
Racing under a British licence, the American-Japanese driver makes the step to FIA F3 after two years in GB3/British F3. He’s shown consistent progress through those years, but this is a totally different prospect. As ever, getting to grips with the tyres and the nature of this championship will be a challenge, but if VAR can provide a decent car then Ushijima could get himself in the mix.