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Formula Scout predicts the 2022 FIA Formula 3 season

by Formula Scout

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Every champion in FIA F3 so far has been run by Prema. Could that change in 2022? Several of Formula Scout’s writers reckon so as they reveal their predictions for this season…

Since the FIA Formula 3 Championship replaced the GP3 Series and Prema appeared on the third tier on Formula 1’s support bill for the first time, you have had to be racing for the Italian team to win the drivers’ championship. But even if that statement remains true through 2022, picking the most likely champion between its trio of talented F1 junior drivers is no easy task.

It’s also fair to say that Prema’s advantage appeared to be minimal last season, because while Jack Doohan couldn’t quite stop Dennis Hauger, Trident could snatch the teams’ title. There are proven F3 race winners returning at all four of the top teams from last year, providing plenty of options to back, and one of those turned out to be the most popular pick for our writers.

Contributions from Alejandro Alonso (AA), Bethonie Waring (BW), Craig Woollard (CW), Ida Wood (IW), Peter Allen (PA), Roger Gascoigne (RG).

10. Zane Maloney Trident
Test pace 3rd (100.342%)   long run 14th (100.879%)   2021: 4th in FREC

Photos: Formula Motorsport Limited

BW (8th): Trident is coming into 2022 off the back of a championship-winning season and has some really impressive drivers in its line-up, Maloney being one of them. Since winning the 2019 British Formula 4 title, things haven’t exactly gone to plan for Maloney and it’s hard to see him as a championship protagonist, at least in his first year. This year will likely be a learning one before a possible championship challenge next year. Podium finishes definitely won’t be off the table, though.

AA (10th): Maloney’s 2021 Formula Regional European Championship campaign seems to have brought him back the confidence lost during a tough Euroformula Open season in 2020. The Barbadian is, without a doubt, one of the rookies to watch closely, together with the trio ahead of him in this list. If his Trident machine is as fast as it was last year, counting him out of the battle for podiums would be a mistake. His lack of experience in the series might hinder his efforts a bit in the early stages of the season, but once he gets to the grips with the car, expect him to be as fast as anyone else.

9. Gregoire Saucy ART Grand Prix
Test pace 6th (100.440%)   long run 7th (100.508%)   2021: FREC champion

PA (6th): Expectations for how Saucy will fare in F3 depend on how you view his unexpected domination of FREC. I don’t believe you can win a series so competitive on experience alone. It was more likely a combination of experience, maturity and a strong car package allowed him to unlock his true potential. And even though he’s new to F3, Saucy will still have the benefit of all those same ingredients to make him a strong contender. He’s been right up there in testing, not far behind team-mate Victor Martins, and I think he could again upstage more fashionable names to be top rookie.

RG (6th): The reigning FREC champion stays in the harmonious environment of ART GP for his move to FIA F3. After five years of unspectacular results, the Swiss was unstoppable in FREC last year, eclipsing a rapid team-mate in the process. So which Saucy can we expect to see in FIA F3? He is undoubtedly a relatively late developer but Saucy himself believes he has been catching up for his limited karting years. His FREC success was born of an outstanding ability to switch on the tricky Pirellis in qualifying, yielding eight poles in the process. And when he started first, he also finished first. His ability to overtake, essential in the reversed-grid sprint format, is less apparent, though that possibly says more about FREC than Saucy personally. He has certainly looked impressive in testing, topping the post-season times at Valencia and almost matching team-mate Martins in Bahrain. Definitely not a driver to be easily discounted.

8. Isack Hadjar Hitech GP
Test pace 1st (100.000%)   long run 1st (100.000%)   2022: 3rd in FRAC   2021: 5th in FREC, 6th in FRAC

CW (5th): Perhaps a slightly surprising pick for not just a top-five spot but also the top rookie given that Hitech drivers have often sunk or swam in this championship in recent years. His testing performances gives the indication that it will be the latter for the Red Bull junior, who could be this year’s breakout star in the making. I was impressed enough with what he achieved in the Formula Regional Asian Championship and at times last year in FREC to feel that, with Red Bull now involved, he can make a really strong step forward and put in the sort of performances that Liam Lawson showcased back in 2020 with the team.

PA (9th): There’s no doubting Hadjar has potential but I’m taking his testing form with a big pinch of salt. He was similarly rapid in pre-season one year ago and couldn’t translate that into challenging for the FREC title, even if some standout performances did deservedly catch Helmut Marko’s eye. There are also lingering doubts about Hitech after a difficult 2021. Hadjar has a bit more experience than the team’s Red Bull juniors from last year, but not a lot. He should be among the standout rookies; anything more and he’s something very special indeed.

7. Roman Stanek Trident
Test pace 10th (100.566%)   long run 4th (100.309%)   2021: 12th in Euroformula, 16th in FIA F3, 10th in FRAC

AA (7th): The 2022 season is a crucial one for Stanek’s career. After two years of very little reward with Charouz Racing System and Hitech GP, the Czech driver is ready to bounce back with Trident. He has speed – he already proved it in F4 – but he has lacked the results until now. His experience in the series could be of great value in what is expected to be a very close fight for top 10 positions. If he is able to extract the best out of the car and himself, we could even get to see Stanek on the top of the podium a couple of times this year.

CW (8th): This is Stanek’s third season at this level, but this is the first time that he’s got a chance with an unquestionably strong team and thus it is a very important year for him with regards to which direction his future may head. The past couple of years must have been highly challenging, so how he rebounds and whether he is able to lead Trident following on from the likes of Jack Doohan and Clement Novalak will likely define his season. There is every chance Stanek could do considerably better than this, which is a reserved judgement on where he may finish.

6. Caio Collet MP Motorsport
Test pace 7th (100.499%)   long run 10th (100.786%)   2021: 9th in FIA F3

BW (6th): Collet is a capable driver. It’s fair to say he wasn’t really a star of 2021, falling behind team-mate Martins, but he put in some good races and towards the end of the season seemed to get to grips format and put together two solid weekends. If he can continue that growth into 2022, there’s no reason to believe he won’t have a solid year. The championship fight seems a bit out of reach, but he could well play an important part in the championship with a few wins and podium finishes.

CW (7th): I’m anticipating a notable step forward from the Alpine junior this year, even if the championship standings may not necessarily reflect that. Collet might find himself as MP’s effective team-leader this season and the metronomically solid performances he was putting in at the end of last year will be good momentum to come into ’22 with. How high Collet can rise is likely dependant on how close the team comes to breaking in with FIA F3’s top three, so seventh is a conservative estimate. He should be able to get to the top step of the podium one way or another, though, especially in a race that’s wet.

5. Arthur Leclerc Prema
Test pace 15th (100.707%)   long run 8th (100.519%)   2022: FRAC champion   2021: 10th in FIA F3

IW (1st): The most stable seat in the series, and one of the earliest to be confirmed, is Leclerc’s Prema berth. He will continue to be engineered by Carlo Cristofori, who was not only the man behind Leclerc’s rookie season but also worked with him for several weekends during his recent FRAC success. Being able to build on what’s already there should be the catalyst for a title challenge while many make moves for 2022, and importantly he is a driver who already knows how to win FIA F3 races, regardless of how easy those victories may have been.

PA (3rd): Leclerc gets an unfair rap from some quarters who don’t see the potential he’s shown since his late start in cars, but even I can’t deny that he really has to deliver this season. He needs to avoid having to repeat those impressive charges through the field from 2021 and instead channel his brother’s ability to produce unbeatable laps under the pressure of qualifying, which would make him a serious contender. His age advantage relative to his team-mates isn’t matched by his racing experience after he missed out on a proper karting career, but his FRAC campaign was intended to help that and his title success there should provide a welcome confidence boost.

4. Jonny Edgar Trident
Test pace 5th (100.356%)   long run 12th (100.854%)   2021: 18th in FIA F3

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

CW (3rd): This is one of the drivers with a bit of a big unknown coming into this year. There’s no questioning he’s quick and able to race well, and that his results last year did not reflect his ability, but now he vaults up to the sharp end of the grid with one of the top teams. He should be able to be the de facto team leader and spearhead the title challenge against F3’s other top dogs. But whether he’s got that extra half a percent when it counts, and whether Trident is able to sustain the form it showcased last year, is something that causes me to put him a slightly cautious third. It will be enough to make the F1 world take a bit of notice though.

AA (4th): Edgar’s start to the 2021 season was promising, but his speed seemed to fade away due to the lack of pace in his Carlin car. 2022 is a great opportunity for him to shine as he joins the champion team. Once he has overcome the cultural shock, he will be more than ready to challenge for podiums and race wins. Doing so is crucial if he wants to be considered as Britain’s next Formula 1 star. Expectations are definitely high for him, and so is pressure. However, that is not new for him as he has already been part of the Red Bull junior team for several years now.

3. Ollie Bearman Prema
Test pace 18th (100.750%)   long run 9th (100.777%)   2022: 15th in FRAC   2021: ADAC & Italian F4 champion

BW (2nd): Many saw Bearman as the strongest British driver in the lower formulae last year, and there was a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He answered that pressure by taking two titles in one year. Bearman dominated the Italian F4 championship, finishing more than 100 points ahead of the next best driver, and his German performances were nothing to be sniffed at either. It’s easy to see why Ferrari have backed him. It is a huge step up to F3 but not an impossible one and if anyone can make that step, Bearman seems like the best person to attempt it. But it’s still a big step. Even so, it’s hard to imagine him not fighting for the title, especially with Prema and Ferrari behind him.

RG (3rd): With the notable exception of Theo Pourchaire, the jump directly from F4 to FIA F3 has proven to be a huge one, even for the most highly rated prospects. However, with the backing of the Ferrari Driver Academy and a seat at category powerhouse Prema, double F4 champion Bearman should be as well prepared as anyone for the challenge. Prema’s pre-season testing has been quietly professional rather than electrifying. But come raceday Prema will assuredly be up front again. Bearman demonstrated in his F4 rookie season that he can learn quickly, and the extended calendar should give him more time to adapt. His ability to make up places on cold tyres and to pull off some exquisite passes will serve him as well in F3 as they did in F4. A title challenge may be asking a little too much in his first season, but he should be a regular podium visitor.

2. Jak Crawford Prema
Test pace 4th (100.355%)   long run 6th (100.446%)   2022: 6th in FRAC   2021: 3rd in Euroformula, 13th in FIA F3

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

CW (1st): There was plenty to be impressed by with Crawford last year, but consistency wasn’t one of them. Without having Euroformula to manage as well and partnered with a team that should undoubtedly bring more consistent performances, plus that added bit of experience, the speed and racecraft that were impressive should come to the fore much more regularly. It’s worth remembering that he’s still going to be one of the younger drivers on the grid, such has been his rapid ascent up the ranks, and that will make it all the more impressive should he come through to become champion this year. This is the combination that simply stands out as the one with the strongest potential this year and it should be totally formidable.

RG (2nd): Incredibly, for a driver who is still not 17 this will be the Texan’s fourth season in single-seaters. Crawford’s debut season in FIA F3 proved challenging, as his Hitech team struggled to match the pace of the leading teams. However, his progress through the season was clear, culminating in four points finishes in the last five races, on top of a sprint race podium at Spa. His part season in Euroformula amply demonstrated that the raw speed is still there, netting eight wins from 16 starts. A slightly disappointing campaign in FRAC will have nonetheless added valuable experience. After slotting into the Red Bull seat at Prema recently vacated by champion Dennis Hauger, the pressure to deliver will be high, and his team-mates will keep him on his toes. However, he deservedly starts as one of the title favourites.

BW (3rd): Second year in the championship, racing with Prema, a strong performance in preseason testing. All the signs point towards Crawford being in the championship fight. As with Formula 2, that fight is going to be packed, so it will be by the slimmest of margins that the championship is decided. His performance in FRAC over the winter didn’t really inspire hope for a strong season in the main campaign, beaten by the likes of Arthur Leclerc and Gabriele Mini, but it’s hard to rule him out too. Had he focused on Euroformula last year, it’s possible he would have been coming into the 2022 season as the reigning champion. He’s yet to win a car racing title but this year might be when that changes.

1. Victor Martins ART Grand Prix
Test pace 2nd (100.331%)   long run 3rd (100.246%)   2021: 5th in FIA F3

PA (1st): For the third year in a row I’ve picked a non-Prema driver as the man most likely to win the championship. Third time lucky? Well, all things bring equal, Martins should be hard to stop. Let’s not forget how inseparable he and Oscar Piastri were just a few years ago. He’s the most experienced of the likely contenders and one of the championship’s top few talents as well. He needs to avoid whatever held Frederik Vesti back last year, but Martins and ART already know how to win together, and if the new rear tyres do level the playing field then there’s absolutely no reason why this combination won’t be the ones to get on top of it first.

RG (1st): FIA F3 rookie champion and Alpine Academy member Martins switches to ART GP from MP Motorsport for his sophomore season as title favourite. Some of his performances in 2021 were outstanding, particularly at Paul Ricard, Spa and Zandvoort, but any potential title challenge was destroyed by two woeful weekends in Austria and Hungary. He was consistently near the top of testing times in Bahrain, as well as showing strong long-run pace too. Though still only 20, Martins does seem to have been around for ages. Back in 2019 he narrowly missed out on the Formula Renault Eurocup title to F1-contender-in-waiting Oscar Piastri, but after moving from MP to ART sealed the title the following year. He will be hoping that making the same switch in FIA F3 will yield equally positive results.

AA (1st): Martins was probably the sensation of the 2021 F3 season. The Frenchman came into the category and took the MP Motorsport car to another level in order to finish fifth in the final standings, which could have been better if it weren’t for a run of unfortunate races midseason. In 2022, he is teaming up with ART with whom he already succeeded in the Eurocup in 2020. A year of experience in the series adds now to Martins’ raw speed, and that makes Formula Scout consider him a title favourite. If he can continue building on last season’s form, many wins and podiums will definitely come and that would make Martins an extremely tough driver to beat.