F2 and F3 will be supporting the Australian GP in 2023, a round trip that will be over 13,265 miles longer than any other the teams have gone on before. Is that possible while keeping budgets under control?
From the FIA’s headquarters to Melbourne’s Albert Park is a trip of around 10,427 miles direct. And going from Europe to Australia’s eastern coast is not a direct trip. In fact, any trip that – the English Channel aside – requires more than simply taking all your equipment from A to B in trucks via public roads is a logistical headache-and-a-half in junior single-seaters.
There are already flyaway (or ship-away) rounds in FIA Formula 2 and Formula 3 as both series head to Bahrain at the start of the year and F2 returns to the Middle East at the end of the season to support the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Baku round in Azebaijan can be done by road, but the FIA’s own communications deem the city street circuit a flyaway location. However arrangements with the event promoter ever since it brought sportscar racing to Azerbaijan as a forerunner to hosting Formula 1 has ensured the trip has been more moderately sustainable on team finances than it otherwise could be. But it’s still an expensive trip, and will only cost more as the price of fuel increases across Europe.
But F2 and F3 are now going to head all the way to Australia one weekend a year for the next few seasons, with no sign that this will be part of a wider run of events in the southern hemisphere and still no concrete information from the championships’ promoter on how next April’s trip will actually happen. Once the provisional 2023 F1 calendar is released there may be some clue into how heading down under could fit into the rest of F2 and F3’s season schedules.
So, with the limited info that has been made available to media and teams, what is being expected with the first visit to Australia and how do those who will be taking part in it in the coming years feel about it?
“I’m looking forward to the news also with Australia even if it’s a cost situation which we don’t know yet exactly what’s going to happen there,” Jenzer Motorsport’s team principal Andreas Jenzer said to Formula Scout.
“Bruno Michel always tries to support the teams in a way that it’s affordable. He’s always looking into the situation that the championship has a financial balance and doesn’t just go out the roof. For the worldwide driver market it’s quite interesting to visit different countries and different race tracks and not spend all the time on the same racetracks. I think we need to be attractive all over the world.”
Van Amersfoort Racing’s CEO Rob Niessink is also enthused by the idea of racing down under.
“We look at it as being very impressive,” he said. “Personally I really like the idea of going there. We worked with a number of Australian and New Zealand drivers in the past such as Joey Mawson, Liam Lawson. It will be fun. We thought this year’s flyaway events in Abu Dhabi and Jeddah would be a challenge but in the end it was not a problem.”
It will have a big impact on budgets, but it all depends on the deal that Michel can get for the collective shipment of all the team’s freight. That is still an ‘if’ for now, but it has to take place to make the event sustainable in any way financially, ecologically and logistically. Everyone travelling or sending their equipment together on a single route is the only logical solution, but the who and how of getting it paid for is a topic that needs to be discussed soon while teams provisionally put their 2023 plans into place. Regardless of the price though, bringing F2 and F3 to Australia is still good news for both series.
“I think it’s very good for the championship,” Carlin’s team principal Trevor Carlin said in conversation with Formula Scout.
“I think we need to go and show the fans around the world what a great championship F3 is. Taking it to Australia, the southern hemisphere for the first time, is a great thing. It really is.
“The championship will pay all the freight costs for the shipping of the cars and all the equipment. We’ve got to get the best deal possible on flights for our staff. Unfortunately, we have to pass some of these prices on to the customers, but it shouldn’t be so bad. There won’t be any extra races, I don’t think. So, if normally we spend €500 on flights, maybe you have to spend €1000 more per person. So, in the big picture of everything, it’s not a big deal.”
But teams are not flying out just one or two people, and will likely be sending out a staff size of more than 40 people if they are competing in F2 and F3 at the same time. So the prices do rack up, and in Formula Scout’s own position there is no financial case for being in the paddock when the cost of travel and hospitality surpasses all of the year’s other trips combined.
One group of people, beyond the fans, that will find better value for money in racing in Australia is the country’s own drivers. Racing in Formula 4 at the moment are Hugh Barter and James Wharton, and both shared their thoughts on racing at home.
“It’s mega,” said Barter, who grew up in Melbourne after being born in Japan. “For me personally it would be a great incentive if I’m able to get to F3. There is huge interest in Australia for all series from Europe and US at the moment.”
Wharton, whose family house is only 10 minutes from the track, is just as thrilled.
“When I saw that news I was very happy because it gives me a bigger push trying to get results as soon as possible so that I can go and race at my home track which is all I would ever want. It’s a really good bit of motivation to get me to do everything I can every weekend.”
The news has also engaged drivers from other parts of the globe, who similarly would not have previously have imagined having the opportunity to race in Melbourne unless they reached F1.
“It’s really nice to go in different circuits, especially Australia,” Alpine’s Brazilian junior and F3 driver Caio Collet commented.
“I think it’s a great initiative from the championship and also the track, because I think it’s a little bit of both. And it was also nice for us drivers to go away, change a bit the scenario. So when you travel to some places like Australia, I think it will be a really, really nice race week.”
His MP Motorsport team-mate Kush Maini from India added: “I think it’s great the championship wants to expand like this. And it’s an amazing experience for us drivers, but for sure it’s going to be tough for the teams and all the logistics. But from a driver’s point of view, it’s great that the championship wants to take us to different places.”
Interviews conducted in the F2 and F3 paddock by Alejandro Alonso Lopez and Roger Gascoigne