Luke Browning has made an impressive start to his rookie FIA Formula 3 season, but it would not have been possible without the support of the Williams Formula 1 team.
The Hitech GP driver and reigning GB3 champion told Formula Scout who was the key person behind recruiting him into the Williams Driver Academy, which effectively saved his single-seater career.
“It came about through James Vowles,” Browning revealed. “James moving to Williams [to become team principal] from Mercedes.”
Like current Willliams driver Logan Sargeant, Browning had previously been evaluated by Vowles for Mercedes’s F1 junior programme.
“I previously did some work for Mercedes on the simulator, but could never really join the junior programme. And when James took over control at Williams, he gave me a call and said ‘Luke, we’ve got a space on the programme for you, do you want it?’. Yeah, I snapped his hand off.
“Obviously motorsport’s extremely expensive, so it’s always going to be difficult for young drivers to find the budget. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much wealth you’ve got, it can sometimes be sort of a bottomless pit of money. To have the support of Williams, I’m incredibly grateful, and to have the support of [Hitech sponsor] Pulse-Eight I’m incredibly grateful. Hopefully in the future it will pay off in F1.”
Browning has starred so far in FIA F3. With just three days experience in the Dallara F3 2019 before the opening round — he tested with Hitech at Bahrain—, he has put on some remarkable performances like in Monaco, where he qualified fourth and scored twice in his first visit to a street circuit.
“I think [this quick adaptation is] thanks to Hitech, really. It came together so late for me this season, but I’m super grateful to be here. Big thank you to Williams and the people I have around me that have enabled me to get here,” Browning said.
“I’m just trying to learn as quickly as possible. I think the race pace has been super strong throughout the season so far. With no testing in GP3 coming into the season, it’s been a tough learning curve, especially having never driven at tracks like Barcelona, or raced at tracks like Barcelona before. We’re trying to fast-track the progression, and it’s going well so far.”
The Red Bull Ring and Silverstone are the only tracks on F3’s calendar where Browning has raced before, after spending previous years mostly in British series as well as Germany’s now-defunct ADAC Formula 4 championship.
“It’s just the experience of a F1 team,” Browning said about Williams’ contribution to his development. “The engineering side of stuff, being able to go down to the factory on the simulator. It’s the input they can give you on a race weekend that’s incredibly helpful.
“This sort of knowledge that they can pass on really helps my progression fast-track, and I think it’s probably one of the reasons why I’m able to be one of the fastest rookies here that hasn’t driven the circuit before.”