Home Featured Joseph Loake reflects on his first steps in FIA F3 with mileage deficit

Joseph Loake reflects on his first steps in FIA F3 with mileage deficit

by Alejandro Alonso Lopez

Photos: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Joseph Loake stepped up to FIA F3 with Rodin Motorsport this year without participating in any of 2023’s post-season tests, and is yet to score points. How is he faring with his move to the F1 support paddock?

Winning the prestigious Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award (and therefore £200,000) last year helped the teenaged Joseph Loake step up from British motorsport to the world of the Formula 1 support paddock this year in FIA Formula 3.

On his championship debut at Bahrain he qualified 21st out of 30 cars, then struggled for pace in the races and took the chequered flag in 27th place in the sprint and 23rd in the feature race. Qualifying in Melbourne then proved tough, lapping 2.656 seconds off the pace down in 29th place, but the sprint race down under was a significant step forward as he charged to 14th place. The possiblity of a repeat the next day ended with a race-ending lap one incident.

Loake did some karting in the UK from 2016 to 2018, but it wasn’t until he entered the BRSCC Fiesta Junior championship in 2019 that his career ramped up. In a poorly contested season he won five of the 14 races he entered and was title runner-up, then in 2020 won all eight of the eight races held to become champion.

Single-seaters came next, and in two British F4 seasons with JHR Developments he won seven races and came fifth in the 2022 standings. In the winter between those campaigns he contested two F4 United Arab Emirates rounds, which were his first races outside the UK. Last year Loake moved up to GB3, a British series with two international rounds, and was a title contender with JHR through to the season’s penultimate race. He came third in the standings with four wins and three poles.

The week after GB3’s finale was on-track testing for the AMABA finalists at Silverstone, then it was not until this February that Loake first drove an F3 car in the official pre-season test at Bahrain. After the first two rounds was another test at Barcelona, where Loake recounted to Formula Scout his first steps in F3. The beginning has definitely been challenging.

“It’s a pretty big step,” he said. “Not necessarily in terms of the car or anything like that. But the level of competition is so high.

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

“In GB3 you have the top five or six that were really quick and then the rest of the pack were a little bit off, whereas in F3 everybody is very, very good. To be able to be at the front in F3 is a lot more difficult. But it’s still good. We’re learning a lot. The main thing is that we’re improving every round. I didn’t get any of the [post-]season tests last year, which was a challenge going into Bahrain, but I think we’re catching up quite well. Still quite behind on running, but we’re getting there and it will come eventually.”

Although he has been able to put some mileage under his belt now, he is certain there is still some way to go to even things out with the Dallara F3 2019.

“I don’t think there is necessarily a certain goal,” he said of the in-season test. “Because I’m so low on mileage compared to all of the other guys on the grid, especially in a F3 [car], it is always difficult to be on the same level as them.

“So the main thing is make sure that I’m not losing any time on track by making silly mistakes, things like that. I’ve got to make sure that I’m learning as much as I can and being clinical, with a lot of the stuff carrying out the processes exactly how the team are wanting me to.”

He clocked 217 laps across the three days at Barcelona and was 11th fastest. The experience gained will definitely help Loake for moving forward and that is all he wants now as he lies 21st in the standings. None of Rodin’s drivers have scored yet, and Loake is aiming for continued progress through the season. The first area to make gains in is qualifying.

“While the team have been struggling over recent years, I actually think we’ve got a really good baseline. I think potentially they did get lost a little bit in years gone by and potentially been led down the wrong path by different reasons. But I think as long as I give all of the information I have in the best way possible, make it really clear exactly what we need and what needs to be improved then I think we can make steps forward. We can definitely be fighting in the mid-pack for sure. And potentially even getting towards the top 10, top five region by the end of the year. I’d be happy with that if we could do that.

“No matter what car you’re in, if you’re in your first year, it’s going to be pretty tricky to win a race anyway,” Loake reckons. “I think you can win a sprint race if you do a good job. And I think that could potentially happen this year for us. All we have to do is sort qualifying out, which I think a lot of it is me.”

When it comes to qualifying, being a GB3 graduate may have been part of the challenge he’s faced this year.

“In GB3 you got away with doing five, six [qualifying] laps before the tyres really started to go away. So you can kind of build up to it,” explained Loake. “Here you don’t get that. You have your lap and that’s that. At some tracks you might be able to extract nearly the same laptime on the second push. But everything is in the first lap and having the confidence to push into the first corner without knowing where the tyres actually are. You’ve just got to kind of hope that they’re there. It is very tricky. But again, it’s something that I’m learning and something that I’m improving on every time I drive.”

Loake is conscious that mastering the art of qualifying might take some time. It’s all part of the process a driver has to go through to reach the top, therefore, “I don’t really want to rush it”.

“If I’m just chucking myself out there just trying everything I can, then I’m not actually going to learn enough in the long run. So it might help me over this season. But, for example, maybe next year I might struggle even more to find that extra couple of tenths that I need. And that is where the difference is made in F3.

“I just think I need to not rush it. It will come. I know I’m good enough to be here, and I know I eventually will be good enough to fight for a title. I don’t think I am now. It would be silly of me to think that I am, because of not having the mileage, things like that. But I think I’m deep down good enough to be here and fight at the front.”

Loake also addressed tyre management, a recurrent talking point in the F3 paddock. He described it as “not fun, for sure, but it’s actually quite a good challenge” and believes he is “improving quite well” on it.

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

“It’s something I’ve never had to really do. Occasionally in GB3 we might have a race where we just wanted to save a little bit at the start to have a bit more pace at the end. But in F3 if you don’t save, your whole run will be probably five, six seconds slower because of the whole thing. So you can’t be pushing all out every lap.

“Trying to find the balance between saving the tyres but being on the limit and also being slightly under the limit is very, very difficult while you’re saving the tyres. And it’s something that I did struggle with in Bahrain. But I think Melbourne I did that a lot better.”

Heading into the European leg of the season, there will be six circuits Loake has never driven at while most of the grid has. He only has experience of Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone, where in single-seaters he has won twice [pictured above] on the Grand Prix layout used by F1 and its support series. He is not too concerned about encountering new tracks as he considers himself a quick learner, but expects next round at Imola to be “a little bit tricky”.

“I’ve never driven Imola in my life. A lot of the European guys have raced in Europe. They’ve done Imola many times. And they did the end-of-season test last year at Imola. So it will be definitely difficult at Imola. But apart from that, I think it’ll be good.

“I think I’m pretty quick at getting up to speed at most tracks. But of course, you get definitely not enough time to learn the circuit, especially when you’re going straight into qualifying after one practice session. So we’ve just got to keep on it, make sure that we’re optimising as much as we can and we’ll see how it goes.”