The Formula Regional European Championship adopts many aspects of the now defunct Formula Renault Eurocup this year, but more noticeably has grown its grid from 12 to 30 cars. Here’s the need-to-know details for 2021
Formula 1’s latest support series kicks off its third season at Imola this weekend with a capacity grid and driver transfers still taking place between teams. The Formula Regional European Championship is now Europe’s de-facto lead Regional Formula 3 series after taking on various parts of former rival Formula Renault Eurocup, and once again takes an important place in the FIA superlicence points table that puts it level with Super Formula. It’s no wonder it is has ballooned in popularity.
But what elements of FREC’s first two years are being kept on, and what bits of the Eurocup has it added that could benefit the teams arriving from that series? All is explained below:
Reflecting both the Regional F3 merger and of the rebranding of the Enstone-based F1 team, the full name of the series this year is ‘Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine’ as it switches from Alfa Romeo to Renault power. As both series used the Tatuus T-318 chassis in the past, it’s the five FREC teams from 2020 that have to work with a new engine and actually have the biggest challenge.
Race weekends will now use the old Eurocup format too, with a slimming from three races to two and, depending on the timetable, with the first qualifying session setting the grid for race two and the second qualifying session setting the grid for race one. To counter the reduced racing action at each round, the number of rounds has increased from eight to a planned 10 that includes inheriting the Eurocup’s support slots at the Emilia-Romagna and Monaco grands prix and its trips to Germany and the Netherlands.
The top five teams from last year’s Eurocup standings all make the switch over into the new series, with MP Motorsport additionally continuing to run the Fernando Alonso-branded FA Racing team.
There are 10 drivers coming across from the Eurocup, led by 2020 race-winners Franco Colapinto (MP), Alex Quinn (Arden) and David Vidales (Prema). Of those three it’s only Vidales who is changing teams, having raced for JD Motorsport in his debut season in cars last year, and all three are expected to be title contenders.
Gregoire Saucy stays with ART Grand Prix and he topped the pre-season Barcelona test and came second in the Paul Ricard test, so far upstaging a pair of highly-rated rookie team-mates in Italian Formula 4 champion Gabriele Mini and Thomas ten Brinke, a veteran of five Spanish F4 events.
Vidales’ 2020 team-mate William Alatalo has left JD despite the success he also had there to join Quinn at Arden. JD instead gives a European debut to both Eduardo Barrichello, son of 11-time grand prix winner Rubens, and Tommy Smith.
After being dropped by what is now the Alpine Academy following a underwhelming rookie season with MP, Hadrien David has already responded well in his move to R-ace GP by going fastest at Imola in testing. Rookie team-mate Isack Hadjar, second in French F4 last year, also carried over his strong form from Asian F3. Paul Aron has kept his Mercedes-AMG patronage despite faring even worse than David in ’20, and he’s swapped ART for FREC mainstay Prema.
What’s retained from FREC
Four titles out of four in FREC’s first two seasons makes Prema an inevitable favourite for success again in 2021, and its line-up is completed by Ferrari junior and Italian Formula 4 graduate Dino Beganovic.
The presence of Patrik Pasma on the grid could contribute to a defeat in the drivers’ championship though, as the KIC Motorsport driver broke Prema’s 2020 hold on first place with four wins and three poles in a second half of the season where he scored more points than anyone else. KIC’s season had started with mechanical issues, which he will hope won’t recur.
DR Formula, with technical support from RP Motorsport, had been the team that was previously able to battle Prema at the front in FREC’s inaugural season. It faded last year with a sub-par driver line-up, with the exception of Ian Rodriguez’s Imola cameo.
Going in the opposite direction was Van Amersfoort Racing, which was finally able to show its true pace once it had more experienced drivers in its cars on a regular basis, and it now has a line-up of impressive F4 rookies from 2020 in Mari Boya, Lorenzo Fluxa and Francesco Pizzi.
Along with Prema and VAR, there’s another F3 long-timer in the series in the form of Monolite Racing, which first entered single-seaters in 2015. On FREC results alone it doesn’t look like a particularly potent outfit, with a best finish of sixth achieved twice from 18 races, but it won the FIA Central European Zone F3 title in 2017 and ’18 and then the F2000 Italian Trophy in 2019 as well as coming second in the Austrian F3 Cup that year, all with its driver Andrea Cola.
He has now landed a seat in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe with Target Racing, so the team has a new Italian protege in Italian F4 race-winner Pietro Delli Guanti and taken on fellow series graduate Jasin Ferati from Switzerland.
The Italian races at Mugello and Monza stay on from FREC, as do the Pirelli tyres similar in construction to the compound used in F4 but also mimicking the FIA F3 Championship rubber with a one-lap peak in qualifying.
Totally new bits
One of the changes in the sporting regulations this year is that each team can only field three cars at each race weekend with the exception that a fourth car can be run if raced by a woman. So far only R-ace GP has made benefit of this rule to bring Spanish F4 graduate Lena Buhler into its line-up, with every additional car useful for data acquisition to learn the secrets of the Pirelli tyres, although Buhler’s set to miss the season opener due to a broken hand.
G4 Racing is a new team, taking the space initially held by Eurocup team Bhaitech, and only has one full-time entry. It’s running Belen Garcia in its second car part-time after she conducted a private test programme with Global Racing Service – which doesn’t actually race in Regional F3.
The other new and exciting addition to the championship is a support slot at the Spanish Grand Prix. Both the Eurocup and FREC raced at Barcelona, with the former supporting GT World Challenge Europe and the latter alongside Euroformula. Now FREC will race with F1, meaning the first three rounds are all in the most prestigious support paddock of them all.
|2020 campaign (2021)
|11th in FR Eurocup
|16th in FREC, 3rd in F4 UAE
|4th in Asian F3 (’21), 4th in FREC
|6th in Asian F3 (’21), 3rd in French F4, 11th in F4 UAE
|18th in Toyota Racing Series, 23rd in Italian F4
|8th in FR Eurocup
|FA Racing by MP
|20th in Asian F3 (’21), 16th in Euroformula
|10th in FR Eurocup
|3rd in ALMS (’21), 3rd in FR Eurocup, 3rd in TRS
|13th in Asian F3 (’21), 6th in FR Eurocup
|20th in Spansih F4, 29th in Italian F4
|21st in Asian F3 (’21), 5th in F4 UAE, 21st in FR Eurocup
|15th in Spanish F4
|currently 12th in S5000 (’21), 10th in Asian F3
|7th in Asian F3 (’21), 3rd in Italian F4, 16th in ADAC F4
|FA Racing by MP
|7th in Italian F4
|4th in FR Eurocup
|8th in Euroformula
|Thomas ten Brinke
|3rd in Spanish F4
|6th in TRS, 7th in FR Eurocup
|Spanish F4 champion, NC in FR Eurocup
|Pietro Delli Guanti
|12th in Italian F4
|12th in FREC
|Italian F4 champion, 10th in ADAC F4
|Van Amersfoort Racing
|F4 UAE champion, 2nd in Italian F4, 11th in ADAC F4
|3rd in ADAC F4, NC in FR Eurocup
|Van Amersfoort Racing
|14th in Asian F3 (’21), 2nd in F4 UAE, 6th in Spanish F4
|Van Amersfoort Racing
|2nd in Spanish F4
|23rd in FR Eurocup (’19)
|NC in Spanish GT4, 6th in Motorsport Games F4 (’19)
|5th in Italian F4
|2nd in USF2000
|5th in Spanish F4