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Preview: The new British F3 begins at Silverstone

by Valentin Khorounzhiy

Photo: FIA F3

The Silverstone round this weekend marks the beginning of a new British F3, in its four-round format. While it has been a downgrade, the new series attracted significant attention from the usual F3 favorite teams and boasts a 19-car grid for the season opener. Some of the drivers here are key figures in their respective F3 categories and should produce quality competitive racing in the fight for a trophy which still carries a lot of prestige in racing.

Kicking off the main “International Class” entries is Fortec Motorsport, who will, evidently, be arriving at Silverstone in almost full force, with a strong three-car lineup. The team’s leader in European F3, Felix Serralles, will be heading the assault. The Puerto Rican won a British F3 race at Silverstone before and has raced there in Formula Renault 2.0 UK. His strong record, coupled with several good recent performances, suggests he’s the prime favorite for the weekend

Having parted ways with T-Sport and finding refuge with Fortec, Will Buller will certainly be a man to look out for. The F3 veteran’s Silverstone record isn’t as impressive as his teammate’s, but he’s won in British F3 previously and looks set to do it again, no matter the circuit.

Felipe Guimaraes is Fortec’s third man, somewhat surprisingly, as just a month ago the Brazilian’s eyes looked set on a GP3 seat. He didn’t land the drive and continued to win in the local F3 Sudamericana, his British F3 outing being a nice opportunity to see how he’ll stack up against some of F3’s finest. Guimaraes is no pushover, having been on the podium in GP3, and will hope to add a British F3 trophy to his list.

Fortec’s usual rival team Carlin’s also bringing out a trio, aiming to maintain their phenomenal streak of great performances in the series. 19-year-old Jordan King should be the expected team leader at Silverstone, with solid campaigns in FR2.0 behind his back and an impressive start to his European F3 season. He has come ever so closely to taking his maiden F3 podium in the latter but it will be a surprise if he leaves Silverstone this time without that particular milestone achieved.

The other two, Nicholas Latifi and Jann Mardenborough, are mere rookies at first glance, but their European F3 performances suggested that there’s much more to them. Mardenborough looked excellent in the Toyota Racing Series and, for a man with a resume of mostly GT racing, has been very impressive in F3. Latifi, meanwhile, has been inconsistent this year, but, on his day, has made a few headlines, running among the top drivers.

Completing the International Class is another trio, fielded by Double R Racing. Antonio Giovinazzi will be the man to look out for here, the Italian having made a rocky but promising start in European F3 after a fantastic 2012. Giovinazzi is still learning but is already a fantastic racer and could very well be looking at his first F3 podium. Sean Gelael and Tatiana Calderon are also with the team and are facing a steep learning year, but could produce a surprise or two – Gelael in particular.

The National Class is also a nine-car affair, with Team West-Tec fielding a stunning seve drivers. Some of them will utilize the machinery from the main class of F3 Open – the F312s with Toyota engines. Out of them, Roberto La Rocca and Ed Jones should be the main contenders for the class success, while Chris Vlok and Huan Zhu will face the need to learn the machinery. The West-Tec crew from the secondary F3 Open class is also here, on F308s – Liam Venter, Cameron Twynham and Sean Walkinshaw.

Alice Powell, GP3 points scorer and current F3 Cup leader, also is here in a Toyota-powered car, albeit a 306 model. Chinese racer Sun Zheng rounds out the class, as he will be fielded by CF Racing in an F311.

Finally, John Bryant-Meisner will quite literally be in a class of his own, running as a guest in the Volkswagen F310 with his German F3 team, Performance. The Swede has looked excellent in his series and looks to get some more racing practice after a crash ruled him out for most of 2012.