Home Formula 3Euroformula Teams’ memories of a Formula 3 era

Teams’ memories of a Formula 3 era

by Elliot Wood
On October 13 2019, the Dallara F312/317 Formula 3 car was signed off after eight years of service. Formula Scout spoke to some of the category’s top teams – and a top journalist – to share their favourite moments

Eight F3 championships in Asia and Europe, as well as the prestigious Macau Grand Prix, made use of Dallara’s era-defining F312 chassis between 2012 and 2019, when its FIA homologation was stripped as the new vision for F3 came into play.

In 2017 an aerodynamic and safety-based update was made to the car, with a noticeably lower nose profile being introduced. That design had several dramatic moments at Macau, first with the stunning conclusion of the 2017 grand prix, and then a year later with Sophia Floersch’s horror shunt that ultimately contributed to the cars being overlooked for Macau last year and changes being made to the circuit.

The F312 was, and still is, a popular car with more club-based racers in series such as the MSVR and Austrian F3 Cups, and the F2000 Italian Trophy. While still used in international series, it enabled the more confident and enthusiastic racers to take their efforts into higher profile series – such as CF Racing’s toe-in-the-water debut in Euroformula last year.

Drivers and teams praised the F312/F317 for its high quality and ability to train drivers well, although its relevance was decreased once the higher formulae switched to heavier machinery over F3’s lightweight philosophy. But the standard of racing, and the drivers and teams, still made FIA European F3 the top driver development series until its untimely decline.

Interest in the style of car has prompted Dallara to design a successor, without the F3 moniker, that will be used in Euroformula and the renamed Super Formula Lights (formerly Japanese F3) from this year onwards.

Motopark FIA European F3 Norisring 2018
2019 Euroformula driver and teams champion, ’19 Japanese F3 driver and teams champion, 2017 & ’18 Macau GP winner

Dan Ticktum

Photo: Davide Pastanella / Red Bull Content Pool

Motopark team principal Timo Rumpfkeil, never an emotional sort, has two stunning Macau Grand Prix victories to pick from, but went for a performance that was arguably more to do with what his team did off-track than what happened in the race.

At the start of the second race on the Norisring street circuit in 2018, Dan Ticktum stalled on the grid and was rear-ended by Carlin’s accelerating Ameya Vaidyanathan. Ticktum went to hospital with a painful headache, the car ended up “shattering into a million bits”, but already had an engine and gearbox reattached by the time Ticktum arrived at hospital.

He took to the grid of the final race of the weekend, in his rebuilt car, in third place. In a safety car-filled encounter, Ticktum amazingly took victory by 0.057 seconds from team-mate Juri Vips.

“It was a massive effort from the team to bring the car back into one piece, to repairing a complete car in three hours with engine change, gearbox change, all the bodywork changed,” Rumpfkeil tells Formula Scout. “Which was something I doubted to be possible as we started, and to bring the car back to the grid and then win the race, is probably something which even had more emotions than winning in Macau.”

Motopark joined European F3 in 2015, and took its first win at Zandvoort with its German F3 champion Markus Pommer.

It was a great effort to win in the first year joining European F3, when the other teams had three years head-start on the car. But then Zandvoort has never produced really the most exciting races, so after the start it was pretty much done. If you keep your senses together, it?s a 35-minute wait until the race is over. That?s been remembered well, but not so emotional.”

Carlin Macau GP Grand Prix 2012
2017 European F3 driver champion, 2012 & ’13 British F3 driver champion, ’12 & ’16 Macau GP winner, ’16 & ’19 Pau GP winner

Felix da Costa

Photo: GEPA pictures/Dutch Photo Agency

Carlin marked itself out as the team to beat in Britain when the Dallara F312 was introduced, but it found the opposition a little tougher on the continent.

Its first Euro Series win with the car came via Jazeman Jaafar at Brands Hatch, and it added a few more when the British and European paddocks combined grids on several occasions. A move to a new factory meant Carlin was unable to do windtunnel work with the F312, and racing in two championships meant it was adapting to two different tyre manufacturers.

The Macau GP was run using Yokahama rubber, putting all European teams on a level playing field against each other. It was the Japanese teams that therefore had the tyre advantage, but Carlin had a secret weapon to utilise.

A few weeks before, Formula Renault 3.5 race-winner Antonio Felix da Costa had obliterated the field in a MSVR F3 Cup cameo with Carlin in an older F3 car, to ensure he was eligible for Macau entry, and after a test day at Silverstone in the F312 he travelled to the Far East wanting to win.

He was third fastest in both free practice sessions, just 0.037 seconds off the pace despite his car inexperience, and was fastest in the first qualifying session of the weekend. Despite having new tyres at his disposal he failed to improve in the all-important Q2, but that was still good enough for second place behind Alex Lynn’s stonking pole lap for Fortec.

After bettering a fast-starting Felix Rosenqvist in the qualification and main race, da Costa took a hard-earned double win and his first grand prix triumph. It was also Carlin’s first Macau win since Takuma Sato in 2001.

Fortec Motorsports Macau GP Grand Prix 2013
2014 British F3 driver champion, 4th in 2013 European F3 teams standings, 5th in ’16, ’17 & ’19 Euroformula teams standings

To Fortec’s Euroformula boss Mick Kouros, engineering Pipo Derani to third in the 2013 Macau GP was Fortec’s greatest achievement with the Dallara F312.

“It was an exceptionally strong field, and you had to not only have a fast car but a fast driver to be on that podium,” Kouros gleams proudly.

Fortec turned up to the event with a crack line-up of Derani, Tom Blomqvist, John Bryant-Meisner, Will Buller and Ed Jones, and with two previous podiums: second place with Heikki Kovalainen in 2002, and third from pole with Alex Lynn in 2012.

Derani didn’t look like he’d be replicating that result in free practice, but was fifth fastest in the first qualifying session. Blomqvist bumped him down to seventh in the second session, although he was top of the timesheet at one point.

A collision at the start immediately put Blomqvist out of the qualification race, and gained Derani one spot. He was gifted another when Prema’s Lucas Auer crashed ahead of him, and thus he started the main race from fifth. Possibly the best start of his life meant he dicing for second on the run to the first braking zone at Lisboa in the main race. Three into one with Raffaele Marciello and Felix Rosenqvist was risky, and Derani was the only one to emerge unscathed – and in second place.

He lost the position to da Costa on a safety car restart shortly after, and eventually the damaged Marciello got through too. The Prema man then crashed, and Derani was back in a podium position.

After fending off pressure from ThreeBond with T-Sport’s Alexander Sims, Derani met the chequered flag in third to the elation of Fortec. Derani didn’t remain in single-seaters for long, instead carving out a career in American sportscars.

Hitech GP FIA European F3 Pau 2016
2nd in 2016 European F3 team standings, 3rd in 2018 European F3 team standings, 3rd in ’16 European F3 driver standings

Russell

Photo: FIA F3 European Championship

The Hitech name was revived in 2015 by former GP3 racer Oliver Oakes, with his Silverstone-based team entering two European F3 rounds with future Formula E star Sims. It had a top five finish and a fastest lap by its fourth race, and was already a formidable squad when it entered F3 full-time a year later with Ben Barnicoat, Nikita Mazepin and George Russell.

In the season opener it took its first podium through Russell, and a first win one round later at the Hungaroring with Barnicoat.

The next races were on the Pau street circuit, and the team-mates topped their group in Q1. Prema’s Lance Stroll was faster in the other qualifying group, but Hitech struck back in the first two races of the weekend.

A poor start for Stroll handed Barnicoat the lead in a damp race one, which he turned into a dominant win, and Russell was similarly assertive in the equally wet conditions of race two. Had it not been for qualifying several rows back for race three, the Pau GP itself, one of the pair would likely have made it a triple win for Hitech.

Russell won again at Spa-Francorchamps, while Jake Hughes and Enaam Ahmed added victories in 2017 and ’18. Ahmed’s early season winning spree sent him into an unexpected championship lead before sinking to ninth in the points.

Hitech has since gone on to dominate in regional F3, first in Asia and then through its contract with W Series, and is one of several of the European F3 teams that successfully jumped ship to the newly created FIA F3 Championship last year. Its ambitions have now stretched to Formula 2, a first for the Hitech name since a GP2 partnership with Piquet Sports in 2005.

RP Motorsport Euroformula Silverstone 2017
2012, ’14, ’15, ’17 & ’18 Euroformula driver champion, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’17 & ’18 Euroformula teams champion

Photo: Fotospeedy

RP Motorsport is the most successful team in Euroformula Open history, and therefore it was a tricky task for team manager Niki Rocca to pick one highlight amongst 11 titles and close to 80 wins before its success in the series dried up last year.

The veteran Italian named a few dominant performances, and it was Harrison Scott’s 2017 double win at Silverstone that stood out the most.

Despite spinning midway through the session, Scott took a dominant pole in Q1. His banker lap prior to his spin was good enough for pole, and he ended up 0.751s clear. A “remarkable” car then propelled him to a 14.547s win in the 15-lap first race, one of the most dominant performances seen in championship history.

He returned on Sunday with another dominant pole, once again showing stunning pace on used tyres prior to his pole lap, and took top spot by an enlarged 1.062s. There was spots of rain and a strong destabilising wind through the first corner in race two, meaning Scott wasn’t as dominant, but he still met the chequered flag with over 10s in hand to his nearest opponent.

So dominant was Scott that he skipped the Barcelona season finale, having already won the title, and his Silverstone record of two wins, two poles and two fastest laps was repeated at Paul Ricard and Jerez. It wasn’t the first time that RP Motorsport had achieved that feat, having completed it at Paul Ricard in 2012, Jerez and Spa in 2014, and Paul Ricard and Jerez in 2018.

RP may not return to Euroformula in 2020 after its disastrous showing last year, but the series would sorely miss the Italian squad if it departs entirely.

Campos Racing Euroformula Monza 2016
2016 Euroformula driver and teams champion, 2nd in 2014 & ’15 Euroformula teams standings

Photo: Fotospeedy

Formula Scout’s choice for the best race of 2016 was also Campos’s favourite in F3, and had one of the coolest endings to a junior single-seater race of the last 10 years.

The Spanish team’s lead driver Leonardo Pulcini had won five races that season, and was looking to complete his first weekend double in the second race at Monza.

Drivex School’s Nikita Troitskiy initially led the way, before being reeled in by team-mate Ferdinand Habsburg and Pulcini. The two had banged wheels down the straights while disputing second place, and they soon cleared the inexperienced Troitskiy.

A lock-up for Pulcini four laps from home lost him the time he’d gained on leader Habsburg, but two laps later he utilised the slipstream down Monza’s main straight and made contact with Habsburg again while trying to pass at the first chicane.

On the final lap, Pulcini dived to the inside of Habsburg at Curve Grande and they ran side-by-side through the corner. Pulcini got ahead but Habsburg fought back at the Roggia chicane and regained the lead by cutting across the inside.

Habsburg weaved left and right down the straight after Ascari, but after eventually choosing to defend the inside, Pulcini took more speed around the outside of Parabolica, the final corner of the race, to steal victory and completed his double.

Campos mentioned another Euroformula race as a joint favourite: Alex Palou’s debut success in 2014. The IndyCar-bound Spaniard made his first car racing start with the team in the Euroformula Winter Series, then stunned by taking victory, pole and fastest lap in the main series’ opening race at the Nurburgring – in just his second car racing appearance.

Prema FIA European F3 All of it
2012 F3 Euro Series driver and teams champion, 2013, ’14, ’15, ’16 & ’18 European F3 driver and teams champion

Prema was the dominant force through much of the revived European F3, winning 12 titles out of 13 attempts. It’s therefore unsurprising than team boss Rene Rosin could not pick out just one race as Prema’s favourite.

?Choosing only one moment from that extremely successful period is impossible as they were simply too many,” says Rosin.

“Having won the drivers? championship almost every season from 2012 to 2018 (with very talented drivers such as Dani Juncadella, Raffaele Marciello, Esteban Ocon, Felix Rosenqvist, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher) and all team titles in those years is something I am personally extremely proud of.

“All of those moments had one thing in common: a hardworking, passionate group of people combined with some of the most talented drivers of this decade. It has been a privilege to be able to witness the exceptional racing we had over those years and they will be forever remembered as some of the most successful moments of the team?s history.?

In 2015 and ’16, Prema won 20 races in a season, and its ’15 campaign led by F3 veteran Felix Rosenqvist included an astonishing 23 poles, 18 fastest laps and 46 podiums. However it was in 2018 when the team finally broke the 1000-point barrier across one year. Not only that, but it also won the Pau GP thrice, Macau GP twice, the Masters of F3 and in British F3.

In the coming years it it likely that more of its former F3 stars, whether they be in the driving seat or part of the behind-the-scenes action, will be making their way to the highest echelons of motorsport.

Van Amersfoort Racing FIA European F3 Hockenheim 2015
3rd in 2014 European F3 driver standings, 3rd in 2015 European F3 teams standings, 2nd in ’15 Macau GP

Narrowing down all of his F3 races down to just one in the timeframe given was a difficult task for Frits Van Amersfoort, boss of the eponymous team, so Formula Scout has selected one on the Dutchman’s behalf.

FR2.0 Eurocup graduate Charles Leclerc set the track record in the pre-event test for the 2015 season opener at Silverstone, and made his way to two pole positions. The latter he converted into a victory, and Leclerc departed second in the points.

The championship reconvened a month later at Hockenheim, where VAR was not confident of success, but Leclerc once again saved his best till last for the team and outdid Prema’s experienced Felix Rosenqvist for race three victory.

A wet circuit meant the race was led away by the safety car, before poleman Rosenqvist and his tail-happy car was left to fend off the seemingly planted car of Leclerc. Rosenqvist’s start gap was efficiently reduced by Leclerc, who had 945 laps less applicable experience on the circuit.

Leclerc’s first attempt at the lead resulted in brief contact at the hairpin, and a outside-to-inside move at the same corner a few laps later resulted in Leclerc pinching the lead through the following corner. The safety car came out just moments later, and when it returned to the pits there were only two laps of the shortened race to go.

Once unleashed up front, Leclerc immediately set the fastest lap and pulled out a three-second lead for a win that certainly left an impact. It was reminiscent of VAR’s previous success story the year before, where single-seater rookie Max Verstappen also made his name known with victory at Hockenheim then added another nine before moving on to F1.

Double R Racing Macau GP Grand Prix 2015
2nd in 2013 British F3 teams standings, 3rd in 2014 British F3 teams standings, 3rd in 2019 Euroformula teams standings

Double R returned to the continent last year in Euroformula and finished third in the teams standings. There were no wins, but one pole position and several podiums certainly pleased Anthony ‘Boyo’ Hieatt and his squad.

The Woking-based team first raced the Dallara F312 in British F3, but mostly struggled. A refreshed line-up in 2013, led by Jagonya Ayam proteges Sean Gelael and Antonio Giovinazzi led to a change of fortunes, and in the reversed grid race at Silverstone they scored a one-three finish. Double R’s next double podium was the final ever British F3 race in 2014.

Two-time Brazil F3 Open winner Felipe Guimaraes scored in a part-time European F3 campaign that year, and the team signed off its chassis with a fruitless two-car effort the next year.

Weak driver line-ups had mostly squandered any good results for Double R, which has a working relationship with Dallara outside of racing, but it was still highly rated and attracted top talents for its Macau entries.

FR3.5 star Kevin Korjus raced in 2012 and ’13, ex-DTM racer Roberto Merhi came fourth in 2014, and Sims made the podium a year later. The Briton qualified 13th due to an odd tyre graining issue, but he made up an incredible 10 places in the qualification race. Seven of those came on the opening lap, where he was assisted by a collision up ahead, and he gained his final position from a penalty for on-the-road winner Giovinazzi. In the main race he was in fourth for a short while, but otherwise had a car more than capable of being on the podium.

Sims came back in 2016, but it was racing returnee Dan Ticktum who was the stronger Double R driver. He finished eighth in the qualification race in just his second weekend in the car, but was punted out of the top 10 in the main race.

Marcus Simmons [journalist] FIA European F3 Norisring 2015
Has been to over 200 Dallara F3 races

Maximilian Gunther

Photo: FIA F3 European Championship

F3 expert Marcus Simmons probably knows the Dallara F312/F317 better than any other journalist, and by his own calculations in a Autosport magazine column (October 24 2019), he has been to 220 races at 78 different events, and seen 200 of the 240 drivers who raced the car using an FIA-spec engine (excluding Euroformula from 2012 to ’18).

Simmons has an even greater selection of races than the teams to choose from, but at least he was quick to pick a favourite.

“I think I’ll choose Norisring 2015 – Alex Albon/Leclerc/Russell all run wide late on at Turn 1 and let Maximilian Gunther in for his maiden win.”

The three future F1 talents made their error after a safety car restart (the last of four) late in the race, allowing fellow rookie Gunther – now a FE race-winner with BMW Andretti – to sneak by.

Poleman Albon and fellow front row starter Russell traded the lead over the first few laps, before Albon stretched out a lead after the first safety car period. Numerous bouts of chaos led to three more interruptions, and a five-minute fight to the end.

Albon lost his lead this time midway around the lap, and dropped another spot to Leclerc at the last corner. Leclerc then dived down the inside of Russell at Turn 1, but it only sent he and Russell wide. Instead of capitalising, Albon also ran wide and Mucke Motorsport’s Gunther – who had started 12th on the grid – took a lead he would not give up in the remaining time.

For pure excitement, and few would disagree, Simmons highlights the 2017 Macau GP and its dramatic career-redefining conclusion won by Dan Ticktum. It was a race that cemented why the Dallara F317 was such a popular car.

Further reading
What could Euroformula?s 2020 car mean for the future of ?F3?? (June 2019)
The timeline of European F3?s demise (March 2019)
Top 10 European Formula 3 drivers that F1 missed out on (February 2019)
Was Schumacher a worthy winner of the final European F3 season? (December 2018)
How Ticktum?s Macau Grand Prix glory showed his class as well as luck (November 2017)