Joshua Dufek started this year in Formula Regional, but has recently raced on the next step of the single-seater ladder as he looks ahead to 2024.
The Swiss driver began 2023 with podiums in Formula Regional Middle East, then embarked on a second Formula Regional European Championship campaign after a rookie season in 2022 where he claimed three podiums in the last three rounds.
When he was yet to make a return to the podium 12 races into this season, Dufek called a day on his campaign. He had scored 52 points and taken pole at the Hungaroring, but was delivering below expectations.
“We wanted to take this year and go for results, but for various reasons it hasn’t gone that way,” Dufek said. He explained that the decision to end his time in FREC early was so he could start preparing for 2024, when “I will most likely be in Formula 3”.
As part of said preparation, Dufek contested the FIA F3 Championship finale with Campos Racing at Monza, where he spoke with Formula Scout about his first steps in the category. Following that, he has raced in the F3-level Euroformula series and made the podium in five out of six races so far, including a win at Monza.
“Throughout this season in FREC, it hasn’t really gone the way we would have wanted it to go. Therefore, in my head, I was always kind of, I thought that this opportunity [to step up to F3 during the year] might come,” Dufek explained.
“But I knew fully a week before [I would do] this race and it was all like very short notice, all happened very quickly. I basically knew it and a day later I was on the plane to Valencia to prepare on the simulator with Campos.
“I was very fortunate that the team has been really helpful and my team-mates as well in teaching me all the tricks of F3 and basically telling me everything there is to know.”
“It hasn’t been easy, but at the same time it’s been an incredible experience and I’ve loved every second of it,” he affirmed.
“The most exciting thing has also just been to drive the car because it’s quite a big step up from FREC, and to feel that extra power and downforce and just overall speed has been really nice and really satisfying.”
Red flags in practice reduced running, then a spin at the della Roggia chicane brought his maiden F3 qualifying session to an early end.
“[It has been] difficult with the amount of running I’ve had, but after being able to run the whole race today, I’ve really been able to feel the car and really push it to the limit, and it’s great. I love the way the car feels, it’s a lot more satisfying to drive than FREC. You can throw the car into the corners a lot more and really rely on the car to basically stick on the track.”
Dufek started 19th and finished 14th in his debut race, a result he repeated in the feature race.
“I think the most challenging thing for me has really been the braking. In FREC, you’d arrive [at the first chicane] at like 260kph, 265kph and hit the brakes at around 100 metres, and then here you arrive at almost 300kph and you brake at the same point. So to kind of gain that confidence in the grip and really rely on the car has been challenging.”
Tyre degradation was a big talking point in FIA F3 this season, as the Hungaroring and Spa-Francorchamps feature races were shortened due to excessive tyre wear. However, keeping the tyres alive wasn’t much of an issue for Dufek.
“I was warned by the engineers and everyone that tyre compound is particularly soft this year and that even on this track, where normally tyre wear shouldn’t really be a concern, that’s something that I still have to be careful and manage throughout the race. I went into it thinking about all the ways that I can save my tyres, but in the end as well, it was just about me getting a feel for the car and the tyres, and getting used to it all because it’s my first race.
“I really have a perception of how the tyres feel and how they degrade and what the best ways are to save those tyres.”
The sprint race left Dufek “feeling very confident” for the feature race, where he planned to manage the tyres early and then “make sure I still use the full potential of them at the end because I think with our pace, we saw that I could have used them even more [in the sprint race]”.
Dufek expects to contest most — if not all — of post-season testing, although did not reveal which team he will drive for. While he “would be absolutely thrilled” to enter November’s Macau Grand Prix “to get more time in this car”, he has to take budget into consideration.