Home Featured The Top 10 FIA Formula 3 drivers of 2022

The Top 10 FIA Formula 3 drivers of 2022

by Formula Scout

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

This year FIA F3 went down to the wire, and even beyond, as the title protagonists were left biting their nails whilst the stewards totted up penalties and nervously checked their watches and the weekend timetable

Seven drivers had travelled to Monza with a chance of taking the title. In the end, Victor Martins emerged victorious. While some other second-year drivers ultimately disappointed, it was the rookies who made the biggest impression. Any of Zane Maloney, Ollie Bearman or Isack Hadjar could have taken the title in their maiden season had the dice rolled differently.

There was 40 drivers who participated in the 2022 FIA Formula 3 Championship, six of them in the same car, though fortunately not all at the same time. As is traditional, Formula Scout’s reporters have put their heads together to rank the top ten drivers of the season.

Listen to our review of the season in podcast form here, and on Breaker, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Castbox, Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Or read on to find out who we chose as the top 10 FIA F3 drivers of 2022.

Honourable mentions

Formula Scout’s assessment of the 2022 field showed remarkable consistency, such that the five contributors produced just 15 names. The five who just missed out on inclusion in the final list certainly merit a mention.

Jak Crawford came into the season as one of the title favourites. While there were flashes of speed and a first victory in the category, ultimately the American had a disappointing year. He lacked his team-mates’ aggression in race situations and, after three early podiums, his season never quite took off.

Oliver Goethe competed in two rounds during Euroformula’s summer break, and certainly left a vivid impression. His brief time in FIA F3 culminated with an excellent fourth place at Spa-Francorchamps, hours after being pitched into the Blanchimont barriers at full speed.

Another driver of whom much was expected was Caio Collet. His second season at MP Motorsport resulted in eighth in the standings, but he shone when the track was wet, and took two wins in reversed-grid races on circuits where overtaking was not easy. That meant he led a total of 58 laps across the season, a tally only bettered by Martins.

Apart from a sprint race win at home in Barcelona, David Vidales was largely anonymous for Campos, and the performances of Goethe and Sebastian Montoya cast rather a poor light on the team’s regular line-up.

Jenzer’s William Alatalo was one of the most entertaining drivers of the season, both on and off-track. After a solid start to the season, he proved a revelation at Spa and Monza, where he had the speed to run with the leading pack. For a rookie in one of the smaller teams, his late-season displays as he hustled his way to the front were a joy to watch.

Key Percentage of team’s points scored (TP), Average qualifying position (QA), Laps led (LL)

10. Jonny Edgar ENGLAND Trident
12th in standings, 46 points (2 fastest laps) – TP 15%, QA 10.6 (12th)

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Alejandro Alonso Lopez: Having joined the 2021 teams’ champion, Edgar was tipped as one of the favourites in the 2022 title battle. However, Crohn’s disease made his start to the year difficult, and he had to miss the Imola and Barcelona rounds to recover. His comeback at Silverstone, which happened earlier than expected according to Edgar himself, was a great achievement. The Red Bull junior finished the feature race eighth from 14th on the grid, and did so at a highly demanding track and despite not being 100% fit. The Briton struggled in the next two rounds, but he scored in all six races after the summer break as he benefitted from having adapted to the car and being in much better physical condition. Although he couldn’t achieve the target of stepping onto the podium he set after his comeback, Edgar’s disrupted season was one that deserves recognition.

Ida Wood (4th): Edgar was quietly achieving a lot on track this year, but the lack of a podium to his name hides a season of solid progress. His scoring run at the end was only matched by three of the title contenders and Collet, and he had the best average finishing position over the last three rounds where the pressure was ramping up for everyone. His scoring rate suggests he wouldn’t have finished much higher in the championship had he done two more rounds, but that ignores the ‘what if’ of how much competitive he could have been from the off had he not been overcome by illness.

9. Arthur Leclerc MONACO Prema
6th in standings, 114 points (1 win, 1 fastest lap, 2 podiums) – TP 32%, QA 10.6 (11th), LL 19 (9th)

Peter Allen (8th) This was the year for Leclerc to step up, make the most of his potential and capitalise on the opportunities (rightly) afforded to him. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see his final championship position of sixth as anything other than a failure. In the first half of the season, everything was going pretty well. Qualifying pace was still an issue, but so it was for the entire Prema team, and Leclerc’s race pace and progress was so devastating at the time that it didn’t matter so much. When he then did qualify on the front row at Silverstone, he converted it into a feature race victory. But he simply looked weak in the run-in, especially compared to team-mate Bearman. The spotlight on Leclerc has been unenviable, but it won’t get easier if he now goes to F2.

Roger Gascoigne (8th) Too many mistakes and a continuing inability to get in a strong qualifying lap added up to a hugely disappointing season for Leclerc. The year started well enough, with another trademark charge through the field in Bahrain from 13th to second, but thereafter he was seldom in contention for a win. He was on average only the 11th best driver in qualifying, as a Prema driver, and three times he qualified 20th or lower. When he did get it together at Silverstone, he took a fine victory, but it was his only win of the season. Though he remains a driver guaranteed to make up positions in races, this year his aggressive overtaking moves seemed too often to end in collisions, perhaps a sign of growing frustration. He started as a title favourite but from mid-season was being regularly eclipsed by Bearman.

8. Alexander Smolyar   MP Motorsport
10th in standings, 76 points (1 win, 2 poles, 1 fastest lap, 3 podiums) – TP 39%, QA 8.4 (8th), LL 24 (7th)

Bethonie Waring (4th): Smolyar had a really good year, but consistency was not with him. Outside factors would have had an impact behind the scenes and obviously led to him having to miss Silverstone (as a Russian athlete), but despite that he hit the ground running with a podium finish at Bahrain. Like a lot of people, consistency was a problem, and the fact he seemingly struggled to move forward in most of the feature races hindered him. Coming back for a third year and finishing 10th in the standings doesn’t look great on paper, but his performance as a whole has really impressed me this year.

IW (8th): On his day, Smolyar just gets the job done. He finds a comfortable place with the car, nails it in qualifying and then – underwhelming lap ones aside – can score important points. He put it together properly twice this year, which isn’t enough for a third-year driver, but was one of only two drivers to get multiple pole positions. The issue is his experience didn’t translate into strong results frequently enough and he didn’t always have the measure of his impressive team-mates.

7. Franco Colapinto ARGENTINA Van Amersfoort Racing
9th in standings, 76 points (2 wins, 1 pole, 5 podiums) – TP 84%, QA 9.9 (10th), LL 45 (3rd)

RG (6th): Colapinto immediately slotted into the team leader role at Van Amersfoort Racing in the team’s first FIA F3 campaign. Understandably the team loved having a driver of his speed on board. A stunning lap put him on Bahrain pole, and he held on to take third on the road before a track limits penalty dropped him back to fifth. In the natural order of things, his qualifying speed usually put him in the top 12, something he exploited to the full in taking two wins from reversed-grid sprint races. But he could deliver when fighting the title contenders as well, finally taking a feature race podium in VAR’s home round at Zandvoort. After a complicated 2021 mixing Formula Regional, LMP2 and GTs, he thrived from being able to focus on a single series. If he returns in 2023, rather than step up to F2, he will surely be a title favourite.

AA (6th): Inconsistent but fast, would be an accurate description of Colapinto and VAR’s season. Joining a team that was new in FIA F3 as a rookie was never going to be easy, but the Argentinian made it look like a bit less difficult. Having already proved his talent in FRegional and sportscars, he topped F3 qualifying at his first attempt, and won for the first time in the sprint race of the second round at Imola. Colapinto stepped onto the podium four more times, including another victory at Monza, but he also failed to score too often considering his raw pace. In fact, the Red Bull Ring was the only place where he took points in both races of the weekend, and therefore his biggest haul. If he uses his 2022 experience correctly and remains in the series, he will become one of the main title contenders in ’23.

6. Zak O’Sullivan ENGLAND Carlin
11th in standings, 54 points (1 pole, 1 fastest lap, 2 podiums) – TP 95%, QA 12.9 (16th), LL 7 (12th)

BW (5th): Zak O’Sullivan only had a few headline-grabbing performances, but he was one of the drivers where his results didn’t quite reflect how strong a year he had. When comparing O’Sullivan to his team-mates, the British driver was comfortably clear. Carlin has struggled to score regularly in recent years, and even O’Sullivan’s points finishes weren’t really consistent, but some great qualifying performances led to standout results. In the instance that he stays at Carlin, and doesn’t find his way into a top team like Prema, then his main target in ’23 will be consistently finishing in the top 15.

PA (7th): Staying with Carlin for his move into international competition, GB3 champion O’Sullivan was up against it in his rookie campaign and sometimes couldn’t hide his frustrations with the “different approach” required in a team that has struggled in this championship. But, on the track that team and driver knew better than any other, O’Sullivan took his chance to shine with a sensational pole position at Silverstone, and did well to follow that up with second place in the race given the team’s race pace was the greater concern this year. O’Sullivan qualified inside the top 12 five times out of nine, collected a further podium in the Zandvoort sprint race, and produced a remarkable charge to fourth in Hungary on a drying track. He just missed the target of a place in the championship top 10, but has clearly impressed Prema and could start 2023 as championship favourite.

5. Roman Stanek CZECH REPUBLIC Trident
5th in standings, 117 points (1 win, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps, 4 podiums) – TP 39%, QA 5.0 (2nd), LL 3 (14th)

PA (5th): It doesn’t seem an understatement to say that Stanek salvaged his career in 2022, considering how tough his previous two seasons in F3 had been after being rushed up from Formula 4. In his third season he had no choice but to step up and start performing, and he was able to flourish in the ever-impressive Trident setup to do just that. In the early rounds it was he and not team-mate Zane Maloney who made the most of the team’s pace, winning the Imola feature race and taking second next time out at Barcelona. Later on, the tables turned and Stanek was overshadowed by Maloney (despite a double second-place at Spa) as his title bid ran out of steam. But if he does now step up to F2, he can at least do so with the confidence that he has what it takes to win.

RG (5th): Stanek came into his third season with a clear target: perform or retire from racing. His speed was clear from the moment the cars first took to the track – only team-mate Maloney edged him in qualifying over the season. In the opening rounds he was Martins’ main challenger, but punctures ruined both races at Bahrain when he clearly had the pace to win. It finally came together at Imola as he took his first F3 win. Trident once again looked to have the fastest car, but it was Maloney who made best use of it in the season’s second half, overhauling Stanek in the final round. He appeared to have tempered his naturally aggressive style but occasionally appeared timid in race conditions, ceding position unnecessarily. After several career wrong turns, he fully deserves the chance to move up to F2.

IW (3rd): Only on a few times did he look in contention for a win, despite frequently having very strong single-lap pace that would put him high up the grid, but equally one of the only drivers who you could really pin a likely finishing position on. He was always in the title fight but never the title favourite, but from starting the season as Trident’s lead driver he ended it as possibly only its third best. To sum up his season: the fastest over a lap, but the leader of only three laps all season.

4. Isack Hadjar FRANCE Hitech GP
4th in standings, 123 points (3 wins, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps, 5 podiums) – TP 82%, QA 9.4 (9th), LL 27 (6th)

PA (3rd): Maloney and Bearman beat him in the final standings, but Hadjar can still lay claim to being the standout rookie of the season. He was the only one to be a true contender from start to finish. In the first five rounds he either won a sprint race or was on the feature race podium, a run that culminated in him delivering a home victory for Dr Helmut Marko at the Red Bull Ring. What followed in the pressure of the title fight was something of a nightmare, and his Monza qualifying crash and endearingly emotional reaction are proof there is still a lot of maturing to be done – naturally so given he only turns 18 two weeks ago. So the toughest test is still to come, but Hadjar has come an awfully long away in a short space of time.

BW (6th): It was definitely a season of two halves for Hadjar. In the first half, while the championship was still relatively open, he had the edge over Martins. It’s hard to remember he was still a rookie this year. But from Hungary onwards he seemed to take a step back. There were a few small mistakes that, due to the way the weekend is formatted, had big consequences. His final championship position didn’t really represent how strong a season Hadjar had, but with so many talented young drivers making great strides those small mistakes hit hard.

AA (2nd): Hadjar’s first half of 2022 was worthy of a series veteran. The Red Bull junior scored points in all races but Bahrain’s feature race, where he suffered a puncture while overtaking Alex Smolyar for fifth place. He stood on the podium in three out of five feature races, including a memorable Red Bull Ring win in wet conditions. However, his progression was opposite to what someone would expect from a rookie as the season advanced. Hadjar wouldn’t be onto the podium again after Austria and failed to score twice. However, he was only five points off championship leader Victor Martins going into the last round, where a mistake in qualifying pretty much determined the end result. Perhaps he paid the price for the pressure of being a title contender all year in his rookie campaign, but that doesn’t take merit away from a very strong campaign.

3. Zane Maloney BARBADOS Trident
2nd in standings, 134 points (3 wins, 2 poles, 3 fastest laps, 4 podiums) – TP 45%, QA 4.2 (1st), LL 40 (5th)

BW (3rd): Maloney was one of the surprises of the season. That wasn’t underestimating his talent, but how quickly he would be able to show that. Through the season’s first half it looked like he was progressing well and would be a title contender in 2023. He had some strong top-10 results, including a fourth on debut. A great season for a rookie, and he more than matched his more experienced team-mates. But then in the final few rounds of the year everything seemed to click and he came out on top of a messy battle to be runner-up in the championship. As has been the case since he started British F4, he’ll be one a lot of teams will be watching going forward.

RG (3rd): You can’t argue with three feature race wins, more than anybody else. To do so in successive races, and at three of the most iconic tracks on the calendar added to the magnitude of Maloney’s achievement. In the red flag chaos at Monza, he came close to an improbable title win. Maloney was the season’s fastest qualifier, and one of only two drivers (with Smolyar) to twice top the timesheet. Yet somehow Maloney never quite seemed to get the acclamation he deserved. Some of his early season errors cost him dearly, notably his spin behind the safety car while leading at Imola and failing to stop at the weighbridge in Barcelona. Refreshingly, he was prepared to own up to his mistakes. And the way he came back from his horrifying shunt at Spa to take victory less than 24 hours later showed indomitable spirit.

IW (5th): In all honesty, I didn’t give enough close attention to the first half of Maloney’s season and that meant when he hit his golden run of form I wasn’t quite sure how much of it was down to the driver, how much was the team, and how much of an improvement there actually was on his performances before. Therefore I couldn’t rate him any higher than fifth despite his clearly brilliant end of year. Out of the car he seems massively improved too, which I applaud massively.

2. Ollie Bearman ENGLAND Prema
3rd in standings, 132 points (1 win, 1 fastest lap, 8 podiums) – TP 37%, QA 6.9 (3rd), LL 42 (4th)

RG (2nd): Bearman’s talent was not in doubt but the jump from F4 to FIA F3 is not an easy one. But like Theo Pourchaire before him, he took to the car like a duck to water. The Spa sprint race was his only win, though track limits cost him victory on his debut, and he could have taken a double win at Monza with one more lap in each race. Mistakes were scarce, although without penalties for a rash move at Imola and track limits at Bahrain and the Red Bull Ring, he could have won the title comfortably. He was not overawed by his experienced and rapid team-mates, and by the second half of the season had established himself as Prema’s frontrunner, taking five podiums in the last six feature races. Whether he moves up to F2 depends on his mentors at Ferrari, but in truth there appears little more to be proved from another year in F3.

AA (3rd): Straight from F4, Bearman showcased his talent and speed right away by finishing second in the very first race of the season. The Ferrari junior clearly outperformed his more experienced team-mates Leclerc and Crawford in the season’s second half, where he achieved double podiums at Spa and Monza. Moreover, he in put some very fine performances to score strongly in a mixed conditions weekend at the Hungaroring. Had it not been for blank Imola and Zandvoort rounds, where his youth appeared in form of mistakes, he could have been champion in his rookie campaign.

IW (1st): It was tempting to predict pre-season Bearman could be champion as a rookie, but it was unlikely. And despite being in victory contention multiple times, it took until round seven to win. His adaptation was instant, shown by the fact he spent more time in third place than any other position, and Collet (138), Martins (131) and Colapinto (120) were the only drivers to run more laps in the top three and spend more laps leading than him. Zandvoort misfortune aside, a near-constant at the front.

1. Victor Martins FRANCE ART Grand Prix
1st in standings, 139 points (2 wins, 1 fastest lap, 6 podiums) – TP 67%, QA 7.1 (5th), LL 63 (1st)

PA (1st): Given how close a trio of rookies came to beating 21-year-old Martins to the title, it might be easy to feel apathetic towards his success. But when you consider that all six of his final-round rivals had the means to privately test old GP3 machinery last winter (with varying frequency) for valuable extra track time, this is a significant accomplishment for a driver who has had to work incredibly hard to progress his career over recent years. The ART GP package was not the fastest but Martins refined the pants-on-fire style of 2021 to frequently maximise his points haul even when others were quicker. The first driver to win the FIA F3 title outside of Prema is also the first whose graduation to F2 seems far from guaranteed. Alpine must step up to put that right and avoid another PR disaster with its academy, because Martins has more than earned it.

BW (1st): It was an incredibly tight championship this year, and Martins coming out on top is a brilliant achievement. It wasn’t a perfect year for him. He started out strong, and there was a real step up from 2021, but possibly didn’t continue that progression over the course of the season and he was at risk of being overtaken by rookies. But Martins made the most out of races where a top finish wasn’t possible, and it was that which led to him clinching the title. He managed to keep his cool where others in the title fight fell away late in the year.

AA (1st): The 2022 season has been an exceptional one for Martins. He succeeded, struggled, managed and maximised his package to become FIA F3 champion in his second year in the series. An extraordinary start to the season with two out of three feature race victories tipped the Alpine junior as the man to beat. Then he scored some very important points at Silverstone and the Hungaroring where he wasn’t feeling at one with the car and the pace wasn’t quite the there. The only stain in Martins’ season is a disastrous weekend at Spa. It was a crucial moment in the year with only two more rounds to go and he bounced back immediately the following weekend at Zandvoort. At Monza, he didn’t let an opening lap incident in the sprint race alter his mindset, and is undoubtedly a well-deserving champion.