Home Formula 3Euroformula Why Euroformula has to make the most of its 2020 ‘what if’

Why Euroformula has to make the most of its 2020 ‘what if’

by Elliot Wood

Photos: Euroformula / Alfredo Filippone

Two grand prix events and several driver signings have been lost by Euroformula as a result of the ongoing pandemic, but the series’ momentum doesn’t need to be lost when there is a new car to show off

Anyone can have a good idea, but it takes a considerable amount of money, time and commitment from both its creator and others to have a successful idea. But patience is a dangerous commodity in motorsport, and there is very much the expectation to be a success sooner rather than later in such a competitive sphere.

Euroformula became an open-engine formula last year, a decision made before the demise of FIA European Formula 3, putting it alongside Formula 1, Formula E, IndyCar, Super Formula and Super Formula Lights as single-seater series with such technical freedom.

While that move proved popular due to it being the only high-profile F3 series in the world that had stuck to the decades-long tradition of having multiple engine builders, it gave the series a major challenge when it came to equalising the performance of those engine suppliers to avoid the domination of one technical package.

The long-serving Toyota-derived Piedrafita engine had a markedly different torque curve to the HWA and Spiess units that came across from European F3, and despite the introduction of a sportscar-style Balance of Performance it was clear that the Piedrafita couldn’t match the German engines.

Drivex School and RP Motorsport were quick to swap their Piedrafita power supply for HWA and Spiess respectively, and while this obviously was not a good look, it meant that greater technical scrutiny could be given to not only balancing the remaining two suppliers, but also on preparing for an informal regulatory alignment for this season too with a mid-year power boost.

The new Dallara 320 car is the latest in a line of designs by the Italian chassis manufacturer that can be traced back to the early 1990s when it first swept the F3 market with a monodamper-fitted pushrod car. It features the side-mounted air intake that is synonymous with F3 and contains the engine-equalising restrictor, is lighter than its popular F317 predecessor at under 575kg (including driver), and follows F1’s safety standards with the halo cockpit protection device.

By all measures, this should mean that laptimes are faster than in the past, and in a slipstream-happy car that has received plaudits for its aesthetic appeal, the races should look pretty stunning on television if the entry list grows.

Also adopting the 320 this year is Japan’s SF Lights series, which uses the same size of engine inlet restrictor, meaning the two series can look forward to a shared race meeting in the future just as SF Lights did with European F3 at the Macau Grand Prix in the past.

Macau currently has a contract with the F1-supporting FIA F3, which is understood to be extended for 2021, and the promoters of Euroformula and SF Lights have not made contact with Macau about taking the grand prix title in the years beyond. But that’s because they may not need to.

As well as inheriting European F3’s engine suppliers and one of its fastest teams in 2019, Euroformula also saved the historic Pau GP. The French street race, while organised and run to great acclaim, has faced the continuous pressure of cancellation over recent years and it looked like it would be gone for good after European F3’s demise.

Euroformula promoter GT Sport stepped in and agreed a deal to incorporate it into its own calendar, and double amputee Billy Monger’s famous victory put the series on sports bulletins all over the globe. The success of that weekend was not a given, but the extra coverage and what turned out to be an operationally smooth couple of days bred demand for more.

Photo: Fotospeedy

The next element of that increased ambition, alongside a renewal of the Pau deal, was the revival of the Mediterranean GP on Sicily’s lakeside Enna-Pergusa circuit for the 2020 season. Initially a non-championship F1 race when first run in the early 1960s, for a long time it was a marquee event for European Formula 2 and then International Formula 3000.

It was another news headline that was well received both in and out of the paddock, and you can imagine the reaction there would have been had negotiations to get Zandvoort on the calendar (home of the Masters of F3) been successful.

There was also an approach for another historic race title to be brought back at one of the series’ other rounds, but the coronavirus pandemic has undone most of these exciting developments. Fans will have to wait until 2021 for the two grands prix, with Jarama and Mugello replacing them on the revised calendar, which means outside of F1’s ongoing Silverstone visit there will be no overseas racing for European series this year.

Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of driver interest in the series for both its new car and calendar, and it attracted ‘new’ teams in Manor Competition and Van Amersfoort Racing. Both names have been big hitters in the last two decades of F3, but only VAR has cars entered for the Hungaroring season opener. It’s not clear when – or if – Manor will make it on track, with its single-seater return in the Formula Renault Eurocup actually being operated by partner squad MP Motorsport for now.

VAR will be resuming an old European F3 rivalry with Motopark, which is running two teams in Euroformula this year after its 2019 domination led to surplus demand for its services. Motopark team principal Timo Rumpfkeil has been fairly resistant to expanding his outfit’s car count, but he will have five out for Thursday’s pre-event Hungaroring test across Motopark and its Japanese-branded offshoot CryptoTower Racing Team, and his line-up will feature six drivers when returnees Cameron Das and Lukas Dunner aren’t prioritising clashing FIA F3 duties.

Carlin has two cars present and a third that may be filled later in the season by a Hispanic driver. The British contingent is smaller than last year, with Fortec Motorsports absent from the Hungaroring and its signings Kris Wright and Johnathan Hoggard potentially not racing until later in the season, while Hoggard’s BRDC British F3 rival Ayrton Simmons fronts Double R Racing’s efforts and is expected to be joined by a team-mate for future rounds.

Drivex’s two-car line-up includes two very promising Formula 4 graduates, and the Spanish squad has had one of the better pre-seasons when it comes to visiting circuits to test during the lockdown period.

It will be difficult, but it’s important that Euroformula doesn’t lose the momentum that many of the exciting 2020 additions would have brought before the pandemic struck. It can still bank on some big names, and two replacement rounds that should provide an exciting new challenge, as well as a new car that fans can not wait to see in action.

 

Hungaroring entry list
No. Driver Team 2019 racing
04 Niklas Krutten Motopark 10th in ADAC F4
06 Ido Cohen Carlin 6th in Italian F4
12 Glenn van Berlo Drivex School 3rd in Spanish F4
15 Sebastian Estner Van Amersfoort Racing 14th in ADAC F4
16 Andreas Estner Van Amersfoort Racing 17th in FREC
20 Yifei Ye CryptoTower Racing Team 2nd in Asian F3 WS
25 Alexandre Bardinon Van Amersfoort Racing 20th in FREC
26 Ayrton Simmons Double R Racing 3rd in BRDC British F3
31 Zane Maloney Carlin British F4 champion
32 Matthias Luethen CryptoTower Racing Team 10th in Austrian FR2.0 Cup
33 Manuel Maldonado Motopark 6th in BRDC British F3
34 Shihab Al Habsi Drivex School 3rd in F4 UAE
99 Rui Andrade CryptoTower Racing Team 22nd in Euroformula