F3: 2018, 2019 AND BEYOND
FORMULA 3 IS ON A PATH INTO AN UNCERTAIN future, and there were a lot of worries during the middle of the season over exactly what this will entail. But, come the Red Bull Ring in September, some clarity had arrived in the form of the FIA World Motor Sport Council.
For 2019, the FIA F3 European Championship will make way for an International F3 series, for a new, single-make car and a spec engine pushing out over
300bhp. Everyone expects the chassis to be a Dallara, but this is out to tender at the moment and nothing can ever be guaranteed – certainly, there appears to be a feeling within the Italian constructor that a push from Tatuus or Mygale cannot be ruled out.
What the WMSC didn’t say was what has been widely expected: that International F3 will replace Euro F3’s long-time rival the GP3 Series on the Formula 1 support package. The role of promoter and engine supplier are also out for tender. If the promotion gig goes to current Formula 2/GP3 overlord Bruno Michel’s company, you can probably expect the engine to be some variation on the Mecachrome product usually favoured in his series.
But again, nothing can be ruled out, and it should not be taken for granted that GP3 will cease at the end of 2018 and make way for International F3, even if that is by far the most likely scenario.
So what happens to the existing cars? In his new-for-2017 role as chairman of the ITR, which promotes the DTM, Gerhard Berger – who, don’t forget, was the architect of the revival of the FIA F3 European Championship in 2012 in his former role as president of the governing body’s Single Seater Commission – is also back at the helm of Euro F3 until the end of 2018. That’s because the series is currently promoted by Formel 3 Vermarktungs, a subsidiary of the ITR run by Walter Mertes – hence its role as a DTM support series at six of its 10 rounds.
During the uncertain summer, Berger told the teams that he was willing to revive the F3 Euro Series, which ran from 2003-12, and the title to which the ITR still owns, with the teams running the current cars. This was if the FIA was going to steer F3 down the single-chassis/ engine route and onto the F1 package. Shortly after this, the teams got pretty much on board with the FIA plans, in some quarters admitting that they only had themselves to blame for inflating budgets with development, and that single-make was the way to go. Berger therefore decided to back off from the plan. But now it appears that, during a meeting at the Hockenheim finale, the teams met Mertes and there could be a chance that the F3V promotes a Euro Series for the existing machines, but this probably depends on ways being found to cut budgets. It is also rather important that the DTM survives, of course.
So where does this leave the interim season of 2018? In surprisingly good shape… Formula Renault standouts Sacha Fenestraz and Max Defourny made highly impressive F3 race debuts at the Nurburgring, and German Formula 4 stars Juri Vips and Felipe Drugovich were decent enough when they appeared at the Hockenheim finale – each at short notice and with very little mileage in a car more powerful than an F4 machine. At least a couple of the teams have got potential drivers coming out of their ears at the moment, but with only five squads currently in Euro F3 it probably needs the FIA to use its discretion to bend its four-cars-per-team rule, as it did for the late-2017 races. From what was a pretty gloomy forecast in the middle of the year, the current F3 cars look set to get one further excellent season. And maybe more…