F3: 2018, 2019 AND BEYOND

Autosport (UK) - - EUROPEAN F3/SEASON REVIEW -

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…

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