“Palmer always wanted his own F3 series”
B rands Hatch, Sunday, August 31, 2014. My phone goes off. It’s a text from Jonathan Palmer asking me to drop by his hospitality suite to update me on some breaking news.
A text from Mr Palmer isn’t a usual occurrence. So when you get one you’d probably better go along for a chat, so I did. Jolyon was there too, casually watching the BRDC F4 grid line up for its final race of the weekend while Palmer Sr and I began our discussion on his plans.
Turned out he’d ordered a batch of new cars for BRDC F4, aimed to make them faster than MSA Formula ones but significantly cheaper than F3 ones. It was all very interesting stuff, but I had one burning question. British F3 was on that weekend too, with a rather shocking seven-car entry. Would Palmer like to get his hands on British F3? Back came the answer: “I’d love to run British F3 one day. I think it’s a staple of British motorsport and it’s awful to see the state of it now. It’s too expensive, that’s the biggest problem. This new car could change things one day, with a cheaper spec engine with similar power to current F3 cars. Let’s wait and see.” We’ve waited, and now we’ve seen. Common sense has prevailed and the FIA and the MSA have agreed that BRDC Formula 4 will be granted the British F3 title with immediate effect.
It’s a great move as BRDC British Formula 3 represents everything British F3 did in its heyday. Good performance cars, with top calibre teams, but not at an astronomic budget.
British F3 lost its way over the last decade, and now has a chance to return with a far more workable, and traditional, template.
There was an argument during the more recent successful years of SRO’S British F3 that the series couldn’t really be called ‘British’ when half of the rounds took place in Europe. But the truth is that’s what teams and drivers wanted at the time, but it’s also what started the inevitable spiral in the budgets that led to its downfall.
BRDC British Formula 3 has just one away round, at Spa-francorchamps, and the budgets currently compare well to both the lower-tier MSA Formula (soon surely to be British Formula 4 now the F4 tag is freed up) and the FIA Formula 3 European Championship to which it is meant to feed drivers.
But the pressure is on now for BRDC British Formula 3 to stay as it is.
With an F3 tag, the championship will immediately become more desirable, and with desirability comes price. Teams could charge more, and drivers would probably pay more, but with that rise the pool of prospective entries able to afford to race shrinks.
Don’t think BRDC F4’s rebranding as F3 is a lastminute move. Palmer knew what he was doing, and even back at that meeting in 2014 he had a vision to rejuvenate British single-seaters. Few could argue he’s failed to do that in the intervening years.
We now have one of our best-loved British championships back on our tracks, where it belongs, and with a healthy grid.
Let’s just hope Palmer also has a master plan to bring long-term stability to the package.