With six wins from ten starts Marko Asmer has set the standard in the Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 International Series as the half way point of the 22 race championship approaches. Can anyone catch the rapid Estonian as the second half of the season begins?
With thirty drivers from nineteen different nations across the world this season, and a 43 year history that boasts drivers that have won 18 F1 world driver titles, the British F3 International Series has a strong claim to the title of the world’s leading Formula 3 category.
Hitech Racing’s Marko Asmer has won at every circuit so far this year and leads the championship by a commanding 53 points over the trio of chasing Carlin Motorsport drivers led by race winner Sam Bird. In his first season of British F3, Formula Renault graduate Bird has quickly got to grips with the more powerful Formula 3 car and has scored six podiums in his last six races, including a win on the streets of Bucharest in May.
Bird is just six points ahead of double race winner Maro Engel, who returned to form three weeks ago at Monza with two poles and a win. The German narrowly missed out on the double after a ding-dong battle with Marko Asmer in Round 10, which saw the two drivers battling for the lead for most of the 16-lap race; a contest that had everyone on the edge of their seats. Engel is the only driver in this year’s championship to win a British F3 race in 2006 and since winning the opening round at Oulton Park at Easter had failed to finish at the front of the field. However Monza showed why the young German started the 2007 season as one of the pre season favourites for the title.
The third Carlin driver in the top four is another rookie who has adapted well to Formula 3. Ireland’s Niall Breen won the UK Formula BMW title last season but many thought that Formula 3 was a big step up for the 21-year-old. However the young driver from Dundalk was pleased to prove them very wrong by winning at Snetterton in only his seventh British F3 race, adding to the two podiums he scored at Donington and Bucharest.
The Raikkonen Robertson Racing pairing of Stephen Jelley and Jonathan Kennard have shown that they have the pace but have yet to step on to the top of the British F3 podium. Jelley scored two front row starts in Monza and set the fastest lap in race 1 on the Italian GP Circuit but a series of problems and errors netted the Leicester driver a very disappointing two championship points. Kennard had a better weekend in Italy than his team mate, but while encouraging, the 2004 Formula Palmer Audi Champion won’t be content until he is standing on the top step of the podium, something he hopes he can achieve on his home track at Brands Hatch.
Alberto Valerio is the fourth Carlin Motorsport driver in the top 10 and the Brazilian 2005 South American F3 Champion certainly has his sights set on joining his team mates and scoring his first win in British F3 at Brands Hatch. After a shaky start to the 2007 season Valerio has scored four podiums in his last six races and broke the British F3 lap record at Monza in the last race but missed another podium after visiting the pits to fit a new nosecone.
Reigning UK Formula Renault Champion Sebastian Hohenthal has been one of the quickest drivers in the 2007 championship, breaking the Oulton Park lap record in his first ever Formula 3 race and then setting fastest lap at Donington Park two weeks later. However a run of bad luck has dropped the Fortec Motorsport driver down the order to 8th in the championship and will be looking for a turn of fortune on a circuit he lists as one of his favourites.
Twenty six points behind Hohenthal in 9th place is his 19-year-old Fortec team mate Greg Mansell. The younger of the two Mansell brothers has been a consistent top 10 runner in only his second full season of racing, with the highlight of the season so far coming at Donington Park with a podium finish.
Rounding out the top 10 is the 2006 British F3 National Class Champion Rodolfo Gonzalez. The top Mugen Honda powered runner is another driver with blinding speed but dogged by bad luck. A clash with Stephen Jelley in the last race at Monza when the English driver out braked himself into the first chicane, caught the Venezuelans rear tyre and launched the T Sport Dallara into a series of barrel rolls. Gonzalez was unhurt in the accident but left Monza without any points after a promising start to the weekend.
The Ultimate Motorsport pairing of Michael Devaney and Esteban Guerrieri continue to improve with the brand new Mygale Formula 3 chassis, with Devaney taking the fastest lap of Round 6 in Bucharest and both drivers becoming consistent top 10 runners. The teams effort paid dividends at Mygale’s home circuit of Magny Cours when Esteban Guerrieri took the teams highest finish in Formula 3 when he finished 5th in the French Grand Prix supporting F3 Euroseries race.
The third Raikkonen Robertson Racing championship class car driven by Formula Renault graduate Atte Mustonen has been a consistent front of the grid qualifier, taking pole position at Snetterton and two third places in Monza, but the young Finn hasn’t been able to capitalize on his qualify pace to date. That may change at Brands Hatch.
16-year-old Max Chilton became the youngest ever driver in British F3 history after starting round 3 one day after his 16th birthday, running in the Invitation Class. At Monza he finally got his International B race licence, which enabled the young driver from Reigate to move up to the Championship Class. Chilton narrowly missed scoring his first championship point in Monza and will be looking to improve further at Brands Hatch.
In the National Class Rodolfo Gonzalez’s T Sport team mate Sergio Perez left Monza with a perfect score and the outright lead in the championship. Two poles, two wins and two fastest laps was the result of some hard driving by the Mexican on his first ever visit to the home of the Italian Grand Prix. However he didn’t get too far ahead of his nearest rival Cong Fu ‘Frankie’ Cheng. Two second places marked the Chinese drivers return to form and pegging the gap to just 12 points after 10 races.
Third in the National Class is Mike Meadows were a 3rd and 4th place finishes were enough to vault him ahead of Viktor Jensen in the points table. The Snetterton race winner had a torrid time in Italy, suffering from technical difficulties that saw the Icelandic teenager scoring just 10 points over the two races.