CLICK HERE to listen to a lap of Snetterton with Viktor Jensen
Every year the fast 1.9-mile Snetterton circuit provides a few surprises and 2008 won’t be any different as the British F3 International Series heads to Norfolk. The world’s top young drivers have sampled the long fast straights of Snetterton but to a man they will be hoping for some sunshine and a dry track after rain caused some extremely tricky race conditions both at Monza (18 May) and Rockingham (26 May).
British Formula 3 has been the traditional proving ground for the stars of the future since 1964 and that has continued to been proven to be true in the last few years with three of the last four champions now involved in Formula One and 2005 champion Alavaro Parante knocking on the door after winning the World Series by Renault title last year. With chassis manufacturers Mygale and Dallara, along with engines manufacturers Mercedes and Mugen-Honda, British F3 is also the last multi chassis formula before Formula One, teaching the drivers how to get the best out of their car-engine combination which is so vital when they reach the top of the sport.
The 2008 British F3 International Series has so far proven to be the most competitive for many years, with six different winners from the eight races held so far and at least four other drivers capable of stepping onto the top of the podium at some point in 2008. The Series is split into two classes. The International Class is for the latest chassis designs and a choice of engine. The National Class is run for the last generation of chassis and all competitors must use the same Neil Brown Engineering prepared Mugen Honda engine.
Mexico’s Sergio Perez is currently enjoying a 10 point lead at the top of the championship table after winning at Croft in April and then doing the double at Monza, from 14th on the grid. The 18-year-old won the British F3 National Class in dominant style last season and has adapted to the new International Class cars well to lead the series. Perez will probably want to forget Rockingham as he only secured 5th place in the opening race on Bank Holiday Monday allowing the rest of the field to close the gap but the T Sport runner will be using the Mugen Honda engine in the back of his Dallara to good effect at Snetterton.
As one of only two race winners from last season returning to British F3 Atte Mustonen was one of the pre season favourites for the title and the 19-year-old Finn has been consistently scoring points at every race bar one. However at Rockingham he returned to the top step of the podium in Round 7 and finished off the weekend with a 4th place to close the gap to Perez to just 10 points.
Jaime Alguersuari is one of the two Red Bull drivers at Carlin this season and is the top rookie in the points standings. The Spaniard has already shown he has the pace to win in British F3, with victory at Oulton Park and two podium finishes at Rockingham. Apart from a non finish at Round 1, Alguersuari has been consistently scoring championship points. He has never raced at Snetterton before but he hadn’t raced at Oulton Park either and that didn’t stop him taking the chequered flag.
Like Atte Mustonen, Sebastian Hohenthal started this season as a British F3 race winner and the 2006 Formula Renault UK Champion was expected to be challenging for the overall title. Podium finishes at Oulton Park and Croft was followed by an extremely popular win for the 23-year-old Swede at Rockingham last time out for the first of the Fortec Motorsport drivers.
Oliver Turvey is the top British driver and has already tasted the victory champagne at Oulton Park, followed by podiums at Croft and Monza. Backed by the Racing Steps Foundation, and racing with Carlin Motorsport, the Cumbrian driver is enjoying his first season in Formula 3. Turvey rates Snetterton as one of his favourite tracks, so expect him to be challenging for overall honours this weekend.
Marcus Ericsson is the first of the drivers who hasn’t yet won a race this season, but it certainly isn’t for the lack of trying. The reigning Formula BMW UK Champion has two second places and a pole position to his credit and has demonstrated time and again he has the pace to win races at this level. Could Snetterton be the track where the 17-year-old Swede takes that next step?
Brendon Hartley is the second of the Red Bull drivers and the reigning Formula Renault Eurocup Champion. Hartley won at Croft and added a second place at Monza. However three non scoring finishes at Oulton, Croft and Monza has left the New Zealander in 7th place in the title race.
In 2007 Max Chilton became the youngest driver ever to start a British F3 race, the day after his 16th birthday, and now the 17-year-old is vying to become the youngest ever race winner. Two Pole Positions and two podium finishes have underlined his claim but the quality of the drivers this season makes his task ever more difficult to achieve. However Chilton shows great determination and reigning champions Hitech will do all they can to get their driver onto the top step of the podium.
Michael Devaney is the top driver using the Mygale chassis with the Ultimate Motorsport team and the Irishman will be hoping Snetterton is where he can get onto the podium for the first time after narrowly missing out at Oulton Park.
Nick Tandy rounds out the top 10 in his first season of British F3. The Formula Ford Festival winner is running with JTR Marshall Westland, the team run by his brother Joe, who is a former Formula Palmer Audi Champion. A 5th place in Monza was followed up with a strong performance in the last race at Rockingham and a podium finish is looking increasingly likely in their first season at this level.
Another driver to watch out for this weekend is Viktor Jensen. The former Formula Palmer Audi front runner has moved up to the International Class with local team Nexa Racing but he enjoyed his first British F3 race at Snetterton, taking a National Class win at the track. Australian Sam Abay has been steadily improving at Carlin Motorsport in his first season in the category and fellow Aussie John Martin of Double R Racing has occasionally shown the speed that won him the 2006 Australian Formula Ford title.
While the spotlight is on the International Class the National Class drivers have been battling away in their own little group. Cheshire’s Andy Meyrick has been the class act, with eight pole positions and six wins from the first eight races in his Carlin Motorsport prepared Dallara. Local Norfolk team Fluid Motorsport is fielding two drivers this year and it is Jay Bridger who is leading the chasing pack. The Kentish driver is currently 29 points behind Meyrick but a win at Monza has proven the class leader can be beaten. Reigning BARC Formula Renault Champion Hywel Lloyd is the other race winner in the group and is racing with new team CF Racing run by his father Harry.
Jay Bridger’s teammate at Fluid is Stefan Wilson, the 2007 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner and with two podium finishes at Monza and Rockingham he will be hoping for more of the same at his team’s home track.