Too Close to Call at Silverstone

You can’t say that motor racing is predictable or boring where The British F3 International Series is concerned. After sixteen races just one point separates Spain’s Jaime Alguersuari and Mexico’s Sergio Perez and with a maximum of 126 points from the remaining six races still to be won there are four other drivers, Oliver Turvey, Brendon Hartley, Atte Mustonen and Marcus Ericsson, all with a shot at lifting the prestigious British F3 title.

Red Bull Junior driver Jaime Alguersuari has been one of the most consistent drivers in this year’s championship, taking two wins, six further podiums and only failing to finish outside the top ten on two occasions in sixteen starts. Third and fourth place finishes at Spa last time out kept Alguersuari at the top of the championship table.

Sergio Perez is the only leading driver to use a Mugen-Honda engine, with the other preferring the Mercedes engine that has won the championship for the past two years. However this doesn’t seem to hinder the 18-year-old Mexican as he has taken the chequered flag in the T Sport Dallara four times in 2008 and the reigning British F3 National Class Champion narrowly missed adding a fifth win at Spa. Silverstone is Brackley based T Sport’s home circuit and Perez is confident of adding to his impressive tally at The Home of British Motorsport.

At the last event held at Spa-Francorchamps , Oliver Turvey from Penrith was the dominant force setting the fastest times in Free Practice, claiming pole position for both races and winning the first race of the weekend after holding off the close challenge of his Carlin Motorsport teammate Brendon Hartley. However Turvey’s engine expired on the grid for Round 16 spoiling an otherwise perfect weekend for the leading British driver. Oliver Turvey is currently just 14 points behind Alguersuari and knows that he could’ve been leading if his luck had held in Belgium. Like his Spanish teammate Turvey has taken two wins and six further podium finishes and the Racing Steps Foundation driver will be hoping to leave Silverstone with a significant points haul to keep his title hopes on track.

Brendon Hartley is the second Red Bull Junior driver racing with Carlin Motorsport this season. The New Zealander had been overshadowed by Alguersuari in the early part of the season but at Thruxton his season came good with a double win and a further win at Spa has propelled him up the championship table back into contention for the title. Nobody can deny the reigning Formula Renault Eurocup Champion’s raw speed, which was aptly demonstrated in Belgium when he overtook Perez for the lead in an outbraking manoeuvre on the outside at Les Combes that had everyone holding their breath; a manoeuvre that will be a strong contender for the Pass of 2008.

Atte Mustonen is one of two British F3 race winners from last season and started 2008 as one of the pre season favourites for the title. However a combination of bad luck and technical woes have left the Finn 43-points adrift of Alguersuari with just one win and four further podium finishes to his credit. However Mustonen is still in contention for the title and will be determined to get things back on track at Silverstone after a disappointing weekend in Belgium.

Reigning Formula BMW UK Champion Marcus Ericsson is the second Swede at Fortec Motorsport and is the only driver in the top eight not to have won a race this season. However Ericsson has two pole positions, three fastest laps and three podium finishes to his credit so far and has the potential to add the British F3 title to his CV.

Ireland’s Michael Devaney made British F3 history at Snetterton by scoring the first Formula 3 win for Mygale and breaking the dominance of Dallara at this level. To prove it wasn’t a fluke he went on to score his second win later in the day from fourth on the grid. Things haven’t gone the Irish driver’s way since then but things could change for the better at Silverstone, the place where the Ultimate Mygale was unveiled at the start of 2007.

Max Chilton’s season started with so much promise but things haven’t gone to plan for the 17-year-old from Surrey, scoring just six points in the last eight races. However 2007 champions Hitech will be looking for a return to form on their home circuit.

Nick Tandy round out the top ten and it was all smiles in Belgium for the 2007 Formula Ford Festival winner as he scored his first podium finish in Round 16 for himself and his JTR team.

Oliver Oakes is moving to the Invitation Class so he and his Eurotek Motorsport team can concentrate on improving the performance of their Dallara for the 2009 season. Raikkonen Robertson Racing has announced that South American F3 Champion Clemente de Faria Jnr will drive the #25 Dallara Mercedes.

The National Class is run for last generation of Formula 3 chassis and is powered by a standard Mugen-Honda power plant. The competition is just as fierce as drivers looking to compete in the International Class next season earn their spurs out of the championship spotlight. The class act this year has been Andy Meyrick but the Welshman has been sidelined due to illness at the last two events and is looking doubtful for the Silverstone weekend, handing the advantage to Kent’s Jay Bridger.

The Fluid Motorsport driver was already catching Meyrick in the title fight but has gone on to take the lead with an impressive nine podiums, including three wins, in the last nine races. However Bridger has been kept on his toes by his Fluid teammate, and double race winner, Stefan Wilson and by T Sport’s Steven Guerrero from Columbia, who has also taken two wins. Guerrero’s teammate at T Sport is Salman Al Khalifa, the Bahraini driver taking three podium finishes in the last three races and narrowly missing out on his first win at Spa.

The races at Silverstone will be held on Saturday 16 August rather than Sunday as the teams are due in Romania the following weekend for the penultimate race meeting of the 2008 season. Who will be crowned 2008 British F3 International Series Champion? Well your guess is as good as mine as this year is certainly too close to call.