Though the FIA Formula 3 Championship is on the support bill for the Formula One World Championship, it only races in Europe and the Middle East this year. But Formula 2 and Formula 3 will soon be expanding their frontiers by visiting Melbourne in 2023 to support the Australian Grand Prix.
By Michael McClure
The new Australia round, announced 15 June, was met with both praise and criticism. Many are anticipating the chance to visit a new continent and expand the sport’s global footprint, but fears linger that a flyaway round in Australia would carry with it a cost burden that would threaten the already precarious finances of the series’ teams and drivers.
Ahead of the fourth round of the 2022 F3 season at Silverstone, F1 Feeder Series asked some of the drivers in the series about what they thought of racing in Australia.
“I think it’s quite exciting. I would love to go there because it will mean that either in F3 or in F2, I am still in the motorsport world and I am still doing what I love to do,” ART Grand Prix’s Victor Martins said.
“Again, to go outside of Europe is always a nice thing. You travel, you can get a bit of free time to visit. I’ve never gone there, so it will be maybe a good thing to go. And after, I don’t know in which category. I hope it will be the step after, but first, I just want to focus on my season, and we will see if I go there.”
A faster, smoother driving experience
The Albert Park venue underwent extensive renovations ahead of the 2022 Australian Grand Prix. In addition to resurfacing the entire circuit, organisers removed what was the chicane at Turns 9 and 10 to make a longer back straight and tightened Turn 11 to aid overtaking.
Both Martins and Prema Racing’s Jak Crawford felt that these modifications, trialled at this year’s F1 race, would make for a better racing product for the junior categories.
“The track, they have changed a bit before the previous years, so I think it was nice to see the F1 there with the new track. And I think with F3 and F2, it will be quite interesting. The medium- and high-speed sections will be quite nice,” Martins said.
Crawford, who hails from the United States, mentioned his excitement about travelling outside of Europe and echoed Martins’ sentiments about the renovation.
“I think it’s super cool. Obviously I myself have never been to Australia, so I’d love to go. As Victor said, we don’t have any races outside of Europe really, besides Bahrain, so it would be cool to travel. [I’m] super excited because the track looks really cool after they redesigned it,” Crawford said.
The fate of Macau
For some F3 drivers, next year’s Australia round may indeed be the next time they race outside of Europe and the Middle East as well as their first taste of a non-permanent circuit. The FIA Formula 3 World Cup in Macau was set to return in November of this year after a two-year hiatus, but an FIA press release sent Wednesday confirmed that the event would be cancelled because of ‘ongoing restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic’.
The Guia Circuit, which has hosted F3 cars since 1983, is considered one of the most formidable street tracks in the world, which makes winning there an achievement with an almost unparalleled prestige in the world of single-seater racing.
Martins’ last visit to a street circuit came three years ago at the Monaco round of the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup season. He took first and second in the weekend’s two races, and his fondness for street circuits shone through as he expressed his disappointment over not racing at Macau.
“That’s a shame, I will say, because I would have loved to race there. I have never been in that place. I really love street circuits, so [it] would have been a nice challenge and a nice discovery experience,” he said.
“Maybe we will go to some other places who will be as nice as Macau or even nicer, or maybe a few years later I will get the chance to race there, but for sure it would have been a nice one.”
Inexperience at street circuits
Many of Formula 1’s youngest grands prix – like those in Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and Miami – take place on street circuits. But this urban push hasn’t yet been reflected in junior single-seater racing, a discipline that, especially during the pandemic era, has had precious few street races.
Crawford and Trident driver Roman Staněk have been especially affected by these circumstances. Crawford’s only street circuit experience comes from a weekend at Toronto’s Exhibition Place circuit in U.S. F2000 in 2019, while Staněk has never done a street race in four seasons in single-seaters.
Both of them lamented the cancellation of Macau, saying it would rob them of more experience on street circuits.
“I would love to race there because I’ve never done a street circuit. I was watching the onboards, since I am in F3, of the pole laps, and it’s just amazing how fast they go there and how tight it is. So I would love to go there, but we don’t know the reason why we are not going there. Maybe in the future I will have a chance to be there,” Staněk said.
“Obviously [it’s] a shame that we’re not going there. I mean it looks crazy and fun, and it looks amazing to drive,” Crawford said.
“That would have been the only street track for F3, so now we don’t have any street circuits. That also kind of sucks, but it is what it is at the end of the day.”
Header photo credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
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