Red and white formula 3 car driving to the left of the camera with many cars behind it.

FRECA finale preview: Last occasion to shine for future F3 stars

FRECA is finishing its 2022 season with two back-to-back weekends, first in Barcelona before the season finale in Mugello. Dino Beganovic seems to be in a comfortable position to clinch his maiden single-seater title, but this season has already shown how quickly things can turn around.

By Perceval Wolff

Title contenders

With a lead of over 50 points to his nearest rival, Ferrari Academy driver Dino Beganovic could seal the title one round before the end of the season, as Grégoire Saucy did last year. After an incredible run of seven top-two finishes in the first seven races, the Swede experienced a more difficult second-half of the season, with one podium in the five races following his initial podium streak, costing him nearly all of his advantage. However, he perfectly bounced back at both Spa-Francorchamps and the Red Bull Ring, extending his once large lead to all his rivals. It’s hard not to imagine the title in Beganovic’s hands, but crazier things have happened before in feeder series.

From second to fifth in the championship standings, a group of four drivers are still mathematically in contention for the title: Gabriele Minì, Paul Aron, Hadrien David, and Kas Haverkort. However, it’s becoming more an more likely that they will actually be fighting for the runner-up spot considering Beganovic’s advantage in both points and consistency. 

ART GP leader Gabriele Minì has won only twice this year, and not once since Paul-Ricard four months ago, an eternity for a title contender. Following his disqualification for a technical infringement at Spa, the Italian youngster seems to have struggled a bit since. It will be interesting to see him coming back to Barcelona, the track where he scored his maiden FRECA podium last year. A double win from Minì in Spain could give us a thrilling final round at Mugello.

Mercedes Junior driver Paul Aron’s season can be perfectly represented by a roller-coaster, with dominating wins such as at Paul-Ricard or Zandvoort at the highs but with nightmare weekends like Monaco and Spielberg at the lows. After colliding with his teammate during the last round, the Estonian needs to set the record straight. With a step up to FIA F3 with Prema next season, Aron will be looking to impress in the final races, especially considering his future F3 teammate is likely to be championship leader Beganovic. Paul Aron could well try to turn the tables to instil some doubt in his current and future teammate. 

Second last year, Hadrien David is currently fourth in the standings. After a difficult start to the year, the R-ace GP driver has finally found consistency, winning three races in the last three rounds, but with one being denied by a post-race penalty. Despite some unlucky situations (engine changes, wrong tyre strategy), the Frenchman is still having a strong finish to his season. In talks with Carlin and another team in FIA F3, the Alpine-affiliate protégé can make a strong impression in these two final rounds to convince these prospective teams to reduce the prices of their seats for him, making an FIA F3 campaign more realistic.

The fifth driver is Kas Haverkort, who might be the one that needs to deliver the most in these final races. Absent from the post-season FIA F3 testing, the Dutchman is actively searching for sponsors to step up to F3. Shining and winning in the next weekends could prove to be crucial for the Van Amersfoort driver’s career. Like David, he has kept on progressing, with his two first FRECA wins having come in the last three rounds.  

Sixth and mathematically out of title contention, Gabriel Bortoleto is one of the only two drivers to have already been announced to FIA F3 for next year, with Trident. The Brazilian will be keen to confirm his good form and to collect his first victory on track, after winning at Spa after David’s penalty.

Which rookie will come out on top?

In the rookie standings, many drivers are aiming to succeed to Isack Hadjar, last year’s highest-placed rookie. Despite zero podiums and no rookie wins, Leonardo Fornaroli is the leader of the category, thanks to a stunning consistency with point finishes in 11 races this season.

Following an impressive Red Bull Ring round, Josh Düfek is only eight points behind Fornaroli. After a very discrete first half of the year, the Swiss driver has made two trips to the rostrum on the last round and has finally launched his season.

Spectacular during his one-off for Campos in FIA F3 this year, Sebastian Montoya has been less impressive in FRECA, despite being a part of the leading Prema team. However, the Colombian has already showed how much talent he has, and it would be unfair to exclude him from this battle. 

In the last weekends, Joshua Durksen, Sami Meguetounif, and Owen Tangavelou have massively improved their level of performance and will be ones to watch. Meguetounif has especially surprised everybody at Spa by achieving his first FRECA podium. Despite scoring no points at Austria, he still made an impression by overtaking 45 cars in two races after he was forced to start last due to an engine change.

Experienced outsiders for the podium

After 31 races in FRECA without scoring any points, Eduardo Barrichello has perhaps progressed the most this season. Following his maiden podium at Spa, he confirmed his new-found pace with solid point finishes in Austria. 

One of the biggest surprises of the last FRECA round was of course Pierre-Louis Chovet. One and a half years after he last drove single-seaters in Europe, the 2021 Asian F3 runner-up showed up in Austria and proved that he hasn’t lost any of his talent with a shock podium, the first one of RPM’s history.

Barcelona and Mugello, what to expect?

Both tracks are known to be quite difficult for overtaking, especially the latter. But push-to-pass has proven it could be of a great help to deliver entertaining races. 

Barcelona is a track all the teams are quite familiar with because of all the testing that takes place there. In 2021, ART GP had one of its strongest weekends with Saucy taking a double win and Minì charging to the podium. While this is a good sign for Minì’s championship hopes, Prema seems to have improved at every track compared to last year meaning ART has no room to be comfortable.

Moreover, Mugello is the track for Prema to perform. Paul Aron had a double win here and Dino Beganovic stepped on his maiden podium around the Italian track. Mugello is a track where Italian teams always seem at ease compared to foreigners. It was the only round last year in which Monolite scored points in both races, while JD Motorsport (now Trident) achieved their best result here. Even if the track will be less of a discovery for foreign teams than it was last year, it should still be difficult for ART, R-ace, and Van Amersfoort. This could turn to be decisive in the overall and rookie title battles.

Header Photo Credit: Dutch Photo Agency

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