In January 2020 CFEG launched its first-ever open-wheel series. The British Formula 3 Championship would visit 6 of the UK's most iconic motorsport venues in an attempt to replicate an exciting year in one of the UK's most enjoyable & popular series. Already, two rounds of the series have been concluded and it is time for the Q1 report here at CFEG to see who has done enough to have a chance at winning the title.
The season kicked off at the fast-paced Thruxton Motorsport Centre. This circuit, located in the south-west of the UK is a combination of narrow, high-speed corners, with the English countryside bordering each side of the tarmac it leaves very little room for error. This then was the perfect place to kick off the championship, it would display the qualities of the car and the drivers, as well as promoting the importance of that all-important racing line.
The grid piles into the apex of T1, D.Robbins being pushed wide onto the grass
The start of the first race was hectic, with several cars involved in incidents. The #15 T.Thiele collided with the #10 of D.Robbins, ending his race early on before it had begun. Also off to a bad start was the pole sitter L.Muller, dropping down to 4th place on the run down into turn 2.
Viewpoint from the cockpit of one of many, as they avoid the spinning #15 & #3 at Lap 2, Turn 1
Further incidents would occur on lap 2 of the race. Coming into the first corner, T.Thiele & K.Lewis would touch the grass on the outside line, spinning both cars in what was almost a synchronised 360 motion. Luckily, neither car would collect any innocent bystanders as they weaved through the chaos.
Muller seizing the tires as he battles with T.Hakkinen for 2nd place
Upfront the battle for first ensued, with the #94 of L.Muller claiming 2nd place from T.Hakkinen on the entry to the final corner. It almost ended in disaster, with the front right tire locking up spectacularly as the apex approached. L.Muller readjusted his brakes and wrestled the car into order just in time to make the clean move and charged onwards towards the leader D.Vidimari in the #23.
A. Feletto claims 7th after the cars ahead visit the countryside
Further back, Vidimari's teammate A.Feletto was spectating the battle for 7th place, with D.Kalocsai and S.Grassi going toe-to-toe in the final corner. S.Grassi went for the inside line as the braking point approached, applying the brakes as late as possible. Unfortunately for S.Grassi, the tires did not cooperate, seizing all four corners, with the car going straight on into the barrier at speed. D.Kalocsai was also collected as his front wing was pushed in the direction of that green slippery grass. Looking on however and claiming 7th place was A.Feletto, who would eventually carry on to finish in the position.
Three-way battle for 12th ensues...
A three-way also ensued for 12th position between the recovering #15 of T.Thiele alongside the #03 M.Ribolli & J.Watts in the #01. Sweeping through T2 & 3, the cars danced to exchange position for those few but crucial remaining points. J.Watts claimed victory out of the three, coming across the line in P12 and claiming 4 points for the start of the season.
L.Muller leaves earth as he takes the lead from D.Vidimari.
As the rest of the field began to spread out the fight for the lead burst into life. L.Muller had caught up to D.Vidimari and was vying for track position in the final moments. On the run down to T3, he took the inside line and the lead of the race. However, he ran wide on the exit, riding the kerbs and turning his MSV F3 into an airliner for a brief moment before returning to the English countryside and the miles of grass that creates the run-off area at Thruxton Circuit.
Collision! The leaders make contact in the final corner as they run two-wide into the apex
It still was not over though. Focusing once more on his lap times he was able to firmly attach himself to the rear of the leading #23. This time he chose to attack the outside of the final corner. Confident in the car's ability, both cars went side-by-side into the chicane. As the course narrowed for the apex, both drivers attempted to claim that all-important racing line and the inevitable contact was made. D.Vidimari was sent a full 180, with L.Muller maintaining control after drifting across the tarmac.D.Vidimari would be able to continue the race, coming home 3rd after T.Hakkinen occupied 2nd place after the collision.L.Muller would retain the lead to come home victorious, with the collision being put down to a racing incident by race marshalls.Thruxton was about throttle management and slipstreaming your opponent ahead. With little room for error, it was no surprise at all that some drivers didn't make it to the chequered flag. The battle had been won by L.Muller, but the war had just begun...
Round 2 - Brands Hatch GP
Visiting the "The Garden of England" the teams arrived at Brands Hatch for the second round of the series. Famous for hosting F1, BTCC and Blancpain GT, this circuit is covered head-to-toe in heritage and history and would be the perfect place to visit after the thrills from Thruxton.
D.Kalocsai lines up for the start with the rest of the grid
Taking pole position was a man who had little luck in the first round. D.Kalocsai lined up at the front of the grid for the first time, ready to show the competition that he was a real competitor for the title. Alongside was L.Muller, followed closely by T.Hakkinen. The teams waited patiently for the green, followed by a dash to the apex of T1.
Contact in the mid-pack as the #55 makes a move for the inside!
All the drivers survived turn 1, positions being exchanged up and down the order. Entering Druids, contact is made between some of the mid-pack drivers, leading to C.Mueller to retire before the race had even begun. Also running into trouble was F.Zerbetto as he tried to overtake on the downhill into T3. With both cars running for the apex in what must be the narrowest part of the circuit, he locks up and causes contact, pushing his competitor into the grass.
An unfortunate encounter for the x2 F1 Bros Racing machines at Westfields
Further bad news would strike the F1 Bros Racing garage as D.Erstling span exiting westfields bend. The F3 machine would spin spectacularly until his fellow teammate arrived on the scene. With nowhere to go and at such high speeds, T.Schafer collided heavily into the side of his colleague. Both would suffer substantial damage, ending in DNF's for both drivers.
The leader spins at Dingle Dell!
D.Kalocsai was pushing upfront, his lead extending by at least 0.5 seconds each lap that went by. He truly was in a class of his own at this early stage and was set to make amends for his DNF two weeks ago at Thruxton International. But then, a spin and collision with the barrier at Dingle Dell would allow L.Mueller into the lead of the race, D.Kalocsai unable to find that unbeatable pace due to suspension damage.
An incredible battle for 3rd from start to finish!
Just a few seconds down the road, a battle for 3rd place raged on. T.Hakkinen was leading the pack of three, with M.Clipp & D.Vidimari right on his heels. With no clear winner emerging, the battle turned into a high-speed chess match, each driver calculating their moves to ensure minimal time was lost. As the race began to come to a close, D.Vidimari made the move for 4th place and firmly attached himself behind T.Hakkinen. On the exit of Surtees, T.Hakkinen would run wide onto the kerbing, the car unstable as he desperately tried to apply the throttle once more. D.Vidimari seized the opportunity, taking the position and driving off into the distance.
Code Brown for T.Hakkinen as he drifts his way around Hawthorn Bend
There was still action to be had though, as M.Clipp of Royal Blue Racing moved in for the kill. Feeling the additional pressure, Turkka decided to drift the whole of Hawthorns with smoke pouring from all four corners of his car. M.Clipp claimed the inside line, moving into 4th place and toward D.Vidimari. Entering the final lap of the race M.Clipp was closing in on 3rd place. Both entered the final drag towards the chequered flag, hugging the concrete pit wall as they squeezed every horsepower from their engines. D.Vidimari would hang on to claim 3rd place, M.Clipp left wanting an extra 5 minutes to battle for the points.
Dash to the finish as the battle for 6th goes down to the final corner
Also battling to the line was the fight for 6th place. T.Thiele, J.Hamilton and W.Karjalainen had been wheel-to-wheel for a good portion of the race, all settling similar pace as they all raced one final time down the main straight. Making his final move, W.Karjalainen claimed 7th place on the exit of Clark Curve (Final corner) from J.Hamilton by taking the inside line. T.Theile would do enough to hold onto 6th, just about any way.
Celebrating the most was L.Muelle from F1 Bros Racing. He had been able to hold off the sheer pace of D.Kalocsai after his meeting with the barrier to claim his second victory of the season. D.Kalocsai limped across the finishing line in 2nd, still, an amazing performance despite his self inflicted damage.
Brands Hatch delivered once again, this great circuit truly is one of the best here in the British Isles. It is fast, merciless and downright near impossible to master by most. The first two rounds have certainly set the tone for the season. Can anyone stop L.Mueller? Will D.Kalocsai be able to claim his first victory? What else lies ahead for the drivers and teams as we head into the remainder of the season?
Oulton park takes place this Sunday 16th February, come watch the action unfold!
See you there!