Tag Archives: F3

What’s in a Name – The Issues with Formula 3?

The FIA have warned National Formula 3 championships throughout Europe that they may not be able to use the ‘F3’ name following the FIA F3 European Championship’s switch to the international governing body’s new regulations for 2014.

The British and German F3 championships have both confirmed that they will use older specification engines and electronics to save on costs, and the MSA and DMSB, who run the British and German championships respectively, are in dialogue with the FIA over the matter.

The European F3 Open, which began its life as the Spanish F3 championship in 2001, has already changed its name to EuroFormula Open, while the Masters of Formula 3, one of the blue ribbon events of the year, has already stated it will run cars of the older specifications from the British and German F3 championships, and will remove the F3 name from its title.

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“We’ve put together a set of regulations that will appeal to British F3 and ATS German F3 Cup teams,” said race coordinator Barry Bland.

David Coulthard won the inaugural Masters of Formula 3 title in 1991, and the event has seen the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and Takuma Sato win the Dutch-based event.  In 2013, Swedish driver Felix Rosenqvist won for the second time in three years.

The cost of upgrading engines to 2014 specifications would have had implications on the entry levels of the European F3 Open said series the boss of promoter GT Sport, Jesus Pareja.

“To keep the F3 denomination would have entailed adopting the new FIA F3 engine rules, something that would have had severe budget implications for the teams,” said Pareja.

“We are of the view that this is not wise, especially in the current economic context. We think that offering a high-performance formula at the most reasonable cost possible is the right way forward.

“Furthermore, with the 2014 engine upgrade, the Euroformula Open cars will have a performance level similar to any other series using F3 chassis.

“For us to retain the freedom to further improve the performance package and the cost-effectiveness in the future is a crucial point.

“The name change also avoids confusion with the European F3 Championship recently reinstated by the FIA. We definitely think that preserving the essence of our series is more important than what it is called.”

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Frits van Amersfoort, a team owner who runs cars in both the European and German F3 series, admits that the FIA trying to get all F3 championships to follow one set of rules is important, but does not believe older specification cars should miss out on being called F3 cars.

“They are trying to get everything under one umbrella and I think that’s important,” said van Amersfoort, “but I can’t understand why people with older cars and engines can’t call themselves F3.

“The FIA must understand that it takes time to adapt to new regulations. You can’t change the world in one winter.

“It is vital that the British and the German series (pictured) can keep the name ‘F3’ – it’s the most important thing the series have.”

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Peter Briggs, who runs British Formula 3 teams group FOTA, believes it is sad that cars built for F3 may not be able to use the F3 name.

“FOTA and SRO [the British F3 promoter] have never been asked not to use the F3 title,” he said.

“I don’t think it will make any difference to race entries. It’s just sad for historical purposes that a car built as an F3 car couldn’t be called F3.”

So why have the FIA clamped down so much on the use of the F3 name?  In the long run it seems like a good idea to have one set of rules covering all the series’, but to try and enforce it over one winter is boarding on stupid.

The British and German F3 championships are two of the most important championships in the world of motorsport; 18 of the 22 drivers in Formula 1 raced in British F3 at some point.  To even think about removing the F3 name from such a historic series as British F3 is saddening.

“I just hope that common sense will win and that there will be national series for F3 in Britain and Germany, because these are needed as feeder series for European F3,” said van Amersfoort.

And I concur.  The FIA need to relax and allow the F3 name to continue to be used by the British and German F3 events.  The F3 name has already been lost from the Zandvoort Masters, we cannot have it disappearing from anything else.

Sources: Autosport

Max Verstappen – 16, Dutch and (Potentially) F3 Bound

It is very rare for myself to write about a driver who has just made his debut in single-seater racing, but there is a lot of hype surrounding sixteen-year-old Max Verstappen that I just had to look into it myself.

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The latest son-of-a-former-F1-driver to break into motor sport himself, Max Verstappen is following in the footsteps of his father Jos, who raced for Benetton, Simtek, Arrows and Minardi in Formula 1, claiming two podium finishes as Michael Schumacher’s team-mate in the 1994 season.

However Max will want to avoid the pitfalls that befell his father.  He was rushed into the Benetton drive in ‘94 when confirmed driver JJ Lehto crashed and injured his neck, ruling him out for a few races.  It was clear he was not ready, and despite two podium finishes, Benetton did not retain him for 1995.

Max will want to be ready for Formula 1, should he get there.  He made his karting debut at seven years of age, and made his move into international karting competition in 2010.  He finished second racing for the CRG team in the KF3 World Cup, while he won the WSK Euro series crown.

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He retained his WSK Euro series title in 2011, and then stepped up to KF2 level for 2012, winning the WSK Master Series and finishing second in the World Cup.  In 2013 he raced to the KF2 class European Championship title, while finishing third in the KF1 World Championship.

Max made his debut in a single-seater series in the Florida Winter Series, which is being hosted by the Ferrari Formula 1 team.  In the first race weekend of the series, he topped qualifying in just the second session he tried, and finished a high of fourth in the races.  He subsequently won race three of the second weekend of races at the Palm Beach International Raceway, having once again topped qualifying.  After two events, he sits second in the championship behind Ferrari junior driver Antonio Fuoco, with two more events to come.

Father Jos admits that Max could make the leap straight into the FIA European Formula 3 series for 2014, bypassing the usual route of racing Formula 3 at a national level.  Max tested an F3 car back in December, but the sixteen year old is also contemplating the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series.

“Max is looking at European Formula Renault 2.0, but also European F3,” said Jos.

“Max’s driving style is very suited to F3. These cars have a lot of front end, which he likes a lot, and he was immediately very fast when he tested.”

Setting competitive lap times in your debut test in a car is impressive for anyone, let alone a sixteen year old, who will not turn seventeen until the end of September.  But is he ready for international competition, especially in the ultra-competitive European F3 series.

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Jos will want his son to be competitive, which is for certain.  It might be prudent to allow Max to get experience in single-seater cars under his belt before pushing him into European F3, but the opportunity might not arise again.

“It is better to concentrate on one series and Max needs to learn, but I’m impressed with what he has done so far,” said Jos.  “The speed is there and this is the main thing.”

From what has been seen in his very short career so far, it might be that Max Verstappen is the latest talent on the recent up swing of Dutch motorsport.  Having seen Giedo van der Garde and Robin Frijns reach F1 level, as either race or test drivers, Max could well be the next.  At sixteen he has his career ahead of him, but the initial signs are positive.

Max Verstappen – remember his name, he might just be someone special.  I will be keeping my eyes on him that is for sure.

The Champions of 2013 in Motorsport – The Roll of Honour!

Formula 1 World Championship – Sebastian Vettel – Germany – Red Bull Racing

GP2 Series – Fabio Leimer – Switzerland – Racing Engineering

GP3 Series – Daniil Kvyat – Russia – MW Arden

Formula Renault 3.5 Series – Kevin Magnussen – Denmark – DAMS

Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 – Pierre Gasly – France – Tech 1 Racing

Eurocup Megane Trophy – Mirko Bortolotti – Italy – Oregon Team

Eurocup Clio – Josh Files – Great Britain – Team Pyro

Formula Renault 2.0 North European Cup – Matt Parry – Great Britain – Fortec Motorsports

Formula Renault 2.0 Alps – Antonio Fuoco – Italy – Prema Junior

Auto GP World Series – Vittorio Ghirelli – Italy – Super Nova International

European Formula 3 Championship – Raffaele Marciello – Italy – Prema Powerteam

British Formula Three –  International ClassJordan KingGreat Britain – Carlin

British Formula Three – National Class – Sun Zheng – China – CF Racing

German Formula Three – Marvin Kirchhofer – Germany – Lotus

European F3 Open – Ed Jones – United Arab Emirates – Team West-Tec F3

F3 Cup – Alex Craven – Great Britain – Lanan Racing

Super Formula – Naoki Yamamoto – Japan – Team Mugen

All-Japan Formula Three – Yuichi Nakayama – Japan – Petronas Team TOM’S TOM’S Spirit

IndyCar Series – Scott Dixon – New Zealand – Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Indy Lights – Sage Karem – United States – Schmidt Peterson Racing

Pro Mazda Championship – Matthew Brabham – Australia – Andretti Autosport

USF2000 Championship – Scott Hargrove – Canada – Cape Motorsports

NASCAR Sprint Cup – Jimmie Johnson – United States – Hendrick Motorsports

NASCAR Nationwide Series – Austin Dillon – United States – Richard Childress Racing

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – Matt Crafton – United States – ThorSport Racing

World Endurance Championship – LMP1 – Allan Mcnish – Great Britain, Tom Kristensen – Denmark, Loic Duval – France – Audi Sport Team Joest

World Endurance Championship – LMP2 – Bertrand Baguette – Belgium, Martin Plowman – Great Britain, Ricardo Rodriguez – Venezuela – Oak Racing

World Endurance Championship – GTE Pro – Gianmaria Bruni – AF Corse

World Endurance Championship – GTE Am – Jamie Campbell-Walter – Great Britain, Stuart Hall – Great Britain – Aston Martin Racing

Blancpain Endurance Championship – Pro Cup – Maximilian Buhk – Germany – HTP Motorsport

Blancpain Endurance Championship – Pro Am Cup – Lucas Ordonez – Spain – Nissan GT Academy Team RJN

Blancpain Endurance Championship – Gentlemen’s Trophy – Jean-Luc Blanchemain – France, Jean-Luc Beaubelique – France, Patrice Goueslard – France – SOFREV Auto Sport Promotion

FIA GT Series – Pro Cup – Stephane Ortelli – Monaco, Laurens Vanthoor – Belgium – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT

FIA GT Series – Pro-Am Cup – Cesar Campanico – Portugal, Carlos Vieira – Portugal – Team Novadriver

FIA GT Series – Gentlemen’s Trophy – Petr Charouz – Czech Republic, Jan Stovicek – Czech Republic – HTP Gravity Charouz

European Le Mans Series – LMP2 – Pierre Ragues – France, Nelson Panciatici – France – Signature Alpine

European Le Mans Series – LMPC – Paul Loup Chatin – France, Gary Hirsch – France – Team Endurance Challenge

European Le Mans Series – LMGTE – Johnny Mowlem – Great Britain, Matt Griffin – Ireland – Ram Racing

European Le Mans Series – GTC – Fabio Babini – Italy, Kirill Ladygin – Russia, Viktor Shaitar – Russia – SMP Racing

Asian Le Mans Series – LMP2 – David Cheng – United States – Oak Racing

Asian Le Mans Series – GTE – Naoki Yokomizo – Japan, Akira Iida – Japan, Shogo Mitsuyama – Japan – Team Taisan Ken Endless

Asian Le Mans Series – GTC – Andrea Bertolini – Italy, Michele Rugolo – Italy, Steve Wyatt – Australia – AF Corse

American Le Mans Series – P1 – Klaus Graf – Germany, Lucas Luhr – Germany – Muscle Milk Pickett Racing

American Le Mans Series – P2 – Scott Tucker – United States – Level 5 Motorsports

American Le Mans Series – PC – Mike Guasch – United States – PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports

American Le Mans Series – GT – Antonio Garcia – Spain, Jan Magnussen – Denmark – Corvette Racing

American Le Mans Series – GTC – Jeroen Bleekemolen – Netherlands, Cooper MacNeil – United States – Alex Job Racing

Rolex Sports Car Series – Daytona Prototypes – Max Angelelli – Italy, Jordan Taylor – United States – Wayne Taylor Racing

Rolex Sports Car Series – Grand Touring – Alessandro Balzan – Italy – Scuderia Corsa

Rolex Sports Car Series – GX Class – Jim Norman – United States – BGB Motorsports

International GT Open – Super GT – Andrea Montermini – Italy – Scuderia Villorba Corse

International GT Open – GTS – Giorgio Pantano – Italy – Bhai Tech Racing

International GT Open – Gentlemen’s Trophy – Alexander Talkanitsa Sr – AT Racing

Super GT – GT500 – Kohei Hirate – Japan, Yuji Tachikawa – Japan – Lexus Team Zent Cerumo

Super GT – GT300 – Hideki Mutoh – Japan, Yuhki Nakayama – Japan – Team Mugen

International V8 Supercars Championship – Jamie Whincup – Australia – Triple Eight Race Engineering

Porsche Supercup – Nicki Thiim – Denmark – Attempto Racing

World Touring Car Championship – Yvan Muller – France – RML

DTM Championship – Mike Rockenfeller – Germany – Phoenix Racing Audi

European Touring Car Cup – Super 2000 – Petr Fulin – Czech Republic – Krenek Motorsport

European Touring Car Cup – Super 1600 – Kevin Krammes – Germany – Ravenol Team

European Touring Car Cup – Single-Makes Trophy – Mario Dablander – Austria – HRS Motorsport

British Touring Car Championship – Andrew Jordan – Great Britain – Pirtek Racing

Superstars Series – Gianni Morbidelli – Italy – Audi Sport Italia

British Formula Ford Championship – Dan Cammish – Great Britain – JTR

BRDC Formula 4 Championship – Jake Hughes – Great Britain – Lanan Racing

Formula Abarth – Alessio Rovera – Italy – Cram Motorsport

ADAC Formel Masters – Alessio Picariello – Germany – ADAC Berlin-Brandenburg

ADAC GT Masters – Diego Alessi – Italy, Daniel Keilwitz – Germany – Callaway Competition

British Formula 3 Series 2014 Schedule

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The 2014 British Formula 3 Series has returned to its roots, and sees an expansion from the four events of 2013 to seven events in total next year.  Gone is the race weekend at the Nurburging, with Spa being the only overseas event, while tracks returning to the fold are Rockingham, Snetterton, Thruxton and Donington Park.

Plans were to initially run 6 events, but a seventh was added to the schedule close to it being announced.  Hampshire track Thruxton, the fastest race track for racing in Europe, returns for the first time in three years, while Rockingham, Snetterton and Donington Park return after a season long absence.  The two rounds held in Britain this year at Silverstone and Brands Hatch also return.

Spa-Francorchamps remains on the schedule as a support series to the Blancpain Endurance series’ 24 hours of Spa.  The lose of the Nurburgring weekend is no surprise as the series aims to remain a cheap option for drivers in their progression through racing.

Double R Racing team boss Anthony Hieatt has said “It makes it a proper, viable championship, and retains the aim to keep it as cheap as possible.

“But the big thing the organisers have got to do is not to have clashes with European F3. If we’re going to do this cheaply, we need to be able to use the same personnel for both championships.”

The races at Silverstone and Thruxton are still to have their dates confirmed.

Provisional 2014 British Formula 3 Calendar

May 3-4 – Rockingham Motor Speedway
TBA – Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit
June 21-22 – Snetterton Circuit
July 25-26 – Spa Francorchamps, Belgium
TBA – Thruxton Circuit
August 30-31 – Brands Hatch
September 13-14 – Donington Park

Facu Regalia – Argentina’s Best Chance?

The last few drivers from Argentina to have made it to the dizzy heights of Formula One haven’t exactly set the world alight.  Names like Oscar Larrauri, who drove for Eurobrun in 1988/89, Norberto Fontana who briefly raced for Sauber in 1997; Esteban Tuero who raced for one season for Minardi in 1998, and the last Argentine to make a Grand Prix start Gaston Mazzacane for Minardi & Prost in 2000/01, never troubled the scorers and will only be a footnote in Formula One history.  Jose Maria Lopez almost made it with the USF1 team back in 2010, but the team folded before he ever got a chance of a race.

Its a sorry state for a country that provided the sport with one of the biggest names and best drivers ever to have raced in F1 in Juan Manuel Fangio! The five time World Champion (for four different teams no less!) is a true great of the sport.  Another great of the sport from Argentina was Jose Froilan Gonzalez, who took Ferrari’s first Grand Prix victory in the 1951 British Grand Prix.

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So who’s the best driver coming through the ranks?  In my opinion its a driver currently plying his trade in the GP3 series for the ART Grand Prix team, from Buenos Aires, Facu Regalia.  The 21 year old currently leads the GP3 championship with one final round to go, in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of November.

Regalia made his single seater debut in the 2008 Formula BMW Europe series for the EuroInternational team, but with minimal success, scoring a best finish of 6th in Valencia and finishing 16th in the standings, but third in the rookie class.  He switched to the Josef Kaufmann Racing outfit for 2009, taking a handful of fourth places but still only finishing 8th in the championship, behind the likes of Jack Harvey, Felipe Nasr, Daniel Juncadella and Robin Frijns.

He returned to EuroInternational in the 2009 Formula BMW Pacific season, winning twice in three races, but was only there as a guest driver so wasn’t eligible for points.  A third season in Formula BMW Europe followed in 2010 and for another new team in Eifelland Racing, and he finally broke his podium duck with a second place finish in Zandvoort.  Another 8th place finish was his end of season reward.

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For 2011, Regalia switched to the Italian Formula Three Championship with the Arco Motorsport team, taking 1 pole position (in Mugello) and two podium finishes (third in Imola, second in Vallelunga), before finishing tenth in the championship.  He also made a guest appearance in the season finale of the Formula 3 Euro Series with the Mucke Motorsport outfit, finishing 10th twice at Hockenheim, though again he wasn’t illegible to score points.

2012 saw him run a dual campaign for the Campos Racing team in both the Auto GP World Series and the European F3 Open Championship.  A second place in Valencia and a third place in Hungary saw Regalia finish P7 in Auto GP, but three wins, 1 in Hungary and a double win in Spain saw him finish fourth in the F3 Open championship, his best finish to date.  He also made his GP3 Series debut, racing in two events, one with Jenzer Motorsport, the other with Atech CRS Grand Prix.  His best result was 12th at Silverstone.

So onto 2013.  When you saw who Regalia was teamed up with at ART Grand Prix, you’d have imagined he’d be the third driver behind highly rated American Conor Daly and reigning British Formula 3 Champion Jack Harvey, however things have turned out massively different to what everyone would have thought would happen.  A double non-points finish in Spain has been the exception to a season that just gets better and better for the Argentine driver.

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A win in the first race at the Nurburgring, and five other podium finishes in the 14 rounds of the championship so far sees him sit at the top of the standings, 7 points clear of second placed Daniil Kvyat in his MW Arden car.  He has shown the skills to be up there fighting for big points, and will be favourite for the title going into Abu Dhabi in November.

So what’s changed in the past couple of years to make Facu Regalia a genuine championship contender?  He seems to be one of those drivers that as the cars get bigger and faster, then he gets better.  If this is indeed the case, then it bodes well for Regalia for the next stage of his career.  A move up to the GP2 series or across to the Formula Renault 3.5 series isn’t out of the question, and Regalia should be competitive in either.  Whether he wins the GP3 championship this year or not, he’s proved himself to be a good racer.  Whether its enough to see him reach Formula 1 is another question though.  Can he continue to develop as a driver?  I wonder if any of the teams in the F1 paddock have noticed his performances.  Only time will tell if he’s F1 bound.

Daniil Kvyat – The Other Red Bull Star

There has been a lot of attention this year on Red Bull junior driver Carlos Sainz Jr, however another young driver on Red Bull’s books is also quietly having a good year. With the addition of a Russian Grand Prix in 2014, the support of the Russian crowds for a Russian driver would be massive, and the rise of Russian driver Daniil Kvyat might just come at the right time.

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Daniil Kvyat is still only 19 years of age, and heralds from Ufa, in the Bashkorostan region of Russia, however he now resides in Italy.  He has only been racing single-seater cars since 2010, and joined the Red Bull Junior Team in the same year whilst competing in the Formula BMW Pacific series as a guest driver. He won twice but wasn’t eligible for points. He did finish 10th that year with a solitary podium finish driving for the EuroInternational outfit in the Formula BMW Europe series, his first as a full-member of the Red Bull family.  He also made some appearances in the Formula Renault UK Winter Series and the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series driving for Koiranen Motorsport.

2011 saw a more confident Daniil Kvyat competing in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series, the Formula Renault 2.0 North European Championship (NEC), and the Formula Renault UK Finals series, all for Koiranen Motorsport.  In the Eurocup, he won twice in 14 rounds, at Spa and the Nurburgring, and finished third in the championship behind Champion Robin Frijns and runner-up Carlos Sainz Jr, but ahead of Will Stevens and Stoffel Vandoorne.  In the NEC Championship, he won 7 times in 20 races, including all three Monza races at the end of the year, but finished P2 in the championship, again behind Sainz Jr.  He finished P3 in the UK Finals series behind Oliver Rowland and Dan Wells.  During the winter he raced in New Zealand in the Toyota Racing Series with Victory Motor Racing, winning once and finishing 5th in the standings after 12 races.

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Kvyat continued with Koiranen Motorsports into 2012, concentrating on the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series and the Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS series, the former Swiss Formula Renault Championship.  He won half of the 14 races in the Eurocup, but was pipped to the title by Stoffel Vandoorne by a mere ten points.  However he also won half of the 14 races in the ALPS series, but this time won the championship by three points from Norman Nato.  A championship well deserved, having won 14 out of 28 races in the calendar year.

So onto 2013.  Under Red Bull guidance, Kvyat, along with Carlos Sainz Jr, have been placed in the GP3 Series at MW Arden, a team run by Mark Webber and Christian Horner, both of F1 Red Bull Racing fame.  His maiden win at Spa was well deserved, just a race weekend behind his first podium in Hungary.  He currently sits fifth in the championship, and remains the championship hunt with two race weekends of the season remaining.  Kvyat has also run a parallel campaign in the European Formula 3 Championship as a guest driver, and has finished on the podium 4 times.  He also got a run in a Scuderia Toro Rosso at the Young Driver’s test at Silverstone.

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So how good is Daniil Kvyat?  Red Bull obviously think highly of the young Russian, and continue to guide his promising career for a fourth year.  He has proved he has what it takes to win races and to win championships.  However, the Red Bull young driver programme has its risks.  With so many good drivers part of it, and with Kvyat apparently behind both Carlos Sainz Jr and Antonio Felix da Costa in the pecking order, it could mean a long time waiting for a break in Formula 1.  It could be the case that Red Bull allow him to race at another team (like they did with Daniel Ricciardo at HRT in 2011), or it might come down to the Russian driver having to leave the Red Bull family to get his break.  He could be lucky and have a Toro Rosso drive arrive at his feet if Felix da Costa and/or Sainz Jr get into the main Red Bull team in a short amount of time.  The talent is there, he can overtake and defend well as proven in GP3 this season.

The future is bright for Daniil Kvyat, and he could be Russia’s best ever racing driver, certainly in Formula 1.

 

The Talented Sam Bird!

Question: Which driver has won races on the iconic circuits of Monaco, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps this season?
Answer: Mercedes junior driver Sam Bird, driving for the Russian Time entry in the GP2 series.

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Everyone has known about the talent Sam Bird possesses for a long time now, but why hasn’t he being able to make the final step up to Formula One?  We know he’s good enough.  Its obvious he hasn’t got the financial backing of the likes of Esteban Gutierrez or Max Chilton, but sometimes money isn’t everything.  With Mercedes backing, you’d have hoped they’d help him get into F1, but it hasn’t happened that way.  He still remains on the sidelines in F1, and remains plugging away in the junior categories.

Bird began his single seater career in Formula BMW in 2004 driving for Carlin Motorsport, coming fourteenth overall in his debut season and second overall in the rookie cup. Returning in 2005, this time with Fortec Motorsport, he was runner up, and also came fourth in the Formula BMW world final.  In 2006 he entered the British Formula Renault Championship, again with Fortec, and won four times in finishing 4th in the standings.  His results earned him the 2006 Autosport Club Driver of the Year award!

BIRD, Sam (#5 / Manor Motorsport / Dallara F308 / Mercedes)

2007 saw him enter the British Formula 3 championship, rejoining Carlin in the process.  He won twice, and for the third year in a row finished fourth in the championship standings.  He also raced on the iconic race tracks in Macau & Zolder in the Macau Grand Prix and Masters of F3 events.  2008 saw him move to the Manor Motorsport team in the Formula 3 Euro Series, failing to win a race this time but grabbing two podiums in finishing 11th in the standings.  He improved to 8th in 2009, but still failed to win a race.  He did grab a podium at Macau at the end of the year however for ART Grand Prix.

He joined the GP2-Asia Series for the winter of 2009/10, again with ART, and grabbed one podium finish before finishing seventh after the 8 races.  He continued with ART in the main GP2 Series in 2010, winning the Italian feature race and finishing four other times on the podium and 5th in the championship.   He also earned a call up to the Mercedes F1 set-up and ran in the young drivers test for them.  A switch to iSport in 2011 in both the GP2 Asia & main series yielded only three more podiums however.

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In 2012 he switched over to the Formula Renault 3.5 series with ISR Racing, and won twice (in Monaco and Silverstone) and was a contender all year, finally finishing third in the championship standings, behind only Robin Frijns and Jules Bianchi, both highly-regarded in the motorsport world.  In 2013, it looked like Bird would be out of a drive before a last minute deal with new GP2 team Russian Time was signed, and the Brit has looked great all year.  He has won four times, in Bahrain, Monaco, Silverstone and most-recently Spa, and sits 4th in the championship at present and is definitely in championship contention.  He has impressed many up-and-down the paddock with some stunning drives.

Impressing he might be, but Sam Bird looks ever increasingly likely to miss out all-together on Formula 1.  Mercedes may have him on their books, but with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg already driving for them, he is unlikely to get a drive there.  The other Mercedes-powered outfits aren’t likely to take him on either, each of them with their own drivers to promote.  An outside bet could see him in a Williams-Mercedes next year, especially with the Toto Wolff link to the team, but even there it looks like Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas will remain there next year.

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So what next for Sam Bird.  Does he continue to ply his trade in the GP2 or Formula Renault series’, or does he move on to pastures new?  Could it be move to the American IndyCar series, or possibly into the world of GT Racing?  If he does, it’ll be a shame as in my opinion and in the right team, Bird could be a championship contender in Formula One.  It’ll be a massive shame if he doesn’t get into F1, but we all know how harsh motor racing can be.

James Calado – Sneaking into F1 Contention?

In recent weeks, GP3 Series championship leader Tio Ellinas and GP2 series driver Sergio Canamasas both had straight line tests for the Marussia & Caterham Formula 1 teams respectively, but a third driver also participated in such a test I feel is closer to reaching F1 than the other two – British driver James Calado, who tested for the Force India team.  This test went more under the radar than the other two, but is probably the most significant.

From Cropthorne in Worcestershire, James Calado had an intensive Karting career that began in 1999, aged just ten. He made his single-seater debut in the British Formula Renault Championship in 2008, driving for the Fortec Motorsport team. In the 20 races of his debut season, he had four podium finishes including a win at Snetterton, and finished 7th in the championship.  He also had a few races in the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC championship.

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During the winter of 2008, he competed in the British Formula Renault 2.0 Winter Series, winning two of the four races & the championship.  He did even better in the Portuguese Formula Renault 2.0 Winter Series, winning 3 out of 4 and the championship!

He remained with Fortec in the British Formula Renault Championship in 2009 and improved to second place in the championship behind Champion & fellow Brit Dean Smith, winning 8 races including a double win at Silverstone.  He also dabbled in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup that year.

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A switch to the Carlin Motorsport team and the British Formula 3 Championship in 2010 saw Calado finish runner-up in a championship for a second consecutive year, this time to French driver and current Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver, Jean-Eric Vergne.  Calado won five races and finished on the podium 12 times in total, plus had two pole positions & four fastest laps.

A move up to the GP3 series with Lotus ART in 2010 saw the young Brit achieve a third consecutive runner-up spot, this time behind Valtteri Bottas, the current Williams F1 driver! He won once in Valencia, but also had an additional 5 podiums during the season.  The impressive season he had lead to him being given the Lotus ART GP2 Series drive in the end-of-season GP2 Final, where he showed well, winning one of the two races during the weekend in Abu Dhabi.

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He continued with Lotus GP in the GP2 Series in 2012, and finished a creditable fifth in the championship in his rookie year, a result that could have been higher had he not encountered illness during the Singapore round of the series.  He won twice, once in Malaysia then again in Germany.  5 additional podiums saw him finish with 160 points, only 16 points behind his highly-rated teammate Esteban Gutierrez – not bad for a rookie!

So now we’re in 2013.  He has remained in the GP2 series and was the highest-placed 2012 finisher to return to the series.  He is driving again with the ART team (now without the Lotus name as they left GP2 & GP3) but despite a podium in the first race in Malaysia, he has yet to return there in the subsequent 7 races. He sits fifth in the championship, but needs to start winning races to get back into the championship hunt. But form is temporary but talent is permanent.

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James Calado has lots of talent behind the wheel of a racing car.  He has the determination to succeed, and should be in Formula 1 within the next couple of years, providing he keeps going as he is.  The straight-line test for Force India should just be the start, the fact that F1 teams are looking at him is a very good thing indeed.  Hopefully during the up-coming Young Driver’s test, the 23-year-old Brit will get a day or two of track time.  Then everyone will see the talent the guy has.  His future is in his hands, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see James Calado being a championship contender in Formula 1 in years to come.

The next F1 generation

I’m not just a Formula 1 fan. Oh no. I like to keep an eye on drivers who, with a bit of luck, should make it to Formula 1. Here is a list of drivers who I feel are good enough to potentially reach the dizzy heights of Formula 1 in the next few years or so!

  • Antonio Felix da Costa – Portugal. Looks like the real deal, impressed in GP3 and then took Formula Renault 3.5 by storm when he joined mid-season.  Likely to be the next driver from the Red Bull family to get into Formula 1, remaining in Formula Renault 3.5 for 2013.

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  • Robin Frijns – Netherlands. Formula Renault 3.5 champion.  Now signed as the test & third driver for Sauber.  The Netherlands have not had many drivers in Formula 1, though the lack of an actual race seat might harm his progress after two championships in two years in Formula Renault 2.0 & 3.5.

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  • Felipe Nasr – Brazil. Looked very strong in his first GP2 season, and now signed up for a second season, switching from DAMS to Carlin, a team he is familiar with having raced for them in British Formula 3.  Should be one to watch.

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  • Patric Niederhauser – Switzerland. First year in GP3 and won a few races, and was strong in other races too.  Returning to GP3 with Jenzer Motorsport and should be one to watch out for and potentially a championship favourite.

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  • Mitch Evans – New Zealand.  Current GP3 Champion.  Signed for Arden International in GP2, after winning the championship in GP3 with them in 2012.  One of Mark Webbers proteges and is more than likely going to be within the Red Bull family sooner rather than later as hes in GP2 with Christian Horner’s team.

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  • Tio Ellinas – Cyprus. Up and coming GP3 star, winning season finale in Monza, one to look out for if he, as expected, remains in GP3.  Cannot think of another Cypriot in motor sport, let alone one that has talent, and is certainly worth keeping an eye out for.

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  • James Calado – Great Britain. Looked very impressive in his first GP2 season, winning a few races and making his highly rated teammate look pretty ordinary.  He should be a championship favourite as he’s re-signed with the ART GP2 team for a second season.

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  • Sam Bird – Great Britain. Should be there already, has looked good in both GP2 & Formula Renault 3.5 in the last few years.  Grabbed a late deal with the new RUSSIAN TIME team in GP2 and will hope to prove himself once more in the main support serie for Formula 1.  Mercedes still have him as their test driver so there is still hope for Sam that he’ll make it to F1.

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  • Kevin Magnussen – Denmark. Son of Jan, looks better than his dad. A few race wins in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2012, joining DAMS for 2013. Tested for McLaren in the Abu Dhabi Young Drivers test in 2012.

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  • Alexander Rossi – United States.  The closest the United States have to a Grand Prix driver.  Highly rated by the Caterham set-up and has been given the third driver role within the Caterham F1 team for 2013.  Lack of racing though, like Frijns, could affect his career prospects.

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  • Robert Wickens – Canada.  Like Rossi for the USA, Wickens is possibly the closest Canada has for a GP driver right now.  Highly rated by many, winning the Formula Renault 3.5 series and being runner up in GP3 before advancing to the Mercedes DTM set-up.  Could follow Paul di Resta into F1 via DTM.

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  • Luciano Bacheta – Great Britain. Potentially the last Formula 2 champion, and was well deserved.  Had options for 2013, and chose to compete in AutoGP World Series rather than either Formula Renault 3.5 or GP2.  Earned a Williams test drive for winning the F2 title and impressed the team during it.

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  • Daniel Abt – Germany.  Runner up to Mitch Evans in GP3 in 2012, and advances to GP2 as James Calado’s teammate at Lotus in 2013.  Could be one of the next top German drivers to enter F1 in a few years.  Must keep his momentum however, and will need to impress against one of the GP2 championship favourites.

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  • Alexander Sims – Great Britain.  Seems to have given up on single seaters, but one of the quickest drivers out there when he’s driving.  Only the cost of getting to F1 is hindering him.  Racing in the sportscar scene but was willing to test a GP2 car at the end of 2012, perhaps indicating that a return to open wheel racing could be on the cards if the right offer came along.  Very talented.

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  • Conor Daly – United States.
  • Fabio Leimer – Switzerland
  • Stefano Coletti – Monaco
  • Matheo Tuscher – Switzerland
  • Arthur Pic – France
  • Nico Muller – Switzerland
  • Albert Costa – Spain
  • Marco Sorensen – Denmark
  • Jack Harvey – Great Britain
  • Adrain Quaife-Hobbs – Great Britain
  • Roberto Mehri – Spain
  • Richie Stanaway – New Zealand
  • Sergey Sirotkin – Russia
  • Stoffel Vandoorne – Belgium
  • Alice Powell – Great Britain
  • Lewis Williamson – Great Britain
  • Brendon Hartley – New Zealand
  • Tom Dillmann – France
  • Robert Visoiu – Romania
  • Daniel Juncadella – Spain
  • Christian Vietoris – Germany
  • Aaro Vainio – Finland
  • Nick Yelloly – Great Britain
  • Sergio Canamasas – Spain
  • Jolyon Palmer – Great Britain
  • Christopher Zanella – Switzerland
  • Will Stevens – Great Britain
  • Nathanael Berthon – France
  • Dino Zamparelli – Great Britain