The four main developments to follow as Formula 3 returns for 2023

Formula 3

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The FIA Formula 3 Championship begins its fifth season under its current identity tomorrow. It remains one of the biggest series in single-seater racing, boasting a 30-car grid.

Having such a heavily populated field means there’s lots to watch and talk about, and this year’s grid includes 16 rookies at this level of single-seater racing, 10 Formula 1 juniors, four drivers who won championships in 2022 and two sports car stars.

So which drivers and topics should F3 viewers be keeping an eye on this season?

The new sustainable fuel

Both Formula 2 and F3 are introducing “55% sustainable fuel” supplied by Aramco for 2023, and teams got to try the fuel in the car for the first time in the pre-season test at Bahrain earlier this month.

The feedback from teams during the three days of testing effectively came to ‘no problems to report yet’, but that might not be the case in a few months’ time. After the first three rounds, where approximately another 1,000 kilometres will be put on the engines, the teams might be feeling the difference between what they got from their previous supplier and the new product.

F3’s fuel change has cause no major problems so far
If there are issues that arise in relation to the fuel, then the Formula 1 paddock will be watching closely as the feeder series are being used as a testbed for sustainable fuels before they are later adopted by the pinnacle of motorsport.

Ex-F1 juniors out to prove themselves

If being signed to an F1 team’s young driver development programme is a vote of confidence in a driver’s abilities, then it’s easy to assume that being dropped by one is the equivalent to the opposite.

But these decisions aren’t entirely one-sided, and departing the junior ranks of one F1 team obviously frees up the possibility to join another. Nonetheless, there are three former F1 juniors on this year’s F3 grid all with points to prove.

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At MP Motorsport is former Red Bull protege Jonny Edgar, who is going into his third F3 campaign but only raced part-time last season due to being struck down by Crohn’s Disease at the start of 2022.

Collet and Colapinto continue; Bearman has moved up
Edgar impressed by scoring 23 of the struggling Carlin team’s 25 points in 2021, but did not really get to demonstrate his potential due to the team’s tyre management woes. However he still did enough to retain his Red Bull backing and earn a move to reigning champion team Trident for 2022, which he unfortunately could not make the most of.

But once he was back up to full fitness and a healthy weight to return to the grid he was impressively consistent, with an average finish of sixth over the final six races. MP is a team on the rise, so expect him to do even better this year.

Ex-Alpine junior Caio Collet has left MP to lead the line-up at Van Amersfoort Racing, a team that is only in its second season in this series.

Collet won two sprint races and claimed a pole in F3 last year, and the Brazilian was particularly impressive in full wet and mixed conditions, but his points tally was only marginally better than in his rookie season and not enough to retain Alpine’s backing.

If VAR has the potential to consistently become a front-running team in the series, then it would do Collet’s career a great deal of good to be the driver who delivers on that. Nicolas Todt, who also manages Charles Leclerc, looks after Collet’s career and he tends to make strong choices with where he sends his drivers.

The third ex-F1 junior is fellow Brazilian Roberto Faria, who will race for PHM Racing by Charouz in his rookie season.

He has so far been something of an underachiever in the junior categories, with just one win from two-and-a-half seasons in Britain’s GB3 series, but Sauber – who run the Alfa Romeo F1 team and are very selective in who they choose as juniors – must have seen something in him last year to sign him up.

Now it’s his responsibility to show the rest of the world what that was since Sauber has dropped him for 2023.

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The last-minute F1 juniors with a big opportunity

Most F1 teams announce their line-up of juniors in one go, but Alpine and Aston have both had late additions to their academies.

Browning was the last driver to be confirmed on the grid
Packaged into Alpine’s car launch was the news that former DTM and LMP2 sports car driver Sophia Floersch would be one of the brand’s juniors this year as she returns to single-seaters with PHM in F3.

Even more unusual than that, F3 promoter Bruno Michel then revealed that “we’re helping her slightly with her budget” for the season. While it is not a totally unprecedented step for the series to provide backing to ensure a driver gets a seat on the grid, it is normally a topic that is not spoken about openly.

Floersch raced in FIA European F3 in 2018, and infamously had a horror crash in the Macau Grand Prix at the end of that year which resulted in a spinal injury, then raced in Michel’s F3 series in 2020 before switching to sports cars.

Aston Martin meanwhile has provided the additional backing needed for reigning GB3 champion Luke Browning to join the F3 grid with Hitech GP.

His seat was not confirmed until yesterday, and he was the only driver to be announced after testing. His attendance in Bahrain was actually in part to complete his prize F3 test for winning the GB3 title, but it was also critical seat time given he had not done the 2022 post-season test and by this point knew a deal was being finalised to put him on the grid.

Browning won last year’s Aston Martin-supported BRDC young driver award, for which the prize includes an F1 test, and he is only the team’s second junior alongside reigning F2 champion Felipe Drugovich.

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New tracks

F3’s two Dutch teams won’t have a home race this year, but the three Australians will as the series heads to Melbourne for the first time.

Albert Park, Melbourne, 2022
Melbourne was a surprise addition to the 2023 calendar
When the field finished testing they had no idea what the garage situation would be down under, given F1 and Supercars are occupying the usual paddock spaces at the temporary city track, but the teams at least don’t have to worry about logistics as the promoter is paying for all of the freight costs to and from Australia.

Simulation models are being developed for the track thanks to extensive data from other series (and simulator developers) visiting, but the bumpiness of the track will be a challenge that will only really become evident once the cars are on track for practice.

Far easier to learn will be Monaco, another first-time addition to the schedule, as all the teams know it from F2 (or from F3’s predecessor GP3 in the case of Jenzer Motorsport) and 13 of the drivers have already visited in Formula Regional. But even for the best prepared, the margins of error are so slim that there’s a high chance F3’s time there will be populated by Safety Car appearances and lots of flag-waving marshals.

This is also where the negatives of having a 30-car grid will be most apparent. The hazard posed by drivers gunning for pole coming across others on cool-down laps in qualifying is an ever-present in F3, and encountering a slow-moving car in the narrow confines of Monaco will be one of the most frustrating – and potentially most costly – moments of a driver’s season.

2023 Formula 3 grid

ARTKaylen FrederickGregoire SaucyNikola Tsolov
CamposHugh BarterChristian MansellJosep Maria Marti
HitechGabriele MiniSebastian MontoyaLuke Browning
JenzerTaylor BarnardAlejandro GarciaNikita Bedrin
MPMari BoyaFranco ColapintoJonny Edgar
PHM by CharouzSophia FloerschRoberto FariaPiotr Wisnicki
PremaPaul AronDino BeganovicZak O’Sullivan
Rodin CarlinHunter YeanyOliver GrayIdo Cohen
TridentGabriel BortoletoLeonardo FornaroliOliver Goethe
Van AmersfoortCaio ColletTommy SmithRafael Villagomez

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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6 comments on “The four main developments to follow as Formula 3 returns for 2023”

  1. RandomMallard
    2nd March 2023, 9:40

    Do we know if F3 is going to do anything different in Monaco? Are they going to use the F2 style qualifying where they have two sessions with half the drivers in each one? Or are they going to cap the grid and not let the full 30 cars race, as they have done in FRECA over recent years? Thirty cars around Monte Carlo sounds like an absolute nightmare after all…

    1. Coventry Climax
      2nd March 2023, 12:27

      Thirty cars around Monte Carlo sounds like a dream!

      True though, it requires it to be managed correctly. Splitting up the field in qualifying groups, to me, would also mean comparing the driver times, as opposed to a knock out system, as that inevitably results in a sense of unfairness somewhere down the order. Tricky though, as changing weather conditions could do the same.

      Another aspect is the car size. I don’t know what their dimensions are currently, but if they’ve become ridiculously wide, long and heavy over the years, like in F1, than that’s certainly the recipe for disaster.

      You’d say that there’s a job for the FIA there, and for using simulation. Oh wait, FIA.

      1. RandomMallard
        2nd March 2023, 17:45

        Coventry Climax I think in F2 they have two groups, and whoever goes fastest overall is on pole, while the fastest driver in the other group is put P2, and so on through the order (odd numbered grid positions for drivers in the group the pole sitter was in, and even numbered spots for drivers in the other group). I think this is to protect each group in event of changing conditions as you mention.

        1. Coventry Climax
          3rd March 2023, 0:23

          I have no idea how it works, but if what you suggest is the case, that could still mean that nr. 2 of group 1, getting P3, had a faster time than nr. 1 of group 2, who’s getting P2. Doesn’t sound quite right either, does it?

      2. Hope for a great season.Hard to make any predictions here but at the start i reckon O’sullivan, Colapinto and Colet can be in the mix to the championship

  2. I am so excited. I adore F3 and F2. This will be my 4th season watching and, for me, both feeder series blow F1 out of the water in terms of unpredictability and excitement. 30 cars on track is a dream!!

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