Formula 3 is the world’s biggest junior motor racing series. The opportunity to use good Formula 3 results in order to progress towards Formula 1 has appealed to drivers for decades – and continues to do so to this day.
“Formula 3” was born in 1950 (at the same time as the Formula 1 World Championship), when the international motorsport governing body approved a class for tube-frame chassis and 500cc motorcycle engines. The new category instantly found its feet as a stepping-stone to more high-profile championships, and among the early F3 icons were drivers like Stuart Lewis-Evans (who was later tragically killed in the 1958 Morocco Grand Prix), Peter Collins, Ken Tyrrell and a certain Bernard Charles Ecclestone.
During the late 1950’s, Formula 3 fell into the shadows and was replaced by the more modern Formula Junior class. In 1964, however, F3 returned with championships in Germany (DDR) and Britain. The new concept would prove an early predecessor to Formula 3 as we know it today, and was built around rules for high-revving, noise-producing 1-litre engines that soon gave the cars their nickname: “screamers”.
In 1971, another set of new regulations were introduced as “aerodynamics” became the word of fashion. Chassis dynamics improved and constructors such as Alpine, March, Lola and Ralt took the lead in the ever-faster development rate of the 1970’s. A decision in 1974 turned Formula 3 into a series for cars with air restricted 2-litre engines, and since then, the engine regulations have more or less remained the same; making it one of the longest-lasting technical stabilities in any global single-seater category.
The 1980’s was the definite breakthrough for F3 as the obvious career choice for young drivers that the class continues to represent. Ayrton Senna, Martin Brundle, Stefan Johansson and a host of other drivers all proved their worth in F3 before taking the step to Grand Prix racing. The decade also gave birth to a very important race which has come to outshine most – and possibly all – other single-seater events on the sub-Formula 1 level; the Formula 3 Intercontinental Cup in Macau, China.
The Macau Grand Prix is run in November of each year and is the only occasion of the season where all the best F3 drivers and teams in the world get to compete against each other. The famous race on the streets of the casino metropolis outside of Hong Kong has become legendary for its drama and magnitude, and the Macau circuit itself is generally viewed as one of the most demanding on the planet. Below are some of the winners since the first race took place in 1983:
Ayrton Senna (1983)
Michael Schumacher (1990)
David Coulthard (1991)
Rickard Rydell (1992)
Takuma Sato (2001)
Lucas di Grassi (2005)
Out of the 29 F3 races that have been run in Macau, nine have been won by drivers who spent the season leading up to the event competing in the British F3 championship. In second place on the all-time charts with six victories sits Formula 3 Euro Series (where Felix Rosenqvist competes for the second successive season in 2012), despite the championship being established as late as 2003. The German and Japanese series share third place in the list over Macau GP triumphs with five wins each.
Felix was one of the drivers invited to take part in the 2010 edition of the Macau Grand Prix. It was to be a successful weekend, which enabled him to come back to contest the Asian street classic for a second time one year later. To read more about how the 2010 and 2011 outings unfolded, please see the information square at the bottom left corner of this page.
Tyre supplier to the Macau Grand Prix, since the start in 1983, is Yokohama.
Beside the Macau Grand Prix, the annual Masters of Formula 3 event at Zandvoort, the Netherlands, is considered another of the most important races on the calendar. The 2011 edition was won by Felix, who also posted the fastest lap on his way towards victory.
Today, Formula 3 is an extremely sophisticated class with wind-tunnel tested cars and the highest grip/power ratio in international single-seater racing. Aerodynamic efficiency is one of the trademarks, leading to high cornering speeds and short braking distances. Several engine manufacturers are involved in Formula 3, but some of the most common include Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volkswagen. The 2-litre power plants develop in excess of 200 bhp and must be based on mass-produced models. Over the last three years, the battle of prestige has intensified dramatically among the marques as a youthful, sporting corporative code – naturally embedded in the very essence of Formula 3 – has become increasingly important. Furthermore, F3 is seen as a good platform for technical R&D and a chance for big car companies to educate engineers in much the same way as drivers opt to refine their skills behind the wheel.
Over the past 25 years, Formula 3 has been the only permanent class on the highest level of junior motor racing to constitute a real benchmark for the future. Starting grids remain rapidly-filled all across the world, and 2011 marked the year when international motor racing body the FIA decided to highlight the category further through the introduction of the new FIA Formula 3 International Trophy. Striving to promote F3 racing further still, the Trophy championship morphed into an official European Championship for 2012, with Felix Rosenqvist one of the drivers to take part in the FIA-sanctioned series (dovetailing it with his assault on Formula 3 Euro Series). The majority of the European Formula 3 Championship season runs in parallel with Formula 3 Euro Series (www.f3euroseries.com), although it also features rounds at the classic Pau Grand Prix street event in southern France and at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps.