After a long winter with record-low temperatures almost all across Europe, it is finally time to let engines roar again as teams and drivers prepare for the first round of battle in the 2010 German Formula 3 championship, the ATS Formula 3 Cup - a series steeped in tradition that has given us some of the world's finest ever drivers.
Felix Rosenqvist and his Performance Racing team have been hard at work to find the optimum balance in the set-up jungle that is Formula 3, and despite some setbacks - including a cancelled test at a snowy Nürburgring circuit - progress has been consistently made at venues like Silverstone and Dijon-Prenois. Felix will make his F3 debut this weekend, as will his team-mate Alon Day from Israel, and is set to need a couple of races in order to get fully up to speed - but pre-season testing has indicated an impressive early form, and Felix even went quickest of all in the two most recent sessions held at Assen and Hockenheim.
Even though Felix comes well-prepared to the ATS Formula 3 Cup curtain-raiser, there are others who, on paper at least, should have a slight advantage. Formula Renault dominants Motopark Academy have abandoned their parade class to focus unreservedly on Formula 3 for 2010, and by means of having better knowledge of Oschersleben than any other squad (the team is based within the circuit gates), Timo Rumpfkeil's cars will have to live with being pre-race favourites for success here. Former Formula 1 driver Jan Magnussen's son, Kevin Magnussen, has set some good times in winter testing and Motopark Academy know every bump at Oschersleben like the back of their hands. One of the three Swedish drivers in the championship, Jimmy Eriksson, is on the team's driver line-up together with Magnussen, Rene Binder and Luis Derani.
Reigning champions Van Amersfoort Racing are likely to sport a front-running challenge again this year. 2009 runner-up Stef Dusseldorp remains in the championship to try to go one better, while Daniel Abt - the latest progeny from the famous Abt family - steps up to Formula 3 having won the ADAC Formula Masters title last season. The Van Amersfoort Racing line-up is completed by Austrian Willi Steindl.
Philip Forsman has secured a drive with HS Technik Motorsport to make sure that three out of six drivers in the Swedish national motor racing team will race in German F3 this year. Forsman follows the same route as Felix after spending last season in Swedish and Scandinavian Formula Renault, where he was a front-runner in the very same championships Felix eventually won. Other names of interest ahead of the Oschersleben opener include Brandl Motorsport duo Markus Pommer (third in last year's standings) and Marco Sörensen, as well as Angola's Luís Sá Silva - who Felix actually raced during his single-seater debut season in Asia back in 2007. Furthermore, ex-F1 driver Mika Salo's own team ArtLine Racing will field two cars for 18-year-old Finn Aleksi Tuukkanen and Riccardo Brutschin of Germany, 17. ArtLine Racing is the only team not to use Dallara chassis in this season's championship, having instead decided to forge its efforts around two Arttech F24 cars.
It is worth mentioning that the ATS Formula 3 Cup points system more or less resembles what was used in Formula 1 between 2003-2009, with 10 points for victory, 8 for second, 6 for third etc. (view the entire scale here). A driver putting his car on Pole Position or setting the fastest race lap is awarded an additional point. Each race weekend consists of free practice, two qualifying sessions and two races, taking the maximum achievable number of points per meeting to 24 (10+10 for victory, 1+1 for Pole Position and 1+1 for fastest race lap).
Who eventually ends up fastest and leaves Oschersleben with the widest smile remains to be seen, but the 2010 season already promises big drama and close, memorable racing. Follow everything that happens at www.felixracing.se - this year with more in-depth coverage than ever before.
ATS Formula 3 Cup - Oschersleben