Rule changes to spice up British F3
The Cooper Tires British F3 International Series is to feature an exciting new race and qualifying format for 2010, as well as a revised points system, to accommodate the expansion from 20 to 30 races.
Draft sporting regulations, just published and yet to be rubber-stamped by the FIA, propose differing lengths for the three races to be held during the course of each Formula 3 weekend. The first race will follow a single 30-minute qualifying session on the first public day of each meeting, and will run to the half-hour format seen in previous seasons.
On day two, a 20-minute "half points" sprint featuring a "semi-reverse" grid will open proceedings. The meeting will be brought to a thrilling conclusion by a 40-minute feature race designed to place the emphasis on driver stamina, racecraft and mechanical reliability.
"This is the single biggest change to the format of British Formula 3 since the twin-race concept was introduced in the 1990s," said Bernadette Fitzsimons, general manager of championship promoter SRO Motorsports Group, "and we are delighted with the initiative - which came from the teams themselves.
"The reverse-grid sprint race will, I am sure, prove a real crowd-pleaser, and it will provide a chance for drivers who might not otherwise come too close to the podium to get up there. And the 40-minute feature race will offer a great chance of success to those drivers who have looked after their machinery and their tires during the course of the race weekend; it should provide some fascinating results.
"The most important aspect, however, is the additional race start experience that competitors will gain as a result of the expansion to 30 races in one season. It will, I am sure, prove invaluable in their future careers."
The new format in detail
Qualifying: A single 30-minute official qualifying session
Race 1: 30-minute duration. Grid established by competitors' second-fastest times in qualifying. Full points awarded, ie 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-3-2-1 to the top 10 in the International and National classes, with an additional point for the fastest race lap in each class
Race 2: 20-minute duration. Grid established by the finishing order of Race 1, with the best-placed cars in reverse order. The Race 1 victor will perform a podium draw to determine where on the grid he will start - anywhere between sixth and 10th. Points for this race will be awarded on a reduced scale: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 to the top 10 in the International and National classes, but there will be an additional two points awarded for the fastest race lap in each class
Race 3: 40-minute duration. Grid established by competitors' fastest times in qualifying. Full points awarded, as per Race 1
The format revision is welcomed by Jay Bridger, who is one of the most experienced of the drivers so far to have declared. Jay is entering his third season in British F3, at the wheel of a Volkswagen-powered Dallara prepared by the Litespeed F3 team.
"I'm delighted," said Jay, "because I think it will suit drivers who have a bit more experience of F3. The three-race format will make it more interesting for the drivers, and for everyone watching, and it's going to be important to be consistent and to have the car set up right, so that you use the tires correctly. Drivers will need to use their brains a bit and stay out of trouble. I'm working on my fitness a lot more, because if you are not up to scratch fitness-wise it's going to have an effect."
The first outing for the new F3 format will come at Oulton Park at Easter, with qualifying and round one of Cooper Tires British F3 on Saturday 3 April and rounds two and three scheduled for Monday 5th.
Since its inception in 1964, British F3 has provided more graduates to Formula 1 than any other single-seater series worldwide. The list of former British F3 Champions who have gone on to become Grand Prix greats includes Ayrton Senna, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Gunnar Nilsson, Nelson Piquet, Derek Warwick, Stefan Johansson, Johnny Herbert, JJ Lehto, Mika Hakkinen and Rubens Barrichello.
British F3 is sponsored by US tire manufacturer Cooper Tire and is further supported by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and Mirror.co.uk