Nasr on the brink of British Formula 3 championship title
Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, Rubens Barrichello, just four of the 11 illustrious names on the list of Brazil-born champions of British Formula 3. Early next month there’s a strong chance that a 12th name, that of Felipe Nasr, will be added to the roll call.
The 19-year-old from Brasilia is hoping that a return over the weekend of 3/4 September to the Rockingham circuit will be a lucky omen, for the Northamptonshire speedway was the venue last year for his maiden Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series victory.
That Rockingham win was Nasr’s sole triumph in 2010 but, since switching to the Carlin team and Volkswagen motive power at the start of the season, Felipe has become the driver against which all the others measure themselves. Twin wins at Monza at the start of the year were followed by victories at Oulton Park, Brands Hatch and the Nürburgring, and then Nasr added another two at Paul Ricard in July to bring his tally for the season so far to seven.
The maths are such that the title should be within Felipe’s reach on the Sunday of Rockingham. He arrives with a 114-point series lead and, by the end of the weekend, he needs to have maintained a 109-point advantage over his closest rival.
“The title is getting closer for me,” said Nasr, “and maybe it will come at Rockingham. It’s a track I really like, and at which I have always been quick. I know it very well and it would be very special to win there and maybe take the championship.”
If he pulls it off, Nasr will be the Carlin team’s fourth successive British Formula 3 Champion, following in the wheeltracks of Jaime Alguersuari and Daniel Ricciardo, both of whom now have regular F1 drives, and last year’s champion, Jean-Eric Vergne.
Nasr’s championship focus offers an opportunity to several drivers to steal some success at the speedway, Will Buller chief among them. Rockingham is Buller’s home track and the Ulster-born and Islip-based 18-year-old arrives there with an impressive recent run of form, having broken his British F3 duck with a win at Paul Ricard and then followed that up with two more at Spa for the Mercedes-backed Fortec Motorsport team. He holds second in the championship, jointly with Carlin driver Carlos Huertas.
Huertas, who was Nasr’s team-mate at Raikkonen Robertson Racing last year, was second at Rockingham in 2010 behind Vergne; the Colombian is still seeking his maiden British F3 race victory. Northants-based Fortec has three race winners on its driving strength: alongside Buller are Westcountryman Harry Tincknell and Brazilian Lucas Foresti, the latter a three-time victor looking for a return to the podium after a spell away. Fortec’s Malaysian pilot Fahmi Ilyas claimed his first championship points in France and will be hungry for more.
The Carlin team is strong in numbers as well as talent. Running as team-mates to the champion elect and to Huertas are race-winning Brits Rupert Svendsen-Cook and Jack Harvey, regular podium man Jazeman Jaafar, and super-fast Dane Kevin Magnussen, son of 1994 British F3 Champion Jan. Kevin’s title challenge didn’t really get underway until the third meeting of the year at Snetterton, where he won two races, and since then he’s won twice more in a season punctuated by bad luck and disappointments. Magnussen recently impressed at Zandvoort, where he finished on the podium in the Masters of F3 on his debut.
The season’s other podium finishers have come from the Hitech Racing team, which will be led into battle at Rockingham by another quick young Brazilian, Pietro Fantin, and from the T-Sport team, whose three-car squad will comprise Menasheh Idafar, Bart Hylkema and Yann Cunha. Idafar - last year’s National Class Champion - has two podium finishes under his belt already but a string of second-half disappointments has left him further down the championship ranking than he deserves.
Double R duo Scott Pye and Pipo Derani will meanwhile be hoping that Rockingham could be their breakthrough meeting; they’ve both shown strong testing pace here. Sino Vision Racing’s Adderly Fong and Hywel Lloyd, tantalizingly close to becoming regulars in the top 10, will be seeking further consolidation in their forward progress.
Hitech driver Kotaro Sakurai can expect to make further strides towards the Rookie class title. The Japanese driver has won the class nine times this season already, and has had things all his own way since his title rival Hylkema moved up to the international class in July. At Rockingham Sakurai will face competition, however, in the shape of Italian Luca Orlandi, who will turn out for local squad Team West-Tec.
British Formula 3 enjoys the headlining support of Cooper Tires and is additionally backed by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and OAMPS.