The FIA Formula 3 Championship gets underway this weekend in Barcelona. Flying the flag for the Ferrari Driver Academy will be Arthur Leclerc, making his debut in this category.
New category. The long wait is over and competitors in the FIA Formula 3 championship are set to tackle the opening round of the season in Barcelona. For the 30 drivers, it’s a return to the track where pre-season testing ended a fortnight ago, but this weekend the stakes are much higher.
Arthur Leclerc finished second in last year’s Formula Regional series and has been hard at work with the Ferrari Driver Academy engineers to be ready for to tackle a category that is far from easy for rookies. It was clear from the two pre-season tests that there is a very competitive field, but it will take a few races before a clear hierarchy emerges among the runners.
Format renewed. For this year, Formula 3 follows Formula 2 in having a new race weekend format. Friday sees the usual free practice and qualifying, while there are now three races, all of 40 minutes duration, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. The grid for the first of these places the top twelve qualifiers in reverse order, while the second again has a reverse order for the top twelve, based on the result of the first race. The grid order for Sunday’s race sticks to the conventional method of following the order of Friday qualifying. There are no compulsory pit stops to change tyres.
Confidence. “The new format will be a stiff test for the drivers,” commented the Head of the FDA, Marco Matassa. “Qualifying will still be a key moment of the weekend, but not quite as critical as before. The races will now reward consistency and the ability not to make mistakes, which is an important lesson for a driver and of even greater value with this format. Arthur can expect a tough season, not helped by the fact there were only four days of pre-season testing, some of the time affected by bad weather, which is really not enough to familiarise oneself with a car that he has never driven before. But the race weekends will speed up the learning process. The important thing is to adopt the right approach and not make any mistakes.”
Programme. Free practice at Montmeló begins at 10.05 CET on Friday, followed by qualifying at 13.05. Then the action hots up on Saturday with the first race at 10.35 and the second at 16.45. The third and final race in Barcelona gets underway on Sunday at 12.05.