Gulf Finance House (GFH) backed driver Hamad Al Fardan can reflect on 2007 as the year he truly came of age as a single-seater racing driver. The 20-year-old ended his first season in the Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 International Series third in the National Class driver standings with 12 podium finishes to his name.
The British F3 National Class is run for Formula 3 cars manufactured from 2002 - 2004 and is perfect for rookie drivers to learn the car and the circuits before stepping up the following season to the Championship Class. The class has a tradition of being hotly contested and this year it was widely acknowledged as one of the most competitive and best title races seen for many years.
Despite not having the best start to the year at the opening round of the British F3 International Series at Oulton Park in April, things started to improve for Al Fardan from round 3 at Donington Park where the GFH backed driver scored his first points of the season.
Rounds 5 and 6 of the season saw Bucharest play host to the first overseas race of the 2007 season and for the first time in the championship's history the drivers raced on a stunning street circuit with the Palace of the Parliament, one of the world's largest buildings, as the backdrop. The event proved to be a highlight of the year for Al Fardan as he secured his first British F3 podium finish in race one.
Next up the British F3 International Series travelled to Snetterton in Norfolk where Al Fardan drove his Dallara-Mugen Honda to two more podium finishes and his first second place of the season. Yet another podium finish followed at the second fly- away race of the season at Autodroma Nazionale Monza and after enjoying a rapidly improving first half to the season the Bahraini's mid way point was marked with a visit to Brands Hatch and podium number five.
Rounds 13 and 14 took place on the 4.36-mile Spa Francorchamps circuit in the Ardenne Forest, Belgium, the third and final fly away race weekend of the season. Spa is a place where every racing driver wants to compete and a track that has become a firm favourite on the British F3 International Series calendar.
In race one Al Fardan made up two places to finish 3rd in class and secure his 6th podium of the season but for race two the track was awash after overnight rain and the decision was taken to start the race behind the safety car. Racing commenced on lap three, the field disappearing in a cloud of spray, but as the race entered the 7th lap Al Fardan's teammate Ricardo Teixeira lost control of his Dallara at the bottom of Eau Rouge. Teixeira's car was judged to be in a dangerous position and the Safety Car was deployed for the remainder of the race, Al Fardan finished where he started in fourth position.
After a difficult weekend in Belgium Al Fardan was looking forward to a return to UK and competing in the Unipart F3/GT Festival at Silverstone, the home of the the British Grand Prix, and the on-form Bahraini left the 2.249 mile circuit with his F3 championship very firmly on track. After two more podium finishes Al Fardan had moved up into fourth in the National Class Championship just twenty points behind rival Michael Meadows.
Ultra-fast Thruxton was the next stop for the British F3 fraternity and although Mexico's Sergio Perez and China's Frankie Cheng were already dominating the National Class with 13 wins between them, Al Fardan headed to the Hampshire circuit knowing that if he came away with two more good results third place in the National Class would be well within his reach. Al Fardan did just that with two podium finishes and 27 points, leaving the GFH driver trailing Meadows by just 5 points.
For the penultimate race meeting of the championship the British F3 International Series headed to Croft in North Yorkshire. While Marko Asmer had already runaway with the British F3 Championship Class, the National Class proved to be a much more frantic battle between Mexico's Sergio Perez and China's Frankie Cheng, the two drivers dominating with 15 wins between them. Al Fardan's closest rival Michael Meadows started the season strong with two early race wins but after switching to the Raikkonen Robertson Racing team had failed to repeat his success.
During the second half of the season Meadows continued to battle hard and proved a tough racer for Al Fardan to catch but unlike his British rival Al Fardan had a change of fortune throughout his rookie season. The GFH backed driver headed to the North Yorkshire track hoping to reproduce the form that has seen him clinch ten podium finishes to date but the 20-year-old Bahraini's visit to Croft wasn't easy. As temperatures rose for Saturday's qualifying sessions, the Performance Racing team struggled to gets to grips with setup and additional brake problems left Al Fardan with a mammoth task ahead of him in both races.
A second place finish in race one proved enough for Sergio Perez to become the 2007 British F3 National class champion and in the Championship class Marko Asmer was crowned the 2007 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 International Series Champion despite not finishing the race after a blown engine forced him out of the lead.
Al Fardan had his fair share of challenges to overcome this year and with twenty- eight of the best young drivers across the globe competing in the finale, Rockingham was set to provide the ultimate challenge. Al Fardan was 17 points clear of fourth place man Michael Meadows at the start of the weekend and with the Brit electing not to contest the final round of the season, Al Fardan had already done enough to secure third in the championship before even stepping in his Dallara Mugen Honda.
After two difficult qualifying sessions race day at Rockingham proved to be one of the most challenging of Al Fardan's season. The GFH backed driver made a dream start in race one passing his Mexican rival Sergio Perez for the lead and the young Bahraini was withholding pressure from the National Class Champion brilliantly.
Unfortunately for Al Fardan, Perez was determined to win even if it meant using force and on lap four of the race Al Fardan was hit by Perez from behind and sent into a spin. Al Fardan rejoined the race and eventually finished in third position, his dream of a first win destroyed.
Despite starting from the back of the grid for race two Al Fardan was determined to put the disappointment of race one behind him and he made an outstanding start moving up into third position. But it seemed the finale weekend was destined to bring disappointment for the young Bahraini and on lap 12 he drove his Dallara Mugen Honda into the pits and out of the race thanks to a loss of engine power.
This season was very much a learning year for Al Fardan as he got to grips with the top UK circuits and his Dallara Formula 3 car, but impressive race performances mean the GFH backed driver has finished the season third in class, a truly remarkable feat for his first year racing in the UK.
Commenting on his first season in British F3 Al Fardan said "I had a slightly disappointing end to the year because I think I could've had my first win of the season at Rockingham but I am still happy to have got my twelfth podium and third place in the championship. It's been great to race with all these experienced drivers and I think despite a difficult start to the season I have shown that I have the ability to run with the front runners. I am looking forward to coming back next year and competing for Championship Class wins."
Peter Panayiotou, GFH Acting CEO, declared "It has been an honour watching and supporting Hamad this season. He has been such an inspiration to GFH and the Kingdom of Bahrain and we would like to congratulate him on his third place in the championship in just his first year of racing in the UK."