Stepping up to international racing for the first time this year, Banbury's Will Bratt firmly cemented his place as one of Britain's most promising hopes for a future in Formula One after a strong season in the FIAT Spanish Formula 3 Championship.
Ending the campaign sixth overall, backing up a third place finish in the 2007 Formula Renault UK Championship, the 20-year-old quickly adapted to the demands of F3 and took no time at all to climb onto the podium -- doing so in only his third race.
While the end result of Will's 2008 Formula 3 campaign was good, his year was blighted by some misfortune which certainly cost him several race wins and, therefore, a top three finish in the driver standings.
Continuing his rapid progression, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) Rising Star is now eyeing a graduation to Formula One support category GP2 having seriously impressed in only his second ever GP2 test last month with an outstanding second fastest time.
Instantly creating a buzz among the GP2 teams, Will is now in talks regarding a step-up to the F1 feeder series in 2009 and is working hard to attract additional investors and backers to solidify the financial package which will enable him to line-up on next year's GP2 grid.
"Both runs I've had in GP2 testing have been fantastic, it's an amazing car and I've shown how competitive I am", said Will, "It's the only place I want to be next year and given the required backing we have a great chance to do well in GP2. Our ultimate goal is Formula One, investing in my career now with a move to GP2 is essential."
Having tested twice with British GP2 squad David Price Racing, the University of Oxford under-graduate is currently in serious talks with the squad regarding a race seat for 2009 and, furthermore, the possibility of making his debut sooner in the current GP2 Asia Series.
Will is following a very similar career path to that which the McLaren Formula One team felt was right for 2008 Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton -- Formula Renault UK, Formula 3 and GP2. The difference though is that Will's racing has been on a very limited budget and nothing like the financial backing enjoyed by Hamilton for the last decade.
Balancing a major degree course at the country's most prestigious educational institution with a career in the upper echelons of motorsport confirms the focus, determination, ability and dedication Will has to succeed at the highest level. Combined with stunning natural flair at the wheel of a racing car, the sky really is the limit for the Oxon youngster.
Bratt accelerates career with impressive year in Formula 3 While all efforts are being directed towards his future in GP2 and the aspiration of reaching Formula One within the next few years, it's important to look back on this year's action in Spanish F3 where Will truly arrived on the international stage and produced some terrific performances against some highly experienced rivals.
Making his competitive Spanish F3 race debut with the EmiliodeVillota.com Motorsport team at Jarama, Will instantly impressed by securing fifth and fourth place results in the event's two races.
Next stop on the calendar was Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, a circuit Will had never visited and yet he stunned his championship rivals by taking his first F3 pole position and then went on to secure his maiden Formula 3 podium. The results also lifted Will into the lead of the driver standings, an outstanding achievement.
He explained: "Spa was an incredible weekend, to achieve pole in only my second ever Formula 3 qualifying session was very satisfying and showed exactly what we could do. We should have won there actually but a podium was still a good result. In the second race we were on for a win but I was taken out by another driver, it was a shame but that's racing."
Bad luck compromised the mid-season for Will where he lost the chance of numerous good results through no fault of his own. Although he did score at four of the five race meetings following the Spa-Francorchamps event, misfortune prevented Will from chalking up points as heavily as he would have liked or as his pace deserved.
With typical determination though he bounced back very strongly and during the final two meetings of the season, at Jerez and Barcelona, he finished on the podium at both tracks to climb back into the championship top six.
Achieving season's best results of second place at Jerez and Barcelona, the highlight of the year was undoubtedly the season finale at the Circuit de Catalunya where Will defied all the odds to take a total of 15 points from the weekend at a track he had no experience of.
"Although we had a lot of bad luck, this year was good and I learned a lot racing the F3 car", Will added, "Sixth in the championship wasn't bad considering some of the problems we had but we know we could have easily won the title if things had gone smoothly. As the GP2 tests have shown, I'm ready to step-up another level and GP2 is where I need to be."