2008 British Formula 3 season review

2008 British Formula 3 season review

At the end of what has been a rollercoaster of a season, it's interesting -- and probably informative -- to take a look at the season as a whole, and to reflect on who has done well, who has done an average job, and who has been surprisingly good...

At the end of what has been a rollercoaster of a season, it's interesting -- and probably informative -- to take a look at the season as a whole, and to reflect on who has done well, who has done an average job, and who has been surprisingly good or unexpectedly bad. We're not sure how many people would have predicted that Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport) would clinch the Championship Class title in the very last race of the year, beating two of his Carlin team-mates to it, or that the Double R Racing boys would have such an awful year with almost nothing to show for their efforts. For that matter, it's unlikely that anyone would have suggested that the main opposition to Carlin would come not from Fortec or Hitech, in the absence of Double R at the top, but in the shape of T-Sport's Sergio Perez running with no team-mate and a Mugen-Honda power unit behind him.

Jaime Alguersuari.
Photo by Dave Dyer.

This season has been quite a ride in all the categories, even though the National Class result became a somewhat foregone conclusion when Andy Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport) was taken ill and in effect handed the title to Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport). And so, in the order in which they finished the season, here are our probably less than reverent thoughts on the year just ended, starting with the Championship Class, and then moving on to cover the somewhat less fraught National Class, and ending with a quick look at the Invitation Class (as they couldn't score points, they're in alphabetic order).

The Championship Class

1st: Jaime Alguersuari

He rarely put a foot wrong and seemed far better able to cope with the pressure of being a Red Bull driver than Hartley did. Apparently bullet- proof both in dealings with officialdom and in first lap melees, he upped his game when he needed to and snatched the championship from under Turvey's nose. Remained gracious in defeat and in victory, though that may just mean he keeps his own council and doesn't show his feelings in public, also unlike Hartley.
High Point: Donington Park
Low Point: Oulton Park (1st Race)
Media Friendliness: 9/10

2nd: Oliver Turvey

He got so close... It wasn't a dramatic performance. Once he'd got his degree course final exams over with (he said it wasn't affecting him but he was more focussed afterwards) and could really concentrate it was a rock solid, consistent season where he rarely made a mistake, and it saw this least flashy of drivers get within an inch of the title. Really, in the end, he was beaten by the luckier man, though the misjudged qualifying tactics in the final race of the year didn't help, leaving him with just too much to do to beat Alguersuari.
High Point: Spa
Low Point: Spa
Media Friendliness: 8/10

3rd: Brendon Hartley

If ever a driver was his own harshest critic, then Brendon is that driver. Admittedly he did make some really daft mistakes (wiping himself and Alguersuari out of the Oulton Park race, crashing out at Snetterton while leading by over a second), but his turn of speed round the streets of Bucharest was hair-raising in the same way that Michael Schumacher at Spa in his first ever F1 qualifying was. It took a combination of bravery and raw talent of levels you don't see that often to pull off a lap like that between those unforgiving walls. By his own (repeated) admissions, his mistakes basically killed off his championship challenge, but a second year in the category should see him up where he really should have been this season.
High Point: Bucharest
Low Point: Snetterton
Media Friendliness: 9/10 (though he obviously doesn't enjoy it)

4th: Sergio Perez

It could have been a giant-killing success of startling proportions, but for a variety of reasons it didn't quite come off. Sergio had some bad luck and was the victim of other people's idiocy (thank you Max Chilton), but ultimately has nothing to reproach himself for. Replacing the fast but erratic Rodolfo Gonzalez, and working without the safety net of a team-mate (and thus with no-one to compare data with or get a tow from), no one at the start of the season would have expected the results the little Mexican managed. His charges from the back at Monza were awesome, especially given that T-Sport are still running the Mugen-Honda power block rather than the all-conquering Mercedes engine. It will be fascinating to see how he gets on in GP2.
High Point: Monza
Low Point: Bucharest
Media Friendliness: 10/10

5th: Marcus Ericsson

Possibly the revelation of the season, not much was expected from the teenager (he was all of 17 years old at the start of the year) due to his lack of single seater experience. However, he surprised everyone with his talent, pace and aggression, and the only surprising thing is the fact that he didn't manage to win a race. The biggest problem he faced was that he made a number of mistakes, but they were the mistakes of inexperience, and he certainly didn't make any of them twice. He might have been better off in a more collaborative team than Fortec or with at least one full time team-mate with talent to share data with. With Kenny Brack behind him, it'll be interesting to see just how far the youngster can progress.
High Point: 4 second places and a lap record at Snetterton
Low Point: Not winning a single race
Media Friendliness: 7/10

6th: Atte Mustonen

The disappointment of the season. Hopes were high for the Finn after 2007, when he'd often shown blinding speed (if rather too little common sense) and it looked as if a year more of maturity might make him one of the front runners. As it turned out his year was a massive flop, with the man from Heinola appearing dispirited and demotivated pretty much from the start, in a team that appeared to have lost its way badly too. They both need to find some speed from somewhere at Macau next month if they are to salvage anything from a year gone badly awry.
High Point: Rockingham
Low Point: The rest of the 2008 season
Media Friendliness: -10/10

7th: Sebastian Hohenthal

Described by someone else in the press office as "blindingly fast but mad as a box of frogs" the Swede had a dire half season at Fortec before opting not to continue with them. He wasn't helped by being one of two Swedes there, and was even further hindered by being the one with the least money - to say nothing of a reputation to rebuild after the Mansell debacle of 2007. He wasn't likely to fare well under those circumstances, especially as Ericsson had nothing to lose and he had everything to prove. It remains to be seen whether his career can be resuscitated one more time, though it would be a shame if it can't.
High Point: Winning at Rockingham
Low Point: Being outpaced by Ericsson too often
Media Friendliness: 20/10

8th: Michael Devaney

He was dominant at Snetterton (especially after Hartley threw himself on his own sword), thus proving that actually there's nothing much wrong with the Mygale now, and also that the Norfolk circuit usually throws up a rogue result. Mick's masses of experience were meant to make the car and team look good and he did but by the end, the lack of useful input from Teixeira and Jackson meant he was pretty much doing the job alone.
High Point: Snetterton
Low Point: Croft
Media Friendliness: 8/10

9th: Nick Tandy

Now this really was a giant-killing performance. In a brand new to the category small family-run team, with the Mygale chassis, and with a driver who at 23 could be regarded as a little long in the tooth, not much was expected of the team or of Tandy himself. However, they delivered the results, frightening some of the more established teams in the process. Nick's years of Formula Ford paid off in the pack and his natural aggression was tempered with race craft that meant he often punched above the outfit's combined weight. With plans for more of the same next year - though hopefully with three team-mates to help him out - he could well end the season at or near the top of the table.
High Point: 2nd at Donington
Low Point: Taking himself out at Monza
Media Friendliness: 10/10

10th: Max Chilton/14th: Walter Grubmuller

I'm taking these two as a pair because really the results they have managed have been equally feeble, especially given how much money seems to be washing about at Hitech. The main problem seems to have stemmed from the refusal of both sets of parents to consider that their sons might have benefitted from the presence of a quick and experienced team-mate (could they have found one willing to join them after 2007 - certainly Gonzalo Rodriguez refused to play and Seb Hohenthal preferred to stay at Fortec). Just because they were quick in pre-season testing didn't mean they were going to be on the pace anywhere else. Their dismal results have led to a malaise within the team which means they're probably at the bottom of the list of teams that anyone will want to join for 2009. There was the odd flash of something from one or other of them but it was never enough to look like anything more than a false dawn, and Chilton's reaction to Perez passing him at Bucharest was simply childish petulance which deserved the 10 place grid penalty he got handed at Donington as a reward.
High Point: Chilton - Pole position at Monza; Grubmuller - 4th at Monza
Low Point: Chilton - Deliberately driving Perez off at Bucharest; Grubmuller - The rest of his season
Media Friendliness: 6/10 (Chilton), 3/10 (Grubmuller)

11th: Sam Abay

Came from Formula BMW with the usual issues (in other words he was used to driving something you have to throw at the corners, and that is distinctly tail-happy). Abay paid attention to his more experienced team-mates and took what Carlin could teach him, applying it steadily throughout the season. He was sometimes frustrated that he couldn't outpace Alguersuari, Hartley and Turvey, but by the end of the year he could keep up with them. This typically grounded Aussie showed intelligence and aggression in a healthy balance (apart from when he got a bit over-excited at Silverstone and took himself out of what could have been his first podium position) and improved steadily as the year went on.
High Point: Spa/Donington
Low Point: Silverstone
Media Friendliness: 10/10

12th: Esteban Guerrieri

Came in when he was needed and did what he had to do, which was prove that the Ultimate run Mygale was quick, it was the other drivers that weren't. Moved up to World Series Renault when Jackson appeared brandishing a bag of money and wanted his car. With the amount of experience Esteban has you would expect him to be quick and so it proved, especially at Bucharest. Really, if the team had thought it through, they might have been better taken the financial hit and keeping the Argentinean rather than replacing him with Jackson, however much cash the Irishman had to offer.
High Point: Monza/Bucharest
Low Point: Having his drive handed to Jackson
Media Friendliness: 10/10

13th: John Martin

Oh dear, oh dear. Showed the odd flash of talent last year (that move at Bucharest springs to mind) but there was no sign at all of any life on planet Martin this season. His qualifying was usually dismal and things on that front didn't improve until Anthony "Boyo" Hieatt took over engineering his car. Even then the results didn't come, partly it seems due to the lack of communication between driver and team, and partly due to the shambles that Double R Racing became this season.
High Point: Bucharest again
Low Point: The rest of the year
Media Friendliness: 0/10

15th: Henry Arundel

Another who seems to have made little to no progress this season, and in fact gave quite a good impression of being a complete non-entity. The fact that his old Formula BMW bite noire Henry Surtees, driving a National Class car in his first ever F3 event, kept him at bay in the last races of the year is testament to the fact that he has not mastered this F3 thing at all convincingly.
High Point. None that you'd notice
Low Point: Donington
Media Friendliness: 0/10

16th: Dean Smith

May well prove to be a promising talent for the future. Turned up at the last meeting of the year and blew a lot of the regulars into the weeds, qualifying very well indeed, and mixing it with the Carlin boys and Tandy in the race. It may just be he knows Donington well, but he managed to make Ericsson look average over the course of the weekend...
High Point: Donington
Low Point: Not having started in the category 10 meetings earlier
Media Friendliness: 6/10

17th: Ali Jackson

Some people never learn. Jackson appears to be one of them. A change of team halfway through the season simply led to even worse results, a lot of his problems apparently stemming from the over-aggressive driving style he seems unable to jettison even though it's a given that to be successful in F3 smoothness is what's required. Another driver to not exactly endear himself to the National Class boys, he regularly ran alongside - or even behind - Ricardo Teixeira, which tells you all you need to know about his talent levels.
High Point: I can't recall one
Low Point: Hospitalising himself at Brands Hatch
Media Friendliness: 2/10

18th: Philip Major

The Canadian arrived unheralded and with a great deal still to learn. He seems to have failed to do so and in fact is still floundering round the back of the grid getting in the way of the National Class boys and showing little to no indication of talent.
High Point: None
Low Point: His entire season
Media Friendliness: 0/10

19th: Viktor Jensen

Not exactly Icelandic, whatever it says on his license. After a spell in FPA, which really doesn't seem to equip any driver for F3, made the mistake of joining Nexa and really struggled. The lack of a race engineer didn't help, nor did the lack of a team-mate, any useful data or seemingly any power in the engine they were using. It's hard to say whether Viktor has any talent or not, and unless he gets into a decent team we may never know. Wisely, he made a strategic withdrawal halfway through the season, rather than wasting any more money in a no-win situation.
High Point:
Low Point:
Media Friendliness: 8/10

20th: Ricardo Teixeira

If he's an Angolan, I'm a Dutchman and so is Lynne. For one thing I'm sure back in 2002 when he failed to turn up he was registered as Brazilian, and I'm equally sure he's been Portuguese as well... Bless him. He's a lovely guy, seriously lovely, and he's not dangerous anymore, but he really doesn't have the ability to race at this - or probably any - level, witness his panic at Croft when he started 8th on the grid and promptly outbraked himself at Clervaux, taking Hartley with him. However, he was as quick as Jackson by the time the Irishman vanished from the series, and he at least tended not to impede the National Class boys if he found himself amongst them. He was actually very unlucky to remain pointless all year and he was certainly less of a hazard to shipping than the likes of Major.
High Point: Qualifying 8th at Croft
Low Point: Crashing out at Croft
Media Friendliness: 10/10

National Class

1st: Jay Bridger

Looked unforgivably grumpy whenever he was beaten by anyone else (which happened rarely after Meyrick went missing) and really took exception when it was his team-mate. Drove well and consistently most of the year but we'll always wonder what might have been - and so, most likely, will he.
High Point: Being handed the championship
Low Point: Spa
Media Friendliness: 2/10

2nd: Steven Guerrero

Apart from a nasty tendency to wander off when he was needed - he missed several top three press conferences - the Colombian seemed to be progressing as the year went on through he could be amazingly inconsistent on occasions. He probably has the most enthusiastic fan club though...
High Point: Silverstone
Low Point: Having to attend press conferences
Media Friendliness: 1/10 where press conferences are concerned, otherwise 6/10

3rd: Hywel Lloyd

Not much was expected of the Welshman in his - and his family-run team's - first year in the category, but he actually turned out to be pretty impressive, as did they. He rarely made a mistake, although he did struggle a little to get on the pace at circuits they didn't already know. However, he also ended the year with less than 700 GBR worth of damage in total, which is extremely impressive.
High Point: Silverstone
Low Point: Thruxton
Media Friendliness: 10/10

4th: Stefan Wilson

Let's get the main problem out of the way right now. He's too damn tall at 6' 3" (but then so was his brother and it doesn't seem to have stopped him). How on earth he raced go-karts is beyond us, frankly. It didn't seem to be slowing him down any in F3 either, with some good results despite really not getting on with his team-mate.
High Point: Spa
Low Point: Spa (and finding out just how much his team-mate didn't like him)
Media Friendliness: 7/10

5th: Andrew Meyrick

Surprisingly quick from the get-go, until illness put him out of contention. In retrospect it seems that the brain infection that floored him may have been brewing for some time as his last couple of outings seemed subdued compared to the way he'd started off. Suffice to say that if he'd run a complete season in full health it's unlikely that Bridger would have claimed the title.
High Point: Scoring all but 1 of the available points in the first four races
Low Point: Two weeks in intensive care.
Media Friendliness: 9/10

6th: Salman Al Khalifa

A gentleman and in fact a gentleman racer of the old school in many ways, and at 27 more mature by a good few years than the rest of the runners. He should probably have been born 50 years ago because he would have fitted right in in that era. However, he gave a good account of himself and was consistently on the podium, though victory eluded him until the later stages of the season.
High Point: Winning at Bucharest
Low Point: Silverstone where he inadvertently wiped Wilson out (he was very apologetic afterwards)
Media Friendliness: 10/10

7th: Kristjan Einar

Genuinely Icelandic, right down to the Cod War t-shirt! Started on the back foot with very little experience (they were originally thinking of Formula BMW), and a massive weight disadvantage at 90+ kilos. Worked very hard on his fitness, and steadily lost weight as the year wore on, though he's still rather large for a racing driver. His results didn't improve much - which is not surprising considering how much he has to learn still, and sadly things actually went downhill once Meyrick was out of action and there was no one to compare data with. The irrepressible Icelander thinks a lot about his racing and it's a shame that he may well end up a victim of his country's current financial meltdown before anyone finds out what he can do.
High Point: Podium at Monza.
Low Point: Being taken out of commission at Bucharest.
Media Friendliness: 20/10 (yes, we know...)

8th: Craig Reiff

Looked completely out of his depth and utterly terrified in the few races he competed in. Needed at least a season in something like Formula Ford, rather than a half season patchily strung together at a team like Nexa. Completely wasted his time and money.
High Point: You're joking, right?
Low Point: Spa most likely
Media Friendliness: 1/10 (like a rabbit caught in the headlights)

=9th: Niall Quinn

Did the best he could with the Team Loctite car and insufficient funding. He at least managed a podium placing, though more by luck than judgment. Looking at how patchy his career has been so far one can only assume the money then ran out.
High Point: A podium placing
Low Point: As with Williams, getting to drive the Team Loctite car
Media Friendliness: 5/10

=9th: Jonathan Legris

Came in with what might have been a rather over-confident attitude, and got off to a good start only to have things go a bit pear-shaped after a podium at Brands. Again, to be fair, it's hard to know how good he might be as the Litespeed is a long way from competitive yet.
High Point: Brands Hatch
Low Point: Again, the remainder of his season
Media Friendliness: 7/10

11th: Henry Surtees

Was rapid straight out of the box in the final two races at Donington. Certainly gave Bridger something to think about and appears to be something of a chip off the old block. Looks more like a rugby player but drives very well indeed.
High Point: His debut outing
Low Point: Having to fend off Arundel in the first race (there appears to be no love lost there)
Media Friendliness: 8/10

12th: Jordan Williams

Drove the team Loctite car on a couple of occasions, when he wasn't too busy with his exams. As the Loctite guys also gave a good impression of being out of their depth, I suspect he didn't much enjoy the experience. At least he knew the team, having had a number of outings with them in 2007 in FBMW.
High Point: Getting to drive an F3 car
Low Point: Getting to drive Team Loctite's F3 car
Media Friendliness: 10/10

13th: Adriano Buzaid

He came in for one round at the end of the season, presumably with an eye to joining in full time in 2009. Didn't look quite as impressive as Surtees but wasn't far off. He did crash out in qualifying but anyone can do that. Looked pretty reasonable in the races themselves and netted a podium placing.
High Point: Podium placing in his first F3 race
Low Point: Crashing out of first qualifying at Donington
Media Friendliness: 9/10

14th: Callum Macleod

Supposedly quick but failed to impress in the Litespeed F3 which is not surprising. However, and perhaps more seriously, wasn't exactly the fastest thing on 4 wheels in the T-Sport car at the end of the season, Granted he stepped in at the last minute to replace Al Khalifa in an already well set- up car, and he did set the fastest National Class lap in the second race, but he was nowhere in an admittedly odd qualifying session or in the results. Rumours persist of an attitude problem, which won't help his cause any.
High Point: Being offered the T-Sport car
Low Point: The Litespeed
Media Friendliness: -20/10

15th: Martin O'Connell

A one-off appearance in Meyrick's car at Brands didn't rekindle the glory days, but it's unlikely he expected them to. Now much bigger (and with even less hair) since the days when he frightened the Class A runners with his pace, Martin was pretty much making up the numbers and he knew it.
High Point: Being allowed back in an F3 car
Low Point: Discovering it's been rather too long.
Media Friendliness: 10/10 (back in the day, 2/10)

Invitation Class

Daniel Campos Hull

Won one of the invitation class races at Spa, which wasn't difficult as he only had to beat Shaaban, but managed to get embroiled with the Scandinavians in the first race, and they bundled him off. It was a lot rougher out there then he'd been expecting.
High Point: Spa (Race 1)
Low Point: Spa (Race 2)
Media Friendliness: 7/10

Matteo Chinosi

He caused a great deal of controversy by qualifying on pole for one of the Monza races, with most people refusing to believe that his time could possibly be legitimate. It proved pretty academic when the race started and he ended up swamped by the squabbling pack. He did at least seem to be enjoying himself in a higher level of competition than he's been used to this year.
High Point: Qualifying on pole
Low Point: Getting mugged by the Championship Class boys
Media Friendliness: 8/10

Clemente de Faria Jr.

Came in from Brazil, raced in the points scoring categories, took one look at how rough it was and went away, returning to do the final round of the series in the Invitation Class with the Cesario F3 boys behind him. He wasn't exactly quick - but then neither was Alberto Valerio when he did the same thing - and he didn't endear himself to Alguersuari when the Spaniard had to lap him
High Point: Probably the flight back to Brazil
Low Point: His inability to see blue flags at Donington
Media Friendliness: Smiled a lot but said nothing. 5/10

Federico Leo

Thrown in at the deep end at Monza - after half a season in German F3 (which is sadly not the category it used to be) he looked as if he has an awful lot still to learn.
High Point: Being allowed to play with the big boys
Low Point: Being allowed to play with the big boys!
Media Friendliness: 0/10 (However, he may not speak English well so it's hard to rate him)

Oliver Oakes

After starting out at Snetterton with an inexperienced team and a singularly unsorted car, went away, thought about it, and decided to use the remainder of the season as a learning year. Consequently he opted to go down the Invitation Class route, thus being allowed to test as much as he wanted and also not having to worry about scoring points. He - and the team - improved steadily as the year went on, though the car is still a long way off the pace. He was aided by the odd weather conditions at Donington in second qualifying but still managed to acquit himself reasonably well in the race and wasn't swamped by as many of the current front runners as you might have expected.
High Point: Qualifying on pole for Donington
Low Point: Snetterton, when they realised there was an awful lot of work to do
Media Friendliness: 6/10

Basil Shaaban

Basil is too big and too heavy to be a driver. He makes Einar look positively small, and he's not exactly quick either but he's about all Lebanon has in the way of motor sports practitioners at present, a situation that seems unlikely to change any time soon. With a degree in astrophysics from Berkeley he's not short on brains, and can certainly talk a good race. Despite his campaign to be the first Arab driver in F1, he doesn't really seem to harbour any illusions about the likelihood of it happening and in any case he's really too old now.
High Point: A podium at Spa
Low Point: Failing to finish at Spa
Media Friendliness: 15/20

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About this article
Series BF3
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Martin O'Connell , Basil Shaaban , Kenny Brack , Ricardo Teixeira , Rodolfo Gonzalez , Walter Grubmuller , Michael Devaney , Dean Smith , Jonathan Legris , Alberto Valerio , Phillip Major , Steven Guerrero , Brendon Hartley , Sergio Perez , Niall Quinn , Henry Arundel , Oliver Turvey , Esteban Guerrieri , Max Chilton , Sebastian Hohenthal , John Martin , Atte Mustonen , Viktor Jensen , Henry Surtees , Jordan Williams , Marcus Ericsson , Sam Abay , Clemente de Faria Jr. , Stefan Wilson , Jay Bridger , Jaime Alguersuari , Nick Tandy , Andy Meyrick , Kristjan Einar , Craig Reiff , Oliver Oakes , Adriano Buzaid , Federico Leo , Matteo Chinosi , Hywel Lloyd
Teams Williams , Carlin