2020 FIA Formula 3 Season Preview

Photo Credits: Formula Motorsport Ltd

The second season of the new era of the FIA Formula 3 championship kicks off supporting the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend. Whilst the majority of last year’s front runners have moved up, the 2020 grid certainly is not short of talent. Here is a team-by-team guide to this year’s Formula 3 season.

There is little in terms of rule changes going into this season, the biggest change is that in the Sunday races, the top 10 will be reversed rather than the top 8. But there is plenty of driver changes going into this new season.

Prema Racing
1. Oscar Piastri
2. Frederik Vesti
3. Logan Sargeant

The Italian team were runaway champions last year, dominating the constructors, and finishing 1-2-3 in the drivers, with Robert Shwartzman taking title honours. All 3 of their drivers have graduated to Formula 2 which means they have an all new line-up for 2020. Their lineup consists of last year’s Formula Renault Eurocup champion and Renault junior Oscar Piastri, 2019 Formula Regional Championship winner Frederik Vesti, whilst Logan Sargeant moves to the team from Carlin to contest his second season in the series.

Verdict: I think we can safely say Prema are title favourites once again going into this season, however other teams have strong lineups so I am unsure they will be as dominant as last year. Oscar Piastri and Frederik Vesti are proven talents, as evident in the way they won their respective championships last year. The latter took part in the Macau Grand Prix last year and acquitted himself well with the car. Both Piastri and Vesti will be title contenders this year. Logan Sargeant will have his work cut out to beat his team-mates but he showed some flashes of speed last year and his experience could be valuable to the team.

Hitech Grand Prix
4. Max Fewtrell
5. Liam Lawson
6. Dennis Hauger

Hitech had a very successful season last year, being the lead non-Prema in the standings in the form of Juri Vips, who even looked like he could challenge the Premas for the title. This year they have an all new line-up of drivers affiliated with F1 teams, with Renault junior Max Fewtrell moving over from ART and Red Bull junior Liam Lawson moving over from MP Motorsport, both in their second season in the championship. Whilst Norwegian Red Bull junior Dennis Hauger makes his debut, graduating to F3 after success in many Formula 4 championships last year, including a victory in Italian F4.

Verdict: Hitech have a very strong line-up, with 3 drivers capable of winning races this year and I could see them giving Prema a run for their money. The driver from this team I think is most likely to challenge for the title is Dennis Hauger, his previous success is an indicator that he will be fast from the get-go. Max Fewtrell and Liam Lawson had a regular presence in the top 10 last season, the latter having most of his best moments on Sunday reverse grid races. With a season under their belt they will likely be better this year, although whether either of them can challenge for the title may be a bit of a long shot.

ART Grand Prix
7. Theo Pourchaire
8. Aleksandr Smolyar
9. Sebastian Fernandez
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The dominant team in this series’ previous iteration struggled last year, taking only a single victory and struggled against the Premas and the Hitechs, which was a bit of a shock considering the car is an evolution of what they were previously so dominant with. This year they have an all new line-up, in the form of 2019 ADAC Formula 4 champion Theo Pourchaire, Alexandr Smolyar, who graduates after finishing in third in the Formula Renault Eurocup last year, whilst Sebastian Fernandez moves to the team from Campos for his second season.

Verdict: I think ART will have a much stronger season than they did last year and will be back to regularly winning races. I believe most of the victories will come from Theo Pourchaire. As the reigning champion of the ADAC F4 series, beating other highly regarded drivers such as Dennis Hauger and Arthur Leclerc, like Dennis Hauger I can see him hitting the ground running instantly. However I don’t see them challenging for the constructors as I don’t believe their line-up is as strong as that of Prema’s or Hitech’s. Alexandr Smolyar may be fast enough to take a win or two, particularly in a Sunday sprint race, but I have doubts about whether he is fast enough to challenge the likes of Vesti, Hauger or Pourchaire in his first year, whilst Sebastian Fernandez did not score any points last year. I can see him challenging at the lower ends of the top 10 now he is with a better team, but winning races will be tricky.

Trident
10. Lirim Zendeli
11. David Beckmann
12. Olli Caldwell

Like ART, Trident were a disappointment last year considering their various success with the previous iteration of this car, but only won a single race last year. This year they have two drivers with experience, with Lirim Zendeli moving over from Charouz and David Beckmann returns to the team in a last minute deal. Whilst Olli Caldwell makes his debut after contesting the Macau Grand Prix with the team, after finishing in fifth in last year’s Formula Regional Championship.

Verdict: I think one of the surprises of the season will come from David Beckmann. As a driver with experience and proven pace in the previous iteration of this car, I expected him to be a true contender last year moving to ART. However he was nowhere last season, finishing a disappointing fourteenth in the standings. Now he is back with the team where he took dominant wins in both Spa and Monza in the 2018 GP3 series. He had struggled till he moved to Trident midseason, when he suddenly became one of the fastest drivers in the series. If he can find his rhythm again, he can be a contender. As for their other two, Lirim Zendeli struggled in his first F3 season, but a few Sunday reverse grid podiums is a reasonable target for him, same really can be said for Olli Caldwell, who will probably also find himself mid-pack when the season gets underway.

HWA Racelab
14. Enzo Fittipaldi
15. Jake Hughes
16. Jack Doohan
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HWA Racelab had their moments last year, courtesy of Jake Hughes, who scored the majority of their points. This year Jake Hughes is back for his fourth season at this level on the F1 support bill. He is joined by two rookies. 2019 Formula Regional runner up Enzo Fittipaldi, grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi makes the step into F3, whilst Jack Doohan, son of motorcycle great Mick Doohan, moves to F3 having competed in the Euroformula Open and the F3 Asias series in 2019, finishing runner up in the latter.

Verdict: HWA could be dark horses this season. Enzo Fittipaldi will probably be fast out of the blocks and I could see him challenging for Saturday wins throughout the season. Jack Doohan, whilst he hasn’t had as much success as Enzo, has shown flashes of speed in the various championships he has done and has the potential to be a Sunday reverse grid master. Alongside these two rookies they have gone for experience in Jake Hughes, who I believe will have a similar season to what he had last year, being a consistent front runner and taking a win or two.

MP Motorsport
17. Richard Verschoor
18. Bent Viscaal
19. Lukas Dunner

MP Motorsport had a fairly average season last year, however they had their moment at the Macau Grand Prix when Richard Verschoor took a memorable victory, repelling the advances of Juri Vips. Verschoor remains with the team for a second season, and joining him will be fellow Dutch driver Bent Viscaal, who moves over from HWA and Austrian Lukas Dunner, who moves over after finishing third in the Euroformula Open in 2019.

Verdict: Richard Verschoor will be one to watch this year. I said this at the time of his Macau win and I am still saying it now, I feel like his Macau win was the launch pad for a title challenge in 2019, and I believe he will make headlines this season. Lukas Dunner has shown flashes of speed throughout his career and whilst I am not expecting him to be a regular challenger for wins, I could see him having his moments in Sunday sprint races.

Jenzer Motorsport
20. Calan Williams
21. Federico Malvestiti
22. Matteo Nannini

After a season with moderate success, which included a win for Yuki Tsunoda, but all the team’s points coming from Yuki as his team-mates struggled, Jenzer have signed three rookies, in the form of Calan Williams, who moves over from Euroformula Open, Federico Malvestiti, who moves over from the Formula Renault Eurocup and completed a single race weekend with the team in this series at Silverstone last year, and Matteo Nannini, nephew of Alessandro Nannini, who has moved to F3 having taken part in the Formula Regional European championship last year as well as winning the F4 UAE series.

Verdict: I can’t help but feel Jenzer will struggle this season. None of the three drivers have made headlines in any of the representative championships that they took part in last year, all finishing mid-pack, and with only 10 points scorers from 30 drivers, it is going to be a real challenge for them. Out of the three drivers, I believe Calan Williams will be the fastest out of them judging by his pace in Euroformula Open, I feel like he will be capable of picking up some lower points throughout the year, but I can’t help but feel Jenzer will be competing at the bottom of the constructors table this season.

Charouz Racing System
23. Niko Kari
24. Igor Fraga
25. David Schumacher

After a season consigned to the midfield last year, Charouz will be hoping for better things this year. They have signed Niko Kari, who moves over from Trident to compete in his fourth season at this level on the F1 support bill. He is joined by two rookies, in the form of eSports royalty Igor Fraga, having finished third in the Formula Regional championship last year and won the Toyota Racing Series during the winter, and David Schumacher, son of former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher and nephew of F1 legend Michael Schumacher, who takes part in the series following a campaign in Formula Regional last year which saw him finish fourth, a year that also competed in the final round of the F3 season last year with Campos.

Verdict: Charouz will have their moments, however it will be hard for them to make an impact on the constructors table. I can see Igor Fraga having some Sunday sprint race heroics during the season, he has shown strong pace in most the series that he has competed in, and podiums could be doable. Niko Kari has shown pace in the past in GP3 but he has struggled since being dropped from the Red Bull junior programme but could bounce back. Whilst David Schumacher has the pace to score some solid points every now and then for the team.

Carlin Buzz Racing
26. Clement Novalak
27. Enaam Ahmed
28. Cameron Das

Carlin endured a tough year in 2019 in this series, finishing second from bottom of the table. This year, they have signed three rookies, in the form of reigning British F3 champion Clement Novalak, who knows the team well having raced for them in two seasons in that championship, former European F3 driver Enaam Ahmed, who moves back to racing in Europe after a stint in the Japanese F3, and Cameron Das, who comes over from Euroformula.

Verdict: Carlin have signed three drivers all well known to them, all three have raced for the team in the past. And this could be beneficial. Enaam Ahmed could end up being one to watch this year, whilst he hasn’t really challenged for a title since winning BRDC British F3 in 2017, he has been a consistent front runner, and I could see him taking wins. Clement Novalak also goes in as a credible driver, who I also could see challenging up front as well. Whilst Cameron Das, whilst unlikely to challenge for wins could potentially score some respectable points for the team. Carlin will have a better year in 2020.

Campos Racing
29. Alex Peroni
30. Alessio Deledda
31. Sophia Florsch

Campos endured a miserable season in this championship last year, scoring a mere 5 points all scored by Alex Peroni and ending up bottom of the table. Peroni returns this season after his 2019 got curtailed by his horrific accident at Monza. He is joined by Alessio Deledda, who takes part in his second season with the team, and Sophia Florsch, who moves to F3 after a season in the Formula Regional championship, which saw her finish in seventh.

Verdict: Watch out for Alex Peroni. Whilst all everyone remembers is his horrific crash in Monza, it is easy to forget he was having his best race of the season, running well inside the top 10 before the accident. This summed up his season in many ways, there were many occasions he was set for a solid result before bad luck intervened. With a year of experience I could see him being a regular points scorer this year, maybe even challenge for a Sunday win or two. Whilst Sophia Florsch I could see knocking on the door of the points positions on multiple occasions.

As mentioned before, this year Prema are the obvious favourites for the constructors, however I believe teams like Hitech will give them more of a run for their money. Taking everything into this account, this is my verdict on what the final drivers and teams standings will look like, only including the drivers confirmed for the start of the season, as of course there could be driver changes…

DRIVERS
1. Frederik Vesti
2. Theo Pourchaire
3. Richard Verschoor
4. Oscar Piastri
5. David Beckmann
6. Dennis Hauger
7. Enzo Fittipaldi
8. Enaam Ahmed
9. Max Fewtrell
10. Liam Lawson
11. Logan Sargeant
12. Alexander Peroni
13. Jake Hughes
14. Aleksandr Smolyar
15. Clement Novalak
16. Igor Fraga
17. Lukas Dunner
18. Lirim Zendeli
19. Niko Kari
20. Jack Doohan
21. Bent Viscaal
22. Sebastian Fernandez
23. Olli Caldwell
24. Calan Williams
25. Sophia Floersch
26. Cameron Das
27. David Schumacher
28. Matteo Nannini
29. Federico Malvestiti
30. Alessio Deledda

CONSTRUCTORS
1. Prema Racing
2. Hitech Grand Prix
3. ART Grand Prix
4. MP Motorsport
5. HWA Racelab
6. Trident
7. Carlin Buzz Racing
8. Campos Racing
9. Charouz Racing System
10. Jenzer Motorsport

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