A new chapter is opened for the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series this weekend (16/17 July) when it visits the Paul Ricard circuit, former home of the French Grand Prix, for the first time in the championship’s 60-year history.
The Ricard races mark the start of the second half of the British Formula 3 season, during which Felipe Nasr will be bidding to maintain or even extend his 75-point championship title advantage. Brazilian Nasr hopes to become Carlin’s fourth consecutive champion; his closest title rival is his countryman Lucas Foresti, the Fortec racer who has collected three race wins to Nasr’s five.
The International Championship field will welcome a newcomer at Ricard in the shape of Dutchman Bart Hylkema, who is to step up to the premier division with T-Sport for the rest of the season after dominating the Rookie class with 11 class wins from 15 starts. The 21-year-old says he cannot wait to get on track in the south of France in the squad’s Volkswagen-powered Dallara chassis.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a little while now,” said Hylkema, “and after discussing it with my family, manager, my sponsors and the team, we’re all agreed this is the perfect time to make the move and I want to thank them very much for making this possible. It really is a very exciting step and one I’m sure will be the right decision. There are 15 races left this year so we have plenty of time to work on understanding the A-class car and how to get the most from it.
“It would have been nice to go on and, hopefully, to win the Rookie Class title but this step is much better for my development as a driver and much more important for my career as a whole. Since the start of the season I’ve learned a lot and I feel this is the right time to take that knowledge and move things up a level. If you want to be the best you can, you have to race the best.”
Despite Nasr’s handsome points lead, this year’s British Formula 3 championship is proving one of the most open for several seasons: seven different drivers – including Brits Rupert Svendsen-Cook, Riki Christodoulou, Harry Tincknell and Jack Harvey – have won races in addition to Nasr, Foresti and Danish driver Kevin Magnussen.
Magnussen will be on a mission in France to make up for the disappointments he suffered last time out, at the Nürburgring in Germany, where he was on course to do the double before engine problems handed the feature race win to his team-mate Nasr.
British Formula 3 enjoys the headlining support of Cooper Tires and is additionally backed by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and OAMPS.
Paul Ricard timetable (CET)
Friday 15 July: 1030-1115 & 1555-1640 free practice
Saturday 16 July: 1000-1030 qualifying; 1500 Round 16 (30 mins)
Sunday 17 July: 1000 Round 17 (20 mins); 1645 Round 18 (40 mins)
TV schedule Channel 4: 0700, 30 July; Motors TV UK 2122, 23 July + repeats
Provisional championship standings
1 Felipe Nasr / BRA 196 points
2 Lucas Foresti / BRA 121
3 Jazeman Jaafar / MAS 110
4 Carlos Huertas / COL 107
5 Kevin Magnussen / DEN 96
6 Rupert Svendsen-Cook / GBR 79
7 Will Buller / GBR 75
8 Harry Tincknell / GBR 63
9 Pietro Fantin / BRA 58
10 Riki Christodoulou / GBR 51 etc
1 Bart Hylkema / NED 214
2 Kotaro Sakurai / JPN 159