Ten race weekends spread over the most prestigious circuits in Europe, offering full opportunities for young race driver talent to develop their skills and build on their future in the highest levels of motorsport. Looking back on 2012, the launch of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship can be crowned as a very successful initiative and provides a steady base for further developments in 2013. Champion Daniel Juncadella battled with Raffaele Marciello for the title throughout the entire season, keeping his eyes on the ultimate prize and the next step in his career: the Ferrari Formula One test.
The decision to found the European Championship was ratified at the first World Motorsport Council of 2012 on March 9th. A definite framework was presented later that month in cooperation with the German DMSB and British MSA. Seven countries, including the celebrated Grand Prix de Pau and many Formula One tracks such as the Hockenheimring, Spa – Francorchamps and the Nurburgring, in order to give all drivers the optimal preparation for their future in motorsports.
The start is for Spain
The first round of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship took place at the Hockenheimring in Badem Wurttemberg, Germany. For the premiere of the series, FIA President Jean Todt travelled to the renowned racetrack, underlining the importance of the Formula 3 category to FIA and as a part of the road to Formula One. Although in Germany, the Spanish drivers found their way to the front of the field. Rookie Carlos Sainz (Carlin) qualified for pole, but Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) took away the maximum of points with a double victory and the proud leader of the FIA rankings after the first weekend.
Italy takes over in Pau
The 17-year-old Raffaele Marciello embarked on a siege of victory on the tricky street circuit of Pau. The first race already saw a lights to flag triumph for the Italian driver. Pointleader Juncadella and rookie Wehrlein ended their fight for second place in tears when they met the unforgiving barriers of the track in the Pyrenees. The second race, the true Grand Prix de Pau, fell victim to the unmatched pace of Marciello as well. Sainz and Juncadella followed, securing important points and extending their base for a frontrunning position in the 2012 rankings.
Championship shifts to next gear in England
Brands Hatch hosted the fifth and sixth round of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship. The short track offered a podium lockout for the Prema Powerteam with Italian Marciello, Spanish Juncadella and American Michael Lewis. The track in the London area saw a first podium for William Buller (Carlin) on the Sunday during the second race. Not only Buller did himself a pleasure; Marciello took another win and by doing so the lead in the championship as well.
Austria spices up
As the fresh pointsleader Marciello continued his tour of triumph, celebrating the fifth victory in a row, rookie Pascal Wehrlein (Mucke Motorsport) put his impressive progress of the season into a first podiumplace at the Red Bull Ring. Not only did he score a first podium, he also managed to finish within a second of the victorious Marciello. The second race saw a group fight for the 2nd until 7th place in the field. William Buller, Pascal Wehrlein, Sven Muller, Carlos Sainz, Tom Blomqvist and Michael Lewis were in an ongoing fight, indicating the high level of competition in the Championship. It was Juncadella who finally knew how to stop Marciello, taking his third win of the season. William Buller signed for second place, as Sven Muller scored his second third place of the weekend.
Action Packed Norisring
The streetcircuit of Norisring turned out to be one of extremes. Fourty degrees Celsius caused a heated up race on the Saturday. Marciello took the lead at the start but lost it to Juncadella in the opening lap. The latter made a mistake in the second half of the race, giving way to Pascal Wehrlein to take over. Laps after, Juncadella tried to overtake the young German, but spun him around and hit Marciello in his attempt to rejoin the track. Juncadella won, but is excluded because of his actions hours later by race control. Another extreme on Sunday, as heavy rain prevented the field from a competitive race. With only very few laps in racing condititions, Marciello celebrated a sixth victory. As a result of the shortened race, only half of the points were awarded to the top ten.
Extremes continue at Spa Francorchamps
The Formula One track in the Belgian Ardennes is known for its unpredictable character and famous high speed corners. By many considered as the most beautiful track in the world, it was Spa’s turn to host the sixth round of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship. Tropical temperatures of more than thirty degrees on Saturday, showed almost a repetition of the Norisring weather conditions. Spanish Juncadella knew how to keep his head cool better than his competition and locked another win, decreasing the difference to Marciello in the FIA standings. Carlos Sainz found his way back to the podium on the first race, finishing in third place. The driver from Madrid continued his hunt for the podium in the pouring rain of the second race, resulting in a first victory for the son of World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz.
Nurburging equals change
Juncadella is back. Not only on the podium, but after a first place in the first race, also as the front-runner in the standings for the European Championship. Not an easy race at all, as all competitors indicated to suffer from oversteer. The second race seemed to be easier after adjusted set ups. Juncadella started the second race with the aim to keep his lead and did all in his power to defend that position. His defensive move at the start on Felix Rosenqvist was awarded with a drive through penalty by race control, ending his ambition to turn the weekend into a double victory. Instead, Pascal Wehrlein (Mucke Motorsport) gained a place and won his first FIA Formula 3 race in the 2012 season.
Turning point at Zandvoort
The track in between the dunes of the Netherlands formed a turning point for Swede Felix Rosenqvist (Mucke Motorsport). The beginning of the season did not bring him what he expected, his car was not competitive enough. Halfway, bad luck just found him a little too often, but Zandvoort put him back to where he belonged: fighting with the other frontrunners.
The second race was an eventful one. After three safety cars Juncadella scored another victory, followed by William Buller (Carlin) and Pascal Wehrlein (Mucke Motorsport).
Conservative driving at Valencia and Hockenheim
With everything in place, the frontrunners in the championship visibly changed strategy for the last four races. Especially Juncadella turned into a very conservative driver, not making any move to put his upcoming title at risk. Raffaele Marciello signed off the first victory at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, after leading Felix Rosenqvist received a drive through penalty for an incorrect starting position. Sunday saw Rosenqvists revenge, taking a dominant win before Juncadella and Marciello. The only threat to Juncadella happened in the first race of the seasons finale in Hockenheim, when he was able to write the title to his name, but suffered from technical failure just three laps before the end of the first race. Nevertheless, a fourth position on the Sunday was enough to finally be crowned as 2012 Champion.
Juncadella wins, Marciello and Rosenqvist second and third
One of the most important aspects with the birth of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship was to clear the path to Formula One. FIA emphasizes the right way to the highest categories of motorsport with awarding their Formula 3 champions the way they should: a prospect in the premiere levels. All three receive two days of testing in the FIA Formula two series. Secondly, Raffaele Marciello can look forward to a test in a DTM car. Naturally, the most important prize is reserved for the winner of the series; Daniel Juncadella will have the well deserved honour of testing a Ferrari Formula One car in the first half of November on the racetrack of Vallelunga.
2012 set the platform for further growth in 2013. As Gerhard Berger indicated on Sunday the 21st of October at the press conference at Hockenheim: “We have shown that we have taken the right choice for Formula 3 this year; the field has grown and the competition intensified. We look forward to extending this development in 2013. There will be a self-standing European Championship for Formula 3 consisting of ten events. The calendar will be ratified at the next World Motorsport Council and we will disclose further details at the 59th Macau Grand Prix on the 15-18 of November 2012.”
Final result FIA European Formula 3 Championship:
1. Juncadella with 252 points, 2. Marciello 228.5, 3. Rosenqvist 192, 4. Wehrlein 181, 5. Sainz 161, 6. Buller 137, 7. Blomqvist 117, 8. Muller 109, 9. Michael Lewis 101, 10. Bernstorff 66, 11. Wolf 19, 12. Roda 8, 13. Sa Silva 7