With the bombshell dropped that the British Formula 3 series has axed the majority of its British rounds — the 10-round calendar being shortened to four, with only Brands Hatch and Silverstone remaining from the non-continental rounds — it signals to many the death knell of the once great championship.
Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Mika Häkkinen, Jenson Button – all F1 champions that passed through British F3 during their career, showing the international appeal of the series. Once being part of the rites of passage a professional driver would undertake (namely that of travelling around cold, barren British airfields far, far flung from often exotic homelands, particularly for the many Brazilians that came over trying to make their mark).
The series has been shrinking for a while now – last year’s series had 14 regular runners of which two thirds were fielded by just two teams. A far cry from the 30-strong grids seen in the early 2000’s. But as the series is competing with equivalent European F3 counterparts (as seen by it’s gradual move to the continent) and rival series such as GP3, the talent pool who can still afford this level of competition is diluted between many options.
With the disappearance of Formula Palmer Audi, Formula Zip, Formula Renault UK, Formula BMW (still technically around in the form of Intersteps, edit: also been cancelled) and Formula 2, career-ladder British motorsport — particularly single seaters — is struggling. This, I believe, is down to a mixture of spiralling budgets, diminishing presence and exposure, and little return of (quite considerable) investment.
These are problems I don’t believe the free market can sort out easily, although the long term damage is to the amount of work available to competing teams, engine builders and chassis manufacturers. The allure of the short-term gain from introducing a new series in which you are the primary economic stakeholder is too strong, a theme which is repeated in kart racing. I hope to come back to this topic and explore it a little more, particularly as the debut season of Formula 4 progresses.