The fourth season of Formula 3 officially gets underway at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir this weekend, one of two new venues featured on the Championship’s 18-race, nine-round calendar in 2022.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The 30-strong field returns to Sakhir just a fortnight after pre-season testing at the circuit, although the three-day stint revealed very little about what we can expect in 2022.
As the highest placed returning driver, Alpine junior Victor Martins will be expected to fight for the title with ART Grand Prix. He finished in the top 10 in four of six sessions and topped the afternoon on Day 2.
Amongst the second years looking to challenge him are his former MP Motorsport teammate, Caio Collet, who will remain with the Dutch team for 2022.
PREMA Racing duo Jak Crawford and Arthur Leclerc will see themselves as leading contenders with the three-time Drivers’ title winners. Meanwhile, Trident’s Jonny Edgar and ART’s Juan Manuel Correa are also likely to be in the hunt.
As rookies goes, it’s always difficult to predict, but there are high hopes to Ferrari junior Oliver Bearman at Ferrari, while Red Bull Academy Driver Isack Hadjar finished fastest overall at pre-season testing with Hitech Grand Prix.
FROM THE GRID – VICTOR MARTINS, ART GRAND PRIX
“I am extremely excited to be racing here. It's the first time for me in Bahrain so I don't know the track. It's the first race, it's where you see where you are in the field for the first time. You see what the pace is, so it's exciting. It's also a good place for me because I won the Karting World Championship here in Bahrain six years ago, so it has a lot of good memories for me. I want to do well here again.
“There’s a lot of hard braking zones here, and that's what I like, when you smash the brakes as late as possible, and you bring the maximum speed into the corner. Then, there are some good sections, like Turn 6 and Turn 7, which are fast corners. What I think is important and quite fun here is the tyre degradation in Sector 3 on a push lap. I really like the whole track, to be honest.
“For overtaking opportunities, you've got Turn 1 obviously. Also, on the braking zones maybe you can dive from quite far back, but we will have to see. There are also three DRS zones, so you can be quite close to the driver in front, after Turn 3 there is a DRS zone so maybe you can overtake at Turn 4, maybe on the outside, maybe on the inside. I will be watching a few Formula 2 races from the past and learn from them.”
LAST TIME OUT – PRE-SEASON TESTING
It was Trident newcomer Zane Maloney who finished at the top on the opening day of pre-season testing earlier this month, with the Barbadian driver setting the quickest time of the day during the cooler afternoon stint. Maloney had also finished in the top two in the morning of Day 1, just 0.013s off PREMA Racing's Arthur Leclerc.
Day 2 saw another rookie shine in the cockpit, with Hadjar setting the quickest time of the day in the morning session to beat out Martins and Edgar. Martins – who finished in the top 10 in four of six sessions – topped the afternoon session with Hadjar two places further back in P3.
Hadjar topped the timesheets for a second successive time on the third day of running, going quickest in the morning session before a sandstorm hampered the afternoon stint. Crawford and ART’s Grégoire Saucy finished in second and third, as Hadjar ended the final day with a comfortable 0.381s margin over the pair.
For the opening round of the season, F3 will be using hard Pirelli compounds.
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director
“It will be exciting to see a new Formula 3 season starting alongside those of Formula 1 and Formula 2 in Bahrain. This is the first time that the championship will race there, but the data gathered in pre-season testing two weeks ago means that it won’t be a complete step into the unknown for the teams or drivers.
“With all of the F3 sessions taking place during the day, the high temperatures will place considerable demands on the tyres together with the particularly abrasive track surface. This year we are introducing a new rear tyre construction in F3 with the aim of increasing the involvement of the driver and allowing them to demonstrate their talent. In particular, the rear tyres have been designed to degrade faster, which should shift the balance towards oversteer and make the car more challenging to drive.”