“When I turn on the TV and see the likes of Max (Verstappen) and Charles (Leclerc), it gives me a kick and that’s something we want to keep on doing,” says Van Amersfoort Racing Team Owner, Frits van Amersfoort, during a rare breather from the team’s 2022 preparations.
The historic Dutch motorsport team – who played a role in the development of Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Callum Ilott - have been announced as one Formula 3’s 10 selected teams from 2022.
Here’s everything you need to know…
WHAT’S THEIR PEDIGREE?
For many, Van Amersfoort will need no introduction. Set up in 1975 by Frits Van Amersfoort, they’ve gone on to deliver more than 250 wins, 14 Championships and 13 vice championships.
The team’s first foray into F3 came in 1997, in Germany. Since then, they’ve gone on to compete in Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European, ADAC Formel Masters and European F3, and currently run teams in Euroformula Open, Formula Regional European by Alpine, Italian F4 and ADAC F4.
They arrive with plenty of pedigree, not just in motorsport, but at F3 level, with the Dutch team competing in the now-defunct European F3 from 2012. Since that championship’s merge with the GP3 Series at the end of 2018, Van Amersfoort has been working tirelessly in a bid to return to the official third tier.
“We kept on fighting and after three years of not being in FIA F3, we are back and that’s a big thrill,” said Van Amersfoort.
“You have to wait for your opportunities. This is a highly rated championship and in the three years we were out of it, we got our act back together and we’ve done a lot of work.
“We have built teams in other junior categories where we’ve produced highly rated, good drivers, and now we’ve found our way back into FIA F3.”
HOW PREPARED ARE THEY?
Right now, they’ve got a lot of work to do, and their first deadline is in just under a month, with Van Amersfoort confirming that his side will take part in post-season testing at Valencia at the start of November. They will begin conversations with prospective talents now, and although they’ve got no track record in FIA F3, their prior history, as well as a hefty black book of contracts within motorsport, should make the recruitment process that bit easier.
“The number one job is finding and attracting the right drivers,” continued van Amersfoort. “As soon as the news has been published, we can start fighting for drivers.
“Finding the drivers, attracting them, and negotiating with them, that all starts now. When I turn on the television and see Max and Charles, it gives me a kick and that is something that we want to keep on doing.”
While signing drivers is at the top of their to-do list, the first task for Van Amersfoort and his team was to find the right Team Manager. That box has already been ticked, with Belgian Tom Claessen brought in. He’s now set to begin the process of recruiting the backroom team, bringing in the engineers, mechanics, and other race weekend staff.
When I turn on the television and see Max and Charles, it gives me a kick and that is something that we want to keep on doing.
Previously, Van Amersfoort and CEO Niessink have run all of the teams themselves, but the pair have opted to go a different way in F3.
Explaining why, Van Amersfoort said: “We realised that we are not the youngest anymore and you have to face that. You have to realise that time doesn't stand still. Tom (Claessen) is the son of the owner of the WRT team, so he has racing in his blood as much as I have.
“He also has the advantage that he is around 35 years younger than me and that is a big advantage. Sometimes, you have to realise where you are in life. Young people are thinking faster, they are moving faster and that is what we need for the new team.”
HOW COMPETITIVE WILL THEY BE?
Van Amersfoort is under no illusion as to the scale of the challenge in front of him. What the team will benefit from is their prior experience of junior single-seater racing. They arrive with knowledge of several F3 and F4 Championships. That should hold them in good stead.
And as Van Amersfoort says, F3 is in his “DNA.”
“I have always loved F3,” he continues. “For me, F3 is the first step in proper international motorsport, full of professional teams and drivers. It is a step above the other single-seater categories, and we love that.
“Obviously, it isn’t as high profile as Formula 1, but it is near it, and that is why we love it. It is difficult to explain why. It’s like when you have a (partner), you cannot describe exactly why you love them, but you just know you do.
“This is a really big opportunity. It will be fantastic to be a part of an international event. We are really looking forward to being a part of the Formula 1 weekends.”
Where exactly in the pecking order might the team sit in 2022?
“Our target is to win as many races as we can,” says Van Amersfoort. “But I am not living under a stone, I realise that FIA F3 is very competitive. It will be a fight, but I am sure that we will be able to be at the front. Our goal is the same as every other team here, to win. But realistically, there is a lot to do first.
“We are convinced that we can get to that position and that is what we are working towards. That is our long-term objective. As a team, you can only be happy when you deliver champions, but we know that is extremely difficult in this Championship.”