With the Formula 3 driver announcement season underway, it’s a good time to peel back the curtain and dive into how these discussions happen and how each driver ends up on their respective teams.
Conducted under secrecy behind-the-scenes, the racing world barely has time to stop as there is always an eye on the future in almost every aspect of operations.
Speaking with Jenzer Motorsport Team Principal, the eponymous Andreas Jenzer, here is how driver contract discussions usually go, the most important aspects of signing a driver and all the work that goes into securing signatures.
“We are always keeping an eye on all the drivers. We are considering who the up-and-coming drivers are, and then we’ll contact them to offer ourselves. Most of the time, you don’t wait until the end of the season, most of the time, you’re already talking in the middle of the season, discussions are happening before and after the summer break.
“Formula 3 finishes quite early so you want to start talking from June/July onwards. Sometimes drivers and their management are approaching the teams, other times we have to approach the management. F3 is quite attractive because it’s a very well organised Championship.
“Maybe some teams have only one spot left, and it depends on the level of the driver you’re talking to. For us, it’s quite simple. Already before the summer break, we were talking with drivers to sign a 2024 contract for all three of our choices.”
So, you’ve found your driver, but the deal is far from struck. There are still plenty of hoops to jump through and the process isn’t without competition. After all, every team is looking for advantages over their rivals and driver line-ups are another pivotal area of competition that can make a huge difference to a team’s chances.
For Jenzer though, he appreciates a mutual interest which is usually a hugely positive sign for future working relationships. That can sometimes be the difference maker according to the team boss.
“I quite like when the driver starts pushing from their side and wants to drive for us. It’s best to start working together as soon as possible. The sooner we start to work together, the better because it’s always beneficial to know each other well. It’s not only the drivers that are needing preparation.
“In the workshop, when we’re doing our simulator work, we’ll have conflicts, positives and negatives and working together as early as possible is always better in order to understand these things.”
There is always the chance that a driver is coaxed away from one team and ends up signing with another. Having an edge in negotiations is always useful, especially if you can point to off-track factors as well as on-track performance as a motivating factor to entice a driver to sign.
“I think it’s always the case that teams fail to sign a driver and they end up on another team. This is a normal situation. I have always said that at Jenzer Motorsport, we are doing a good job with rookie drivers, that can be a pull for us.
“My thinking is, if a driver wants to drive for us, it shouldn’t be driven purely from our side. I shouldn’t have to keep pushing to sign them, it’s a two-way relationship and working with a particular driver, it’s a personal feeling that starts to express itself from both sides that want to do it.
“I’m the type of person that really appreciates a strong will from a driver that’s pushing and wants to drive for Jenzer Motorsport.”
Jenzer says everything is in place at the team to push on and capitalise on their 2023 performances, as the Swiss outfit put together their finest F3 campaign to date, finishing sixth and taking their first win since 2019.
Working with rookies is a familiar situation at the team and one Jenzer says leaves the team with great upside and potential going into a new campaign. Alongside stability within the team in terms of operational and engineering staff, the building pieces are in place for 2024 well in advance.
“We again have three rookies and across the six days of testing, we always had one inside the top 10. We are looking forward to 2024 to try and repeat this year’s results. I’m happy that we’ve already started to work with the drivers in their testing programmes.
“We’ll have the same group of mechanics and same group of engineers carrying on with the team also, so we have quite a stable team going into what we hope will be a strong 2024 season.”