It’s a moment he’s been eagerly anticipating since he started climbing up the single-seater ranks, but now Paul Aron says he’s relishing the chance to get stuck into his greatest challenge yet – racing in Formula 3.
One of 10 rookie drivers already announced for the upcoming 2023 campaign, the Estonian driver recognises the huge learning curve ahead after stepping up from the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine. However, despite the challenge of adapting to a new format and regularly racing on a Formula 1 weekend, the 19-year-old is bursting with enthusiasm at the prospect of performing under such pressure.
“I’m super excited, it’s been a move that I’ve been waiting a long time for,” said Aron. “In F3, you are together with the big boys – you are driving with F1 every weekend, you are also joined by F2, and the paddock is really big. Finally, you are in front of all the important eyes of the F1 teams.
“It’s overall a great Championship. I also like the fact that there’s not a lot of track time, you only have one Free Practice before having to go into Quali and putting it all together, which I love because there’s is not a lot of time to learn. You kind of have to drive on your instincts, so it’s a cool Championship. Obviously in every driver’s career, it’s a big and important step, so I’m very happy to have the chance to make this step up with PREMA.”
After claiming the 2018 CIK-FIA European Karting Championship title, Aron teamed up with PREMA Racing to compete in both the 2019 Italian F4 and ADAC Formula 4 Championships. Scoring four wins and 11 podiums between the two series, he finished third and seventh respectively – earning himself a coveted spot as a Mercedes junior.
Switching to ART Grand Prix and Formula Renault Eurocup in 2020, Aron struggled to match the same consistency and eventually ended up 11th in the Standings. Returning to PREMA for two consecutive seasons in FRECA, finishing both third in the Championship, improvements in his second campaign saw him net six victories, the most victories of anyone that year.
Choosing to stay with the Italian squad for a third year, Aron sees the familiar environment as a plus and believes the team has proven itself as a force to be reckoned with.
“PREMA have continued to show that they are dominating the junior category world. I get along with the team really well and I know how the team works, so in that regard it’s obviously easier to step up, you don’t need to learn again how the team works. Still, all the engineers and all the staff in F3 are different compared to the Formula Regional staff, so you still need to get used to the new people.
He added: “Nevertheless, I’m very happy to continue with PREMA. I’ve continuously said that I think they are one of the best teams overall in the junior categories and I feel like they have the best package that I could ask for.”
Taking advantage of the opportunity to run in the post-season test in Jerez last year, Aron used the additional mileage to get comfortable with the car, having previously driven it in 2021. Acknowledging the need to adapt quickly to the F3 machinery, the Mercedes junior believes that getting himself into the best mental and physical shape possible during the winter break will be critical to thriving in the new environment.
“It’s a big step up from Regional, a lot more downforce, more power and many drivers have said that the F3 car is one of the most enjoyable to drive. It’s still the only one at this level that has no turbo and a naturally aspirated engine, which means that it has a really loud noise, and the throttle response is immediate, so it’s a lot of fun to drive.
“There are a lot of things that work differently in the F3 car compared to the Formula Regional car. You really have to get used to the brakes, the downforce and the driving style of the car. The biggest thing for me was that I was able to get comfortable with the car and adapt my driving style, which is important to keep in mind for this year.
“Obviously F3 is a Championship that you want to go and try to win in your first year. That really proves you as a driver and gives you a good chance to go to F2 and eventually F1, so that preparation will be super important. There will be physical training overall to stay fit, but this year especially I will be spending much more time together with the Mercedes F1 team, going to the factory, driving in the sim and having all the coaches there help develop me.
“Another important thing for me will be to develop myself mentally. F3 will be a very difficult Championship, there is very little track time and it’s really important to not make any mistakes. If you qualify outside of the top 12, the weekend is basically over, so it will be very important to be mentally strong and fit as well as physically. I’m sure that with the help of Mercedes, PREMA and the people around me I will be able to give my best to be ready.”