Photo: F4/SCCA Pro Racing

F3 Americas series announced; formal launch set for COTA F1 weekend

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The F4 U.S. Championship is racing at Circuit of The Americas in Austin this weekend, along with the FIA World Endurance Championship – the first of two times the junior open-wheel series will do that this year. Kyle Kirkwood has unofficially sealed this year’s championship.

When it does so the second time, in tandem with the FIA Formula 1 World Championship from October 19-22, there will be news of another FIA series getting formally launched – the F3 Americas racing series.

The full release from F4 about F3 is below.

Another step toward alignment with a globally recognized racing development structure will become much clearer on October 19th in Austin, TX, when the details of the new F3 Americas racing series will be announced, featuring an all-new F3-FIA* spec race car.

With the phenomenal growth of the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda that debuted in 2016, F4 series competitors are looking forward to the next level of open-wheel competition that continues affordability, modern technology, and the ability to obtain FIA Super License points. The F4 U.S. series’ final two races of 2017 will run during the F1 weekend activities at COTA, and the series champion will be invited to attend the Formula 1 Awards banquet.

This new F3 race car will feature an all-new, state-of-the-art, U.S.-designed and built Ligier Crawford chassis, developed by Onroak, and will be powered by a 270-horsepower Honda Performance Development version of the new Honda Civic® Type-R® turbocharged K20 motor (a non-turbocharged version is used in the F4 U.S. Championship). The new F3 Americas series will continue running on proven Pirelli tires developed for this series.

The F3 Americas series aligns with the global FIA development ladder philosophy of using common components to provide a cost-efficient, reliable, and powerful racing structure as drivers ascend through the levels on their way to U.S. or global racing success. The announcement event on October 19th will unveil the F3 car and provide preliminary vehicle specifications, as well as information on vehicle availability and ordering information.

“SCCA Pro Racing’s introduction of an FIA F3 race series is a great opportunity for our partners and SCCA Pro Racing to reset the current paradigm of open wheel racing in North America,” said Steve Oseth, Vice President/General Manager of SCCA Pro Racing. “Its introduction, combined with the steps above and below the F3 series, will work to greatly lower the running costs of open-wheel race cars.”

Art St. Cyr, President, Honda Performance Development, adds: “Our grassroots racing engines have provided the basis for many top-level racers and we’re excited to continue offering the affordable and reliable Honda K20 Type-R engine as part of this series. It also helps to showcase the ability of our grassroots racing programs to support racing skills development, as the competitors progress through higher levels of engine power.”

Max Crawford, General Manager of Onroak Automotive North America, notes that “The F3 race series will feature the next generation of all-new FIA race cars, the Ligier Crawford JS F3, designed and manufactured in the United States, at Onroak Automotive North America’s headquarters in Denver, North Carolina.  The Ligier Crawford JS F3 is the next step up from Onroak Automotive NA’s successful F4 car. The ability to design, manufacture and service the cars in the U.S. has always been part of Onroak Automotive NA’s commitment to the F3 series. The design team in Denver, NC, has worked comprehensively with the FIA on implementing all the requirements for the new generation of F3 cars, and this has enabled us to produce the new car at a level of performance and safety that leads the world.”

Orazio Mastracchio, NAFTA Motorsport Manager for Pirelli NA states: “With more than 100 years of Pirelli motorsport experience and development for the drivers of powerful sports cars, sports coupes and high-performance luxury sedans, we’re excited to be a part of this new F3 series, which directly ties into the learning and success we’ve had at the premier levels of motorsports.”

*Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.