European F3: 2017 Season Review

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Via FIA.com

This year’s FIA Formula Three European Championship saw a balanced mix of close battles and dominate performances throughout the year, producing an exciting championship. Now that the season has come to a close, let’s take a look at the main protagonists of the series as well as those further down the grid who earned honourable mentions for catching our attention.

Lando Norris – Drivers’ & Rookie Champion, 9 Wins

Starting with the champion, Lando Norris has demonstrated why so many reckon it won’t be too long before he will be making an appearance on the Formula One grid.

The 17-year-old won the very first race of the season at Silverstone and was constantly in the limelight from that point onwards.

His string of wins and podium appearances in the second half of the year, combined with his main title rivals’ struggle for form made him a deserving champion.

However, crashing out from the lead in Pau and numerous slow starts mean the McLaren junior still has room for improvement and will surely learn a thing or two from partnering Fernando Alonso at January’s 24 Hours of Daytona race before moving up to the FIA Formula Two Championship.

Joel Eriksson – 2nd Place, 7 Wins

After being crowned rookie champion in last year’s championship, Joel Eriksson was considered as one of the early contender for the main title in 2017, which was exemplified by a race win in the opening four rounds.

Unfortunately for the Swede, his form dropped and suffered a drought and by the time Eriksson recorded a hat trick of wins at the tail end of the season, Norris had already run away with the title.

If the 19-year-old can improve his consistency in 2018, then he’ll be up there amongst the favourites for the crown.

Maximilian Günther – 3rd Place, 5 Wins

Having finished in a distant second in last year’s championship to Lance Stroll, Maximilian Günther knew he needed to feature more at the front of the pack to challenge for the driver’s championship.

Nevertheless, inconsistency cost the German valuable ground to Norris in the standings and eventually finished third, despite winning the final race of the year at Hockenheim.

Although it may sound crazy considering he is only 20, but many will consider 2018 to be Günther’s final chance at championship glory in Formula Three before he’ll have to move up the ladder to further his career.

The Driver’s Championship podium with Norris (centre), Eriksson (left), and Günther (right). Via Motorsport.com

Callum Ilott – 4th Place, 6 Wins

Callum Ilott can hold his head up high after a progressive 2017 season.

Arguably the most consistent finisher of the year behind Norris, a handful of retirements see the Cambridgeshire driver end up in fourth place and was of a prominent figure at the front compared to 2016, in which he was sixth in the championship.

His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed though, as Ilott recently joined Ferrari’s driver academy and will surely have one eye on the title next year.

Jake Hughes – 5th Place, 1 Win

Following a wildcard appearance in last year’s season finale at Hockenheim, which saw Jake Hughes record a third-place finish, the Birmingham-born driver expanded upon this and constantly challenged for points with his debut win at Nürburgring accompanied by two second places proving to be the highlight of the season.

On the other hand, a double retirement at Spa-Francorchamps caused by circumstances out of his control, along with several avoidable penalties towards the end of the season, have hampered his progress.

If Hughes can overcome these issues, then expect him to feature more at the front of the pack next year.

Jehan Daruvala – 6th Place, 1 Win; Runner-Up in Rookie Championship

If it weren’t for Lando Norris taking this year’s championship by storm, then Jehan Daruvala would surely be more central to the media attention.

The Indian driver was the first from his country to win a race in FIA-sanctioned race, having done so at the Norisring, and was the only the driver to finish all 30 races and scoring points on 25 occasions.

His race craft was also impressive, pulling off some clever manoeuvres at Pau and stood out the most outside of the title contenders, which is why I believe the Force India protégé will be to the front in 2018.

The FIA Formula 3 European Championship Series class of 2017, supporting the FIA Action for Road Safety initiative.

Honourable Mentions

Ferdinand Habsburg – Four podiums and a maiden win at Spa-Francorchamps were the stand out moments for Habsburg, who was regular feature in the points for Carlin as they challenged Prema’s supremacy in the Constructors’ Championship. 2018’s will be to aim for more podium finishes.

Guanyu Zhou – Five podium finishes this year is an indication of progress for the Ferrari academy driver compared to his 2016 campaign. In comparison to Prema team-mates Günther and Ilott, his was off the pace on many occasions and needs to overcome this to remain on Ferrari’s radar.

Nikita Mazepin – Vast advances made this year with three podiums to reward the Russian’s efforts. If Hitech GP can produce a faster car in 2018, a first for Mazepin is a realistic aim for the Force India development driver.

Mick Schumacher – Early season promise following a third place at Monza failed to materialise, although the German featured consistently in the top ten. Like Zhou, Schumacher will want to be closer to the front of the pack in 2018.

Tadasuke Makino – A strong end to the season saw the Japanese driver fight for points on a regular basis, included a podium appearance at the Red Bull Ring. If Makino can carry this level of competitiveness across a whole year, then he might just shock numerous people next year.

David Beckmann – Following a difficult start to the year with Van Amersfoort Racing, a mid-season switch to Motopark saw Beckmann begin to compete for points and climb up the driver standings, with three fifth place finishes being the best the German could manage.

Max Defourney & Sacha Fenestraz – Despite both drivers only contesting at the Nürburgring, both managed to score points for Van Amersfoort Racing and Carlin respectively. Should they compete full time in the championship next year, they’ll definitely be wildcards within the field.

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