ART Grand Prix has been GP3’s dominant force over the past couple of years, crushing its opposition either into extinction like Carlin and Koiranen GP or into the barren championship form seen with Arden.
The 2017 season will see ART field one of its strongest line-ups ever with series returnees Jack Aitken and Nirei Fukuzumi joined by European Formula 3 race winners George Russell and Anthoine Hubert.
Currently 11 other drivers have signed up with the hope of becoming the first GP3 champion not to race for ART since Alex Lynn in 2014. So let’s look at the three non-ART drivers who may have the best chance of title glory in 2017.
1. Dorian Boccolacci
The 18-year-old Frenchman was the surprise star of testing setting the fastest time in the final pre-season test in Valencia following on from fastest in the second test in Barcelona. He’s currently unsigned but is expected to be joining series returnees Kevin Jorg and Giuliano Alesi at Trident, the team he tested with.
He made his single-seater debut at just 15 in French Formula 4 in 2014, where he finished as runner-up in the championship.
In 2015, he progressed to the European Formula 3 championship. Although he struggled for consistency with just five points finishes in 33 races and took a backwards step in 2016 to Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0.
It proved to be an excellent decision, as he established himself as one of France’s brightest young talents. He finished second only to Lando Norris, taking two wins and scoring in every single round.
Boccolacci will be hoping to go one better than Luca Ghiotto, who earned the highest ever place in the championship for a Trident driver in GP3 finishing second in 2015, narrowly missing out on the title by just eight points.
Boccolacci enters the season in similar fashion to how Ghiotto did, under the radar but immensely talented and the heads are beginning to turn.
2. Niko Kari
The Red Bull junior enters 2017 off the back of an impressive rookie European Formula 3 season where he beat his more experienced Red Bull teammate and won a race.
He’s linking up with Arden in pursuit of the GP3 crown this season, aiming to become their third champion in the series. The British outfit was arguably the strongest team at the end of 2016 so theoretically they should be capable of regularly beating ART even if they have lost their star man Jack Aitken to their title rivals.
2016 Euroformula Open champion Leonardo Pulcini and Dutchman Steijn Schothorst partner Kari, meaning he’s far from Arden’s number one from the off. The Finnish driver will have to quickly establish himself in that lead position through strong results in the opening rounds so he can focus on fights on-track rather than in the garage.
3. Santino Ferrucci
DAMS took the decision to re-sign Ferrucci back in February and he will drive alongside Arden’s Tatiana Calderon and Brazilian Bruno Baptista for 2017.
Despite being only 18 years old, Ferrucci should have the talent and GP3 experience to lead DAMS’ title charge. He only took one podium last year and did struggle during testing but if anybody can spring a surprise, it will be DAMS.
The American has been kept on as Haas F1’s development driver for a second season, meaning he will be one of seven drivers receiving support from an F1 team.
If he wants a regular taste of champagne this year, Ferrucci will need to limit the number of silly mistakes and focus more on qualifying which was hardly his strongest suit in his rookie year.