The 2008 British F3 International Series can claim to be one of the hardest fought championships in the world, with the title race going down to the final race at Donington Park in September. After two seasons of runaway champions 2008 proved to be a nail biting season for everyone involved, with Jaime Alguersuari scoring three wins in the last three races to beat Oliver Turvey, Brendon Hartley and Sergio Perez to the crown. At 18 years old Alguersuari is also the youngest ever champion in the 44-year history of the world’s leading Formula 3 Championship.
2008 was also a season of firsts. Jaime Alguersuari is the first Spanish Driver to win the British F3 title and the first rookie since 2000 to become champion. Salman Al Khalifa became the first driver from Bahrain to win in British F3 and Michael Devaney scored the first win for a Mygale chassis in Formula 3. The Litespeed SLC chassis also scored its first British F3 podium finish with Jonathan Legris at the wheel in his debut race at Brands Hatch. Oliver Turvey became the first winner of the Mirror.co.uk British F3 Challenge Cup as the top British driver and he also became the first ever recipient of a Cambridge Blue for Motorsport.
There were wins for Dallara, Mugen-Honda and Mercedes, underlining British F3 as the last highly competitive, multi chassis, multi engine formula before Formula One. Jaime Alguersuari also set new lap records at Oulton Park, Brands Hatch and Donington Park, while Brendon Hartley now holds the record for Bucharest and Marcus Ericsson at Snetterton.
OULTON PARK – Rounds 1 and 2The season kicked off with the traditional Easter weekend opener in Cheshire. A snow shower just before the first race of the weekend caused a few headaches for the 27 drivers during the 30-minute race. Oliver Turvey came through to take chequered flag after taking the lead off the line. Max Chilton underlined his pre season testing pace with his first ever British F3 podium after Carlin teammates Jaime Alguersuari and Brendon Hartley went off fighting for 2nd place. Atte Mustonen also lived up to his pre season title favourite status to finish 3rd from a lowly 10th place on the grid. It was double joy for Carlin as Andy Meyrick scored his first National Class win ahead of Jay Bridger and Hywel Lloyd.
After the disappointment of missing out on a podium in round 1, Jaime Alguersuari converted his second pole position of the weekend into a race win, finishing ahead of Swedish duo Marcus Ericsson and Sebastian Hohenthal and celebrating his 18th birthday in style. Brendon Hartley was the first driver past the chequered flag but was demoted to 4th after it was judged he overtook during a safety car period. Andy Meyrick made it two out two in the National Class, finishing ahead of Salman Al Khalifa and Niall Quinn.
CROFT – Rounds 3 and 4Sergio Perez did a one man Mexican wave as he took the first win for T Sport in Round 3 of the 2008 British F3 International Series at Croft, making it three different winners in as many races. His victory also marked the first overall win in British F3 for a Mexican driver and the first for a Mugen Honda powered car since Oliver Jarvis at Thruxton in October 2006. Perez finished the wet race 4.2 seconds ahead of Sebastian Hohenthal, with Esteban Guerrieri securing the first British F3 podium finish for Ultimate and Mygale in 3rd place. Andy Meyrick took his third win from three starts in the National Class finishing ahead Jay Bridger and Steven Guerrero.
Brendon Hartley took the chequered flag in Round 4 from pole position to score his first British F3 win. The race had to be red flagged after a multicar accident and at the restart Hartley immediately took control with Sergio Perez finishing 0.8 seconds behind the Kiwi driver to put the Mexican at the top of the Championship table. Round 1 winner Oliver Turvey returned to the podium after overtaking Atte Mustonen four laps from home while Andy Meyrick notched up his 4th win in four races in the National Class, finishing well ahead of Salman Al Khalifa.
MONZA – Rounds 5 and 6Rain in Italy caused a few problems in qualifying and Invitation class driver Matteo Chinosi stunned everyone by making the best of the conditions to head up the grid for round 6. However the racing was second to none all weekend with Sergio Perez winning arguably the best race of the year with a brilliant drive from 14th on the grid to take the chequered flag 4.2 seconds ahead of Brendon Hartley and Oliver Turvey. Hywel Lloyd became the first driver to break Andy Meyrick's strangle hold on the National Class, taking a win after his fellow Welshman spun out of the race.
An ecstatic Perez completed the double with another fighting victory from 14th on the grid to take his third win of the season and extend his championship lead. Esteban Guerrieri took his, and his Ultimate Motorsport teams, best British F3 finish in second with Atte Mustonen in third. All three chassis/ engine combinations (Dallara Mugen-Honda, Mygale Mercedes & Dallara Mercedes) were represented on the grid underlining the competitive nature of this year’s British F3 International Series. Jay Bridger scored his first victory in the National Class with Andy Meyrick suffering a weekend in Italy he would quickly forget.
ROCKINGHAM – Rounds 7 and 8It was back to the UK for Rounds 7 and 8 at Rockingham with rain once again playing a major role in the proceedings. Atte Mustonen won his first race of the 2008 British F3 season with a dominant drive from the front row of the grid to the chequered flag in tricky driving conditions, 2.9 seconds ahead of Marcus Ericsson and 6 seconds ahead of Jaime Alguersuari. Andy Meyrick returned to winning ways with his 5th win from seven starts in the National Class ahead of Salman Al Khalifa and Stefan Wilson.
Round 8 saw another new winner for the 2008 season as Sebastian Hohenthal took his second victory of his British F3 career on the very slippery Rockingham track. The Swede took the lead at the start from pole sitter Jaime Alguersuari and led the Spanish driver home to the chequered flag. Max Chilton took his second podium of season in third 10-seconds ahead of Round 7 winner Atte Mustonen. Andy Meyrick notched up another win in the National Class, finishing 7th overall in his best performance to date.
SNETTERTON – Rounds 9 and 10The trip to Norfolk saw the sun shine on race day for the first time in 2008 and British F3 history was made as Michael Devaney scored the first ever win in the category for himself, Mygale and Ultimate Motorsport. The Irishman led from the start holding off a very determined Jaime Alguersuari for the entire 28-lap race. It was a double podium for Red Bull as Brendon Hartley took his third podium of the season. Jay Bridger took a well deserved victory in the National Class well ahead of a resurgent Andy Meyrick and Columbian Steven Guerrero.
To prove the first race wasn’t a fluke, Devaney did the double and this time from the second row of the grid, overtaking two cars at the first corner. The Irishman inherited the lead when Brendon Hartley spun off at Riches but held off the challenge of Sebastian Hohenthal and Jaime Alguersuari to the chequered flag. Stefan Wilson took his first National Class win and the second for his Fluid Motorsport team, finishing ahead of teammate Jay Bridger and Hywel Lloyd.
THRUXTON – Rounds 11 and 12Brendon Hartley took his second win of the 2008 British F3 International Series season with a mature drive that saw the New Zealander lose out at the start only to work his way back up to the front to control the race to the flag. Marcus Ericsson recorded his third podium finish of the year and took the fastest lap of the race, finishing ahead of top British driver Oliver Turvey. In the National Class the battle between Andy Meyrick and Jay Bridger went to the chequered flag with the two separated by less than a car length with Meyrick getting to the line first.
Brendon Hartley added a second win at Thruxton in Round 12 of the 2008 British F3 International Series , never losing the lead after starting from pole position. The New Zealander finished just ahead of Carlin teammate Oliver Turvey, the Racing Steps Foundation backed driver keeping the leader honest for the entire 24-lap race. Jaime Alguersuari finished a great day for the Carlin team in third place. Steven Guerrero took his first National Class win with a fighting drive to the flag against Jay Bridger and marking the first win in British F3 for a Columbian since Juan Pablo Montoya.
Brands Hatch – Rounds 13 and 14Jaime Alguersuari dominated Round 13 at Brands Hatch from pole position but the race was red flagged after 16 laps following a heavy accident involving Alistair Jackson at the exit of Surtees. Oliver Turvey finished second after passing Atte Mustonen at the start. With Andy Meyrick sidelined with a serious illness that would leave the Welsh driver out for the rest of the year, Jay Bridger won the National Class from pole to put one hand on the National Class title. However it was a great result for Jonathan Legris on his British F3 debut, finishing a strong second in the LitespeedF3 SLC R1.
In Round 14 Sergio Perez took his 4th win of the season, and his first podium finish since Monza, after getting a great start off the line. The Mexican was under pressure from Marcus Ericsson for the entire race but the Swede made a mistake two corners from home, spinning off into the barriers and promoting Atte Mustonen and Oliver Turvey to the final podium places. In the National Class it was a 1-2 for T Sport as Steven Guerrero scored his second win leading home teammate Salman Al Khalifa, with Jay Bridger in 3rd.
Spa Francorchamps – Rounds 15 and 16Oliver Turvey returned to winning ways after a 12-lap race long battle with Brendon Hartley at Spa in Round 15 after dominating qualifying with a double pole. Jaime Alguersuari completed a podium lockout for Carlin Motorsport, with Sam Abay coming home in 4th to complete a Carlin 1-2-3-4. Stefan Wilson also took his second win of the year, passing Salman Al Khalifa on lap 7 after the Bahraini made up six places on the opening lap.
Brendon Hartley won Round 16 passing Sergio Perez on the last lap after fighting his way back up from 5th after being delayed at the start after pole position holder Oliver Turvey’s car was left stranded on the grid with engine problems. Nick Tandy in the JTR Mygale scored his first ever British F3 podium finish after briefly leading on the opening lap. Jay Bridger took his fourth National Class win with a last lap move on Steven Guererro.
Silverstone – Rounds 17 and 18Oliver Turvey continued his strong challenge for the title after a race long battle with Red Bull Junior driver Brendon Hartley. The New Zealander got the better start off the line to overtake pole sitter Turvey into the first corner but the Englishman pressurised his teammate into a mistake on lap 22 to retake the lead and take his third win of 2008. Marcus Ericsson took his first podium finish since Thruxton in a distant third place. Stefan Wilson won the National Class in dominant style from the front of the field, crossing the line ahead of Jay Bridger and Hywel Lloyd.
Oliver Turvey completed the double at Silverstone, taking victory from pole position to leave the Home of British Motor Racing with a nine point championship lead and confirmed as top British driver by securing the inaugural Mirror.co.uk British F3 Challenge Cup. Marcus Ericsson kept Turvey honest for the 24 lap race while Nick Tandy took his second British F3 podium on the final lap. Hywel Lloyd took a surprise National Class win after Stefan Wilson and Salman Al Khalifa collided fighting for the lead two laps from home.
Bucharest – Rounds 19 and 20Brendon Hartley dominated the first race in Bucharest to take his fifth win of 2008 and making him the driver with the most victories this year with just three races remaining. Oliver Turvey finished second to extend his championship lead to seventeen points over third placed Jaime Alguersuari. Salman Al Khalifa became the first Bahraini driver to win in British F3 ahead of Hywel Lloyd but third was good enough for Jay Bridger to be crowned 2008 British F3 International Series National Class Champion.
Jaime Alguersuari took his third win of the year to keep his title hopes alive in Round 20. The Spanish Red Bull Junior driver finished ahead of Oliver Turvey and Brendon Hartley, who had tangled at the start allowing Alguersuari to take the lead, to secure the second 1-2-3 for Carlin Motorsport and he also recorded the team’s 150th victory. Sergio Perez’s title challenge came to an end when he was pushed off the track by Max Chilton and then collected by the unfortunate Ricardo Teixeira. Stefan Wilson returned to winning ways in the National Class after starting 4th on the grid, overtaking Hywel Lloyd seven laps from home. Jay Bridger finished third after falling back to 4th on the opening lap from pole position.
Donington Park – Rounds 21 and 22Jaime Alguersuari set up a grandstand finish for the 2008 British F3 International Series by winning the penultimate round a dominant win from the front of the grid. Brendon Hartley finished second with Oliver Turvey a distant third meaning his championship lead was cut to just three points with one race to go. After being caught out by tricky conditions in qualifying Turvey would start the last race in 14th place, twelve slots behind the Spanish driver. Henry Surtees took the win in the National Class on his British F3 debut after moving ahead of Jay Bridger at the start and holding off the new champion for the entire 29-lap race.
Jaime Alguersuari took his third win in a row to become the first Spanish driver to become the 2008 British F3 International Series Champion. The 18-year-old, who is also youngest ever British F3 Champion, overtook pole position holder Oli Oakes at the start and led to the flag in dominant style. His title rival Oliver Turvey, climbed up the field from 20th, dropping back from 14th on the grid after a poor start, to 8th with three laps to go. However Turvey finished his season parked next to the track after trying an ambitious move on Marcus Ericsson at McLeans which didn’t pay off. Nick Tandy took his best finish of the year in second place ahead of Sergio Perez. Jay Bridger finished his championship year with a win ahead of Henry Surtees and Steven Guererro.
The two-hour season review can be seen on Motors TV across Europe from Saturday 29 November, with regular repeats into the middle of December. See the TV listings on the British F3 website at britishf3international.com
2009 will see a new title sponsor as the championship becomes the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series. With the cream of the world’s young drivers coming to the UK, British F3 is still the place to see the next generation of Formula One star drivers. The 2009 season starts at Oulton Park on April 13, with 22 races on Europe’s leading race circuits, including a visit to the Grand Prix circuit at Hockenheim in Germany.