F3 European: Spa the ultimate test

Spa-Francorchamps is one of the circuits that really sorts out the men from the boys. Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam), who has a 62-point lead, can afford to play a waiting game, but his rivals are determined to put an end to his domination.

Whenever the name of Spa-Francorchamps is mentioned everybody immediately thinks of the famous Raidillon. The track in the Ardennes, though, is much more than that; it’s a very quick circuit of more than 7 km where driving skills make the difference. The downhill section between Pouhon and Stavelot can have a decisive influence on lap times.

After 12 races Esteban Ocon has stamped his authority on the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. The 17-year-old Frenchman has made an exemplary start to the first part of the season with 11 top-three finishes including five victories. The Lotus F1 Team Junior driver is on a roll at the moment in which everything he does turns to gold. With 62 points in hand over Tom Blomqvist it looks like all he has to do is to control his lead, but this isn’t really the case. There are still 21 races to run and he knows that the situation can change in the wink of an eye.

Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) and Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) are his closest rivals. Although they have all shown their speed and have been in front of Ocon on several occasions, they have all had various setbacks. They know that consistency is the key to beating the Frenchman. “Our first and only aim for the moment is to close the gap to Esteban Ocon in particular and to Prema Powerteam in general“ explains Lucas Auer. “At Spa-Francorchamps they will still be the ones to beat, but I think it’s a track that suits Felix Rosenqvist and me much better. We have several areas to improve; we’re progressing race after race and a lot more can still happen this season.”

On the Belgian roller-coaster Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing) will be one to watch. Jos Verstappen’s son, who has moved directly from karts to Formula 3, has always been among the front-runners although he needs to channel his incredible speed. The young Dutchman who lives in Belgium learns quickly and absorbs experience. He will be out to score his second win of the season a few kilometers from home.

A new driver will make his debut in the FIA F3 European Championship in Belgium, Santino Ferrucci (Eurointernational). The young American who had just turned 16 has learned the ropes in the German ATS Formula 3 Cup, but this weekend he will discover the championship on a circuit that shows whether or not a driver is made of the right stuff.

The FIA F3 European Championship will join up with the FIA WTCC this weekend for the only time in 2014 so the schedule is slightly different. Free practice and qualifying will take place on Friday and races 1 and 2 on Saturday at 11h45 and 16h30. The third and final heat will start on Sunday at 10h05.