The FIA F3 European Championship kicked off its 2014 season with two days’ testing at the Hungaroring. Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Felix Rosenqvist (kftzeile24 Mücke Motorsport) topped the time sheets.
Although the 2014 season will start at Easter on the Silverstone circuit, the 12 teams and 30 drivers who will line up on the grid of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship are already hard at work. They were all present at the Hungaroring for the first time this year for an official two-day test session. It was also the first time that the new engines from Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Renault and NBE, as well as the new range of tyres supplied by Hankook, were in action and their influence on the results was obvious.
On Friday morning while everybody’s aim was to gather as much data as possible to understand the engines and tyres, the drivers were already setting a searing pace. Jordan King (Carlin), winner of the 2013 British Formula 3 International Series, emerged fastest in the morning in front of rookies Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) and Jack Dennis (Carlin).
In the afternoon another debutant Max Verstappen put everybody in their place with a lap in 1.36.505. “It’s my first season in single-seaters so I’m here to learn,” said the 2013 CIK FIA World Kart Champion in the KZ category. “I wasn’t expecting to be the quickest but I soon felt very much at home in the car. We’ve opted for Formula 3 this season as for a debutant it’s a category in which you learn a great deal with a car that’s got quite a lot of aero, and above all in which we do a lot of running on consistent tyres. It’s the ideal place to learn.”
Saturday was another hectic day from a work point of view as the whole field covered a large number of laps. 2013 runner-up Felix Rosenqvist was the first to get near the 1m 35sec mark with a lap in 1.36.080 and topped the time sheets at the break. “We weren’t really going for a time; we’re learning how the new tyres and above all the engine work,” explained the Swede. “We’re testing different parameters to give our technical partner a lot of feedback. We also have to work on the new steering wheel-mounted gearchange. It’s challenging and we’ll certainly be even quicker when we come back here in June.”
In the afternoon Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) came out on top in front of Jordan King and Lucas Auer (kftzeile24 Mücke Motorsport), but was unable to beat Rosenqvist’s morning time. The latter left the Hungaroring with the fastest lap in his pocket confirming his role as the benchmark this season.
Practice will continue on Tuesday in Austria with another two-day test session on the Red Bull Ring.