The 2022 FIA Formula 3 Championship truly had it all: dominant performances, stand-out drives, surprising results, and even a nail-biting season finale in Monza. In the end, it was Victor Martins who won it all – but five drivers stood out from the crowd as they exceeded every expectation throughout the season. From title contenders to surprising performers, here are the five biggest surprises of the 2022 FIA Formula 3 season.
By Daniele Spadi
Zane Maloney (P2, 134 points)
In 2022, Maloney joined forces with reigning teams’ champions Trident to compete in his maiden Formula 3 season. The Barbadian had a decent start to the year, taking pole in rainy conditions in Imola and finishing in the points in four of the first ten races.
After the summer break, however, Maloney came back as a different driver, winning the last three Feature Races in Spa, Zandvoort and Monza. Out of nowhere, he found himself in the championship fight late in the season; he eventually finished a brilliant second, only five points behind Victor Martins. Maloney’s speed and versatility meant that he was a menace around every track and in every condition – ultimately failing to win the championship because of a couple of mistakes earlier on in the year.
As he confirmed on the F1 Feeder Series Podcast, Maloney will step up to Formula 2 full time in 2023. The 19-year-old, who recently joined the Red Bull Junior Team, will try to maintain his form as he becomes the first Barbadian to race in F2.
Ollie Bearman (P3, 132 points)
It might come as a surprise to see Bearman listed as one of the ‘surprises’ of 2022, especially after a stellar 2021 season that saw him win both the ADAC and the Italian Formula 4 titles. However, what he did in his rookie season in Formula 3 was nothing short of impressive.
Born in 2005, Bearman was one of the youngest drivers on the grid in 2022 – but judging by his racecraft, consistency and ability, you would say he handled the season like a veteran. With one win and seven more podiums, Bearman proved that the faith Prema Racing put in him was justified – especially when comparing him to his teammates. The Briton managed to beat both Arthur Leclerc and Jak Crawford in the drivers’ standings; race after race, he established himself as the quickest and most reliable driver for the Italian outfit, something very few people would have predicted at the start of the season.
The 17-year-old will race in Formula 2 next year, as Prema chose to promote him over Leclerc and Crawford after just one season in Formula 3. He will definitely be looking to fight for the title the way he did this season.
Franco Colapinto (P9, 76 points)
After splitting his 2021 duties between single-seaters and endurance racing, Colapinto had a very successful rookie season in Formula 3 with Van Amersfoort Racing, claiming two wins and three additional podiums throughout the year.
Colapinto looked quick right from the beginning, as he won the Sprint Race in Imola in only his second outing as a Formula 3 driver – a result he would repeat five months later in Monza. Having also stepped on the podium in Sprint Races in both Austria and Hungary, he became one of the masters of the format in 2022 and later established himself as a competitive driver in every situation by stepping on the podium in the Feature Race in Zandvoort. A lack of consistency saw him drop off the pace slightly on tracks like Silverstone and Spa, where he failed to score points. However, that doesn’t take away the brilliant pace and composure he often showed throughout the year.
As he looks to make a step forward in his career, the Argentine will try to improve on his rookie season and perhaps emerge as a title contender in F3 in 2023.
Zak O’Sullivan (11th – 54 points)
After dominating the GB3 Championship with Carlin in 2021, O’Sullivan faced high expectations for 2022 as he got promoted to F3 with the same team. And overall, he did not disappoint: he scored 54 points – almost 95 percent of Carlin’s total – and finished the season 11th.
From the very first race of the season in Bahrain, where he finished a promising sixth, the Brit showed good speed and remarkable skill in one-lap pace: O’Sullivan qualified in the top 12 on five occasions and even took his maiden pole at his home race in Silverstone, where he eventually finished second. He scored another podium in the Sprint Race in Zandvoort, but the highlight of his rookie season definitely came in Hungary. A masterclass of a drive in tricky, wet-to-dry conditions saw him climb up from 17th to fourth in the last three laps of the race, which is an impressive result on a track like the Hungaroring where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
After impressing many teams, O’Sullivan has been picked up by Prema for his second season in Formula 3, and he will look to be one of the drivers to beat next year.
William Alatalo (18th – 24 points)
As the season went on, Finland’s Alatalo quickly became Jenzer Motorsport’s radiant beam in the night, scoring 92 percent of the Swiss team’s total points in what was a remarkable year given the circumstances he had to face.
The 20-year-old scored points in six different races during his maiden Formula 3 season, with a sixth place in the Sprint Race in Spa being his best result. However, the last race of the season in Monza was arguably his best showing: Alatalo was fourth and in contention for a podium before a late red flag and a penalty for track limits relegated him to seventh. In general, the Finn was the quickest out of the three Jenzer drivers on many occasions. Alatalo had some bad luck too – especially in qualifying – as he missed being on pole for the reverse-grid Sprint Race by just a few hundredths in both Austria and Belgium.
Overall, Alatalo had a good year, and he showed great pace in the final few rounds of the championship. Unfortunately, a lack of funding will likely see him sit out the 2023 season as he looks for a drive elsewhere in the world of racing.
Header photo credit: James Gasperotti, Formula Motorsport Ltd, Prema Racing; Collage by F1 Feeder Series
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