The biggest challenges the FIA F3 grid faces ahead of first-ever Australian round

For the first time in its short yet remarkable history, FIA Formula 3 will race in three different continents thanks to the addition of Albert Park to the 2023 calendar. With a new track comes a new set of challenges that the drivers will have to face if they want to leave Melbourne with some silverware. Here’s what some of them had to say before the start of the second round of the season.

By Daniele Spadi

This weekend, the Albert Park Circuit will host the two most famous feeder series categories for the first time this year, with both Formula 2 and Formula 3 travelling down under for their third and second round of the season respectively.

Built around the Albert Park Lake, the 5.278km long circuit underwent layout changes in 2021 to increase on-track action and further improve the cars’ ability to closely follow one another during the race. Moreover, the 2023 season sees a record-breaking four DRS zones, with every major straight becoming a main overtaking opportunity for the drivers.

As a new entry in Formula 3’s busy calendar, it’s very tough to predict if things will look the same as they did back in Bahrain at the start of the season. However, the drivers are ready for the challenge, eager to start their engines and discover what the Australian circuit has to offer.

A difficult challenge

Before going out on track for the first time, drivers and team personnel alike will have to adjust to the country itself, which is usually in a completely different time zone to where the drivers stay between races.

Different drivers have different approaches to reducing the impact of an almost double-digit time zone difference, but the main thing to master seems to be a good sleep schedule.

Jonny Edgar facing right in orange race suit
Edgar has been keeping to a sleep schedule to prepare for the weekend | Credit: Sebastiaan Rozendaal / Dutch Photo Agency

“For the time zone, I was here since last Friday, so I’ve had a bit of time,” Jonny Edgar told Feeder Series ahead of the start of the weekend. “I’ve just been trying to go to sleep at a normal time, and when it gets to a normal time to wake up trying to get up. It’s getting easier and easier,” he added.

Edgar’s MP Motorsport teammate Mari Boya was on the same page, too. “One thing I tried to do when I was coming [here] on the flight, I tried not to sleep that much…  and I think it worked quite good, because the first night I slept really well.”

Adaptation is key

The main word that is spreading through the paddock ahead of Friday’s action is ‘adaptation’. With only one free practice session before things heat up in qualifying, many drivers will look to spend as much time out on track as possible – and the ones who will adapt to the new conditions sooner could have a significant advantage throughout the weekend.

“Preparation is extremely important,” said Trident’s Ollie Goethe on the Feeder Series Podcast. “We [did] a lot of sim and we [did] some karting for physical preparation here as well [with Trident], which is really beneficial physically.

“You only have one free practice where you only get a few push laps and then it’s straight into quali,” he said. “It’s not like you have a day or two days of testing, so it’s all about preparation for the team and the drivers.”

Franco Colapinto holding trophy while doing a thumbs up sign
Colapinto will be hoping to earn more silverware in Melbourne | Credit: Sebastiaan Rozendaal / Dutch Photo Agency

According to Franco Colapinto, the key factor to drivers achieving successful results this weekend will be whether the track suits their driving style. “It will be more key how quickly we adapt to the track and to the changing conditions,” the MP driver said.

Edgar added that this weekend will be a challenge for the teams, too. “It’s a bit unknown for everyone, also from the engineers’ side as well with the cars’ setup. [In] practice, we just need to get a lot of laps in and learn as much as possible from that.”

Simulator work

Even though Albert Park is a new track for pretty much everyone in the feeder series world, access to tools like the simulator could come in handy to learn the track and have a better approach to the race weekend.

“The sim here is one of the most realistic I’ve driven, and I’m confident that it’s going to be similar to real life,” Goethe said when asked if the simulator work could help him have a general knowledge of the track before racing on it.

Drivers with trophies on the podium in Bahrain
Goethe found himself on the podium in Round 1 of the season | Credit: Prema Racing

Prema driver and Feeder Series columnist Zak O’Sullivan had positive things to say about working on the simulator, too. “I did a bit with Williams on the sim last year at the race weekend’s time, and obviously I do a bit more this year – plus some stuff with Prema,” the Brit said on the Feeder Series Podcast.

“All the teams have a scan of the year before circuit, and they’ll try and get a current year one just before the event,” he said. “But there’s only so much sim you can do – I think by the time you get on track, you get a better idea of the bumps, how the tyres work, because we’ll go in pretty much completely blind.” 

Header image credit: Sebastiaan Rozendaal / Dutch Photo Agency

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