After a quiet start to the 2023 FIA Formula 3 Championship, Jenzer Motorsport picked up the pace during in-season testing in Barcelona and Imola: Nikita Bedrin was consistently quick in Italy, whereas Taylor Barnard was second fastest in Spain. The Briton is fresh off his first top 10 finish of the season in Melbourne, and he is confident that the pace that he has shown during the break will be replicated in the next round of the championship. Feeder Series spoke to the 18-year-old during the opening Italian F4 weekend in Imola about his maiden Formula 3 campaign and his hopes for the remainder of the season.
By Daniele Spadi
FIA Formula 3 has a reputation for being one of the most difficult feeder series championships to predict, and its 2023 season is no exception. With such a close field, many drivers can achieve good results when the opportunity rolls around, making it vital for everyone in the series to capitalize on such occasions. This is especially true for teams like Jenzer Motorsport, who are looking to step back on the Formula 3 podium for the first time since the second round of the 2021 season at Paul Ricard.
To partner Italian F4 and ADAC F4 race winner Nikita Bedrin and Euroformula Open graduate Alex García, the Swiss outfit selected 18-year-old Taylor Barnard to complete their 2023 line-up. Jenzer had a tough start to the year, as they currently sit eighth in the team’s standings after the opening two rounds of the championship. However, the decision to bring Barnard onboard has proven to be the right one, as the Briton scored the only two points that team currently has to its name.
A big change
Barnard stepped up to Formula 3 after racing in Formula 4 in 2022 and taking second place in this winter’s Formula Regional Middle East Championship behind Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli. After a breakthrough season in 2022, where the Briton finished eighth in Italian F4 and a brilliant second in ADAC F4, he took part in the F3 post-season test with Jenzer Motorsport before signing with the Swiss outfit for the following year.
“Of course I was very excited,” Barnard told Feeder Series when asked about his feelings on getting the call from Jenzer.
However, jumping straight to Formula 3 has its technical difficulties, too. The F3 car is completely different to its Formula 4 counterpart, and drivers often need time to adapt to it.
“I would say in general it’s just the downforce in the high-speed corners and the braking as well,” Barnard said when discussing the biggest challenges he had to face when learning to drive the F3 car.
“It’s just all because the downforce is so much more, and it’s completely different. There’s not something specific I’ve struggled with. I didn’t really struggle at all – it was just the braking, which we’ve fixed.”
A solid start
Barnard got off to a good start in Bahrain, where he was consistently among the top 12 on Friday. However, a track limits violation saw him tumble down the order in qualifying, losing what could have been a great opportunity to score points on his debut.
Melbourne was another solid step forward for the Briton, who managed to bag his first points of the season in the feature race, in which he crossed the line in ninth. Though Barnard has just those two points to his name, his pace was good enough for more – showing that the work he has done during the winter is starting to pay off.
“I think we were quite prepared coming in considering we had the jump from F4. We could have been a bit better [prepared], but I think results will now start coming after we’ve had some kilometers in the car.”
After the championship’s first trip to Australia, F3 had a unusual six-week break before coming back for three consecutive race weekends the iconic race tracks of Imola, Monaco and Barcelona.
On one hand, this break has provided chance for teams and drivers alike to rest and charge their batteries for the tough three weeks ahead; however, it has also been challenging to stay motivated and on top of things when stepping away from the action for so long during a season.
That’s why it wasn’t surprising to catch Barnard trackside during Italian F4’s opening weekend in Imola, as both Jenzer and his former team PHM were there to compete just days after F3’s in-season testing took place at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari.
I’m just here at the track keeping myself in the mood, just being around the cars, and always trying to help the other drivers improve also keeps myself in shapeBarnard on spending time trackside at Imola for the opening weekend of Italian F4
“Of course you have to train quite a lot at home – sim preparation of course,” he said. “Even now [here in Imola] I’m not driving myself, but I’m just here at the track keeping myself in the mood, just being around the cars, and always trying to help the other drivers improve also keeps myself in shape”.
Lightning pace during in-season testing
FIA F3’s long break was, however, filled with in-season testing: the championship visited Barcelona and Imola for four days of running total. Both Barnard and Jenzer looked rapid, as Barnard finished the two-day test in Barcelona in second and teammate Bedrin topped the time sheets in Imola.
With Jenzer looking stronger than ever, it seems as though the Swiss outfit could have a very different second part of the season compared to the first couple of races.
“We changed the brakes, and that gave us a good performance jump,” Barnard explained. “I think other teams still have quite a bit of pace in their pocket, so we’ll see in qualifying where our pace is. We definitely made some good steps forward; I don’t know exactly where we are, but top 10 definitely is the aim.”
Barnard is no stranger to Imola, as he had raced there in his Italian F4 years. However, racing on such a complex track in a very different car compared to his previous experiences means that the Briton will have to learn the track for a second time.
“Of course the corners are the same, but the track feels completely different. We had to relearn it a little bit but I still enjoyed it very much.”
Despite the surprising results of in-season testing, it is still early to say whether or not the running order at the top of the standings has changed. However, Barnard said he was very confident in his team’s work and was looking forward to the remaining races of the championship.
“I think in these last two tests we had, we definitely improved a lot. The car, myself, just the general feeling was much better, so I think for the next races we definitely need to be going for the points in every race, not just on lucky occasions,” he told Feeder Series. “I think around P7, P8 is where I’m shooting for now at every race, so let’s see how it goes.”
I think the pace is just going to improve every time we go out. This car is all about getting confident and getting the kilometres downBarnard on building pace in new machinery over the 2023 season
Though the season is still in its early stages, the 18-year-old is ready to get back to racing – especially now that Jenzer looks to have more speed in the tank.
“I’m very optimistic and I’m very determined [to do well]. I definitely want at least one podium by the end of the year – whether it’s the sprint race or the feature race, if it’s lucky or not, at the end of the day I want a podium,” he said when asked about his expectations for the remainder of the season.
“I think the pace is just going to improve every single time we go out. This car is all about getting confident and getting the kilometres down. I think as the season goes on, we can definitely improve on whatever we’ve done now.”
Header photo credit: FRMEC
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