RACE CARS
Tuesday, Feb 19 02:55pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

What is the new-for-2019 Formula European Masters?

Liam Lawson’s signing to the Red Bull Junior Team also coincided with confirmation he’ll be competing in this year’s Formula European Masters.

 

The series is technically a new category for 2019, but it has history.

 

In recent years the FIA has moved towards a more focused ladder system to get to the upper echelon of the sport – Formula 1.

 

Essentially the plan was to make a liner progression from national Formula 4 championships, to Formula Regional (Formula 3), then to the FIA Formula 3 and FIA Formula 2 categories that support the Formula 1 World Championship.

 

At the end of the 2018 season the GP3 Series was dissolved and replaced with the FIA Formula 3 Championship. In the space of two years GP2 and GP3 became Formula 2 and Formula 3 to create a more straight forward ladder.

 

However, what it meant was the demise of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship. But from the ashes of that series has berthed Formula European Masters. Essentially, it’s the continuation of the European championship with a few small changes.

 

The Good

 

Champions of the Euopean Formula 3 Championship like Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and Lance Stroll have all gone on to Formula 1. The series also produced Max Verstappen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alexander Albon, Charles Leclerc and George Russel – all successful drivers who have raced previously or will race in Formula 1 this year.

 

It’s no wonder then that there was a desire to keep the cars running into 2019.

 

At the end of last year it was announced that Formula European Masters would be formed, and like the series of old, it would support the DTM.

 

DTM

 

That relationship with DTM is one of draw cards this season too. The top three drivers at the end of the season will be awarded a DTM test.

 

One driver will also receive an additional reward: a one-race guest drive in the 2020 DTM. Additionally, the series’ champion will also be invited to a one-day SUPER FORMULA test.

 

Red Bull have already whet their appetite in Japan having fielded Pierre Gasly there in 2017 where he narrowly missed out on the title in his maiden season. This year Red Bull Junior Team drivers Lucas Auer and Dan Ticktum will race there, so logically the next step after Formula 3 for Lawson may just be SUPER FORMULA.

 

The Bad (sorta)

 

Unfortunately, Formula European Masters isn’t part of the ladder that the FIA would perhaps like drivers to follow. However, it does get to award a respectable 25 FIA Super Licence points for the championship winner – five less than the FIA Formula 3 Championship.

 

Some teams like Prema Theodore Racing have abandoned Formula European Masters in favour of Formula Regional and FIA Formula 3, though it has retained the likes of Motopark, Van Amersfoot and Fortec Motorsport. Mücke Motorsport returns to Formula 3 racing with the series this year as does Jo Zeller Racing.

 

Currently there are only three drivers announced for this year’s series. Sophia Floersch, Lawson and his teammate yuki Tsunoda of Japan have been confirmed. The first round begins in May but official pre-season testing will kick off in just a month.

 

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Uncertainty around the Formula 1 feeder series ladder has made life difficult for those trying to decide where they’ll go.

 

Essentially there are three options for Formula 3 racing in Europe; the top flight FIA Formula 3 Championship, Formula Regional and Formule Renault for current specification cars.

 

Formula European Masters uses the Dallara F317 chassis, which perhaps puts itself at a bit of a disadvantage being an older car. However, the F317 chassis is a popular one among drivers. that car is being favoured for this year’s Macau Grand Prix of the heavier and faster V6-powered Dallara F3 2019 (pictured below).

 

F319

 

It is not known how long the series will last. It’s place could be seen as being under threat with the FIA affiliated series mandating the halo, something that F317 (below) doesn’t have.

 

But the Euroformula Open Championship has long managed to survive using the 2012-specification Dallara F312 chassis and still attracts interest globally as a lower cost Formula 3 category.

 

F317

 

What else has changed?

 

The biggest thing you’ll probably notice are the change of tracks and drivers. With HiTech GP, Carlin and Prema out, there’ll likely be fewer big name drivers… probably in the FIA Formula 3 Championship.

 

The tracks will change too. Instead of starting at the Pau Grand Prix, racing begins at the Hockenheimring. The whole series supports the DTM and will venture to Zolder in Belgium, Misano in Italy, Assen in the Netherlands, Brands Hatch in the United Kingdom, as well as the Norisring, Nurburgring and EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany.

 

It’ll be interesting to see how Lawson goes. If he can translate his pace from the Castrol Toyota Racing Series to Formula 3 then he’ll be a shoe in for the title. 

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