Before you all start panicking, no, the BRDC British F3 series is not folding. However, they are changing name to the GB3 Championship with immediate effect. The move comes as the FIA has revoked national governing bodies from awarding the name, instead reserving it solely for the international FIA Formula 3 Championship that supports the F1.
While this is not the biggest tragedy in the world, especially as it is not the only series undergoing a name change, it does mark an end to the incredibly historic name of British F3, and undermines those who have claimed its title.
Now, technically BRDC F3/GB3 isn’t really the British F3. The original British F3 series, which was revered by many as one of the biggest junior single seater championships in the world, folded in 2014 after rising costs and the revival of the European F3 championship. However, BRDC F4 popped up in 2013, and after some negotiating became British F3 in 2016, while MSA Formula turned into the modern British F4 championship. Even if it were not the original championship, and the quality of the field may have been well off of the British F3 hay day, the historic name still remained.
The move was not popular with fans immediately, with many pointing out its division from the manufacturer involved F3 series that had dominated the era up to that point. Of course, why makes something a “Formula” series has changed dramatically over the years. Long gone are the development heavy F2 and F3 series of the 20th Century and in their place have developed top-to-bottom controlled spec-series. As more and more junior single seaters have adopted this pattern, BRDC F3 ironically became left behind in the cycle, becoming an outlier, running its 2.0L Duratec Engine as opposed to 3.4L Naturally aspirated engines.
Since its rebranding in 2016 the series has never been “proper F3”, but at the same time it’s lived through an era in which the FIA completely reshaped what it meant to be Formula 3.
The British F3 name was one associated with legends of motorsport. Clark, Stewart, Senna, Hakkinen, all champions of the British isles. It was the junior championship to win, held in a similar regard to the Macau GP and Formula Ford Festival. The top drivers, the top teams, it was all there. To have British F3 Champion printed next to your name was a mark of authority and talent, and commanded respect from other drivers.
Countless winners of the championship went on to be successful in F1 and in the world of motorsports, and that’s a trend that continued into the BRDC era as well, with George Russell claiming the 2014 championship (while still under the F4 guise) and Lando Norris finishing 8th in the standings among a very strong 2016 field. Oh, and also only doing half the events.
But at the same time, it was never able to reach the popularity of what once was, especially in the 80s and 90s, and recently the strength of the grid has begone to severely wane. It almost feels like it is tarnishing the name of British F3, making the championship seem like just another national series when in reality just a few years ago it was so much more.
It could be argued this was not just a British F3 problem though as even British F4 has failed to relive the success of the 2015 talent pool that saw Norris, IndyCar race-winner Colton Herta as well as Dan Ticktum and Sportscar stars Matheus Leist, Ricky Collard compete for the title. As talent flocks to Europe over the UK, it’s a fitting, if not disappointing end that the final round under the “British F3” moniker took place at Spa-Francorchamps.
So, as we say goodbye to a name shrouded in history, it is a bittersweet ending. On one hand, it doesn’t feel like the send-off it deserves. British F3 should be the series pioneering the future, the most talented youngsters in the world battling it out for glory. But at the same time, it feels like it is the right decision to do. The recent quality of the series has been questionable, and the decision to bring back the British F3 name was an interesting one, with many feeling that its best to let the name stay dead to not harm its reputation. But as one chapter closes, another begins, and who knows – perhaps the GB3 championship will rise to its own fame, as British F3 is finally laid to rest.