Heikki Kovalainen Podium

A Brief History of British F3

As the oldest Formula 3 category in the world, British Formula 3 has gone from strength to strength since 1951, particularly in the last ten years. In 2003 British Formula 3 began it's International journey, racing for the first time outside of the UK at the legendary Spa Francorchamps in Belgium. Since this time the Championship has returned every year.

In 2014, the Series visits three international F1 level circuits at Silverstone, UK; Spa Francorchamps in Belgium and Brands Hatch in the UK. There is a welcome return to Thruxton after a 3 year absence. 

Title sponsor and official tyre supplier, Cooper Tires, part of the Avon Tyres group which have been tyre suppliers to the British Formula 3 Championship for almost 30 years, and will continue as Title Sponsors and official tyre suppliers, giving the British championship immense stability and support for future talent looking to move into the category.

Since its inception, Formula 3 in Britain has been the breeding ground of champions. One of the earliest British Formula 3 title-winners was Jackie Stewart; within five years of taking the Formula 3 crown the Great Scot had claimed the first of his three World Championship titles, establishing a pattern being repeated to this day by talented young drivers from across the globe.

British Formula 3 Champions who have gone on to be crowned World Champion

Sir Jackie Stewart 1964

Emerson Fittipaldi 1969

Nelson Piquet 1978

Ayrton Senna 1983

Mika Hakkinen 1990

Jenson Button 2009

Including the above champions, 25 former British F3 drivers have won a Grand Prix, most of them more than once. The most successful driver never to have won the World Championship, Stirling Moss, started in British Formula 3 back in the 1950s, when the cars were powered by 500cc motor bike engines.

11 drivers have taken 16 wins in the Le Mans 24 Hour race, with Derek Bell being the most prolific with 5 victories.

The Indianapolis 500 has been won a total of 11 times by drivers from British Formula 3, ranging from Jim Clark in 1965 to Dario Franchitti in recent years.

Many other race-winning British Formula 3 drivers have gone on to claim motor sport’s greatest achievement, including James Hunt, Jody Scheckter, Alan Jones, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion, Jenson Button. In fact, British Formula 3 has bred more World Champions than any other single-seater series worldwide. 

The Formula 1 grid in the last four seasons would have been a poorer place without British Formula 3 graduates such as Mark Webber, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, David Coulthard, Takuma Sato, Anthony Davidson, Scott Speed, Sergio Perez, Narain Karthikeyan, Heikki Kovalainen, Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Chilton, and Jaime Alguersuari, who won the 2008 British Formula 3 title and who, within months, was propelled on to the Grand Prix grid as the world’s youngest-ever F1 racer at 19 years and 125 days old.

There are of course plenty more British Formula 3 Champions who went on to achieve greatness in other motor-sporting endeavours, including:

Derek Warwick (1978)

Veteran of 162 GPs, World Sportscar Champion & Le Mans winner 1992

Jonathan Palmer (1981)

European F2 Champion and MD of Motorsport Vision, which runs Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton and Cadwell Park circuits.

Johnny Dumfries (1984)

Le Mans winner 1988

Andy Wallace (1986)

Le Mans winner 1988

JJ Lehto (1988)

Le Mans winner 1995 & 2005, ALMS Champion 2004

Johnny Herbert (1987)

Le Mans winner 1991

JJ Lehto (1988)

2005 Le Mans 24 Hours winner, 2004 ALMS Champion and F1 driver

David Brabham (1989)

Le Mans winner & ALMS Champion 2009

Gil de Ferran (1992)

Champ Car Champion2000/01, Indianapolis 500 winner2003

Many thanks to Jeremy Lord and Marcus Simmons for their assistance with historic statistics.