It’s not often that a major race championship is won in August, or with 3 races remaining, so here’s a shout-out to Carlin’s Enaam Ahmed, the newly crowned King of British F3.
One of the privileges of working trackside in motor sport is that you get to see, up-close (and sometimes very personal), some truly remarkable talent: racers, on the edge, pushing boundaries and proving their mettle.
Through all its guises, Formula 3 is universally recognised as the most important step on the single seater ladder, and since its introduction in the early 1950s, British F3 has been at the forefront of shaping the reputations of many of the finest young grand prix drivers from around the world.
Some go on to become titans, immersing their reputations into the essence of the sport, yet only a handful have ever managed to win as convincingly at this level as the young Londoner. Senna, Häkkinen, Jan Magnussen, Sato, Vergne – names long ago etched into silverware, are the only ones that have been able to amass so many victories in a single season; until now.
Is he the real deal?
Of course, racing with a team like Carlin was always going to help. Their support and experience has proven invaluable to drivers seeking to hone their skills and find those extra tenths that turn a fast driver into a winner. Racing alongside a competitive teammate also helps; those with a seamless natural pace. It’s always been the truest test, the measure of like against like, evidenced by and with the benefit of the resulting data and its analysis.
But it’s not just the ability to lead to the line that makes the 17-year-old former kart champion the standout racer of this season. I’ve stood by the apex on many of the most challenging corners and watched him fluently carry the speed that holds or gains the advantage. He’s not just a racer, he’s a winner, and it’s winning that counts.
By any count, 2017 has been a remarkable year for Ahmed. Making the transition from winning in karts to winning in cars is, in itself, a tremendous feat, but to do so on a grid laden with some of the finest emerging racing talent… well that’s special.
So, what can we now expect from a young man seeking to build his future? Well this week saw Britain’s newest champion test with Carlin in one of their FIA Formula 3 European cars. Just as our own national championship has grown in status, so too has it’s older sibling. Euro F3 is very definitely the place to be for anyone with serious and genuine ambitions to join the Formula One grid, and the recent announcement at Monza that it is to be merged with GP3 in 2019 can only benefit its participants.
Needless to say, there’s much work needed on sponsorship and funding before a commitment can be made, but with the example being driven home by stable-mate Lando Norris (currently leading the Euro F3 standings, and testing with McLaren), it’s clear that for once, it won’t hurt to follow rather than lead.
The final rounds of the BRDC Formula 3 Championship will be held at Donington Park on 23rd / 24th September 2017.
And it wouldn’t be possible without..
Whilst the credits play out, it’s important to recognise the role played by the series itself. In a sport where timing is everything, the emergence of the current BRDC British F3 Championship has much to do with Ahmed’s elevation.
Not that long ago, the traditional, structured, and importantly cost-effective platforms for career development were lost to the commercial strains on constructor budgets. Formula Ford, Formula Renault and Formula BMW were all consigned to Wikipedia entries, and as a result, British F3 fell by the wayside too.
It’s only the combined efforts of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) and Jonathan Palmer’s MotorSport Vision (MSV), together with the FIA’s new Formula 4 series of championships that has, at last, started to address the need for a new era in driver development. MSV is doing what it does best; investing in talent, promotion and organisation, whilst the BRDC is thriving in its role, showcasing a perfectly blended culture of youth with heritage. British F3 isn’t only back, it’s back and it means business.