While all the fuss and hype has surrounded a famous son and a Red Bull Junior, the 2018 FIA Formula 3 European Championship has been the most wide-open since its return in 2012. Ten different drivers have won the fifteen rounds to date and with another fifteen remaining, the championship is still wide open and waiting for someone to follow in the footsteps of luminaries such as Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll and Lando Norris.
Two of the leading lights in the title race are British and with the next three races on home soil at Silverstone this weekend, it gives Dan Ticktum and Enaam Ahmed a prime opportunity to take control of matters.
Ticktum (Brit Pack Ranking – 9th) is the blue-eyed boy of British motorsport, taking over from Norris this year as the driver who many expect to see in Formula 1 sooner rather than later. That hype has gone into overdrive in recent weeks with the news that Red Bull’s Helmut Marko is keen to give the 19-year-old the chance to test and/or drive one of their fleet of Formula 1 cars.
Is he ready? Undoubtedly he is talented. Ticktum is a Red Bull Junior and has been for several seasons now. He capped off an average 2017 by winning the coveted McLaren Autosport BRDC Award – beating Ahmed in the process – as well as the Macau Grand Prix. Cynics usually point to the fact that the two leaders in Macau collided on the final lap, leaving it open for Ticktum to sneak in a victory. That would be unfair on the Brit though who managed his car – particularly his tyres – in a highly attritional race with a consistent drive around the arduous Guia circuit.
The elephant in the room where Ticktum is concerned though is the two year ban (one year suspended) he received in 2015 whilst driving in MSA Formula. Having been involved in an incident with Ricky Collard that compromised his race, the Londoner passed ten cars under the safety car before deliberately crashing into Collard while the race was still under caution. It was a petulant, immature move by a teenager in need of maturing.
Having served the ban and moved his career forwards, via Formula Renault, GP3 and the odd Super Formula race in Japan for Team Mugen, Ticktum is on a path to the pinnacle of the sport. But the ban still has a grasp on him, as it has limited Superlicence points-scoring opportunities that have since thwarted Red Bull attempts to promote him to F1 testing, let alone racing. At present he will not have enough to reach the top flight in 2019, even if he wins the F3 championship.
Ticktum is quick and even though it is not unreasonable to say that his Team Motopark squad are not up there with the likes of Prema in terms of set-up, they have worked well together this year. His style on the track is smoother when compared to his Formula Renault races we watched in 2017, something echoed by Christian Horner who has praised how quickly the youngster is learning. One area he stands out above his contemporaries is the speed and control he is prepared to take into corners.
While Red Bull continue to put the youngster on a pedestal, Ticktum needs to do what everyone else is struggling to do in Formula 3 this season – achieve some consistency. He has the talent to do this and is many peoples’ favourite for the title.
He does, however, need to focus on the task in hand and not concern himself with so-called “pathetic mind games” from fellow drivers, as well as keep things tidy on the track. In the first race at Spa last month, he was held responsible for a first-corner incident that compromised others’ races. This meant he finished out of the points instead of fourth. Without that incident he would be ahead of New Zealander, Marcus Armstrong, instead of being one point behind in second in the title race.
In 2017 – two years after that incident – Ticktum finished 3rd in one of the two Formula Renault 2.0 rounds at Silverstone. Based on his current trajectory, we can expect him to finish a couple of steps higher on the podium this weekend.
We will look at the prospects of Enaam Ahmed and Ben Hingeley – the other British racers in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship – in the coming days.
You can watch the three races from Silverstone this weekend live on the FIA Formula 3 European Championship YouTube channel, by clicking here.
Images courtesy of FIA Formula 3 European Championship / Thomas Suer.