To compete in the FIA F3 European Championship you need an FIA International Race licence. The licence regulations are structured so many international kart drivers are not eligible for an International Race licence straight away. They are typically required to compete in other race categories to gain the results, competence and the conduct deemed satisfactory for an International Race licence. My success in CIK-FIA karting events meant I was one of a few kart drivers eligible for a higher grade International Race licence in 2015 allowing me to make the jump straight to F3 or other international race categories. Without meeting the requirements, outlined in the Appendix L of the FIA International Sporting Code, the MSA (UK ASN) would not have issued me an FIA International Race licence enabling me to race in the TRS in New Zealand or the FIA European F3 series. The MSA were very clear on this point.
Looking at the 2016 licence regulations, successful kart drivers are still able to qualify for a higher grade FIA International Race licence and can race in a wide range of international race categories. They are just no longer able to use their new license to move straight from karting into the FIA F3 European Championship.
..what do I think of the move straight to F3?
Personally I am pleased with my move to F3. Without doubt I have developed and learned a lot racing with experienced engineers, drivers and the F3 machinery. The only downside is that testing is more restrictive and achieving qualifying and race results in F3 was more challenging than I would have hoped for. But that's the way to learn. In my case, I finished 12th in the Championship and was the only driver to be a classified finisher in all 33 F3 races in 2015, including a podium at the Nürburgring. At the sharp end of the grid I was racing against some experienced drivers who would no longer be able to compete in Euro F3 as a result of the new rule limiting a driver to three seasons. I am one driver who is grateful for the opportunity to race against these drivers rather than complaining about it being unfair.
..will the ban reduce the crash rate?
If the ban is to help reduce the crash rate it will be as much down to the reduction in grid size as opposed to the removal of CIK-FIA Championship winning kart drivers. Last season we had a full grid of 34+ drivers. I believe the crashes last year were partly down to the size of the grid, and involved seasoned drivers as much as anyone else – certainly the vast majority cannot be blamed on the karting graduates. This season we have a grid closer in size to 2013 and 2014. Statistically we should see fewer crashes. This year we may also see for the first time the use of the virtual safety car within F3, and it is unclear at this point how drivers will cope with the restarts from that, but again it should help. This year all drivers were required to attend an FIA Training course covering important aspects of racing and the responsibilities of an F3 Championship driver. Looking to the new season, I expect you will again see some silly crashes, but hopefully far fewer incidents than last season.