Paul Ricard motor racing circuit in the south of France hosts the opening three rounds of the 2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship this coming weekend, 2nd/3rd April, where British team Hitech GP is targeting a consistently competitive start to its first full season in the prestigious series.
For its maiden campaign, Silverstone-based Hitech GP fields a capacity three car entry featuring some of the most talented, and hotly tipped, aspiring FIA Formula One World Championship drivers on the international single-seater scene.
George Russell, a race winner in FIA Formula 3 last year, 2014 BRDC Formula 4 Champion and the 2014 McLaren Autosport BRDC winner, leads Hitech GP’s attack on the ultra-competitive category and aims to build on the top six championship finish he achieved last season.
Team-mates Ben Barnicoat and Nikita Mazepin are both fresh to FIA Formula 3 in 2016, but both bring superb raw talent from the junior categories and have been working hard during winter testing to acclimatise as well as possible to their Dallara-Mercedes race cars.
Englishman Barnicoat, part of the Racing Steps Foundation programme, already has three car racing titles to his name – the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Autumn Cup, the 2014 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC crown and the 2015 BRDC Formula 4 Autumn Trophy.
Russian youngster Mazepin graduates into Formula 3 competition this year for just his second season in car racing, having become a podium finisher in only his third race meeting in Formula Renault Northern European Cup before ending the campaign as the sixth highest placed rookie.
George Russell (Car No.12):
“I’m really excited and looking forward to the season kicking off at the weekend in Paul Ricard. I’ve never been to the circuit before but myself and Hitech GP have been doing a lot of preparation for the event so I’m sure it won’t phase us. We have been testing a number of items and set-ups throughout pre-season testing, in which they all looked very positive.
“Until we complete that first qualifying session at the first round, though, we don’t have much of an indication of how we compare to the others. Nevertheless, I’m feeling confident with the guys I have around me we will get the best out of the car and, ultimately, the results we are looking for.”
Nikita Mazepin (Car No.11):
“My testing with Hitech GP so far has been very good, the team has made me feel very comfortable in the car since the first test. I’ve been working on my progress with my engineer Steve and, hopefully, it will start to pay off at the first round!
“For Paul Ricard, the main goal for me would be consistency in my results and progressing every race after that. Obviously it is not going to be easy, as it is a very big step in my career, but with hard work I think everything is possible. My hopes for the season are very clear – working on minimising the mistakes and show some good results throughout the year.”
Ben Barnicoat (Car No.24):
“I’m really looking forward to the opening round at Paul Ricard. It will be my first time racing at the circuit, as well as my career first F3 race, so it’s going to be a big challenge. The team is doing its utmost, though, to give me a competitive car as well as lots of driving preparation to make sure I’m ready for the races, and we hope to start the season as we wish to continue with good results.
“Our pre-season tests have gone well, we had an intense testing program trying a lot of upgrades and development on the car as well as getting myself into full flow with the F3 machinery. At the moment it’s difficult to say what my hopes are, I’m just going to go to Paul Ricard with an open mind as it’s my first F3 race, give it my all and go from there!”
Hitech GP Team Owner Oliver Oakes:
“This is it – our first season in FIA Formula 3 begins now! Everyone in the team has worked so hard over the winter with George, Ben and Nikita and we’re obviously aiming to have the strongest possible weekend in Ricard. Of course, this championship is one of the toughest in the world so we’re under no illusions as to the challenge awaiting us.
Free practice and qualifying for the opening three rounds of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship will take place on Friday, 1st April, at Paul Ricard HTTT. On Saturday, 2nd April, the opening race of the 2016 season will begin at 10.45 (local time) with race two following at 16.45 (local time). On Sunday, 3rd April, round three is scheduled to begin at 10.30 (local time).