Analysis: Will windtunnel ban turn European Formula 3 into GP3?

Will a ban on windtunnel use and aerodynamic development rob the Formula 3 European Championship of a core selling point or save it from itself? MARCUS SIMMONS gives his verdict

Analysis: Will windtunnel ban turn European Formula 3 into GP3?

Will a ban on windtunnel use and aerodynamic development rob the Formula 3 European Championship of a core selling point or save it from itself? MARCUS SIMMONS gives his verdict

The trick for Formula 3 European Championship technical delegate Robert Maas in formulating next year's new technical regulations has been to find ways of cutting costs without compromising the category's USP.

Put simply, the success of F3 over the past decades has been founded on the fact that its exposure of drivers to development work and advanced engineering prepares them better than any other class of racing for Formula 1.

"The target we gave Robert was to protect the DNA of F3," said the Single Seater Commission's Frederic Bertrand, "so we have to find areas to keep it free."

Maas, meanwhile, pointed out that within the new aero kit there will be different options for teams to try - it's just that they will all be standard Dallara parts.

Furthermore, development on suspension and shock absorbers will still be relatively free.

So this will be more than a four-cylinder version of GP3, but will it be a success?

Certainly one team Autosport spoke to this week, which plans a full-time return to European F3 in 2017 after missing this season, was elated with the news.

And we also understand that the existing seven teams have all pledged to the FIA that they will be back next year.

That's good news for the FIA, which is hoping to boost grids back from the current 20-21 to 26-28 cars, although it doesn't want a return to the 35-car crashfests of 2015.

Regarding driver eligibility, it is also heartening to hear Bertrand say that "maybe we went a little bit too far in some points, and we don't want to make the same mistakes with excessive restrictions."

That came after drivers were banned from making the move straight from karting to Euro F3 for 2016, and drivers were restricted to a maximum of three seasons in the series.

Bertrand's remark doesn't necessarily mean that these rules will be repealed, but we can at least expect some modification for 2017.

The other good news for British followers of F3 is the confirmation from Formel 3 Vermarktungs chief Walter Mertes that the Silverstone round will return to the calendar in 2017 in its traditional World Endurance Championship support slot.

Mertes, whose F3V concern is part of the DTM-organising ITR, said: "Silverstone is important to me, and to the teams."

At the same time, the prospect of a World Cup has receded, at least in the immediate future.

While Mertes and the FIA are talking to promoters outside Europe, they realise that sponsors are needed to cover the logistics and make these races no more expensive to the teams.

For now, expect a European championship covering 10 or 11 rounds, at least in 2017.

Hopefully this is a step in the right direction without overly diluting the category that has always been the purest form of single-seater racing outside Formula 1.

Even if some of these measures need tweaking 12 months down the line, it's a good sign that the FIA and ITR are working together to push their baby, after what looked suspiciously like an element of complacency over the 2015-16 off-season, and even better news that the governing body is prepared to admit to mistakes.

There also seems to be much more co-operation between the organisers and the competitors, with some of these moves a direct result of meetings between the FIA and team managers that have been taking place regularly at race weekends since the Pau round in May.

With the FIA asking teams to vote for two delegates from their numbers to represent their interests on this week's Sporting Working Group, there's clearly a much better dialogue all around.

And don't forget that of those teams, all six that competed in the July round at Zandvoort were represented in the top seven finishers in the final race of the weekend.

That's as clear an illustration as any of Bertrand's viewpoint that the perception of domination of the series by the 'billionaire teams' is just that: a perception.

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