Sepang debut headlines F1-supporting 2016 GP3 series calendar

The GP3 Series will make its first appearance at Sepang in 2016, as part of a calendar again entirely focused on the Formula 1 grand prix support bill

Sepang debut headlines F1-supporting 2016 GP3 series calendar

The third-tier single-seater series announced its schedule for the coming season just after sister championship GP2 on Friday morning.

GP3 will join GP2 in commencing as part of the Spanish GP weekend at Barcelona in mid-May.

But whereas the senior series then follows F1 to Monaco and Azerbaijan, GP3 pauses until the Austrian GP weekend at the start of July - although it will hold a test at the Red Bull Ring during that period.

It then follows the GP2 schedule for the rest of the season, encompassing all the remaining European F1 events plus Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.

The Sepang date will be the first time GP3 has held a 'flyaway' round anywhere other than the Middle East.

GP3 has introduced a new generation car for 2016, with teams conducting the first full shakedown test at Magny-Cours this week.

GALLERY: New GP3 car takes to the track

The all-new GP3-16 chassis swaps the previous AER engine for Mecachrome power, though it remains a 400bhp machine.

Technical director Didier Perrin told Autosport at the car's launch that increasing overtaking and improving safety were the priorities in its creation.

"The car is now matching the 2015 Formula 1 regulations in terms of front impact and rear impact, this is why the nose is so long and so low," he said.

"The chassis is brand new and has been designed to accommodate a driver 10 centimetres taller than the previous one.

"It has also been designed to accommodate a seat with a bit more foam underneath, which is another step to improving the protection of the driver.

"We also designed the car to facilitate overtaking. That's one of the main criteria, it's important for the show."

The GP3 field this year includes Formula 3 converts Jake Dennis, Charles Leclerc and Alexander Albon, plus Formula Renault 3.5 race-winner and McLaren junior Nyck de Vries and Formula Renault Eurocup champion Jack Aitken.

Leading returnees from the 2015 campaign include Ferrari Driver Academy member Antonio Fuoco and '13 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Matt Parry.

Three of Ferrari's young drivers are racing in the series, as Jean Alesi's French Formula 4 graduate son Giuliano joins Fuoco and Leclerc in the field.

Teams have been allowed to expand to four-car line-ups this season, and multiple single-seater championship-winning team DAMS has joined the fray.

GP3 conducts its first full pre-season test at Estoril on March 22-24, with further two-days tests at Valencia and Barcelona following.

2016 GP3 SERIES CALENDAR

May 13-15: Barcelona
July 1-3: Red Bull Ring
July 8-10: Silverstone
July 22-24: Hungaroring
August 26-28: Spa-Francorchamps
September 2-4: Monza
September 30-October 2: Sepang
November 25-27: Yas Marina

CONFIRMED GP3 DRIVERS SO FAR

ART Grand Prix: Nirei Fukuzumi, Nyck de Vries, Alexander Albon, Charles Leclerc
Arden International: Jake Dennis, Jack Aitken, Tatiana Calderon
Koiranen GP: Matthew Parry, Matevos Isaakyan
Jenzer Motorsport: Akash Nandy
Campos Racing: Alex Palou, Constantin Tereshchenko, Steijn Schothurst
DAMS: Santino Ferrucci, Jake Hughes, Kevin Jorg
Trident: Antonio Fuoco, Artur Janosz, Giuliano Alesi, Sandy Stuvik

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GP3 Series teams complete shakedown of new car for 2016

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