With a week now having passed since the 2022 F3 season finished, here is a look at five top drivers of 2022 F3 season.
In a dramatic campaign which saw 40 different drivers participate in at least one round across the season as well as six title contenders contest the final race, there have certainly been plenty of thrills and spills plus stand-out individual moments which deserve to be celebrated.
Throw in seven different pole-sitters, 11 different winners, 16 individual podium finishers plus various driver changes, any motorsport fan would therefore have a difficult decision to make if asked to name five top drivers of 2022 F3 season.
Now without further ado, here are my top-five drivers of 2022 F3 season plus some notable mentions for those who fell just short.
5) Isack Hadjar
For a 17 year-old rookie, Isack Hadjar has enjoyed a strong season for Hitech GP as their highest-placed driver in the championship with three wins, two fastest laps and one pole position.
His early-season form can’t be faulted because he showed incredible consistency and speed until the summer break with a lucky debut win in Bahrain, yet that slice of rotten luck simpy struck at the worst time possible with poor Qualifying performances in Belgium and Italy.
Although he mounted solid recovery drives to collect a pair of ninth-placed finishes in one of the two races in both countries, you cannot deny that he simply dropped the ball at the business end when the title could of been achievable underlining the serious pressure that young drivers face.
It however is important to come back to the fact that he is 17 years-old so this season will of been a huge learning curve, in not just development but how to handle title fights when it matters most which will benefit him going forward as part of Red Bull’s junior programme.
We also shouldn’t forget that Hadjar was the first driver this season to claim pole position, fastest lap and win in the same Feature Race, which came in the Austrian Grand Prix, where he led from lights to checkered flag under pressure from his French compatriot – Martins.
I therefore am excited to see where Hadjar ends up next season because he realistically has to be a contender for a move to F2, especially given Red Bull’s backing which will be important in securing his progress up the ladder.
4) Zak O’Sullivan
Graduating into F3 as the reigning GB3 champion, Zak O’Sullivan has enjoyed an impressive rookie campaign in which he has been a regular highlight to watch in midfield for a Carlin team who haven’t exactly been strong this season.
Whilst Brad Benavides and Enzo Trulli struggled towards the rear of the grid for much of the season, O’Sullivan has consistently been Carlin’s bright spark as he consistently outqualified Benavides and Trulli across eight of the nine rounds and snatched a shock home pole at Silverstone.
O’Sullivan’s race pace has also shown strong promise when not involved in incidents because he has done a decent job in terms of tyre management, whilst he in particular showed bravery in the Hungarian Feature Race as he made a slick tyre gamble work to surge up to fourth at the checkered flag.
A 11th-placed finish for the 17 year-old Brit therefore is an incredible achievement if consider that he only scored points on five occasions, compared to drivers like Juan Manuel Correa and David Vidales who had more points finishes yet finished lower in the championship than O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan also entered this season as a member of Williams’ Academy and based on his strong season amidst Carlin’s struggles, I hope that Williams can secure a stronger F3 drive for O’Sullivan at a team like ART GP or Trident next season to give him a chance to showcase his talent.
3) Zane Maloney
Hailing from Bridgetown, Barbados, Zane Maloney has done an incredible job to finish as vice-champion especialy given the shaky first-half of the season that he experienced with just 48 points from the opening 12 races prior to the summer break.
Maloney though clearly has excellent one lap pace as evidenced by five front-row starts for the Feature Race plus an average grid slot of 4th, yet his F3 inexperience showed during the first half of the season with various scraps although his collision in Austrian Sprint wasn’t his fault.
In fact, it is quite incredible how he achieved 86 points across the season-closing triple-header to become vice-champion, especially considering that he suffered a huge incident in the Belgian Sprint Race yet was able to win the Feature Race 24 hours later then Dutch and Italian Feature Races.
His late-season form however was outstanding compared to those who also finished in the top-five of the championship, underlining his talent and he probably would of won the title if he had better consistency across the first six rounds.
I am therefore intrigued as to where Maloney will end up next season because if he stays in F3, he will surely be a hot favourite for the title, yet he deserves a F2 seat but Trident aren’t highly competitive in that series and it’s hard to see where else he would fit in on the F2 grid.
2) Oliver Bearman
Having arrived in F3 as the reigning champion of German and Italian F4 categories at just 16 years-old and new member of Ferrari’s Driver Aacademy, there was huge hype around Bearman and he certainly didn’t disappoint on his part.
Luck though seemed to be against the Brit at times this season from a harsh time penalty to deny him victory in the Bahrain Sprint, to red flag as he chased pole in Zandvoort, Netherlands, and various other incidents yet he showed resilience to fight back and find consistency mid-season.
Bearman however did still face the typical early-season challenge that befalls rookie drivers in terms of understanding how to work Pirelli tyres, which showed at the end of the Imola Sprint when he struggled for grip and spun out of third place midway through Rivazza.
Imola though was Bearman’s worst weekend overall yet one which clearly provided him with vital lessons in racecraft and tyre management, which was rewarded with a win and podium finish in Belgian races plus double second-placed finish in Italy,
Third place in the championship therefore is a great achievement in a difficult season for the usually dominant PREMA team, especially if acknowledge that he also beat his two experienced teammates in Arthur Leclerc and Jak Crawford who were in F3 last season.
Leclerc though like Bearman is part of Ferrari’s junior roster which makes the 16 year-old’s third-placed championship finish all the more impressive, because Ferrari now surely has to look at him as their next potential star and secure him a competitive drive ideally in F2 next season.
1) Victor Martins
‘Consistency’ is the only word to sum up Victor Martins’ season because as the highest-placed returning driver from 2021 season, he has held his own against fearsome competition in which he scored points in both races across six of the nine rounds this season.
That consistency consequently proved crucial to securing the title despite his two wins coming in the opening two Feature Races, which ultimately proved the difference because if he hadn’t won one of those two victories then he probably would of missed out on the title to Maloney.
Just to underline how impressive Martins’ title success is, he didn’t even take a pole position just like his fellow Alpine member – Oscar Piastri did when he won this series in 2020, who also achieved the title on pure consistency.
There are therefore some interesting similarities between Martins and Piastri given that they achieved the title whilst part of Alpine Academy, although it will be interesting to see how Martins fares next season – likely in F2 – given that ART GP haven’t taken a driver to F2 title since 2019.
Either way, Martins has simply been incredible this season even despite a sloppy off-weekend in Belgium, as he was dealt a crucial slice of luck with his title rivals – minus Bearman – all slipping up that same weekend too which proved fairly pivotal come the season’s conclusion.
Roman Stanek (Trident) – Consistently impressive one-lap pace plus excellent race performances quietly under radar compared to many of his rivals.
Arthur Leclerc (PREMA) – Strong consistent campaign but experienced a dip at worst time of season to effectively ruin his title hopes.
Caio Collet (MP Motorsport) – Sluggish start but built fantastic momentum with just two non top-ten finishes in the last 11 rounds, underlining his consistency when given the right car and setup.
Jonny Edgar (Trident) – Missed two rounds early in season due to Crohns Disease but showed incredible consistency after the summer break, having quietly settled back into the series across Rounds 4-6.
Franco Colapinto (VAR) – Having moved across from sportscar racing, Colapinto had adapted brilliantly with pole on debut and two race victories en route to ninth in the standings.
Oliver Goethe (Campos) – Goethe joined Campos as a stand-in driver yet produced huge impact to score points in two of his four races, especially in Belgium Feature Race after a heavy collision in the Sprint.
Sebastian Montoya (Campos) – Having made his F3 debut at a tricky track in Zandvoort with no F3 testing experience, Montoya seemed to take to F3 unbelievably well with eighth-placed finishes in both races which was just amazing for a young driver with no experience in the car.