Formula 3 has made unique history, in Germany: since the foundation of the Formula 3 Association, back in 1975, the series has been held every single year. Therefore, it represents the most consistent national motor-racing series. And even today it’s a fact that you have to prevail in Formula 3 if you want to make it to Formula 1.
Numerous names prove the fact that Formula 3 represents the stepping stone to the pinnacle of motor racing. Michael Schumacher, for instance, learned his trade in the 1990 Formula 3 season and back in 1996, German F3 Champion Jarno Trulli beamed: “Now I’ve gained the credit card for Formula 1.”
First Formula 3, then Formula 1
The pressure to succeed has increased permanently, in Formula 3. Today, succeeding in Formula 3 and leaving the series as fast as possible is a must. The queue on the road to Formula 1 is long. Michael Schumacher demonstrated the proper way: karting, Formula 3, Formula 1. Germany’s Formula 3 in particular – the series with the most consistent regulations, the longest tradition and the most successful development – has changed extremely. The colourful playground of professionals, semi-pros and hobby racers turned into the training ground of future Grand Prix drivers.
On the way from the very beginning to the situation witnessed today, the series and its competitors experienced exciting times. The time of Bertram Schäfer, for instance: a two-time Formula 3 Champion himself and one of the most successful Team Principals, afterwards. Or the one of a certain WTS Team – the squad Michael Schumacher secured his 1990 Formula 3 title for and where he found his manager, Willi Weber. In 1995, the Swiss squad KMS Motorsport joined the series and helped the likes of Norberto Fontana – and later – Jarno Trulli and Giorgio Pantano securing the title. On the way to his 1994 title, Jörg Müller won 11 races – just as many as Pedro Lamy in 1992. The biggest starting grid was the one of the Nürburgring Nordschleife round in 1992: incredible 52 Formula 3 drivers contested the practice sessions. While just seven drivers contested the race held at the airport Sembach (Saarland) in the debut season 1975 – the all-time low.
Open for foreigners
The first years were a kind of weird, anyway. Up to 1984, for instance, the series’ name lacked the addition ‘International’. It was held as national race series and foreigners couldn’t score points – unless they possessed a German license. Such as Austrian Gerhard Berger or the Danes John Nielsen or Kurt Thiim who therefore occasionally were called Germans, in the press releases. And in 1984, European Championship rounds were held in the framework of the German Formula 3 Championship – although the opposite would have been far more logical. As a result, the entry lists of those days feature numerous popular names, such as Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, Thierry Boutsen or Ricardo Patrese.
For a long time, the International German Formula 3 Championship was searching for orientation while becoming more and more successful, popular, established and professional at the same time. Up to 1987, it was held in the support programme of numerous events but from 1988, the series appeared more and more often in the paddock of the German Touring Car Championship, DTM. And from 1992 to 1996, the two series always were held as a spectacular package: the most powerful touring cars and Germany’s highest single-seater category. Following the temporary cooperation with the Super Touring Car Championship, STW (1997 to 1999), Formula 3 and DTM were reunited at the beginning of the new millennium.
Start of the Formula 3 Cup
In 2003, Formula 3 in Germany was subjected to major changes: the International German Formula 3 Championship wasn’t organised any more by rights holder DMSB (German Motor Sport Association). Since then, the newly created Formula 3 Cup, organised by the Formula 3 Association, F3V, has made for the survival of the German Formula 3 sport.
With a lot of fervour and outstanding commitment of F3V, the Formula 3 Cup has gained a major circle of friends. And with new ideas, it also captured the hearts of the motor-tracing enthusiasts. In 2005, for instance, it was the first European race series to contest races on an oval track. And the EuroSpeedway Lausitz crowds were just thrilled when witnessing the Formula 3 racers lapping the circuit at an average speed of 251kph.
As fastest German single-seater series, the Formula 3 Cup has grown consistently, since its debut season in 2003. A development that is reflected by the series’ packed starting grids. Open, honest, consistent and predictable for the teams, the Formula 3 Cup has established as German motor-racing constant and represented a major constant of the BERU Top 10 event package. Another important step was made in 1997: With a new name and a new logo, the series now was held as ATS Formula 3 Cup. Since then, ATS, the renowned manufacturer of top-class alloy wheels, has given the series not only its name but also provided – as exclusive technology partner – the aluminium wheels for all the cars on the grid.
In 2008, the Cup began a new cooperation with ADAC, providing that the majority of the ATS Formula 3 Cup, ADAC GT Masters and the newly created ADAC Formula Masters rounds are held as package. The next step followed in 2009: In the ADAC Masters weekends, the Formula 3 single-seaters represent – together with the GT vehicles – the highlight. Since then, this partnership with Europe’s biggest car club has helped to make the German Formula 3 sport accessible to an even bigger public.
Despite all the economic difficulties that have made an impact on motor racing, too, the ATS Formula 3 Cup continues its successful course, in 2010. The championship calendar comprises nine two-race events. And apart from the exclusive Rizla Race Day at Assen, Netherlands, the series always comes as a package with the ADAC Masters Weekend – even on TV: the German sports channel SPORT1 covers all the ATS Formula 3 Cup rounds.
In 2011, the ATS Formula 3 Cup makers opt for safe growth in the series’ familiar environment. The fastest German single-seater series once again will represent one of the main pillars of the ADAC Masters weekends. In nine two-race events, teams and drivers will battle it out for points and prize money. Meanwhile, the calendar features new venues: Austria’s rebuilt Red Bull Ring and the tradition-rich circuit of Zolder, Belgium. The season finale will be held in early October in the Hockenheimring’s stadium atmosphere.