Tell Me About: Single Seaters

Single Seaters like the BRDC British F3 Championship are one driver, one car sprints.

Everyone knows Formula 1, apparently its the pinnacle of motorsport where one man and one machine go head to head with other men in their machine to find out who is best. There are other Single Seater formulae too though and this article will give you a brief rundown on some of the more popular championships.


Formula 1

The last preserve of man and machine racing, Formula 1 is the glamorous side of motorsport. Forget the fact that it is the last preserve of MAN and machine racing, with the last lady to start a Formula 1 Grand Prix being around 50 years ago.


The budgets are huge, running into hundreds of millions of pounds a year for teams of up to a thousand people to produce two cars which are as close to one of a kind as you will find anywhere in motor racing. The technology is all very new and exciting but road relevance is lacking, its all about the spectacle. Its the place for the monied classes to go and schmooze and drink overpriced champagne.


It is also the goal of every young racer because even failing in Formula 1 almost guarantees your name will be remembered.


Current rules are for a single seat race car with open wheels to go for 300km, (200km at Monaco) on 100kg of fuel. The fuel in question is petrol. The engines are 1.6l V6 Turbos and all have a hybrid system built in.


If you want a go, and lets face it, who doesn’t, the price of admission is rumored to be around 10 million Euros a season, and that’s for a back of the grid team with no hope of a win.

GP2 and GP3

GP2 and GP3 are Bernie Ecclestone’s way to keep a hold of the ladder to Formula 1. The idea is to give a clear path to the main game while allowing young and aspiring racers the chance to show their mettle in front of existing F1 teams and sponsors. Both series use spec cars, with a single chassis supplier, mandatory bodywork and a mandatory engine. Of course, Pirelli, the F1 tyre supplier also provide for the GP2 and GP3 paddocks.


GP2 is the penultimate step on the run to F1 and as such the cars are similar. A 4.0 V8 provides the power, through an F1 style sequential gearbox. The cars weigh in at 688kg including the driver which is about the same as an F1 car, but the power is ‘only’ 612bhp.


The current GP2 car is now five years old so will soon be replaced with a newer machine.


GP3 gets a new car this year, made by Dalara. The engine is a 3.5l straight six with sequential gearbox providing 400bhp to the rear wheels. The new car has apparently been optimised to allow overtaking but with the aerodynamics, it will still be hard to get past.

Formula 3

Oh here is a confusing tale. Formula 3 used to be the place to go if you wanted to be an F1 driver. These days ‘proper’ F3 is a shadow of its former self. European F3 is struggling for numbers with a grid 14 cars down on 2015 at 22. British F3 is back for 2016 but that is as a re-brand for BRDC Formula 4 so doesn’t actually fit the rules.


Those rules are that all cars are built by Dalara and weigh in at 565kg with everything in except for the fuel. Thats driver and all the safety gear, oils, water and of course, the engine. That engine can be either a Volkswagen or a Mercedes 2.0l inline 4, naturally aspirated and produce around the 240bhp mark.


The BRDC British F3 car meets most of the regulations. The engine is a 2.0l naturally aspirated Cosworth unit putting out around the 240bhp mark. The chassis meets all the FIA safety standards but is built to the FIA Formula 4 regulations rather than the F3 rules. The bodywork is F3 inspired too though the indicative side air intake is missing on the BRDC car.

Formula 4 and MSA Formula

The FIA recently launched its Formula 4 class, preparing a set of technical regulations to sit below F3 and allow younger drivers to participate. In the UK the formula is represented by the snappy named MSA Formula, Certified by FIA, Powered by Ecoboost Championship.


Cars are all built to a common rule book so in theory you could run the same car in MSA Formula and Spanish F4. Its the engines that differ because every championship has its own idea on where to source the approximately 150bhp 1.6T engine from. MSA Formula, as the name suggests uses a Ford Ecoboost engine, tuned by Ford specialists Mountune to achieve its pace.


There are now F4 Championships on every continent, with country specific championships in:


  • Australia
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • United Arab Emerates
  • China
  • Japan
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Spain

Other Single Seaters

Nearly every championship above has its own places to send old and rejected cars. Probably the most numerous is the predecessor to the F4 regulations, Formula Ford. In the UK there is a massive field of people who race old Formula Ford Duratec, Ecotec and older machines for championships up and down the country.


The biggest race meetings in terms of entries for both Brands Hatch and Silverstone are their relevant Formula Ford Festivals, known at the Northamptonshire venue as the Walter Hayes Trophy.


There is also the MSV run F3 Cup championship for retired Formula 3 cars while GP2 and GP3 cars don’t tend to spawn their own championships when they retire but do pop up at hill climb events all over the world.


Classic F1 cars are also often seen at historic meetings, especially at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival. More modern F1 cars are often consigned to the museum as it takes a team of engineers and a staggering amount of money just to turn them on.


Then there are the other single seater championships like Formula Jedi. No, its not a pod racing format but basic single seat race cars powered by motorcycle engines. Formula Student uses racecars built by college pupils as part of their engineering and technology courses.