So Barcelona this weekend see’s the start of another GP3 season and I have to say I’m really looking forward to this one. Last season saw an epic battle between Ocon and Ghiotto and showed this series is a good stomping ground for developing talent. This year also see’s the launch of the second generation GP3 car which apparently is bringing a lot more front downforce to the car and has been described as a ‘game changer’. We also have new teams in the mix, most notably DAMS, and each team is allowed to run up to 4 cars. It also now appears to be the series of choice for the F1 teams to bed in their development drivers which is probably explained by the fact it follows the F1 circus around and gives drivers an experience of most of the F1 tracks. The series kicks off in Barcelona and follows F1 through the European circuits before having its final two rounds in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. GP3 has not been to Malaysia before but new tracks don’t matter too much on this calendar as most of the drivers are new to the series anyway. The series will follow the same format as in the previous year with a 40 min feature race on the Saturday and a 30 min sprint race on the Sunday. The cars are once again using Pirelli tyres (another reason its good for F1 teams to put their development drivers in the series) but, unlike its big sister series GP2, there is no mandatory pit stop. This actually created great racing on the Saturday with the feature race being extended to 40 mins as it meant drivers had to judge how hard to push to make sure they could get to the end. GP3 races aren’t always the demolition derby you get in GP2 as the previous aero meant it wasn’t always easy to pass. It has meant the passes we do see are usually good quality. The driver mix is a really interesting one this year. Last years championship winning team ART have a 4 car line up that looks exceptionally strong. They are running Ferrari Academy and Haas test driver Charles Leclerc, Alexander Albon, and Mclaren development drivers Nirei Fukuzumi and Nyck De Vries. Leclerc was very impressive in Euro F3 last year and Albon was certainly no slouch in the same series. De Vries comes very highly rated but didn’t have the best of years over in WSR 3.5 last year. I certainly suspect those 3 will be having a say over race wins and Leclerc is my tip for the championship. Trident have a really strong year last year which was mainly down to Ghioto’s amazing season. This year they have a Ferrari Academy feel as they run Antonio Fucco and, son of Jean, Giuliano Alesi. Fucco must be on his last chance after some very average racing of late. Alesi is a bit of an unknown quantity to me and I wonder if his Ferrari connection is more to do with his family name. Janos and Stuvik make up the rest of the line up and both are average or above. Stuvik does have potential though. Arden have a 3 car line up announced currently which features Jake Dennis, who was a star performer in Euro F3 last year probably more so than Leclarc. Also in the car is 2015 Eurocup 2.0 Champion Jack Atkin who had a really good year last season to pinch that title right at the death. Tatiana Calderon also is in the line up and has been reg top 5 in testing. Calderon is known to have speed in other series but hasn’t converted them into results. SAMS are running a 3 car line up led by the man from Connecticut Santino Ferrucci. Ferrucci is Haas current test and development driver and I suspect if he has a good year they may chance him in the car. Ferrucci is currently America’s great hope in European open wheel racing and has a brilliant record in karting. He’s had about a year a half over in Euro F3 and his results weren’t great but that was mainly because he is a bit of an accident magnet rather than his lack of speed. He does seem to be maturing with that though and I expect to see him pushing that DAMS at the front. His team mates are Jake Hughes and Kevin Jorg who have shown themselves to be pretty average so far but you never know. I don’t really expect the Koiranen GP, Jenzer and Campos to trouble the front too much with the exception of Alex Palou in the Campos and Matthew Perry in the Koiranen. Both have experience in GP3 and both have shown that they are tough to beat when they are on form. So whilst the series is shoved away at the end of the days proceedings on the Saturday and really early in the morning on Sunday I think it’s a little gem of a development series. Lets hope for a good a championship as last time.