2017 F3 Cup Champion - Jacopo Sebastiani
A new F3 Cup champion was crowned on Saturday (28 October) as Jacopo Sebastiani claimed the 2017 honours
A new F3 Cup champion was crowned on Saturday (28 October) as Jacopo Sebastiani claimed the 2017 honours, after a fantastic season.
This year was the Italian's third in the championship, having finished fourth in 2015 and sixth in 2016. Running with the successful Omicron Motorsport in those first two years, Sebastiani made the switch to Hywel Lloyd's CF Racing outfit for 2017 as Omicron boss Tristan Cliffe took a step back from full-time motorsport. With both teams having won the coveted Teams' Championship title in the past, Sebastiani was well placed for a strong campaign.
Arriving at Donington Park in April, his trusty Dallara F311 VW Speiss was quick off the mark, as a strong qualifying performance set the scene for a trio of podiums, finishing second in all three races that weekend. The feat was bettered only by the University of Wolverhampton Racing (UWR)'s Shane Kelly, who won all three races, and this set the scene for the pair's season-long battle.
The championship arrived at Snetterton in May, racing on the 200 Circuit for the first time. Race one brought another podium as Sebastiani came home in second place, but he just missed out in the second race, finishing fourth. Race three saw another close finish with Kelly, finishing third behind the UWR driver.
The first of two visits to Silverstone came in June, on the shorter National Circuit. Sebastiani repeated his Snetterton pattern once again, finishing third, fourth and third. This time however Kelly was behind him, with a DNF in race one costing him dearly. This meant Sebastiani was now in control of the championship for the first time this year.
The full GP circuit beckoned in July, and two more podiums brought a healthy points haul. Although Kelly finished in front of Sebastiani in the second race, a tougher run in race one allowed Sebastiani to stretch his championship lead by the end of the weekend.
Despite finishing on the podium in all but two of the eleven races thus far, Sebastiani was still lacking an outright win. This he put right at Snetterton - and in some style. As if to honour his former team at their home circuit, Sebastiani took a clean sweep of wins on the 300 Circuit in August, as well as fastest laps and pole positions. The crowning glory was his first Sunoco Fastest Driver of the Weekend Award, presented to the driver with the fastest race lap.
Brands Hatch beckoned in September, as the championship supported the renowned Supercar Challenge's visit to the phenomenal GP circuit. The weekend was Sebastiani's first opportunity to win the championship early, but after struggling for pace in qualifying, a coming-together on the opening lap of race one forced a number of the CF Racing cars to return to the pits, and Sebastiani was only able to recover to seventh place. A better run in the second race of the weekend saw him finish fourth. This was the only weekend all year in which Jacopo failed to finish on the podium - and meant the championship battle would go down to the wire in Cheshire.
The weather conditions at Oulton Park in October can be unpredictable to say the least, but the drivers were greeted by a dry, sunny morning for qualifying. Sebastiani scored pole position, with key rival Kelly in fourth. True to form, the drizzle appeared from the skies just in time for the first race of the day, and Kelly would pay the price in the tricky conditions - sliding off at Island Bend, he was forced to retire. Sebastiani ran well near the front to finish second, securing the 2017 title. He ended the year in fine style, dominating the final race of the season with a lights-to-flag victory, taking the fastest lap and a second Sunoco award, becoming only the second driver this year to achieve that.
The stats reveal a very deserving champion - 14 podiums from 18 races, including four wins, a brace of fastest laps and the enviable achievement of finishing every race. Jacopo becomes the sixth F3 Cup champion, following in the footsteps of Chris Dittmann, Alex Craven, Toby Sowery, Aaron Steele and George Line.