Former GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough takes his latest step towards Formula 1 as he joins Arden's GP3 team

The GP3 series supports the F1 events throughout the season and Mardenborough, who moved into racing after winning a nationwide Playstation tournament, has eyes firmly set on reaching the top

Jann Mardenborough, the boy racer who moved into motor sport after winning a nationwide Playstation tournament, will take a big step towards his ultimate dream by making his debut in Formula 1 feeder series GP3 this year.

The former GT Academy winner announced today that he has signed with the championship winning Arden International team in a series that shadows the F1 circuit through its European stages. The breakthrough will mean Mardenborough can show off his talents to the big bosses of Ferrari and McLaren while current constructor champions Red Bull, home of four-time F1 champion Sebastien Vettel, have also asked Mardenborough to join their driver development programme.

Speaking to The Independent having just returned from New Zealand, where he finished second in the Toyota Racing Series with three wins and seven podiums from 15 races, the 22-year-old spoke of his delight at joining Arden, whose team principal is also the Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner.

“I first tested the GP3 car back in November and really liked it,” said Mardenborough. “The team is very experienced with guys like Julian and Andy Rouse who have raced themselves and know what drivers are going through on the track. Everyone’s very focused on what they’re doing.”

Prior to competing in New Zealand, the Darlington-born driver, now living in Cardiff, had been competing in Formula 3. To give an idea of the jump he is making, he will now be sitting in a GP3 car that has double the horsepower of his previous single-seater engine.


Since its inaugural year in 2010, three drivers have gone on to compete, or are competing in Formula 1, including former champions Esteban Gutiérrez and Valtteri Bottas for Sauber and Williams respectively, and Jean-Éric Vergne for Toro Rosso. Mardenborough, who has come a long way in a short space of time since winning the 2011 GT Academy, descibes it as “a perfect shop window” for getting people’s attention.

“GP3 has a big reach on TV as well, it’s watched by people all over the world,” he said. “I want to be challenging for the podiums and improving every single race. I’ve got the right team behind me and will be listening to them all the time. I feel ready for GP3. Formula 3 has taught me so many things, both in the car and out of the car, both mentally and physically. It was a great stage in my development and I’m sure the skills I’ve learnt there will help me in GP3 and beyond.”

In the last two seasons Mardenborough has competed and excelled in a variety of vehicles: from GT cars, Le Mans Prototypes to single-seaters. His podium finish at Le Mans in 2013 came two years to the day after he reached the final stages of the Nissan-sponsored GT Academy in 2011. He is now joining a team with a championship winning pedigree with a proven track record of sending drivers into Formula 1.

Russian racer Daniil Kyvat, who won the GP3 title with Arden last year, will be the fourth from the series to make his F1 debut, aged just 19, racing for Toro Rosso when the season begins in Melbourne next month. Former three-time Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert, who has been a mentor to Mardenborough since 2011, said his time to breakthrough is now.

“When you have a chance you have to grab it by the horns,” the ex-Benetton driver told the Independent. “That’s where you stand out. Jann’s 22 now, so he’s at that age where you feel if he is going to make it all the way to Formula 1, something has to happen soon. I don’t see Jann having any problem moving up to GP3 from Formula 3 though - and it is a massive jump - because you can see from his Le Mans performances that he has the sheer speed. He impressed a lot of people there.

“Now he has the chance to do the same in front of the F1 world. He has the Formula 3 experience and racing the Toyota Series in New Zealand will stand him in good stead. Jann has to really dig his heels in and give it all.”

Mardenborough, whose father Steve was a professional footballer for lower-league clubs, has a background far removed from Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton’s, whose parents were able to spend the vast sums of money needed to support the future stars through karting tournaments - the traditional route for F1 champions. Instead, Mardenborough has become the poster boy for all those who believe excelling at a computer game can one day result in a professional racing contact.

Herbert said: “I have been mightily impressed with what Jann has achieved since winning GT Academy. For someone with Jann’s experience doing so well is very rare to see. Last year he raced in the European F3 series which is hell of a tough challenge during your first season; the fact that it was Jann’s first season in any kind of single-seaters is incredible.

“Whilst he has had a very successful first year in GT racing and he has now got an amazing result at Le Mans 24 Hours under his belt, he is competing against drivers that have grown up with seasons of karting and single-seater experience behind them. The only question that remains unanswered is ‘Can a gamer make it all the way to F1?’”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower