Resurrected by the FIA as a low-cost alternative to rival series, the new F2 has yet to produce a bona fide F1 star
Formula 2 used to be the final branch on the Money Tree before Formula 1. In fact it was the highest branch in 1952 and ’53 when a dearth of quality F1 entries led to World Championship Grands Prix being run to F2 rules.
By 1984 F2 was dead, and after other shortlived attempts to revive the name, it was only in 2009 that the ‘new’ F2 championship was started thanks to an FIA tender and a successful bid from MotorSport Vision.
With GP2 costing £1.3-1.7 million a season and British F3 £500-650,000, ex-FIA president Max Mosley wanted a cheap alternative, and F2 has an annual budget of £230,000. But the low-cost approach means the cars aren’t as quick as GP2, and F2 is essentially run as one large team fielding 20 identical cars. Instead of being a GP2 alternative, it’s more of a GP3 rival.
Formula 2 started life in 1946 under the name Formula B. In 1948 the F2 title was first used and it remained until the championship’s demise 36 years later. There were plenty of changes during those three decades with the series moving from 1.5-litre engines to Formula Junior regulations, to 1-litre, 1.6-litre and then, in 1972, 2-litre production-based power plants. In the 1960s and ’70s F2 was the undisputed F1 feeder series. Gps sometimes had an F2 class, and with constructors such as Lotus, Brabham and later March building and running F2 cars, promising drivers had the perfect shop window to prove their worth – especially racing against, and beating, the F1 aces who regularly stepped down to F2.
From 1985 the European series continued under the guise of Formula 3000, which began with F2 chassis and 3-litre V8 Cosworth DFVs. Two decades later F3000 morphed into Gp2.
The new low-cost FIA Formula 2 championship started in 2009 and has been a success. Many aspiring young drivers have raced in F2 at a fraction of the cost of other series. But there’s an elephant in the corner… so far not a single modern F2 driver has made it to F1 and various drivers – like Jolyon Palmer – have stepped up to GP2 in order to progress their careers.
That’s not to say you’re far away from the world of F1 in F2, as the championship prizes are particularly good. The title winner gets a full F1 test
with Williams, while the second and third place inishers receive a Gp2 test. The top three also get a superlicence.
“The first year of any championship is difficult because everything is new,” says Mirko Bortolotti in a break from training. “There are always problems with consistency, but F2 has improved.
“The problem in motor sport is you can be a good driver but you need a lot of factors to work to be in F1,” he adds when asked about modern F2 drivers making the top light.
“That’s a problem with the sport and not F2. Everyone has the same cars, the same chances and you get a lot of track time, which is important for experience.
“It’s competitive and I hope it’s just a matter of time until an F2 driver is on the F1 grid. If there were a chance I’d take it – that’s my biggest goal.
“I’ve done two years in F2 and the drivers are very involved in car set-up and working with their crew. You make your own decisions and that’s not often the case in single-seater series.
“I wanted to be in a series where everyone has the same chance, where a driver can show his potential.”