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Feeding the fast lane – is F2 really the only route to the top step?

September 2, 2022

One of the first tasks we set our work experience colleagues was to write a blog for our website. It’s not slave labour (although it is always nice to have others creating content for our channels), but an opportunity to put future talent in the spotlight. Work experience should not be about the tea round or mundane desktop research, it has to have meaning and value -for the individual and for the business.  

We don’t prescribe the content, per se, as long as it’s relevant to our industry, so when we tasked our latest work experience student, 17-year-old Charlie, to write ‘something linked to Formula 1’ (one of his interests), he chose to write about the routes through which drivers are reaching the pinnacle of motorsport.  

The parallels to business are more than evident: aspiring hopefuls all vying for limited spaces at the forefront of the industry. At SQN, we believe one of the primary ingredients in the formula to nurturing young talent is creating opportunities.  

Here is Charlie’s blog in its full glory. 

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The road to Formula 1 is never an easy one. Hundreds of prospering talents waiting in the wings for the chance to drive a Formula 1 car. The path to becoming part of the most prestigious motorsport series in the world is without a doubt, not a straight one, with many obstacles and challenges in front of the drivers.  

There are many championships that follow Formula 1 very closely. The teams themselves take notice of the upcoming drivers and the performances they produce. Most notably, though, is Formula 2 where half of the 22 drivers in the series are signed to some sort of young driver academy produced by the Formula One teams.  The track to F1 can sometimes be made faster by a feeder series which occasionally supports the F1 circus at various tracks and venues around the world.   

 But not every driver that wants to make their way into Formula One has to make their way through F2 to progress to the top. For sure it helps, but it’s not a guarantee. Drivers like Pato O’Ward (IndyCar), Colton Herta (IndyCar) and Nyck De Vries (Formula E) all have ties with F1 teams. McLaren, for instance, owns an IndyCar team and manages Pato O’Ward’s drives; Colton Herta has links to Andretti who are looking to investing in or create an F1 team in the near future where people believe he will be one of the initial drivers.   

However, in the last five years, evidently, all the new F1 drivers that have been promoted to an F1 seat had been in at least one season of F2 before being promoted. The reason why the FIA has now made it much harder to progress to Formula 1 without being in one of the feeder series (F2 or F3) is because of the Super License. In 2015, the FIA – the sport’s governing body – introduced a revamped Super License points system where points were given out to drivers for competing and finishing in top positions in the series. To become eligible for a Super License a driver must meet some criteria; firstly, they must be able to earn 40 points in the space of three years plus accumulate 300km of driving distance in an F1 car, as well as passing a test set out by the FIA about sporting codes and regulations.   

 Formula 2, as the feeder series to Formula 1, hands out the greatest number of points to the drivers: 40 points are handed out to the top three positions in the championship, reducing to 30 points for fourth, 20 points for fifth, 10 points for sixth, and goes down by two points for the remaining positions to tenth. Whereas the only other motorsport series that gives out 40 Super License points for winning the championship is IndyCar.   

 It’s clear to see why lots of young drivers opt to stay in Formula 2 and sign with these young drivers’ academies. It gives them a much higher chance of earning a Super License, being noticed by an F1 team, and being given access to all the training facilities to harness their driving abilities and skills. Also, Formula 2 is a great place for drivers to learn and gain the much-needed open-wheel racing experience before the progression to Formula 1.   

 For some of these young drivers to have the chance to progress into the world of Formula 1 they would need to be able to prove themselves to an existing Formula One team that they are the hottest prospect in the paddock, and that they deserve that seat over anyone else. A benefit of joining a young driver academy is that it lessens the stress of funding their career in F2, where budgets can be around $3 million per season, allowing them to focus fully on their driving and less time worrying about whether they can find the funding.   

 Unlike F2, which has a direct connection to Formula 1 and its teams, Formula E and IndyCar also have incredibly hot prospects who are just as eager to make it to Formula 1. With many drivers migrating to IndyCar if there is no F1 seat for them, such as Callum Ilott, Christian Lungaard and many ex-F1 drivers with the likes of Felipe Massa, Stoffel Vandoorne and most recently Antonio Giovinazzi.   

 With these other aspiring F1 drivers from many other championships with the likes of Formula E and IndyCar all pushing for these ever harder-to-get F1 seats, it’s no wonder why drivers that want to get into F1 are making the move to F2 in order to give them the highest chance of being promoted.  

But with the new generation of F1 drivers making headway and proving that the young and hungry are just as quick, if not quicker, it seems like drivers that want to make it to Formula 1 are going to have to make a massive impact in the motorsport scene in order to replace them.    

Formula 2 isn’t the only path to Formula 1, even if no driver in recent years has been able to make the jump over to Formula 1 from elsewhere. It is just a matter of time before the right mix of the right driver and a team that backs them up can progress to Formula 1. 

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