The feeder formula champions (p3/4)

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The final step for young drivers heading to Formula 1 has often been the likes of GP2 or its predecessor Formula 3000.

But the sport is still waiting to see an F3000 or GP2 champion be crowned Formula 1 champion.

In this four part series we take a look at the 22 champions – including the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya and Nick Heidfeld – and what became of their F1 careers.

Jorg Muller
1996 F3000 champion with 52 points (2nd Kenny Brack, 49)

Muller got his first test of F1 machinery four years after his F3000 title, with Williams-BMW.

He stayed loyal to the Munich marque and the following year he was champion in the American Le Mans Series GT category driving a BMW M3 GTR. He then switched to touring cars, still with BMW, and has been at the front of the European and World Touring Car Championships since then, but is yet to win the title.

Ricardo Zonta
1997 F3000 champion with 39 points (2nd Juan Pablo Montoya, 37.5)

Zonta made his debut in 1999 with BAR and got off to an unfortunate start when he was injured in Brazil and replaced by Mika Salo. He returned that year and stayed with the team for another season before being dropped.

He has since made a few starts for Jordan and Toyota and is now test driver at Renault.

Juan Pablo Montoya
1998 F3000 champion with 65 points (2nd Nick Heidfeld, 58)

Frank Williams contracted the impressive Montoya but had no room for him in 1999 and so farmed him out to Chip Ganassi’s CART team. Montoya won the CART championship in 1999 and the Indy 500 the following season, and made his F1 debut in 2001.

He won in his first year and followed that up with a championship campaign in 2003. But that was blunted by the controversial rule change that rendered Michelin’s tyres illegal, and an equally controversial stewards’ decision that went against him in the United States Grand Prix.

He joined McLaren in 2005 and although his season was interrupted by injury and the need to support team mate Kimi Raikkonen’s championship bid he won three times. In 2006, frustrated by an uncompetitive car, he abruptly quit in the middle of the year to join NASCAR.

Nick Heidfeld
1999 F3000 champion with 59 points (2nd Jason Watt, 30)

McLaren backed Heidfeld although he made his F1 debut with Prost before switching to Sauber in 2001. Despite out-scoring rookie team mate Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren picked the Finn.

He was dropped by Sauber at the end of 2003 and went to Jordan, and managed to put his career back on track by signing for Williams. He impressed against team mate Mark Webber in 2005 and formed a close relationship with BMW’s Mario Theissen.

For 2006 he defected to the new BMW team where he remained for 2007.

Bruno Junqueira
2000 F3000 champion with 48 points (2nd Nicolas Minassian, 45)

The most illustrious graduate of the 2000 F3000 season was Fernando Alonso, who won the last round at Spa-Francorchamps.

Champion Junqueira was tested alongside Formula Three driver Jenson Button for a seat at Williams in 2000, and Button won.

That was as close as Junqueira got to F1. He has since raced in Champ Car, finishing 2nd each year from 2002-4. But he suffered a nasty injury in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and missed most of the year. He has since returned to Champ Car.

Photos: BMW Media

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Tags: f1 / formula one / formula 1 / grand prix / motor sport

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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2 comments on “The feeder formula champions (p3/4)”

  1. [Montoya] – “In 2006, frustrated by an uncompetitive car, he abruptly quit in the middle of the year to join NASCAR.”

    Didn’t he plan on finishing the year before going to Nascar in 07 and instead was dropped by Dennis?

  2. Zonta also had a wonderful Sud-Am F3 championship campaign, but I don’t remember when, maybe 1995. He then broke all records for most wins, most points, most poles scored in a single season.
    Certainly, the most promising brazilian driver at lower categories, that never showed his true potential on the big screen.

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