The feeder formula champions (p4/4)

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Many of F1’s top drivers have entered the sport after winning the Formula 3000 or, more recently, GP2 championship.

But no driver has ever won that junior title and then become F1 champion.

In this four part series we take a look at the 22 champions including the driver who could be the first to break the jinx – Lewis Hamilton.

Justin Wilson
2001 F3000 champion with 71 points (2nd Mark Webber and Tomas Enge, 39)

Wilson’s height worked against him – he couldn’t get a drive for 2002 because he was too tall for most cars. Paul Stoddart crammed the lanky Yorkshireman into a Minardi in 2003 and he impressed with some exceptional starts that catapulted him into positions that the Minardi simply couldn’t cling onto.

He moved to Jaguar late in the year when the team dumped Antonio Pizzonia, but was in turn let go at the end of the season for Christian Klien, who came with a stack of Red Bull cash.

Wilson switched to Champ Car racing where he has been sparring with Sebastien Bourdais ever since.

Sebastien Bourdais
2002 F3000 champion with 64 points (2nd Giorgio Pantano, 54)

Bourdais won the title thanks in part to Tomas Enge’s notorious disqualification from the Hungaroring round after failing a drugs test – for marijuana!

Bourdais tested for Arrows and Renault but despite being French failed to join the former, reportedly because he did not want Flavio Briatore to be his manager.

Instead he joined Champ Car where he has been extraordinarily successful, although the quality of competition is not as good as it was a decade ago. He is poised to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive title and will join Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2008.

Bjorn Wirdheim
2003 F3000 champion with 78 points (2nd Ricardo Sperafico, 43)

Wirdheim’s championship victory would have been even more emphatic had he not begun celebrating victory at Monaco too soon. He eased off the throttle before the finishing line and was waving to his mechanics while Nicolas Kiesa blasted past to win?�?�?����?�?�?�

Kiesa curtailed his F3000 activity before the end of the season to race for Minardi, but Wirdheim would never get that chance. He tested for BAR and Jaguar – and was Friday driver for the latter in 2004 – but never started a race.

The Swede has since raced in Champ Cars and is now in his second season of Formula Nippon in Japan.

Vitantonio Liuzzi
2004 F3000 champion with 86 points (2nd Enrico Toccacelo, 56)

Liuzzi was the last F3000 champion and, backed by Red Bull, was moved to their new team in 2005 in an awkward drive-sharing scheme with Christian Klien.

Liuzzi only got a handful of starts but got a full-time drive with second Red Bull team Toro Rosso in 2006. He continued with the team for 2007 but having failed to make a major impression was replaced by Sebastien Bourdais for 2008.

Nico Rosberg
2005 GP2 champion with 120 points (2nd Heikki Kovalainen, 105)

Rosberg won the first GP2 title in thrilling fashion, catching and passing early leader Heikki Kovalainen over the course of the year.

After an impressive debut in the first race of 2006 his rookie season went off the boil. But a more consistent and composed Rosberg has emerged as one of the top drivers of 2007, and he is in demand.

Lewis Hamilton
2006 GP2 champion with 114 points (2nd Nelson Piquet Jnr, 102)

Is it worth adding more to the reams of copy written about Lewis Hamilton this year?

Having won the GP2 title, beating a host of second-year veterans including team mate Alexandre Premat and Nelson Piquet Jnr, he moved straight into F1 with McLaren. An astonishing string of podiums and wins followed with Hamilton even taking the lead of the championship.

Can he now win it? It would be his third championship in as many years…

Photos: Daimler Chrysler | GEPA / Bildagentur Kraeling

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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 (p4/4)”

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