A surprise announcement from today’s FIA World Motor Sports Council today revealed the FIA wishes to set up a new feeder series to Formula 1.
It will be called Formula 2, reviving the name used for a similar series until 1984, before it was replaced by Formula 3000 and, later, GP2.
But why is the FIA proposing to create yet another F1 feeder series when there are already so many? Is this a further sign of a developing was between FIA president Max Mosley and F1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone over control of the sport?
A new entrant in a crowded market
The new F2 seems to be a direct competitor to GP2, which was formed in 2005. In just three seasons it has brought seven new drivers into Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock, Kazuki Nakajima, Nelson Piquet Jnr and Scott Speed.
Not only is it clearly succeeding as a route into F1 it’s very popular with fans as well, providing close and entertaining racing that regularly puts F1 to shame.
If F1 sits at the top of the single-seater motor sports pyramid, GP2 is one of several categories beneath it that form a path to the sport. Any new entrant into this arena would be challenging many established championships, many backed by major car manufacturers.
Renault has the Renault World Series, which Fernando Alonso used en route to F1 (when it was called the Nissan World Series) and which Robert Kubica won in 2005 before being pinched from Renault by BMW’s Mario Theissen. Renault also supplies engines for GP2.
At a lower level BMW runs the Formula BMW series with championships operating in several countries. The new European Formula BMW championship joined GP2 as one of F1’s regular support events at European rounds this year. Timo Glock and Sebastian Vettel are among the graduates of the German series.
Mercedes, Toyota and Volkswagen build engines Formula Three which has long been one of the best routes to F1. Formula Master was started last year plus there are various Formula Renault championships, the new Superleague Formula, a series for old F3000 cars and more. Even A1 Grand Prix can be considered an F1 feeder championship.
So why does the FIA think this busy market for driver and team talent needs yet another entrant?
The new Formula Two
Although the FIA is supposed to be the regulatory body for world motor racing I doubt they are proposing the creation of Formula Two for the better of the sport.
I think this is a ploy to undermine the GP2 series. Like F1, GP2 is owned by CVC, who purchased it in August last year. Since the revelation of his involvement in a sadomasochistic sex orgy Mosley has accused Ecclestone of attempting to wrest control of the sport from the FIA. Earlier this week Ecclestone denied he was responsible for leaking the details of Mosley’s sordid activities to the press in an attempt to discredit the FIA President.
Rumours abound that Ecclestone may try to lure the manufacturers away from Formula 1 to a new series of his creation, potentially called GP1, according to a rumour on Pitpass. In preparation Mosley is creating Formula 2 as a counterpart to GP2.
According to the FIA F2 will allow teams to compete “within a budget of around 200,000 a car per season.” This seems unfeasibly cheap – GP2 cars cost 1.5m per season to run and even Formula BMW costs 50% more than the proposed F2.
So what we have here is a proposal that seems completely unrealistic and completely unnecessary.
It seems to have been designed simply to provoke a reaction from Ecclestone. But the longer the FIA goes on making moves like this, the more realistic the prospect of F1 splitting into two becomes.
That would be disastrous for Formula 1. Those who are pushing for a fight with Ecclestone should heed the lesson of the CART/IRL split that left open wheel racing in America almost mortally weakened. Anyone who would risk such a thing happening to F1 clearly is too preoccupied with their own selfish ends to be bothered about the consequences for sport.