GP2 is about to be rebranded into Formula 2, becoming an FIA-sanctioned championship.
The FIA (International Automobile Federation) wanted to establish a ladder leading to Formula 1: it hoped to make it easier to tell apart in the wide variety of championships by cleverly naming these series Formula x, with the x being a number increasing with the series’ diminished importance.
The missing step
In 2012 a new series was established: the FIA European Formula Three Championship. The “European” refers to the circuits visited, which are, indeed, across central Europe.
In 2014 the FIA estabished national Formula 4 championships, for drivers leaving karting for single-seaters. Beginning with Italy, the following year Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany amongst others each started their own championship, and more came in 2016.
The circuits in the “regional” F3 championships include more tracks from different “national” F4 championships: for example, European F3 includes circuits from eight different nations.
Finally, what is missing is – or was – Formula 2: an international championship, structured like GP2 was, visiting many but not all of the circuits Formula 1 visits in its season.
Former Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali was in charge of finding a promoter for the final missing step, F2: only GP2 Series Limited applied. The Series, led by Bruno Michel and in close ties to Ecclestone’s FOM, was introduced in 2005 to replace F1’s former feeding series, Formula 3000.
Since the introduction of licence points, Renault withdrew their support from the World Series, with its main championship becoming Formula 3.5 V8 from 2016. This paved the way for GP2 to affirm itself as F1’s main – and perhaps only – direct feeder series.
Super licence points
|Formula 3.5 V8||35||25||20||15||10||7||5||3||2||1|
|National F. Three||10||7||5||3||1|
Forty points must be achieved over a three-year period to qualify for an FIA super licence. Only points points from the past three seasons count towards the total, meaning that it is possible to lose the possibility of graduating to F1.
It is the best solution for both GP2 and the FIA – the former would lose much prestige if it became second to another officially-promoted series, and the latter has thus found a series with a long history and stability, which has had success in many aspects. There are things to watch and change, like the elevated costs and the long years spent racing in it by many drivers. Plans are being made to have a new single-seater for 2017, reportedly with more mechanical grip instead of aerodynamic grip.
The changes should be minimal, other than to the cars, to the format as well: double-header rounds should remain, with ten/twelve circuits on the calendar as is now. While GP2 revolutionised Formula 3000 completely and the two were considered different series, this new change appears to be simply a renaming; for the moment at least. The teams were under contract till the end of 2016, so we could have new entries for 2017, along with the new car.
A doubt remains, however: what about GP3? It is universally regarded as superior to Formula 3, with drivers usually progressing from the latter to the former and not the other way round. It provides great racing and narrows the step for drivers who want to move from F3 to GP2. GP3 was created as feeder series to GP2, but now that GP2 is F2 it already has its own path of feeder series. Can it last on its own? In the short term it will remain, with drivers and teams already confirmed, but in the years to come it could be seen as redundant, and if the FIA thinks it is a distraction to its planned ladder it could find a way to force it out of the spotlight.
FIA Press Release:
Speaking about the change, Formula One Group CEO Chase Carey said:
“I am very pleased to announce the evolution of the GP2 Series to become the FIA Formula 2 Championship.
“Junior categories and especially the upcoming F2 Championship are strategic activities for the Formula One Group.
“We are delighted to strengthen them through this agreement with the FIA.”
FIA President Jean Todt said:
“Completing this process with Formula One Group and bringing Formula 2 to life is a very important step. The series will provide a fantastic opportunity for junior drivers who are looking to reach the ultimate goal of Formula 1.
“In recent years we have developed a hugely successful programme of FIA Formula 4 championships in 12 countries around the world and the FIA F3 European Championship has become very strong and competitive. Today’s announcement further strengthens this programme.
“We are delighted to have been able to work with the Formula One Group, to introduce F2 and benefit our sport.”
FIA Formula 2 Championship CEO Bruno Michel added:
“After twelve amazing GP2 seasons which have provided an incredible show for fans and took twenty-eight drivers to an official Formula 1 seat – including two World Champions – we have decided along with the FIA to become known as the FIA Formula 2 Championship.
“The FIA has fully embraced GP2’s core values which will now be adopted by Formula 2; a powerful, safe and challenging car, enthralling races, and a training ground to enter Formula 1 with a particular focus on cost control.
“This is a great opportunity for our drivers, our teams and our partners.”