Archive: A1 Grand Prix

Today it was announced that the Asian rounds of Superleague Formula have been cancelled. This is on top of the earlier cancellation of the South American rounds. The original 2011 calendar also contained races in Russia, the middle east, Australia and New Zealand. None of these took place.

In the end, the only two races that took place were at Assen in the Netherlands and Zolder in Belgium. This means that the championship was decided way back in July — but we only learned that today!

It was already quite an effort for those two races to take place anyway. Superleague had seemed worryingly dormant over the winter, and many suspected that it was dead.

Following in the footsteps of A1GP

The parallels between Superleague and A1GP (another failed attempt at an ‘F1 alternative’) have always been striking. Both have core concepts that are slightly alien to motorsport.

A1GP described itself as the “World Cup of Motorsport”. Drivers didn’t win races. Teams didn’t even win races. Nations did.

Meanwhile, Superleague was designed as a cross between football and motor racing. Drivers didn’t win races. Teams didn’t win races. Football clubs did. Any football fans I ever spoke to about Superleague were not very interested in the series. For this reason, the format was always going to be a loser.

But on the plus side for both A1GP and Superleague, they both provided some quite entertaining racing. And it is on this basis that they both attracted a cult following — a small but loyal fanbase. But this clearly isn’t enough of a fanbase to sustain a series for more than a few years.

A1GP lasted for four years. Cunningly, the series was run over the winter. Not very traditional for a motorsport series, but this meant that they could draw in motorsport fans suffering from withdrawal symptoms. It was moderately successful, and it led to GP2 (the closest thing there is to an official feeder series to F1) creating a spin-off GP2 Asia series that was run in winter. (GP2 Asia has since also been wound up, having had a troubled 2010–2011 season of its own when it was affected by the unrest in Bahrain.)

Not a super formula

When A1GP closed down, Superleague opened up and has so far continued for three seasons. Superleague runs with the same type of car, with the same type of drivers on the same types of circuits. For want of a better phrase, these are a B-class car, with B-class drivers on largely B-class circuits.

I have nothing against this personally, and I personally enjoyed watching A1GP and Superleague whenever I got the chance. But you have to question whether it is a formula for success in terms of bringing in an audience.

Sad but true: the standard isn’t high enough

There are lots of brilliant series below Formula 1 that provide real appeal. It is a sad fact that the motor racing world revolves around Formula 1, and the most successful sub-F1 open-wheel series are all about finding the F1 stars of the future. GP2, World Series by Renault, GP3 and the many Formula 3 series all stake their claim as being a testing ground for the stars of the future.

But series like A1GP and Superleague Formula cannot make this claim. As a result, their appeal is sadly limited. A series like Superleague is populated by drivers who aren’t good enough to progress further up the ladder. Some drivers almost made it to F1, but didn’t quite have the last bit that was required. If you’re lucky, there might be the odd ex-F1 driver like Jos Verstappen. But the world isn’t exactly set alight by the prospect of a battle between Neel Jani and Craig Dolby.

It is true that A1GP has been a stomping ground for a few future F1 drivers like Nico Hülkenberg. But these drivers had to make their way through GP2 aftewards to get to F1.

Because let’s be fair here. It is generous to describe the drivers in Superleague as ‘B-class’. B-class open-wheel racers can be found in IndyCar. IndyCar struggles enough to survive as it is. But at least some of its drivers are household names like Dario Franchitti or Takuma Sato. Jobbing open-wheelers whose sights haven’t extended to IndyCar end up in a series like Superleague.

While I have always found the concept of Superleague Formula to be shaky, I do hope that it is able to survive this embarrassing season and come back stronger in 2012. But I sadly doubt it will be the case.

Perhaps the worst-kept secret in F1 this season (apart from Alonso’s move to Ferrari) has been that Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hülkenberg will be driving for Williams in 2010. Today it was finally announced.

Historically, Williams has been a team that has been all too happy to dispense with even their best drivers. The fact that they held on to Nico Rosberg for four seasons is possibly a sign that they have learnt their lesson — that exchanging World Champions for the likes of Heinz-Harald Frentzen or Ralf Schumacher is not a championship-winning approach.

Nevertheless, Joe Saward has speculated that Williams are not too jazzed about Nico Rosberg, which is why they have no problems letting him go (presumably to Brawn). This is strange if you ask me, because 2009 has been the season when I was finally convinced that Nico Rosberg has some talent. In my mid-season review I ranked Rosberg in 5th, and I doubt he’ll be much lower in my end-of-season rankings.

But the decision to partner their protégé Nico Hülkenberg, who Williams have been grooming for the past few years, with Rubens Barrichello looks like a very mature move. I would say that this partnership is possibly stronger than any they have had since the mid-1990s.

For a few years now, Nico Hülkenberg has been a youngster to watch. He exploded into the international motorsport scene when he dominated the 2006–2007 A1GP season. He attended all but one event for A1 Team Germany and scored 14 podiums out of 20 starts, effectively clinching the title for Germany. (I wonder if he ever received his prize money for that season…)

He then spent two seasons in Formula 3 Euroseries. He finished 3rd in his first season. But although he clinched the title in his second attempt, I would have argued that he did not need another F3 season to justify a presence in GP2.

When he finally made the step to GP2, he impressively won the title at his first attempt. In the process, he beat several more experienced drivers including two who have already made the move to F1 — Romain Grosjean and Kamui Kobayashi.

We have seen too many times that success in lower formulae is no guarantee of success in F1. No Formula 3000 Champion ever went on to become an F1 champion (although Lewis Hamilton did become a GP2 Champion on his way to F1). I do, however, feel that Hülkenberg is a seriously exciting talent.

By pairing him up with Rubens Barrichello, Williams have ensured that he will have every opportunity to succeed. In essence, they have given this hugely promising rookie the best mentor in the world in the shape of the most experienced F1 driver of all time, Rubens Barrichello.

It is no secret that Jenson Button owed a lot to Barrichello’s set-up data this season. The Brazilian’s experience makes him an expert at setting up the car. He can now pass his wisdom on to a true rookie — one who will surely truly appreciate the help.

I am sure it is help that Barrichello will be more than happy to provide. He is clearly a nice guy. And in the knowledge that he is in his final year or two of F1, helping cultivate a new talent may well appeal to him. It is, after all, what his former team-mate Michael Schumacher did with Felipe Massa.

It has to be said, unintended consequences are never far away in the world of F1 rule changes. For just one example, take a look at how quickly aerodynamic flick-ups have resurfaced, despite their supposed banning. Skate fins? What on earth?

Now we are presented with a number of oddities that have come about as a result of this season’s new testing restrictions. In-season testing is banned completely. Each team is limited to 15,000km, but according to James Allen it looks as though no teams will top 10,000km, because this year’s testing events have been so heavily disrupted. Teams that go to Portugal and Spain get relentlessly rained on. Those that go to Bahrain are treated to sandstorms.

Moreover, what little testing time there is has been eaten into by the need to test 2010-spec tyres. The bans in refuelling and tyre warmers coming into effect next season will put different demands on the tyres. As such, Bridgestone need to get data so that they don’t end up barking up the wrong tree as they develop the new tyres. But with no opportunity to do this later on in the season, some teams (McLaren and BMW) have had to sacrifice some time from their already tight pre-season test schedule.

Now McLaren’s test driver Pedro de la Rosa has expressed concerns that the lack of test time is actually dangerous for reserve drivers. Should a reserve have to come in for some reason, he will be thrown into the deep end, straight into the action having had little experience of the car. That would be bad enough in a normal year, but with the radical rule changes that have come into force this season you can expect out-of-practice drivers to be even rustier.

Now it is becoming obvious that the testing restrictions are damaging the careers of young drivers. All winter, it had looked as though Rubens Barrichello’s chances of retaining his seat at Honda / Brawn were close to zero. Reading some reports, you’d believe that Bruno Senna was practically a shoo-in.

Now it looks as though Barrichello has been given the nod, leaving Senna with nowhere to go. The ever-excellent Grandprix.com trailed the possibility a few days ago, noting that “Barrichello is a better bet [than Senna] as his experience will be useful in a year when there is little opportunity for young drivers to learn how to drive F1 cars.”

From this perspective, it looks like Honda / Brawn have made the right decision here. Moreover, Barrichello outperformed Button last season, and it would have been a real shame if Barrichello’s career ended with a snub. Mind you, there is the risk that Barrichello will have a David Coulthard-style final season of doom, and we wouldn’t really want that.

But what now for Bruno Senna? Holding out for an F1 seat, he has more or less ruled out staying in GP2 for a third season. Indeed, it is difficult to see what he could achieve with another year in GP2. Drivers who spend too long in a category like GP2 tend to have their potential stunted.

In a sense, this is a predicament which is yet another symptom of the serial mismanagement at Honda which has deteriorated this winter to extreme levels for obvious reasons. Senna sounds pretty frustrated over this situation, and wouldn’t you be?

But any other year it would be no big deal. Senna could sign as a test driver for one year, as countless other drivers have done before, and spend the season racking up the miles on the test track in preparation for his first full season. And should he needed to replace another driver mid-season, he would have experience required of him.

Failing that, he could have gone on to make a decent career as a test driver. It may not have the glamour of a race role, and you can bet your bottom dollar that all test drivers yearn to race. But it is, at least, a decent income earned from driving cars — and they can always hope. People like Luca Badoer, Marc Gené, Anthony Davidson, Alexander Wurz and, yes, Pedro de la Rosa, have all made a decent living out of testing F1 cars. Felipe Massa started out at Ferrari as a test driver, and today he challenges for Championships.

Now what? All Bruno Senna can do is twiddle his thumbs. He can always suffer the humiliation of going back cap in hand to a GP2 seat. But this could backfire on him, and all the best seats have already been filled.

Could this be one reason why there is only going to be one rookie this season? Sébastien Buemi is the only newcomer to F1 this season, but he has done plenty of testing for the Red Bull teams and he is filling a vacancy that David Coulthard voluntarily left behind.

Remember when everyone was certain that Renault were not going to re-sign Nelsinho Piquet? Then, out of nowhere, they signed him for another season. Is that because, for all his faults, he at least has experience that the likes of Romain Grosjean and Lucas Di Grassi now cannot hope to attain?

Let us not forget another major FIA-instituted change for 2009, which is yet another instance revealing the lack of joined-up thinking inside the FIA. This season sees the inauguration of Max Mosley’s Formula Two project. Remember, this new feeder series was supposedly invented specifically to make it easier for young drivers to reach F1.

Well, it’s all very well adding yet another “second-top” rung in an already-cluttered world that contains GP2, A1GP and World Series by Renault among others. But the top rung now has a fundamental crack that will cause the ladder collapse when a driver reaches it, sending him — and his career — crashing to the floor.

There might be an allowance in F1 for “young driver training”, but this is no more than a fig leaf. A “young driver” is someone who has not tested on more than four days in the past 24 months. How is a young driver supposed to progress with such scant “training”?

Max Mosley likes to use F2 to make out that he is opening doors for young drivers. The reality is that this door leads drivers up the garden path. There have seldom, if ever, been as many feeder series as there are today. An F1 team can take their pick from 20+ GP2 drivers, countless A1GP drivers, anyone from WSR who takes their fancy and goodness knows how many F3 drivers. F2 isn’t needed, especially now that young drivers will find the welcome mat at F1’s door cruelly swiped from their feet.

Well, it is a big day for series announcements. First it was announced that two International Formula Master events will be Formula 1 support races in 2009 — at Turkey and Belgium. The rest of the races will support the FIA World Touring Car Championship as before. I originally thought this had put the lid on the GP3 idea for the time being, as GP3 was supposed to be modelled on Formula Master.

Then much more detail on Formula Two was announced, complete with a full website. The calendar was released, revealing that some of the races will support WTCC for the majority of the races, but with one race supporting A1GP and a couple of standalone races.

But it’s been a busy day for new motor sport categories and now more information on GP3 has been unveiled. It is now due to start in 2010, leaving the door open for the Formula Master association. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the technical specifications of the GP3 car match those of the Formula Master car.

I do find the wording of the press release very interesting though. Check out this sentence:

The series will be a stepping-stone onto GP2, and will take place within the GP2 race weekends.

So, GP3 will take place within the GP2 race weekends. No mention of the Formula 1 race weekends though. Come 2010, might GP2 and GP3 no longer be supporting F1 races? Intriguing…

I was originally quite pleased when I heard earlier this year that the Formula 1 teams had finally decided to put their differences aside and join together as the Formula One Teams Association. At last, someone with teeth who can stand up the Max Mosley and the FIA.

That’s all well and good if FOTA turns out to be half-decent and come up with good solutions. Unfortunately, the signs are now that the teams’ ideas for the future of Formula 1 are every bit as barmy as Mad Max’s.

Take a paragraph buried in Pitpass’s story on Luca di Montezemolo’s whines about the Singapore Grand Prix earlier this week. As it happens, I kind of agree with most of what di Montezemolo had to say, although that is for a different post. But as though the shock of agreeing with the execrable Ferrari President (who also happens to be President of FOTA) wasn’t enough, what Pitpass revealed about FOTA’s early ideas literally left me open-mouthed in shock and disillusionment.

We hear that at last week’s meeting a number of issues which could result in a seismic change to the sport were discussed, including standard transmissions, standard wheels, standard brakes and standard rear wings.

We hear there may even be a vote on whether F1 should have a weight handicap system!

Excuse me for swearing, but what the very fuck?! What is this pish? Standard transmissions, wheels, brakes and even aero? Why not go the whole hog and throw in standard drivers as well? We might as well pay to watch a glorified Scalextric race.

This is beginning to look like a complete stitch-up. I know the teams desperately want to cut costs, but this is just extreme. With practically spec cars, the only competition left in F1 will be over who has the biggest motorhome and the best catering.

Lest the powers-that-be forget, Formula 1 is supposed to be all about watching the best drivers in the best cars, and that means teams constantly innovating in as many areas as possible. F1 is supposed to be about technological excellence. FOTA’s plan sounds like a watered-down European version of IndyCar — and there is a reason why so few people watch those lorries tootling round the place.

If you want to watch a spec series, you can take your pick. There is GP2, A1GP (if they can ever get round to actually building the blasted cars), World Series by Renault and now even Max Mosley’s sorry Formula Two scheme. That is not to mention the literally countless spec series that operate lower down the chain.

If even Formula 1 becomes a spec series with standard this, that and the other, what is left? Please. We have to have at least one motor racing category that is dedicated to technological advancement. The world is already over-populated with spec series that there would simply be no point in F1 transforming into one.

I haven’t even gone into the weight handicap system. Needless to say, this would be a total disaster for F1. We want to see the best drivers and the best cars win. That is what sport is supposed to be about. Why should people be punished for being fast? What a load of nonsense. Remember, BTCC’s figures went off a cliff when they introduced their ludicrous ballast system. Why do they think we want to see fast cars going slowly? Keith skewers weight handicap systems here as well.

Meanwhile, Martin Whitmarsh has unveiled FOTA’s big plan for spicing up the Grand Prix weekend. But it doesn’t sound very spicy to me. Apparently, the biggest problem with Formula 1 is Fridays! Silly me for not noticing! And what is the great thing that is going to solve this ill? A mickey mouse time trial with a cash prize!

WTF?! First of all, Fridays are the one bit of F1 that are more-or-less perfect if you ask me. They are called practice sessions, I get to watch the cars practicing. For me, that is a win. There is a certain pleasure to be derived from watching F1 cars do their thing at high speed but without necessarily competing with one another.

Why does this — of all aspects of the F1 weekend — need to be tampered with? Why does there need to be competitive action on a Friday? As far as I’m concerned, Friday is for practicing. Competitive action is for a Sunday.

Don’t forget that no-one will watch anything if it happens on a Friday. People are at work. They’re doing other things. Remember the doomed experiment with spreading qualifying over two days. That was pretty hastily dropped because they realised that no-one could be bothered watching the Sunday morning session — and that was a Sunday, never mind a Friday!

As for having a cash prize, I mean please. This isn’t a game show — it’s Formula 1. Besides, do they really think fans will be that bothered to watch mega-rich drivers getting even richer? No thanks.

See more on this from Clive at F1 Insight, with whom I totally agree on this.

I think I preferred the chaos and deadlock of old over these hare-brained schemes of FOTA.

This morning Pitpass has a scoop that reveals details of the BBC’s team that will be covering Formula 1 next season.

The names mentioned are Martin Brundle (the only person to move from ITV), David Coulthard, Jonathan Legard, Lee McKenzie and Jake Humphrey. Some of the names are not connected to any roles, but it seems pretty clear who will be doing what.

Anchor: Jake Humphrey

Jake Humphrey’s name entered the frame in the rumour mill a few weeks ago, and the more you think about it the more he makes sense. He may not have any experience in F1 broadcasting, and frankly we don’t know if he actually likes F1. However, he is clearly a rising star and, moreover, a thoroughly competent presenter with a background in a diverse variety of sports.

Despite a background in children’s television, Jake Humphrey started climbing the BBC Sport ladder when he presented Sportsround, a children’s sports news programme. Since then he has become the youngest person ever to present Football Focus and Match of the Day. He also attracted widespread acclaim when he presented the BBC’s coverage of the NFL Superbowl earlier this year.

Pundit: David Coulthard

This has been widely expected for weeks, months, perhaps even years. As a highly experienced British Formula 1 driver, DC was always likely to start a career in broadcasting once he retired from driving.

Coulthard will not just bring his driving expertise to the role — he is also a very entertaining speaker and is not afraid to speak colourfully. Some have noted that the BBC may want to rein in DC because he is not the most politically correct person in the world. He notably exclaimed live on British breakfast television earlier this year that he wanted to kick “seven colours of shit out of the little bastard”, referring to Felipe Massa. I doubt DC will launch into such a tirade in the relaxed atmosphere of a studio in London, but his colourful style will entertain viewers.

Main commentator: Jonathan Legard

Perhaps at the different end of the scale to David Coulthard, Jonathan Legard is a conservative choice for the BBC to make for the role of main commentator. He is a safe pair of hands. Perhaps not the most entertaining of speakers. He is certainly not a Murray Walker. But nor does he have James Allen’s cringeworthy faux-excitement. Legard is a calm, analytical commentator.

A BBC man through and through, Legard used to commentate on Radio 5 Live’s F1 coverage before leaving to become the station’s football correspondent. I had read that Legard was reluctant to take on the role, having ruled himself out earlier. But this is an important one for the BBC to get right given the sticks and stones that have gone ITV’s way as a result of James Allen over the years.

Colour commentator: Martin Brundle

Despite the BBC wanting to put their own mark on F1 coverage next season (as is evident from the choices above), Brundle has become almost as indispensable as Murray Walker was when coverage moved from the BBC to ITV back in 1997. It was feared that Martin Brundle would not be a part of the BBC’s team, but he is simply too good for the BBC to ignore.

It would, in fact, have been a bit of a farce if they decided not to hire Martin Brundle. He has won an armful of awards for his commentary while at ITV. His ability to come up with witty, pithy quips on the spot has won him legions of fans. That’s not to say that Brundle is perfect, and mistakes seem to be creeping into his commentary more and more as time goes on. But this is clearly the right choice for the BBC to make.

Pitlane reporter: Lee McKenzie

Lee McKenzie is the daughter of F1 journalist Bob McKenzie and has previous experience presenting motor sport highlights on ITV. More recently she has presented Sky’s A1GP coverage.

I was just recently wondering whatever happened to Lee McKenzie (I don’t have Sky) so it was a pleasant surprise to see her name in the Pitpass report. I have no idea what she is like as a pitlane reporter, but she has been presenting motorsport coverage for some years now so this should work out fine.

Anyone else?

It would be interesting if this is the entire BBC team. ITV have had two pitlane reporters ever since they got F1 coverage, with one person chasing drivers for interviews while the other hunts out stories from the garages. If the BBC have only one pitlane reporter, this will be a big drawback of the coverage.

According to the Pitpass report, the BBC will be spending less on their F1 coverage than ITV. It seems highly likely that the coverage will be anchored from a London studio, although surely the commentary team in addition to the pitlane reporters at least will travel to the races. It would be quite strange, though, as MotoGP is always presented from the paddock just like ITV’s F1 coverage.

However, I personally wouldn’t mind the coverage being presented from London. I don’t see the big advantage of having Steve Rider and Mark Blundell standing in noisy garages with engines roaring so that you can barely hear them speak. Keeping the coverage in London is a sensible scheme that will save license payers’ money.

The names now out of the picture

The omission of Holly Samos is interesting, as I had earlier read that she was already privately confirmed as the pitlane reporter. Samos is okay, but she has made a few bad mistakes during her Radio 5 Live coverage this season, completely ruining my understanding of the race on at least one occasion.

As for the main commentator, if Jonathan Legard had decided to rule himself out, David Croft would probably have been in line to take the job. I am slightly relieved that he hasn’t got the job. While I think he is a competent commentator, he does make mistakes and he has a bit of a James Allen thing going on.

My preferred choice for the role would have been Ben Edwards. However, I have heard that it is a precondition of being part of the BBC’s F1 coverage that presenters will not work for any other broadcaster. Given that Ben Edwards has his fingers in many pies, this will have ruled him out.

What is really interesting is that no-one from the current BBC Radio 5 Live team has made the jump to the corporation’s television coverage. This is not entirely unexpected. When it was originally announced back in March that the BBC had acquired the rights to broadcast F1 on television, I suggested that the BBC might keep the current team on Radio 5 Live.

Even this is not confirmed however, as the contract to produce Radio 5 Live’s F1 coverage, currently held by USP Content, is up for renewal for 2009. It could be a case of so near yet so far for the 5 Live team. Both Holly Samos and David Croft were strongly linked to roles on BBC television, yet according to Pitpass neither has got the nod. Might they even be absent from next year’s radio coverage as well?

Update: Here is more opinion on the news from Keith at F1 Fanatic.

I will turn my attention to the Italian and Belgian Grands Prix later this week. But over the past couple of days a lot more information has come out on the new Formula Two series. It has got me thinking.

I was one of many who was really sceptical about the Formula Two idea when it was first announced by Max Mosley. It was clearly a move in the strategic political wrangling between Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone — just another Max Mosley vanity project.

The FIA’s insistence that a Formula Two car would only cost around €250,000 seemed infeasibly optimistic. But the plans look a lot more solid now that it has been announced that the cars will be supplied by Jonathan Palmer’s MotorSport Vision company. The cars will be designed by WilliamsF1 (yes, that WilliamsF1), and the engines will be turbocharged 1.8 litre Audis. Although it is not yet clear who will manufacture the chassis, the firm aim is to keep costs to below $350,000 (at current exchange rates, very close to the original target).

MotorSport Vision will also own the commercial rights to the series. MSV knows its stuff as it already owns the commercial rights in addition to being the promoter and organiser of British Superbikes. The FIA hasn’t chosen a bunch of dummies to run Formula Two.

Initial reports seemed to be written on the assumption that Formula Two would replace the already established Formula Palmer Audi. However, according to Grandprix.com, Jonathan Palmer is still committed to expanding Formula Palmer Audi in addition to Formula Two.

Meanwhile, GP2 — clearly the most well-established second-tier motor racing category in Europe — will continue unaffected. GP2 already has the F1 support slot, so Formula Two will instead support the World Touring Car Championship with a possibility of supporting some races in the Le Mans Series and DTM, with a few standalone races chucked in for good measure.

This news surrounding Formula Two does make me wonder though. Are there now too many lower-category racing series?

For all the doom and gloom about costs in Formula 1, motor racing as a whole appears to be booming. In recent years a handful of series with big ambitions have all been set up. I can’t think of any that have disappeared to make way for them. These new series are all more or less competing with each other, finding more and more ludicrous “unique selling points” in order to justify their existence.

Just last month Superleague Formula held its first race. Superleague is probably the strangest of the lot. Each car represents a football team. The cars’ liveries are based on the football club’s colours. Instead of drivers and teams scoring points on the racetrack, football teams do. Huh?!

It’s not an original idea. A few years ago someone else came up with Premier 1 Grand Prix which was fundamentally the same idea. But that never came off the ground. In fairness to Superleague, they have at least got their championship going. There are also some impressively big names involved. There are some cute associations too. For instance, the AS Roma car is run by the Fisichella Motor Sport team — Giancarlo Fisichella being a Roma supporter.

However, I doubt what Superleague can really achieve. It lacks a really, really big name like Manchester United. Grandprix.com has also been disparaging about the quality of the drivers involved. The most famous driver in the field is the embarrassed F1 reject Antônio Pizzonia who will race for Corinthians when it doesn’t clash with his glittering career in Stock Car Brasil.

The chance for any crossover appeal is surely also limited. A mickey mouse series like this certainly won’t get my interested in football. And I have spoken to a friend of mine who is an avid Glasgow Rangers supporter who is just perplexed by the whole idea. He only cars about Rangers winning on the football pitch, not on the racetrack.

Another relatively new series along similar lines is A1 Grand Prix. It might have a name like that cowboy plumber’s firm, but A1GP markets itself as the “World Cup of Motorsport”. Again, teams and drivers don’t score points. Instead, nations do.

Like Superleague, the driving standard does not seem too high. The only drivers to have made the leap from A1GP to F1 in the past are Scott Speed and Nelsinho Piquet. It’s not exactly the champions’ hall of fame.

At first I thought A1GP was a silly concept, and I still think in many ways it is. But to its credit, whenever I have caught highlights of the races it has looked pretty exciting. The series seems to grow more and more every year. For the coming season they have pulled off a major coup by clinching a deal with Ferrari to supply chassis and engines. A1GP has made a big name for itself in the space a few years and looks set to stay.

Increasingly, Formula 1 drivers are emerging from the World Series by Renault. Its first incarnation was as a relatively modest series centred in Spain. Over the years it has grown and grown until it has become a convincingly European series. Part of the prize of winning the championship is to have a test drive with the Renault F1 team. Six of its nine champions have also had careers in F1, sometimes in the following year. Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica have been two notable beneficiaries of the Renault F1 test.

GP2 is also a relatively new series, although it was built on the foundations of Formula 3000 and has and advantage because it is essentially Bernie Ecclestone’s pet project. This means that all of the races have a ready-made audience in an F1 support slot. The racing is great and plenty of promising drivers have come through the ranks including Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Timo Glock.

Rumour has it that next year will see the inception of GP3. The series is said to be a re-branding of International Formula Master, which currently supports the FIA World Touring Car Championship. Formula Master was itself only invented in 2007 and was envisaged as a competitor to Formula 3.

GP3 even has a logo that looks very similar to the GP2 logo. It seems a foregone conclusion that any GP3 Series would run as a Formula 1 support event.

The Formula 1 package is already pretty full up, never mind motor racing as a whole. In addition to Formula 1 and GP2, the Porsche Supercup is a well-established part of the F1 weekend. However, as a supercar race as part of a package of open-wheel racing, it sticks out like a sore thumb. If any series gets the heave-ho for GP3 (which you imagine would have to happen), it is surely the Porsche Supercup.

It’s worth remembering that F1 already had a new support series in 2007. Formula BMW Europe has supported several F1 races this year. This series is yet another new invention, although it is a merger of Formula BMW UK and Formula BMW ADAC. Now instead of being an entry-level series with cars tootling around small national circuits, Formula BMW Europe is now an impressive international series that is held on Formula 1 circuits.

If this all comes together, Bernie Ecclestone would have quite an interesting little portfolio. Formula 1, GP2, GP3 and Formula BMW Europe. Those are four pretty distinctive categories with a clear hierarchy. Makes you wonder — maybe it is only a matter of time until Formula BMW Europe is rebranded as GP4.

With so many lower-level series now, I can’t help but wonder if it’s all a bit much. Are there really enough credible drivers to keep so many high-profile international series going? What is the unique selling point of each of these series?

I thought Formula Two would never be able to carve itself a niche. But the FIA has already come up with a pretty good justification of its existence:

The objective is to make top-level international single-seater racing available to drivers who at present have difficulty in raising enough money to demonstrate their talent… [C]ompetitors from countries which do not yet have an established motor racing structure will find it easier to progress.

The FIA will also award Super Licenses to drivers competing in the Formula Two championship. If the FIA decides to stop awarding Super Licenses to GP2 drivers, they could well successfully swipe the rug from underneath GP2’s and Bernie Ecclestone’s feet. Whatever, I find it difficult to believe that there is space for quite this many “second tier” series.

Update: I don’t believe it! I have just written this post and I have already learnt about yet another new racing series called A2GP, with A3GP possibly also in the pipeline. I mean really!

The 2009 season will bring a completely new look to Formula 1, with one of the most drastic and far-reaching overhauls of the rulebook in the sport’s history. The only comparable change I can think of in my lifetime is the rules brought in for 1998 (grooved tyres and narrower cars), but even that pales in comparison to what will happen for 2009.

The new rules are being brought in partly to remedy the perceived lack of overtaking in F1. The various aerodynamic devices that have appeared over the past decade or so are said to create ‘dirty air’ which makes it very difficult for one car to follow closely to another, therefore reducing the amount of overtaking. These devices will be outlawed from 2009.

Furthermore, rear wings will be made taller and narrower, and front wings will be wider. F1 Wolf has tried to describe what the new cars will look like. If you have a copy of the August 2008 issue of F1 Racing, you will see a good illustration of a typical 2009 F1 car on page 102–103.

The FIA was basically forced to admit that the problem with ‘dirty air’ had become serious when Fernando Alonso was penalised during qualifying for the 2006 Italian Grand Prix for supposedly impeding Felipe Massa. You can view a video of the full lap including the infamous incident below.

The car in front of Massa is Fernando Alonso, but he always stayed a large distance in front of Massa. But Massa stumbled on the final corner of the lap, Parabolica (at 1:05 on the video). Even though Fernando Alonso was so far ahead of Massa, the ‘dirty air’ caused by Alonso was deemed to have prevented Massa from setting a fast lap. No wonder, therefore, that overtaking is such a rarity in F1.

But is overtaking as rare as the doom-mongers make out? The way some people go on, you would think that there were only about a dozen overtaking manoeuvres all season. But according to the June 2008 edition of F1 Racing, there were in fact 270 on-track overtaking moves pulled off in the 2007 season. Interestingly enough, Felipe Massa topped the table, completing a total of 20 overtaking manoeuvres during the season. The Japanese Grand Prix alone contained 46 passes.

To clarify, this does not include positions gained in the pitlane or as a result of retirements. Nor do the figures include any passes made on the first lap of a race. Because of the methodology adopted by F1 Racing, the statistics will also omit any instance where a driver overtook then got overtaken again later on in the same lap.

My own view is that the theory that there used to be more overtaking in F1 is utter bobbins. For a start, no-one seems to be able to agree when F1 did have more overtaking. Most people talk vaguely about the past. Many people on the BBC’s 606 discussion board decided that there was more overtaking in F1 ten years ago. But an article on Grandprix.com bemoaning the lack of overtaking in F1 was written thirteen years ago — and could as easily have been written today.

Is it not possible that these people are all looking at the past through rose-tinted spectacles? It is notable to me that when harking back to the past it is often the same few races that are cited over and over again.

Yeah, so there was an ace wheel-to-wheel battle between Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux in the 1979 French Grand Prix. But that wasn’t emulated in any other grand prix in 1979, nor in any GP in 1980 or 1978 either. In other words, it was a one-off. Note Murray Walker’s commentary: “There has never been a more exciting battle for a major position than this one” — and that was before the real fireworks started!

You can argue whether or not F1 needs more overtaking or if it has the balance just right. We all like to see a great overtaking manoeuvre. But the reason an overtaking manoeuvre is so great is precisely because it is so rare. If you artificially encourage overtaking, it will become devalued.

Keith Collantine had a great post about this last year. The last thing F1 should do is follow the “Nascar example”. Overtaking is so common in Nascar that a move is scarcely worth mentioning — so what’s the point? I would agree that GP2 has the balance right.

GP2 does have its own boring processions from time to time. But the occasional boring race is inevitable. Unless you want your sports dumbed down to a horrendous extent like they are in America, true sporting contests are not always designed to be entertainment spectacles. A processional F1 race is like a 0-0 draw in football. We don’t like it, but we live through it for the high times.

One of the proposed changes for 2009 threatens to devalue overtaking. I have mentioned the wider front wings already. What I didn’t mention is an extra feature the front wings will have — an adjustable flap. The flaps are huge and drivers will be allowed to adjust them by six degrees as much as twice per lap.

This, to me, is just a terrible idea on so many levels. For one thing, it smacks of A1GP-style gimmickery. Formula 1 is supposed to be about pure racing — a fast person and a fast car, end of. “Push to pass”-style schemes can be left to the mickey mouse series as far as I am concerned.

For another thing it seems to me that the drivers will quickly find out where the optimal time to adjust their wing is during practice. If each driver is able to make two adjustments per lap, they will make those two adjustments at the same two points on every lap. So the cars will all go faster and slower in the same places. How is this supposed to encourage overtaking?

This is the second part of my two-part series looking at other motor racing series. Read the first part here.

Routes to F1

Entry-level series (yellow boxes)

These series are — as the heading suggests — ideal for those drivers who have just finished karting and are racing cars for the first time.

Formula Renault 2.0

The most popular entry-level series at the moment is Formula Renault. There are a number of major Formula Renault championships.

Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 is the most major of the Formula Renault 2.0 competitions, racing at a number of circuits around Europe. Robert Kubica, Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa (who won the series) all competed in this championship. Other winners of the series include Scott Speed and Pedro de la Rosa. 2005 victor Kamui Kobayashi is currently on the up in GP2.

Formula Renault 2.0 UK is another high-profile competition. Kimi Räikkönen was at the centre of a controversy when he — uniquely — made the leap from this competition directly to an F1 race seat! There was a debate as to whether or not he should have been awarded an FIA Super License. In the end the F1 Commission was convinced by his form, and it turned out to be the right decision.

A few years later Lewis Hamilton won this series, though he took a more conventional route to F1. Other notable names to have graduated from Formula Renault UK include Heikki Kovalainen and Pedro de la Rosa. British viewers can catch Formula Renault UK races on ITV4 as part of the channel’s BTCC coverage.

Formula Renault 2.0 Italia was a breeding ground for Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa. Other recent winners include Finnish promise Mika Mäki (currently doing well in F3 Euroseries), Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado and Kamui Kobayashi (who both currently compete in GP2).

Formula Renault 2.0 West European Cup is brand new for this season, but replaces the well-established Championnat de France Formula Renault 2.0, the history of which stretches back to 1971. The French series was graced by the presence of then-future French F1 drivers Alain Prost, Jacques Laffite, René Arnoux, Didier Pironi, Sébastien Bourdais, Olivier Panis and Franck Montagny.

However, the championship was highly France-centric. It is replaced by a more internationally-flavoured series encompassing Spain, Portugal and Belgium.

Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup replaced the old German and Dutch championships. Recent F1 drivers to have competed in German Formula Renault include Vitantonio Liuzzi, Chrisitan Klien, Scott Speed and Markus Winkelhock.

Formul’Academy Euro Series is a Formula Renault 1.6 championship, unlike the championships listed above which are all Formula Renault 2.0. Formerly known as Formule Campus Renault, this is, unsurprisingly, an entry-level series for those not quite ready to make the leap to 2.0. Sébastien Bourdais and Franck Montagny are among this competition’s former drivers.

Formula Ford

Formula Ford used to be a highly popular entry-level category but has been usurped somewhat in recent years. Formula Renault, Formula BMW and the relatively cost-effective Formula First / Formula Vee (no relation) are now more attractive for today’s entry-level drivers. However, many of today’s F1 drivers competed in Formula Ford in the past.

The Formula Ford Festival is an annual event where entrants from Formula Ford competitions around the world compete together. Among them were Kimi Räikkönen, Mark Webber and David Coulthard. But entry levels have declined sharply in recent years.

British Formula Ford is a good entry-level series for Brits. F1 drivers including David Coulthard, Anthony Davidson and Jenson Button (who was British Formula Ford champion in 1998) all took part. Non-Brits Mark Webber and Pedro de la Rosa also competed in this series.

Formula BMW

Formula BMW is a relatively recent invention, having been created by BMW in 2001. But it has quickly become a popular entry-level series. The German series, Formula BMW ADAC, has been particularly successful in cultivating German talent — Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock, Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Sutil and Christian Klien all raced in the series. Hopefuls Nico Hülkenberg and Christian Vietoris (who subsequently helped the German A1GP team to Championship victory) are also notable graduates.

However, the German series is no more as it has now merged with Formula BMW UK. The new series is called Formula BMW Europe. Most of these races are F1 support races this season.

Sports cars and touring cars (green boxes)

Drivers taking a detour from the established route to F1 are often to be found racing sports cars of some form or another. In fact, almost half of the F1 drivers of the past five years have raced sports cars at some point during their careers.

Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (merged from Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft and the International Touring Car Championship) is a popular touring car championship centred around Germany. Giancarlo Fisichella, Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya all competed in DTM in its former guise prior to competing in F1.

Nowadays DTM is more commonly a destination for former F1 drivers such as Ralf Schumacher, Jean Alesi and Mika Häkkinen. However, the odd youngster has been known still to use DTM as a stepping stone towards a higher category — most notably Christijan Albers (who has since returned to DTM).

The World Touring Car Championship is another common patch for former F1 drivers. A notable driver to recently take this path is Tiago Montiero. Felipe Massa competed in the WTCC’s predecessor, the European Touring Car Championship, on his way to F1.

The British Touring Car Championship is hugely popular among viewers in the UK, but is far removed from the flow of talent to and from F1.

The annual 24 Hours of Le Mans event is considered to be one of motor racing’s crown jewels along with the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix. Many future and former F1 drivers compete in the event. The competition has inspired the successful American Le Mans Series which in turn inspired the European-based Le Mans Series.

The FIA GT Championship was a stepping stone in Mark Webber’s career towards F1, but is more likely to be inhabited by former F1 drivers. Super GT is a GT series based in Japan. Kazuki Nakajima and Adrian Sutil both raced in this championship prior to F1. Porsche Supercup races are often F1 support races. Timo Glock and Nelsinho Piquet have competed in this series in the past.

Nascar (purple box)

Although F1 may be considered to be the highest level of motor racing in the world, this may not be the case in the USA. There, the most popular form of motor sport is Nascar, a stock car series. Some ex-F1 drivers and former hopefuls currently race there.

There are three major levels of Nascar: the Sprint Cup, the Nationwide Series and the Craftsman Truck Series. Former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya currently races in the Sprint Cup. But thanks to the wide differences between Nascar and F1, and the sniffy attitude the F1 community takes towards Nascar, the chances of any Nascar drivers making the leap to F1 are very slim.

IndyCar (cyan box)

Closer to F1 is IndyCar (which this year merged with the troubled Champ Car). Like F1, this is an open-wheel, open-cockpit series that to the untrained eye may look very similar to Formula 1. Many drivers have made the transition from IndyCar / Champ Car to F1 over the years (as you can see in Keith’s comprehensive series).

However, in recent years the American open-wheel scene became less competitive due to the IRL / Cart split (hence the two names for the sport) and drivers making the leap from there to F1 has become less common. However, current Toro Rosso driver Sébastien Bourdais used to race in Champ Car. An IndyCar grid can often contain many former F1 drivers.

Other major motor racing series (not on the diagram)

The series mentioned so far in this article cover all of the major series that are closely related to F1. Of course, there are other major disciplines that have only the most tangential of relationships to F1.

Motorcycles

MotoGP is the premier motorcycle racing championship. It is the motorcycle equivalent of F1. Superbikes are more like the two-wheeled equivalent of touring cars, as the bikes are tuned versions of road-legal bikes.

It goes without saying that the skills needed for success on two wheels are vastly different to those needed on four. However, this doesn’t stop the more excitable journalists from imagining MotoGP riders making the switch to F1. From time to time MotoGP riders test Formula 1 cars, but this is for publicity reasons more than anything else.

Rallying

Rally cars are modified road-legal vehicles that typically run on point-to-point stages rather than circuits. The biggest rally series is the World Rally Championship. Due to the variety and difficulty of the conditions that rally drivers have to face, they can arguably claim to be the best drivers in the world. WRC is currently dominated by Sébastien Loeb who has won the WRC championship for four years running.

Again, the skills required are vastly different to F1. I can think of only one F1–WRC crossover in recent years. Stéphane Sarrazin competed in one F1 race in 1999 and has entered some WRC events as a tarmac specialist.

As outlined in a previous bluffer’s guide, there is no promotion or relegation and the decision for teams and drivers to enter F1 is essentially a business decision. But of course drivers (and sometimes teams) do not just appear out of thin air. There are countless other categories of motor racing that drivers also compete in. There is no set route towards Formula 1, nor do all paths necessarily lead to F1. But Formula 1 is generally regarded to be ‘top of the tree’ that most drivers aspire to compete in.

However, a cursory glance at the various championships organised by the FIA alone (never mind non-FIA championships) reveals that motor racing is a hugely diverse category of sports. The skills needed to be a top F1 driver are very different to the skills required to succeed in rallying, drag racing and hill climbing!

The next two bluffer’s guides will cover those categories where you should look out for future (and sometimes past) F1 stars. I have done research on the careers of every driver that has entered a Formula 1 race in the past five seasons. This has revealed which junior formulae are the most common early destinations for future F1 stars. This post will cover the major series from GP2 to Formula 3 and everything in between.

The following diagram shows the links between categories en route to F1. Any moves made by two or more drivers are represented in the diagram. Down the centre column is by far the most common route: Formula Renault / BMW / Ford → Formula 3 → GP2 → Formula 1. Other links show more unorthodox but nevertheless common routes to and from F1. The area of the boxes denote the number of F1 drivers that have raced in that category.

Routes to F1

Tier two (maroon boxes)

GP2

The most conventional entry point to F1 is GP2. This was designed specifically as an F1 “feeder” series in 2005. The cars are similar to, but less sophisticated than, F1 cars. GP2 is a spec series (meaning that all of the cars are the same). GP2 replaced Formula 3000, which in turn replaced Formula 2 in 1985.

Current F1 drivers Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock and Nelsinho Piquet all graduated from GP2. Every year in GP2’s short history, the GP2 Champion has been offered an F1 drive for the following year so it is the place to look for up-and-coming talent. Look out for Romain Grosjean, Bruno Senna (Ayrton’s nephew) and Sébastien Buemi who could be on their way to becoming F1 drivers in the near future.

Occasionally, but not so often, former F1 drivers compete in GP2. Timo Glock entered GP2 after a fleeting appearance in F1 and after a few years he got another drive in the top category. Giorgio Pantano is another former F1 driver currently competing in GP2, but although he is relatively successful in GP2 he is getting on now and there is little interest in him from F1 teams.

The main GP2 series is a ‘support’ race at most European F1 events, so GP2 drivers get the opportunity to learn many F1 tracks. Interestingly, Giancarlo Fisichella can be seen casting a watchful eye over proceedings when he has finished his F1 sessions — he owns a GP2 team, Fisichella Motor Sport.

GP2 Asia

GP2 also has a spin-off series called GP2 Asia which runs during winter. Two events — Malaysia and Bahrain — are also F1 support races. As the name suggests, this is focussed on Asian circuits where there is an emerging interest in motor racing, though many of the teams and drivers are the same as the main GP2 Series.

Formula Nippon

Formula Nippon is the Japanese equivalent of GP2 / Formula 3000. In the past a few drivers have graduated from Formula Nippon. These include Ralf Schumacher and Pedro de la Rosa. Michael Schumacher also drove for one race in Formula Nippon prior to racing in F1.

However, the talent available in Formula Nippon not generally up to the standards of F1. The series is more likely to supply under-performing Japanese drivers such as Yuji Ide and Sakon Yamamoto. The best Japanese drivers are more likely to prove their worth in a European category, with Formula Nippon remaining primarily a Japan-centric series.

Tier 2.5 (red boxes)

I have invented ‘tier 2.5′ for the purposes of this post. It represents categories that are not as major as GP2, but are arguably more important than Formula 3.

World Series by Renault

This is a relatively new — and rapidly growing — series of motor racing. Part of Renault’s massive motor racing programme, this is also known as Formula Renault 3.5. It is designed to slot in between Formula 3 and GP2.

The series can be traced back to its roots as the Open Fortuna by Nissan in 1998. Back then it was a particularly Spanish motor racing series. But it quickly gained a reputation as a stamping ground for hot new talent. Almost every winner of the series has gone on to make a name for himself in F1 including Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica.

Over the years the series has cultivated a more international feel with races in nine different countries. The most recent winner of the series is Álvaro Parente who is currently racing in GP2. Part of the prize drivers get by winning the World Series by Renault is a test drive with the Renault F1 team.

A1GP

The self-styled “World Cup of Motorsport” likes to think of itself as a major rival to F1, though in reality it is quite a minor championship. Running in winter to avoid clashing with F1, A1GP is an unusual concept in that the focus of the championship is not on drivers or teams but on nationalities.

Like GP2, A1GP is a spec series. A1GP pulled off a major coup by persuading Ferrari to design and manufacture the A1GP chassis and engine which will be used for four seasons from 2008-2009.

In its favour, A1GP has attracted entries from a number of countries which do not have a strong tradition in motor racing. This may help bring motor racing to new audiences. However, the drivers are often treated as disposable commodities, with teams swapping drivers about all season.

A1GP has not proved to be a good feeder series, with only relatively poor drivers Scott Speed and Nelsinho Piquet having graduated from A1GP to F1. Former F1 drivers can be found racing in A1GP. Ex F1 drivers to have taken part in A1GP include Jos Verstappen, Narain Karthikeyan and Franck Montagny.

Superleague Formula

Superleague Formula is, like A1GP, a slightly eccentric idea for a racing series — but might just work. It is new, hence the uncertainty. Instead of teams as we know them, drivers will be representing football clubs on the racing circuit with the spec cars decked out in each football team’s colours.

One British club — Rangers FC — is involved, along with a number of other major football clubs from around the world. The only notable driver confirmed for Superleague Formula so far is ex-F1 driver Robert Doornbos.

Formula 3 (orange box)

Formula 3 is a very important category for F1. All but four of the 45 drivers who have raced in F1 in the past five years raced in F3 along the way. As such, F3 is a great category to keep an eye on for those interested in F1’s future talent. Six recent F1 drivers including Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella all made the jump directly from F3 to F1. However, success in F3 could just as easily spell a career in another category such as touring cars.

The champions of five F3 series are each eligible for an FIA Super License for 12 months. The five series are Formula 3 Euroseries, British F3 International, Italian Formula 3, Formel 3 Cup and Japanese Formula 3.

F3 is not actually a single championship. Rather, there are several championships which are part of the F3 category.

Formula 3 Euroseries

A very new series but already arguably the most important is the F3 Euroseries. As the name suggests, circuits from all around Europe are used. F3 Euroseries was originally intended to replace the separate French and German F3 championships. The French F3 series ended, but German F3 continues in a different form to this day.

Lewis Hamilton won the F3 Euroseries championship in utterly dominant fashion in 2005, the year before he entered GP2. Other notable F3 Euroseries graduates include Robert Kubica, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. Those still to make it to F1 but making waves nonetheless include Romain Grosjean and Sébastien Buemi. One name to watch out for among the current F3 Euroseries drivers is Nico Hülkenberg who already has a relationship with the Williams F1 team.

Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix

The Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix is an annual event that brings together many of the top F3 drivers from the various F3 competitions around the world. The Macau street circuit is a challenging racetrack. As such, drivers who excel in Macau often do well in higher categories. 13 of this year’s 22 F1 drivers have competed in this event.

Famous winners include Ayrton Senna, David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher. Recent winners include Lucas di Grassi and Mike Conway, both currently making waves in GP2.

Masters of Formula 3

Another major international F3 event, this is Europe’s most important F3 race. Like Macau, 13 of this year’s F1 drivers have competed in this event. Recent winners include Lewis Hamilton, Christian Klien and Nico Hülkenberg.

British F3 International

The F3 championship with the longest history is British F3 (now known as British F3 International). The ‘British’ in British F3 refers only to the circuits that are used. The championship itself is open to drivers of all nationalities, but all of the races are held in Britain.

The list of British F3 champions includes many familiar names that went on to make a name for themselves in F1. Most notable in recent years is perhaps Mika Häkkinen who won the 1990 British F3 championship and went on to become a double F1 World Champion in 1998 and 1999. In 2000, Jenson Button caused a stir by leaping straight from F3 to F1, even though he only finished third in the British British F3 championship! But the British F3 roll of honour also contains a number of promising youngsters whose stars faded before they could reach the top category.

Seven of this season’s F1 drivers competed in British F3. Additionally, several test drivers honed their skills in this series. F1 takes a great deal of interest in British F3 and Kimi Räikkönen co-owns a British F3 team, Räikkönen Robertson Racing. Recent British F3 drivers to look out for in future include Mike Conway, Álvaro Parente and Marko Asmer.

Other F3 series

Other F3 series include the Formel 3 Cup (originally German F3, which Michael Schumacher won in 1990 and several other F1 drivers competed in their youth), Japanese F3 (which Adrian Sutil won in 2006) and Italian F3 (whose biggest name has been Giancarlo Fisichella). Drivers from Latin America including Rubens Barrichello and Nelsinho Piquet have competed in Formula 3 Sudamericana.

Keep an eye out for the next bluffer’s guide which will look at entry-level series and non-open wheel series.