Whale I don’t know ‘bout Y’all, but I’m finding it increasingly challenging to figure out the touted European Open Wheel Racing “Ladder” system, which seemingly continues to muddy the waters with its constant addition of new series, going from easy to Huh? And whilst I’m NOT happy over the demise of what’ll always be the Toyota Atlantics to Mwah... I do have to agree that the much ballyhooed Indy Car’s “Road to Indy” Ladder system is indeed a pretty clear cut path to follow...
(F1) Formula 1
This is the top of the food chain, commonly known as “The Pinnacle of Motorsport,” primarily for its exceptional embracing of technology, albeit having been somewhat massively blunted with the FIA’s attempt’s at Cost Cutting, even if there truly is NO such thing in the Formula One Universe.
(F2) Formula 2
The original Formula 2, more commonly known as F2 traces its roots back to 1947 when it was conjured-up as a “B” Formulae to the Top Banana – Formula Uno, (F1) albeit it wasn’t uncommon to see Formula Two chassis sprinkled into a Formula One race in the early years… While the F1 Championship consisted solely of F2 chassis during the years 1952-53 in an effort to save expenses, along with returning to this practice when F1 effectively adopted the F2 machinery between 1961-65.
Yet F2 really took off with the inception of the European F2 Championship commencing in 1967, running thru 1984 and seeing its headiest competition from multiple chassis makers: March, Matra, Ralt, Techno, Toleman, etc in the 1970’s.
And as its followers F3000 and GP2; the original Formula 2 (1967-84) saw every single Champion graduate into the top echelon, nee Formula One, while the Jury’s still out upon the newly reconstituted F2 Series that the FIA reinstated last year.
There are various guises to the series nomenclature, yet for me it implies the now defunct International F3000 Championship, acting as the replacement to the long-in-the-tooth European F2 Series, beginning in 1985 with the adaptation of 3,000cc Normally aspirated V-8 lumps as the motivating factor, in an effort to find a home for the now obsolete Ford/Cosworth DFV lumps that had previously ruled the roost in Grand Prix Racing before the Turbo era finally took over.
Formula 3000 ran for effectively two decades; 1985-2004 before being replaced by GP2, with nearly all of the series Champions graduating to Formula 1. The inaugural Title winner was Christian Danner and Vitantonio Liuzzi was the final F3000 Champion, while only Title holders Vincenzo Sospiri, (1995) crashed ‘N burned with the failure of the MasterCard Lola F1 Project; Jirg Muller, (1996) Bruno Junqueira (2000) and Bjorn Wirdheim (2003) all managed to only ascertain Formula 1 Testing roles before moving onto other series. Yet while Muller and Junqueira were simply testers, Wirdheim spent 2004 as Jaguar’s Friday Third Driver before Red Bull’s purchase of the Team sealed his F1 career demise and the ‘Swede joined Whineybags in Champ Car for 2005.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Bourdais, the 2002 Champion won the Crown on the basis of Title winner Tomas Enge being disqualified due to a Drug Testing failure...
GP2 and GP2 Asia
I will skip the GP2 Asia series, which basically is considered GP2 Lite and is designed to keep the GP2 Teams active during the winter months, while GP2 was introduced as a replacement to F3000 in 2005. This supposed Cost “Savings” Formulae features 4,000cc Normally Aspirated Renault V-8’s mated to Dallara chassis, with the current second generation variant in it’s final season this year, with it’s predecessor having been tested by somebody named Michael Schumacher over the 2009 winter months...
Like F3000, GP2 has seen every Title winner with the exception of Giorgio Pantano (2008) graduate into F1, amongst other competitors. The Champions roster includes: Nico Rosberg, (2005) Lewis Hamilton, (2006) Timo Glock, (2007) And Nico Hulkenberg, (2009) with a total of five GP2 Drivers graduating into Formula 1 in 2010.
(F3) Formula 3
I’m not even gonna try tackling this “Junior” Formulae, as there’s simply a zillion iterations of it across the European landscape. Suffice it to say though; it’s an integral Feeder category that typically is part of the accepted path to competing in Formula 1.
This is an interesting series that makes its debut this year with its inaugural race occurring during the Spanish GP weekend as part of the support series for the F1 race. GP3 has been designed as a direct Feeder category into GP2 and each of the competing Teams consist of Three car entities, many with either GP2 or F1 connections.
And as Ryan likes to do, I’m going to go out on a limb and (“Pontificate”) claim that I expect to see at least the following three competitors Esteban Gutierrez, Alexander Rossi and Robert Wickens all graduate into Formula 1 in the future... while it’ll be interesting to see who becomes the dominant American driver between Carlin (Motorsport’s) duo of Josef Newgarden and Jake Rosenzweig vs. ART’s Rossi.
And although Rosenzweig did take part in GP3 Pre-season testing, he’s no longer listed as one of Carlin’s three drivers and instead is now focusing upon the World Series by Renault for Carlin in 2010.
GP3: Another Formula 1 Feeder Series emerges
World Series by Renault (WSR)
This series began as a Spanish Open Wheel affair, originally spawned by the Japanese Automaker Nissan as the motivating factor behind the Driver’s backsides, before being rebranded as a “Reggie” (Renault) entity. And I’m really not sure still how it all works, as there seemingly is a ladder series all of its own within the Renault banner.
Yet several former, current ‘N successful Formula Uno Piloto’s with names such as: Marc Gene, Fernando Alonso, Franck Montagny, Ricardo Zonta, Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica are all former Series Champions, with “Frank the Tank” (Montagny) being the only repeat winner in 2001, 2003.
Meanwhile last year’s Champion Bertrand Baguette who tested for both BMW Sauber and Renault during the past winter’s F1 Young Driver’s Test has now decided to go racing for fellow Countryman Eric Bachelart’s Conquest Racing Indy Car Team and will hope to compete as a Rookie in this year’s Indy 500.
Other Feeder Series
And this doesn’t even include: Formula BMW, Formula Ford, Formula Nippon, etc.
As you may also wish to visit Junior Open Wheel Talent (JOWT) for an insight upon the “Young guns” along with his excellent look at the Feeder series primer’s upon his website by visiting;
Junior Open wheel Talent