Too many formulae?

2010 will witness a new series start in the form of GP3. While on the face of it a new formula is a good thing, a more in-depth look suggests that maybe it is not.

Last year Jonathan Palmer and his MSV company launched their new FIA approved series – Formula 2. The Formula 2 name was back after a 25 year absence. In the heyday of the 70s and 80s drivers such as René Arnoux, Jacques Laffite and Jonathan Palmer were all champions and used as a springboard to progress their careers. When Formula 2 was brought back in 2009 the championship administrators wanted to re-establish the Formula 1 – Formula 2 link. Given time this may happen but Formula 2’s problem is that it has to vy with the established and respected GP2 series. Both of these ‘second tier’ formulas have their benefits, the GP2 series offers drivers the experience to drive faster cars and drive some of the circuits that Formula 1 does. Formula 2 aims itself as a ‘good value’ formula, providing 425bhp cars (power upped in 2010) for a fraction of the cost of driving in the GP2 series.

ART win at Portimao, 2009

If we class Formula 1 as the premier class in single seater racing, and classify GP2 and Formula 2 as ‘second tier’, you can see that the next area to look at is the ‘third tier’.

When a young driver looks to further his career he may choose to enter a championship that offers racing at tracks that are used in more senior formulae. Another driver might choose to enter a championship that offers racing at a wide range of tracks and offers a variety of challenges. With possible finance limitations and sponsorship demands to be accounted for, choosing the right formula for a young driver to enter is quite a choice.

These decisions are especially prevalent in the third-tier Formulas. A brief list of the formulae I believe can be classified in this category are:

  • Formula 3 Euro Series
  • International Formula Masters
  • World Series by Renault
  • GP3
  • British F3 (3rd/4th tier)

Does the choice of many championships hurt general competition?  Maybe so. If you have a set of 100 drivers, with the choice of 3 championships, the competition in those 3 championships is going to be closer than in a situation where the 100 drivers had a choice of 5 championships to take part in.

British F3 - Max Chilton

The launch of the GP3 series could have a direct effect on the Formula 3 Euro Series. Past champions of this championship include Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Niko Hülkenberg and Jules Bianchi. After these drivers won their F3 Euro Series title, they all moved onto GP2 the next year. So the introduction of a new formula ‘a junior GP2’, run by the administrators of the Gp2 series is likely to entice those drivers who might of thought to take part in the F3 Euro Series, to take part in GP3 instead.

The current financial climate affects all in the motorsport industry.  Team bosses are working with tighter budgets and championship organisers need to run their championship with less income and still try to appeal to a larger market as possible. Whether the current number of single seater formulae is sustainable, time will tell.

[Images courtesy of ART Grand Prix and British F3]

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