The Formula 2 paradox

Jack Aitken and Tadasuke Makino going side-by-side towards Eau Rouge during the F2 race

Dieter Rencken has provided an interesting take on whether Formula 2 is doing enough to support young drivers to make the transition to Formula 1.

However, exactly the same arguments were made about the predecessor to F2/GP2 — Formula 3000.

The fact is that F1’s main so-called feeder series, whatever it has been, has always been curiously unsuccessful at finding future F1 stars.

But perhaps more accurately, future F1 stars are simply so good that they bypass the second rung completely. Think of Max Verstappen, who was fast-tracked straight from European Formula 3. Or Kimi Räikkönen, who leapt all the way up from Formula Renault UK. Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost are among the many greats who completely bypassed this level.

Meanwhile, those who have been successful in F2/GP2 tend to be the drivers who have happened to be most experienced at driving F2/GP2 cars. They have also, I’m afraid to say, tended to be — how to put this politely? — below F1 champion standard.

  • Jolyon Palmer (became champion in his fourth GP2 season)
  • Fabio Leimer (also his fourth season)
  • Davide Valsecchi (fifth season)
  • Romain Grosjean (four seasons, plus two GP2 Asia seasons, and an F1 reject to boot)
  • Pastor Maldonado (four)
  • Giorgio Pantano (fourth GP2 season, and F1 reject)

If a driver spends too long in F2, it becomes a bad look. Because drivers tend to be relatively experienced and well-known by the time they make it to F2. If they’re spending lots of time in F2, you have to wonder why they haven’t yet caught the eye of any F1 teams.

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