The ‘FIA Global Pathway’ was created in 2014 to make the steps simpler to go from karting to Formula 1.
It decreed that the first step into open-wheelers is a driver’s national Formula 4 series, then from there it recommended the driver compete in a regional Formula 3 Championship in either Europe, North America or Asia. And then if successful, the driver would advance to the FIA Formula 3 Championship, then into Formula 1’s feeder category, the FIA Formula 2 Championship.
“The FIA has long been committed to creating a logical pyramid for its single-seater championships,” said FIA president Jean Todt.
“In recent years we have seen the carefully prepared foundations develop into a thriving system which is already producing a wealth of gifted young drivers who will undoubtedly become the stars of the future.”
The FIA Formula 2 Championship was revived in 2017 as the official second tier support category to Formula 1 and the final step of the FIA Global Pathway.
Since returning, the series has produced new Formula 1 stars including Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon.
“The FIA Formula 2 Championship is built on strong foundations. Between 2005 and 2017, Formula 2’s forbear GP2 has been an excellent platform for drivers to progress to Formula 1,” Todt said.
“The combination of talented young drivers and a hugely competitive and education environment, makes Formula 2 a crucial final stepping-stone.
The second tier of top flight motorsport began pre-war, and had many names and many engine regulation changes before 1967.
It was in that year that the FIA increased the engine capacity to 1600cc to produce close to the same power as Formula 1 cars of the day, and became the official FIA European Formula 2 Championship.
This is when the series really took off, producing stars such as Jacky Ickx, Clay Regazzoni and Ronnie Peterson.
The late ‘60s and early ‘70s was a time in which many Formula 1 drivers also tried their hand at racing in other disciplines, such as oval racing at the Indy 500, sports car endurance racing at the Le Mans 24 Hours and even rallying.
Many also contested Formula 2, joining teams such as McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Brabham, though the rules of the time made them ineligible for championship points.
In 1972 the regulations were changed to 2.0L production-based engines, which remained in place until the end of 1984.
Honda-engined cars started to dominate the series in the early ‘80s and as a result grid sizes diminished.
So at the end of 1984, the series was replaced by the FIA Formula 3000 International Championship, which was designed to cut the cost of competition. The engine regulations permitted any 90-degree V8 engine with a rev limiter added, to stop a single-engine manufacturer dominating.
Formula 3000 regulations were never as popular as the Formula 2 regulations as boundaries were frequently pushed and rules were often broken.
From 1996, the FIA introduced standardised cars, so that all teams ran a Lola chassis fitted with a Judd V8 engine.
As a result of this the series grew immensely in the late-’90s, but this created other problems. Almost 40 cars entered at most rounds, forcing drivers to pre-qualify, many of which headed home early after failing to make the grid.
The series produced the next generation of Grand Prix drivers including Jean Alesi, Juan Pablo Montoya and Nick Heidfeld, but F3000 lacked the stepping stone aspect of Formula 2, as technically it was too far away from F1.
In 2000 the series was restricted to 15 teams with two cars each, however costs shot through the roof as a result at the turn of the millennium, and grid sizes dwindled.
In 2005 F3000 was replaced by GP2, the series now running as a major support category to Formula 1 successfully. The series was popular among competitors and fans early on also ran standardised engine, chassis and tyres, as was relatively affordable. Straight away drivers and teams could see that this championship was a step in the right direction.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are former GP2 champions that have gone on to win at the highest level in Formula 1.
During GP2’s heyday in 2009, Formula 2 was revived but did not follow the Formula 1 circus as GP2 and Formula 3000 had. The cars were not as fast and all the cars were run by the one team, a system that proved unpopular with drivers and after just four years the series folded.
This wasn’t the only junior open-wheel series to start-up in the mid-2000s, there were many others including International Formula Master and Auto GP. Both of these categories also died after only a few years.
GP2 was not threatened by these other championships, but what it did was complicate the pathway to Formula 1 with no obvious stepping stone for all junior drivers to follow.
At the end of 2016, the GP2 series was rebranded as the FIA Formula 2 Championship, to create an understandable and promotable pathway to the most-watched motorsport on the planet.
In its inaugural season, the series ran V8 engines, but in 2018 it changed to the current regulations and specifications to align itself more with the F1.
The new Formula 2 cars are made by Dallara and built to FIA safety standards, which includes the addition of the controversial ‘Halo’.
Like Formula 1, the series now runs a V6 turbocharged engine but unlike F1 it does not run a hybrid system and therefore contains a bigger 3.4L engine.
Meantime, this year marks the inaugural FIA Formula 3 Championship which was created after the FIA European Formula 3 Championship merged with GP3 to set up the official third step on the ‘Global Pathway’.
“Since 2019 the FIA Formula 3 Championship has joined the same platform as Formula 2 and Formula 1,” Todt said.
“Having the top three tiers of FIA single-seater competition together at the same events is an important part of the learning process, and will make it easier than ever for fans to follow the careers of the sport’s rising stars and see the dramatic journey towards Formula One unfold.
“A brand new car will encourage closer racing and increased overtaking, whilst also benefiting from safety advancements made in Formula 1.
“The costs of competing are as affordable as possible, thus helping to safeguard the championship as a place where talent is able to shine in front of the world’s foremost race teams,” he explained.
Formula Three began life in 1966 as a single round cup competition called the Formula 3 Nations European Cup.
In 1975 new 2-litre cars were introduced and this saw the creation of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship. It ran for 10 successful seasons before the series returned to its one-off event roots.
This complicated the F1 pathway as it left no clear route to Formula 1 once you had left your home country. The Formula 3 Euro Series created in 2003 filled a gap, but like Formula 3000, was still very distanced from F1. The series was then merged into the new FIA Formula 3 European Championship in 2012, which was now competing against the GP3 Series.
This was a difficult era for young drivers as they were faced with a decision, compete in GP3 or F3 Europe? There was no clear cut obvious route.
In 2019, Jean Todt merged the two to create the FIA Formula 3 Championship.
The new championship is the first time in history that there is a global F3 series, a clear F3 championship that drivers can strive to be a part of.
This move has in itself provided an obvious third tier to Formula 1.
Currently there are three regional F3 series, one in Europe, one in North America and a series in Asia.
Race weekends are a standardised format for Formula 2 and Formula 3, with a 45-minute practice session, a 30-minute qualifying session and two races.
In F2 the qualifying session determines the grid for the Feature Race. In this race the driver must complete a compulsory pit stop and use both tyres compounds.
The second and shorter Sprint Race grid is decided by the results of the first race, with the top eight positions reversed and no pit stop is to be completed.
In Formula 3, there are no compulsory stops in either races. The second race grid is also decided by reversing the top eight finishing positions from the race 1.
The point system is the same in both series for Race 1, and mirrors Formula 1 with 25 points for first down to one point for 10th position.
For Race 2, 15 points are handed to the winner down to one point in eighth place. A bonus four points are awarded for pole position and an additional two points are given to the driver who sets the fastest lap if placed in the top 10.
Under-pinning Formula 2 and Formula 3 according to the FIA Global Pathway is Formula 4, the first rung on the international motorsports ladder.
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Image Credit: © Formula Motorsport Limited
Source: Dan McCarthy, Autoaction.com.au