And yet no F3000 or GP2 champion has ever gone on to win the sport’s ultimate prize – the Formula 1 World Championship.
In this four part series we take a look at the 22 champions – and what became of their F1 careers.
1985 F3000 champion with 52 points (2nd Mike Thackwell, 45)
After winning the inaugural Formula 3000 championship Danner moved up to F1 and was briefly the subject of a tug-of-love between Arrows and Osella mid-way through 1986.
In 1987 he joined Zakspeed, a similarly un-competitive team. He moved to Rial in 1989 and finished fourth in a high attrition race at Pheonix, but only qualified for one further race that year, which was the end of his F1 career.
1986 F3000 champion with 38 points (2nd Pierluigi Martini, 36)
Italian Capelli made his F1 debut with March, which later became Leyton House. He impressed at the wheel of Adrian Newey’s cars of 1989 and 1990, very nearly winning the French Grand Prix in 1990.
A move to Ferrari in 1992 should have been his breakthrough season, but the team was mired in political strife and produced a dire car. Capelli was slaughtered by the press and left before the end of the year. After a couple of races for Jordan in 1993 he quit.
1987 F3000 champion with 41 points (2nd Luis Perez-Sala, 33)
Modena jumped into F1 at the end of 1987 with Brabham, taking over from Riccardo Patrese who was filling in for the injured Nigel Mansell at Williams.
He was considered a promising talent but his lack of application was a cause for concern – he even retired a healthy car on one occasion. A move to Honda-powered Tyrrell in 1991 briefly promised great things but the team lapsed into un-competitivity and Modena’s career soon fizzled out.
1988 F3000 champion with 43 points (2nd Olivier Grouillard, 34)
Moreno sampled some truly awful machinery in his F1 career, the first of which being the useless Eurobrun in 1989. He got a seat at Benetton late the following year after Alessandro Nannini’s career-ending helicopter crash, and wept with joy when he finished second at Suzuka.
Tears of a different career were in order when the team dumped him in 1991 in favour of the incoming Michael Schumacher – Moreno relinquishing his seat for a thick wad of cash.
He somehow wrestled the appalling Andrea Moda onto the back of the grid at Monte-Carlo in 1992. A few years later came a spell at the wretched Forti team before he moved to Indy Car racing in America.
1989 F3000 champion with 39 points (2nd Erik Comas, also with 39, but one fewer race win)
Another of the great unfulfilled talents, Alesi was fourth on his dÃ©but for Tyrrell in France in 1989 while still racing in F3000. He impressed again in 1990, battling with Ayrton Senna at Pheonix, then moved to Ferrari for the duration of the team’s wilderness years.
He won once, at Montreal in 1995, then left for two years each at Benetton, Sauber and at Prost (plus a few starts for Jordan) before quitting.
Photo: GEPA Pictures