Ben Evans continues his look back at the turbulent history of F1′s former feeder category, Formula 3000.
Strange tracks and bad accidents dogged the sport in the late ’80s / early ’90s, but these were the years when Johnny Hebert and Jean Alesi made their way into F1 via F3000.
From the outset F3000 had largely been the preserve of British (Lola, March and Reynard) and Italian teams. The growth of Italian teams and drivers in the Championship was often the subject of much conjecture, especially as many of the entrants did not have glowing track records. Rumours abounded that several of them were involved in a tax dodge.
By 1988 the cost of competing had risen to the point that most drivers were struggling by on a race-by-race basis, and that many of the last minute pay drivers drafted in were not up to the task.
This led to the FIA introducing a two-driver change rule which meant that teams were only allowed to change their drivers twice during the season. Consequently many funded drivers were left on the sidelines whilst their prospective cars lay idle back in the workshops.
Escalating speeds was another major problem, and by 1989 the front-running F3000 cars would have comfortably qualified for most Grands Prix. The March team ran in F3000 in the early stages of the 1990 while their new car was being completed. F1 was in danger of being challenged by its younger sibling.
Equally worrying F3000 was far removed from the F1 circus, with a few exceptions and its stand alone events were somewhat esoteric. For example the Enna race in 1991 was run without support events ensuring a five hour gap between warm-up and the race.
Circuits such as Birmingham (interesting curiosity) and Albacete (glorified kart track) did little for the series’ credibility, aside from promoting a ‘have circuit, will race’ attitude.
The 1991 season brought more controversy as some of the hitherto uncompetitive or newcomer Italian teams (Il Barone Rampante) suddenly dominated races courtesy of some rather exotic fuels apparently worth 15bhp on the straights. Long-time success stories such as Pacific racing (who entered F1 in 1994) were baffled as their previous race winning formula was now only good for 14th. For a ‘controlled’ formula this was disastrous.
Read more about the champions of Formula 3000 and GP2