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F1 discussion

How to get into F1: the value of winning feeder series

This topic contains 12 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by Avatar of Journeyer Journeyer 1 year, 6 months ago.

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
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  • #132557
    Avatar of mnmracer
    mnmracer
    Participant

    As the last few seats for the 2013 Formula One season fill up, we can welcome at least three new young talents next year: GP2 driver for Marussia Max Chilton, 2011 GP3 champion and Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas and Lotus GP2 driver Esteban Gutiérrez. I thought it’d be interesting to have a look at the importance of winning a championship in a direct feeder series. What has been the best junior formula-results of today’s big names in Formula One, and what became of the champions of Formula 2, Formula 3000, GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5?

    Short history of the feeder series
    While Formula One is the pinnacle of open-wheeled auto racing, the high-performance nature of the cars and the expense involved in the series has always meant a need for a path to reach this peak. While there are and have been many types of junior formulae, Formula 3 being the most popular, for much of the history of Formula One, Formula Two has represented the penultimate step on the motorsport ladder. In 1984, Formula Two (with their 2-liter engines) were upgraded to 3000cc engines, and the series was renamed to Formula 3000. In 2005, the new GP2 series replaced Formula 3000.

    In 2005, Formula Renault ran a new, faster series from their trade-mark Formula Renault 2.0 championship. The new Formula Renault 3.5 series was almost on the same level as the GP2 series and FR3.5′s first champion, Robert Kubica, became a Grand Prix winner. The World Series by Renault, as of 2012, are now actualy as fast as the GP2 series, and can really be considered one of the direct feeder series.

    Formula 2, while the original series evolved into GP2, returned under that name in 2009 and is slightly slower than Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2, but still a clear step up from all the other junior formulae. Despite a relatively large field of contenders, the organisation announced that 2012 was the final season of the Formula 2 championship, due to declining entrants for 2013.

    Formula One drivers in the ‘feeder series’
    - Michael Schumacher (F1 debut in 1991) won the 1990 German Formula Three championship and won three races in the World Sportscar Championship.
    - Jenson Button (F1 debut in 2000) finished 3rd in the 1999 British F3 championship.
    - Fernando Alonso (F1 debut in 2001) finished 4th in the 2000 Formula 3000 championship, after winning Formula Nissan (class between F3 and F3000) in 1999.
    - Kimi Räikkönen (F1 debut in 2001) got his chance in F1 after impressing in the 2000 British Formula Renault 2000 championship.
    - Felipe Massa (F1 debut in 2001) won the 2001 European Formula 3000 championship.
    - Mark Webber (F1 debut in 2002) finished 3rd and 2nd in the 2000 and 2001 Formula 3000 championships.
    - Nico Rosberg (F1 debut in 2006) was the first driver to win the GP2 championship in 2005.
    - Sebastian Vettel (F1 debut in 2007) dominated Formula BMW and was promoted to F1 while leading the 2007 Formula Renault 3.5 championship.
    - Lewis Hamilton (F1 debut in 2007) convinvingly won the 2006 GP2 championship.
    - Romain Grosjean (F1 debut in 2009) debuted in F1 while being 2nd in the 2009 GP2 championship, won the 2011 GP2 championship.
    - Kamui Kobayashi (F1 debut in 2009) won the 2008-09 GP2 Asia championship.
    - Nico Hülkenberg (F1 debut in 2010) won the 2009 GP2 championship.
    - Bruno Senna (F1 debut in 2010) runner-up in the 2008 GP2 championship.
    - Sergio Pérez (F1 debut in 2011) finished 2nd in the 2010 GP2 championship.
    - Paul di Resta (F1 debut in 2011) won the 2006 Euroseries Formula 3 series and the 2010 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championship.
    - Pastor Maldonado (F1 debut in 2011) won the 2010 GP2 championship.

    Formula One drivers of old in the ‘feeder series’
    - Jim Clark (F1 debut in 1960) was offered a F1 drive after some impressive drives at Le Mans and in Formula Junior.
    - Jochen Rindt (F1 debut in 1964) was very succesfull in Formula 2.
    - Jackie Stewart (F1 debut in 1965) won the 1963 British Formula 3 championship and finished 2nd in the 1964 Formula 2 season.
    - Gilles Villeneuve (F1 debut in 1977) impressed James Hunt after beating several Grand Prix stars in a Formula Atlantic race in 1976.
    - Nelson Piquet (F1 debut in 1978) dominated the 1977 British Formula 3 championship.
    - Alain Prost (F1 debut in 1980) won the 1979 French and European Formula 3 championships.
    - Ayrton Senna (F1 debut in 1984) won the 1983 British Formula 3 championship.

    What became of feeder series’ champions
    Formula 2
    - 1967 European Formula 2 champion Jacky Ickx debuted in Formula One in 1967 and went on to win 8 Grand Prix’.
    - 1968 European Formula 2 champion Jean-Pierre Beltoise debuted in Formula One in 1966 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.
    - 1969 European Formula 2 champion Johnny Servoz-Gavin debuted in Formula One in 1967 and finished second in 1 Grand Prix.
    - 1970 European Formula 2 champion Clay Regazzoni debuted in Formula One in 1970 and went on to win 5 Grand Prix’, finishing 2nd in the championship in 1974.
    - 1971 European Formula 2 champion Ronnie Peterson debuted in Formula One in 1970 and went on to win 10 Grand Prix’, finishing 2nd in the championship in 1978.
    - 1972 European Formula 2 champion Mike Hailwood debuted in Formula One in 1967 and finished second in 1 Grand Prix’.
    - 1973 European Formula 2 champion Jean-Pierre Jarier debuted in Formula One in 1971 and finished three times on the podium in F1.
    - 1974 European Formula 2 champion Jacques Laffite debuted in Formula One in 1974 and went on to win 6 Grand Prix’.
    - 1975 European Formula 2 champion Patrick Depailler debuted in Formula One in 1972 and went on to win 6 Grand Prix’.
    - 1976 European Formula 2 champion Jean-Pierre Jabouille debuted in Formula One in 1974 and went on to win 2 Grand Prix’.
    - 1977 European Formula 2 champion René Arnoux debuted in Formula One in 1978 and went on to win 7 Grand Prix’.
    - 1978 European Formula 2 champion Bruno Giacomelli debuted in Formula One in 1977 and went on to finish once on the podium in F1.
    - 1979 European Formula 2 champion Marc Surer debuted in Formula One in 1979 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.
    - 1980 European Formula 2 champion Brian Henton debuted in Formula One in 1975 but never scored any points.
    - 1981 European Formula 2 champion Geoff Lees debuted in Formula One in 1978 but never scored any points.
    - 1982 European Formula 2 champion Corrado Fabi debuted in Formula One in 1983 but never scored any points.
    - 1983 European Formula 2 champion Jonathan Palmer debuted in Formula One in 1983 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.
    - 1984 European Formula 2 champion Mike Thackwell debuted in Formula One in 1980 but drove only 5 Grand Prix’.

    International Formula 3000
    - 1985 International Formula 3000 champion Christian Danner debuted in Formula One in 1985 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.
    - 1986 International Formula 3000 champion Ivan Capelli debuted in Formula One in 1985 and went on to score 3 podiums in F1.
    - 1987 International Formula 3000 champion Stefano Modena debuted in Formula One in 1987 and went on to score 2 podiums in F1.
    - 1988 International Formula 3000 champion Roberto Moreno debuted in Formula One in 1982 and went on to score 1 podium in F1.
    - 1989 International Formula 3000 champion Jean Alesi debuted in Formula One in 1989 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.
    - 1990 International Formula 3000 champion Érik Comas debuted in Formula One in 1991 and went on to score a best 5th place finish in Formula One.
    - 1991 International Formula 3000 champion Christian Fittipaldi debuted in Formula One in 1992 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.
    - 1992 International Formula 3000 champion Luca Badoer debuted in Formula One in 1993, never scored a point but went on to become a test driver for Ferrari in Formula One.
    - 1993 International Formula 3000 champion Olivier Panis debuted in Formula One in 1994 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.
    - 1994 International Formula 3000 champion Jean-Christophe Boullion debuted in Formula One in 1995 and went on to score a best 5th place finish in Formula One.
    - 1995 International Formula 3000 champion Vincenzo Sospiri debuted in Formula One in 1997 for one race in the failed Lola F1 team, after which he scored 2 podiums in Indycar/CART.
    - 1996 International Formula 3000 champion Jörg Müller never debuted in Formula One, although he did become test driver for Williams and had some succes in AMLS and WTCC.
    - 1997 International Formula 3000 champion Ricardo Zonta debuted in Formula One in 1999 and went on to score a best 6th place finish in Formula One.
    - 1998 International Formula 3000 champion Juan Pablo Montoya debuted in Formula One in 2001 and went on to win 7 Grand Prix’.
    - 1999 International Formula 3000 champion Nick Heidfeld debuted in Formula One in 2000 and went on to score 13 podiums in F1.
    - 2000 International Formula 3000 champion Bruno Junqueira never debuted in Formula One after losing a Williams seat to Jenson Button, but finished runner up 3 times in the CART series.
    - 2001 International Formula 3000 champion Justin Wilson debuted in Formula One in 2003 and went on to score a best 6th place finish in Formula One.
    - 2002 International Formula 3000 champion Sébastien Bourdais debuted in Formula One in 2008 and went on to score a best 7th place finish in Formula One.
    - 2003 International Formula 3000 champion Björn Wirdheim never debuted in Formula One but drove two seasons as a test driver for Jordan and Jaguar.
    - 2004 International Formula 3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi debuted in Formula One in 2005 and went on to score a best 6th place finish in Formula One.

    GP2 series
    - 2005 GP2 series’ champion Nico Rosberg debuted in Formula One in 2006 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.
    - 2006 GP2 series’ champion Lewis Hamilton debuted in Formula One in 2007 and went on to win the 2008 Formula One championship.
    - 2007 GP2 series’ champion Timo Glock debuted in Formula One in 2004 and went on to score 3 podiums in F1.
    - 2008 GP2 series’ champion Giorgio Pantano raced in Formula One before in 2004, but has not been very succesful in America since his GP2 win.
    - 2009 GP2 series’ champion Nico Hülkenberg debuted in Formula One in 2010 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.
    - 2010 GP2 series’ champion Pastor Maldonado debuted in Formula One in 2011 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.
    - 2011 GP2 series’ champion Romain Grosjean debuted in Formula One in 2009 and returned this year with Lotus. He scored 3 podiums since.
    - 2012 GP2 series’ champion Davide Valsecchi has tested a HRT in 2010, but has not yet debuted in Formula One.

    Formula Renault 3.5

      - 2005 FR3.5 champion Robert Kubica debuted in Formula One in 2006 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.
      - 2006 FR3.5 champion Alx Danielsson has not debuted in Formula One and has moved to touring cars since.
      - 2007 FR3.5 champion Álvaro Parente has not debuted in Formula One and has moved to touring cars since.
      - 2008 FR3.5 champion Giedo van der Garde has not debuted in Formula One, but is test driver for Caterham.
      - 2009 FR3.5 champion Bertrand Baguette has not debuted in Formula One and has moved to Indycar and Le Mans since.
      - 2010 FR3.5 champion Mikhail Aleshin has not debuted in Formula One but stayed in FR3.5.
      - 2011 FR3.5 champion Robert Wickens has not debuted in Formula One and has moved to DTM since.
      - 2012 FR3.5 champion Robin Frijns has been signed as test driver for Sauber in 2013.

      Formula 2 (revived)
      - 2009 FIA Formula 2 champion Andy Soucek did some Formula One tests but now drives Endurance Races.
      - 2010 FIA Formula 2 champion Dean Stoneman earned a young driver test with Williams before having to put his racing to a halt because of cancer.
      - 2011 FIA Formula 2 champion Mirko Bortolotti earned a young driver test with Williams and has disappeared off the radar since.
      - 2012 FIA Formula 2 champion Luciano Bacheta tested for Williams on Silverstone on October 19th. No word yet on his future.

      Conclusion
      Of the 58 ‘feeder series champions’ listed here, only 15 went on to win a Grand Prix, only 8 won more than one Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton is the only one who actually became a champion in Formula One.

      Of all the 32 Formula One champions, only Denny Hulme (1967), Jochen Rindt (1970), Keke Rosberg (1982) and Damon Hill (1996) spent more than one season in a feeder series, and of those, only Hulme and Rindt really impressed there.

      Making this list, it was interesting to see that of all the current world champions, only Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton have spent a full season in a direct feeder series. Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen were picked up after the junior series, while Sebastian Vettel earned his first test based on his Formula BMW results and was only half-way through his WSR season before Formula One called him. Even looking at the big names of back when, most champions were picked up by a Formula one team after impressive results in Formula 3.

      The career path to Formula One, more so success in Formula One, is very short and very shallow. It is sometimes lamented that Formula One is only for the rich kids, but aside from champions present and past showing otherwise, it seems the biggest talents will make it before the need for the big money (in the feeder series) kicks in. Might we have lost out on some talents because of the monetary requirements of auto racing? I’m sure we have, but the biggest talents have always found a way to impress very early on in their career.

    #221132
    Avatar of the_sigman
    the_sigman
    Participant

    Comments and questions:

    - 2010 GP2 series’ champion Pastor Maldonado debuted in Formula One in 2011 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.

    He won 1 GP and crashed in his other ones.

    - 1991 International Formula 3000 champion Christian Fittipaldi debuted in Formula One in 1992 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.

    Yes, but he also managed to do a backfip.

    - 1992 International Formula 3000 champion Luca Badoer debuted in Formula One in 1993 and went on to went on to become a faillure test driver for Ferrari in Formula One.

    You are absolutely right.

    - 1993 International Formula 3000 champion Olivier Panis debuted in Formula One in 1994 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.

    If he managed to lose that win I would still laugh.

    - 1980 European Formula 2 champion Brian Henton debuted in Formula One in 1975 but never scored any points.
    - 1981 European Formula 2 champion Geoff Lees debuted in Formula One in 1978 but never scored any points.
    - 1982 European Formula 2 champion Corrado Fabi debuted in Formula One in 1983 but never scored any points.

    That was the golden era of Formula 2.

    - 2003 International Formula 3000 champion Björn Wirdheim never debuted in Formula One but drove two seasons as a test driver for Jordan and Jaguar.

    Wasn’t him the guy who slowed down at the straight of Monaco and lost the win?

    Of course I am joking. Really nice ”stats” @mnmracer.

    #221133
    Avatar of JPedroCQF1
    JPedroCQF1
    Participant

    Formula Renault 3.5 has more powerful and faster cars than GP2 Series, @mnmracer.

    #221134
    Avatar of mnmracer
    mnmracer
    Participant

    @joao-pedro-cq
    I’ve looked at that and it’s minimal, as of right now.
    They have been going faster and faster though.

    http://f1stats.blog.com/2012/10/21/formula-renault-35-now-faster-than-gp2/

    #221135
    Avatar of Bosley
    Bosley
    Participant

    If you’re Italian and win a GP2 series title, you’re going to have a bad time.

    #221136
    Avatar of mrgrieves
    mrgrieves
    Participant

    What a fantastic bit of history @mnmracer

    Made a brilliant read, Never noticed that the 3.5 series champions havent gone on to achieve much since Kubica

    #221137
    Avatar of GeeMac
    GeeMac
    Participant

    Nice read @mnmracer , thanks for compiling all of that.

    I think you were a bit hard on Luca Badoer though! When he came into F1 he was highly rated and had a great record in junior formulae (winning the Internatioal F3000 championship as you mentioned). We all remember his two farcical performances as a stand-in for Felipe Massa in 2009, but that shouldn’t be the only thing he is judged by. He deserves a lot of credit for the role he played in helping Ferrari to their success in the 2000′s. His thousands and thousands of testing miles round Fiarano were invaluable to Michael Schumacher and the team’s success. The team said as much when he retired too (http://www.autosport.com/news/grapevine.php/id/88668).

    #221138
    Avatar of mnmracer
    mnmracer
    Participant

    Hmm, reading back, I’m not sure how I got to call him a faillure. That was not intended, and I certainly do acknowledge his talents as a test driver. Brain fart…

    #221139
    Avatar of AdrianMorse
    AdrianMorse
    Participant

    Interesting read @mnmracer, certainly I had expected a closer correlation between success in the junior formulas and success in F1. The first thing it makes me wonder is to what extent we, as racing fans, are justified in calling the F1 drivers the best in the world. Apparently, many of today’s heroes were beaten (at least on occasion) by drivers we have long forgotten about. I think after last season many viewed Jenson Button as one of the best drivers in the world, but if Frank Williams had opted for Bruno Junqueira instead, we might never have heard of him.

    Also, I wonder how, after their superlative performances this season, Sebastian Vettel was beaten by his team mate (Di Resta) in F3 in 2006, and Fernando Alonso was beaten by three drivers to the F3000 title in 2000.

    #221140
    Avatar of mnmracer
    mnmracer
    Participant

    @adrianmorse
    Well, I think it’s a combination of things.

    I think for the top guys, they are picked up by a team one way or another in the lower formula, i.e. Vettel and Hamilton and Räikkönen. Then it’s a matter of, is there a place available at a team at this point; if so, (Räikkönen at Sauber), welcome to the team. If not yet (Vettel/Hamilton), you’ll keep racing in the feeder series until a spot becomes available at whatever team has picked you up. In a sense, the feeder series are a chance for those that have not yet shown “we need him now” skills in the junior formula, to show their talents still, but you’ll need to do more to impress.

    As for how Alonso and Vettel (remember, even Senna was at times beaten by Brundle in F3, yet few think of them on the same level in F1) were on ocassion beaten, I think Toro Rosso’s technical director Giorgio Ascanelli explained it best: “Suddenly Vettel understood something about how to drive an F1 car quickly. It made a huge difference – not only to the speed he could unlock, but also to his ability to do so consistently.”

    I believe the junior formula’s are mostly a learning process, and what Formula One teams are mostly looking for are a combination of moments of brilliance, an undying will to learn and to improve, and an ability to adapt quickly. Once in Formula One, that will in a few years time (more for one than the other; Ascanelli’s comment was in early 2008) make the driver that the driver will end up being.

    #221141
    Avatar of Bob
    Bob
    Participant

    Brilliant stats compilation, @mnmracer. It’s somewhat surprising that so few drivers who did well in the feeder series would go on to leave any lasting impression in F1. Two hypotheses that seem within the realm of possibility:

    The first hypothesis concerns the maturation of the driver. A driver’s performances in the feeder series may not be truly indicative of his full potential. Some drivers are able to make an impression early in their careers, only to hit the proverbial brick wall in terms of skill development, and fail to progress beyond that point. Others start off slower, but are able to make continual improvements, gradually mastering their racecraft over time, enabling them to work their way up. Hence, we have a tendency for the “early bloomers” (examples being Luca Badoer and Giorgio Pantano) to have their careers peter off, while the “late bloomers” (examples, to an extent, Vettel and Alonso) go on to build solid careers.

    Opportunity, or a lack thereof, is another important factor to consider. Talented drivers could very well be getting rough deals due to the lack of vacant seats in F1 – by the time an empty spot opens up, a newer generation of up-and-coming young talents will have gained precedence. This results in many drivers, successful in the feeder series, but continually frustrated by being unable to land a top-tier contract, heading off to do touring cars or Le Mans.

    #221142
    Avatar of Enigma
    Enigma
    Participant

    Nice!

    It’s a shame 3.5 champions haven’t got their chances in F1, or most of them haven’t.

    #221143
    Avatar of Journeyer
    Journeyer
    Participant

    Brilliant post, @mnmracer! You should’ve worked with @keithcollantine to post this in the main blog – it’s that good!

    Here are some other modern champions not yet in your list:
    Mika Hakkinen (F1 debut in 1991) won the 1990 British Formula 3 championship.
    Jacques Villeneuve (F1 debut in 1996) finished 2nd in the 1992 Japanese F3 championship, before going Stateside for his Indycar run.
    Damon Hill (F1 debut in 1993) finished 7th in the 1991 International Formula 3000 championship.
    Nigel Mansell (F1 debut in 1980) finished 12th in the 1980 European Formula 2 championship.
    Keke Rosberg (F1 debut in 1978) finished 6th in the 1977 European Formula 2 championship. As a curious sidenote, he did both F1 and F2 events in 1978 and 1979.
    Alan Jones (F1 debut in 1975) finished 2nd in the 1973 European Formula 3 championship and 2nd in the 1974 British Formula Atlantic championship.

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