Should super licence points be a requirement for Formula 3 and Formula 2?
I think something needs to be changed...
Formula 3 and Formula 2. The final stepping stones before the multi-billion dollar travelling circus that is Formula 1. They’re the most prestigious junior championships sanctioned by the FIA and, as a result, you’d expect both series to be full of the best of the best of the world’s junior open-wheel talent. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. This is something that’s especially come to light in the last few years with the absolute disasters that have been Mahaveer Raghunathan, Santino Ferruci and Alessio Deledda, as well as the perplexing staying power of Sean Gelael who somehow manages to be able to afford to stay in F2 for multiple years despite clearly not being good enough to make it to an F1 seat. It seems like almost every year there are some duff drivers that somehow manage to make their way onto the grid just because they can pay for it, or mediocre drivers who are able to stay there for the same reason. With that in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to ask this question. Should F3 and F2 require you to have super licence points to compete?
One question I guess I have to ask is how many points would be appropriate as a requirement for competing in F3 and F2. At the moment, you need 40 points to compete in the Formula 1 World Championship and 25 points (or have completed 6 full races in F2) to be able to take part in free practice sessions in a Formula 1 car. Taking that into account, it would definitely have to be lower than 25 points. The various regional Formula 4 championships are worth between 7-12 points if you finish in them in the top 3, so I’ll use that basis to say that 7 points would be a good benchmark for entry into F3. F3 gives out between 20-30 points for a top 3 finish, so with that and the free practice licence requirement of 25 points or 6 completed full races in F2 in mind, 20 points should be the benchmark for getting into F2. 20 points seems to be a bit harsh for getting entry into F2, I’ll admit. But it would absolutely make sure that somebody like Raghunathan can’t just pay their way into a seat without having any proven success against other junior drivers.
The other question I have to ask is whether a system like this will actually work in practice. Judging by how much the driver standards have improved in Formula 1 since the points system was introduced, I would say that it absolutely will. Take a look at the current F1 grid and there are no bad drivers at all, really. Even Nicholas Latifi who is trundling at the back of the grid in his first season of F1 has legitimate achievements in his pre-F1 career. We have moved far away from the 80s and 90s when any old driver with enough money and a bit of racing experience in lower-level formula categories could pay their way into an F1 seat. We are well past the days of the Ricardo ‘Tosser’ Rossets and Andrea DeCesarises. So why should this still be the case in F2 and F3 when these racing series are supposed to be the entry point into F1?
Of course, sometimes drivers will end up dropping out because of bad performance, a lack of money, a shiny new driver comes up in the driver market or an old legend wanting one last run. It still happens quite a bit in F1. You only have to look at Toyota taking a punt on Champ Car champion Cristiano da Matta only to end up dropping for poor performance in his second season, how Timo Glock had to pull out of F1 due to a relative lack of finances, how the incredibly talented Nico Hulkenberg was left behind in the driver market last year in favour of Esteban Ocon or how Renault overlooked their junior talent in favour of bringing back Fernando Alonso. No amount of super licence points or changes in the entry requirements for a racing series to make it more based on merit can remove those situations. But what it hopefully will mean is that there will be less examples of drivers being dropped from F3 and F2 because of bad performance or drivers being able to keep their seats despite mediocre results just because they have lots of money behind them.
Should F3 and F2 have tighter entry requirements through the use of a super licence points requirement? I’d say they should at least consider it. If the FIA want to legitimise that the main path to get into F1 is by going through F3 and F2, they really should reinforce that by not allowing people with stacks of money behind them to just buy their way into a seat. Of course that doesn’t guarantee that people will end up being slightly shoddy drivers and end up losing their seats, but it will end the days of people like Alessio Deledda and Mahaveer Raghunathan getting seats in F3 and F2 despite a comparative lack of ability to the rest of the field. It might not stop another Sean Geleal case where somebody who is clearly not good enough to get into F1 ends up hanging around in F2 for half a decade, but that is preferable to having a revolving door of Raghunathans buying their way into the series every year.
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