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What is Formula 2? A Guide to Formula 1’s Premier Feeder Series

Written By Emily Sands, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Bryn Lennon - Formula 1 / Contributor

The 2022 Formula 2 season has come to a conclusion! Felipe Drugovich was crowned world champion this year for the Dutch team MP Motorsport. So, let’s use this long break to find out how Formula 2 works. If you enjoy reading this and learning about the in’s and out’s of how Formula 2 works, then be sure to follow along next season, or if you are really interested, watch highlights of races from the season gone-by.

Formula 2 is a type of open-wheel racing series first introduced in 1948. It has gone through several iterations since its beginning. It was overtaken by Formula 3000 between 1984-2004. The Formula Two byname briefly made a comeback from 2009-2012 in the FIA Formula Two Championship, but the series itself was largely unsuccessful and thus was discontinued. GP2 Series, a competing series, was then the platform some drivers used as a stepping stone to Formula 1. The current iteration of Formula 2 began in 2017, when the outgoing GP2 Series became known as the FIA Formula 2 Championship.

Formula 1 has always been regarded as the pinnacle of open-wheel racing, and only a handful of drivers around the world get to compete. With only 20 drivers and 10 teams on the grid, you can understand the pressure and the talent involved. However, to help new talents emerge, as Formula 1 drivers begin to retire, or aren’t performing consistently to compete in the sport and therefore, get replaced, F2 is a great way for the younger drivers to impress F1 teams at race weekends.

Designed to make racing somewhat affordable and as realistically challenging as possible, and to make it the ideal training ground, FIA regulations state that every team competing must use the same chassis, engine and tyre supplier. Having these regulations allows driver performance to be the deciding factor, and any mistakes that said driver could make will highly impact their point finishes. Formula 2 normally tends to race on European circuits, but there have been appearances at other international race tracks such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Next season, Formula 2 is set to head Down Under to Albert Park, Melbourne, for the first time in the history of the series.

Whilst F2 cars are significantly slower than their bigger, wider Formula 1 counterparts, the Formula 2 cars are still faster than most other racing vehicles. To put into perspective on how much slower they are compared to the likes of the W12, as of 2022 at the Imola Circuit, the lap record was set as roughly 15 seconds slower than Formula 1. Now, that may not seem like a long time, but in this sport, seconds are crucial.

Formula 2 weekends are packed with racing, so let’s go through each of the different stages the weekend presents for the drivers. The event commences on Friday, with one free practice session of 45 minutes, and then one qualifying session of 30 minutes later in the day. On Saturday, there is one ‘Sprint Race’ that will consist of 120 kilometres or 45 minutes, whichever comes first. Then on Sunday we have the ‘Feature Race’ which takes place ahead of the Formula 1 Grand Prix and will consist of 170 kilometres or 60 minutes, again, whichever comes first.

Even though Formula 2 is designed to make the championship more affordable for the drivers taking part, the estimated cost of running an F2 car is around $US 3 million per season. Typically, the driver’s have to pay these costs, through finding sponsorships, or personal family wealth. To put it plainly, you’d most likely need about €7 or €8 million to be successful, and if you had the talent to make it into Formula 1.

With all of these costs in mind, you can understand how there’s only a few who manage to get this far. We already have stories from the F1 grid, those of Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Ocon, about their parents having sacrificed everything to help their sons have the best karts, and pay for their sponsors.

Unless your name is Max Verstappen, Formula 2 is a vital stage in a driver's career. This is the chance for them to prove to the big bosses in charge of the F1 teams that they are ready to take the next step. And that’s where the driver academy teams come in, with those at Williams, Red Bull and AlphaTauri, to name a few, having their own junior programmes. ‘So how do they work?’ I hear you ask, well the Young Driver Programmes help fund the fledgling careers of the most promising junior drivers, in the hope of nurturing them into F1 drivers of the future.

Alex Pantling - Formula 1 / Contributor

The Red Bull Junior Programme is arguably one of the most successful driver academies, having raised drivers such as four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and our favourite Australian, Daniel Ricciardo since its inception in 2001. Even the sport’s newest Double world champion, Max Verstappen, was a part of the Red Bull Junior Programme in 2014.

Previous F2 champions have since made their way into F1, some of these names consisting of George Russell, Lewis Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc and Nyck De Vries. 2021 F2 champion Oscar Piastri has now signed a two year contract for McLaren, with Nyck De Vries taking some time away to race in Formula E with the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, winning both the 2020 and 2021 seasons, and is now set to make his full-time debut in Formula 1 with AlphaTauri in 2023.

Current Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich was announced as the first member of Aston Martin's Driver Development Programme. However, next year’s Formula 2 grid is going to be as competitive as the years before. 2023 will mark the 57th season of Formula 2 racing, and the seventh run under the FIA Formula 2 Championship moniker. MP Motorsport will enter the new season as the reigning teams' champion, having secured their title at the final round of the 2022 season in Abu Dhabi.

There will be some changes to the grid for next year, as some of the drivers will be moving around to different teams, with some moving on to entirely new racing series, for instance, IndyCar or Super Formula. You can read one of our other articles to find out who heads where on the grid next year;

So, that’s everything you need to know about Formula 2 to be glued to your TV, watching the 2023 season when it returns to Bahrain in March! But, in the meantime, if you’re new to the world of Formula 2, watch some old races from this season, or even archived races from years before. They will not disappoint!

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