The F2 title: Not necessary for F1 success?

By Franck Drui

22 August 2018 - 08:53
The F2 title: Not necessary for F1 (…)

A driver with Mercedes’ junior outfit, George Russell remains confident that his chances of gaining a seat in next season’s F1 roster are not dependent on him winning the F2 championship. As of the F1 Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, Russell commanded a healthy 12-point lead over McLaren reserve driver Lando Norris.

Russell has already shown fantastic potential, recording an unofficial fastest time at Hungaroring in a test race there. At the age of just 20, he still has plenty of time to grow as a driver, regardless of whether or not he makes the grade for next season. Mercedes must also take into account the technical difficulties suffered by the new F2 car, which have prevented Russell from extending his lead further.

The story so far for George Russell

The Case For F2 Title Importance: Charles Leclerc

While there are many F1 greats that did not require junior silverware to become so, it is no coincidence that Charles Leclerc, a winner of GP3 and F2 is now on course to make it big. Though the Monegasque driver is now priced at 2500/1 by the outright market for Formula 1 betting at William Hill, the links to Haas persist. There can be no denying only winning consistently at junior level can breed the confidence needed to make it in the big time.

With Leclerc scoring 14 points as an F1 driver, his early performances as a rookie have underlined the importance of F2 racing. F2 is certainly not an institution without its critics, and some people may even argue that F1 is now sufficiently safe for exceptional GP3 drivers to skip F2. However, the intricate nature of car technology, and the importance of driver conditioning in the modern era makes F2 experience more essential than ever.

Evidence to the contrary

Even though Russell’s title is not quite yet assured, he is already being earmarked as a shock inclusion in Red Bull’s lineup for 2019. This alone suggests that his future in F1 lies with one of the better constructors, regardless of whether or not he wins the F2 title this year. Red Bull, and its junior outfit Toro Rosso, is well known for putting faith in youth talent. Indeed, Toro Rosso scooped Max Verstappen after a strong GP3 season in 2014 – and he finished third that year, not even coming remotely close to winning silverware at that level.

Evidently, Verstappen has not suffered as a result of missing out on F2 action. His debut season (2015) was packed with surprises, including a daring manoeuvre at Blanchimont in his home race. After his inevitable promotion to Red Bull came an inevitable maiden win, in Spain, which crowned him as the youngest driver to win a Formula One race.

On the balance...

There can be no doubt that Leclerc’s success will have turned more F2-sceptical motorsport fans towards seeing the usefulness of F2 racing in the present era. If nothing else, F2 will always be seen as the gateway to the big time, and the conventional route for any driver into the top flight. With promotion schemes for the junior outfits of top constructors still ever-evolving, F2 will also be a growing source of excitement.

While existing regulations may veto the idea of automatic promotion to a senior outfit as a tangible prize for winning an F2 title, there is nothing to suggest that a similar system – not unlike a ‘draft’ in American sports – may become part of Formula One’s agenda to make the lower echelons of racing more accessible to a worldwide audience.


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