Racing in both F2 and F3: A slippery slope for single-seater series

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HWA Racing in 2021 F2 F3 Nannini
© 2020 Sebastiaan Rozendaal / Dutch Photo Agency

The separation of the 2021 F2 and F3 championships has created a new and possibly unforeseen possibility; drivers racing in both F2 and F3 in the same year. Indeed we already have the first driver announcement of doing just that. Matteo Nannini will be driving for HWA in F3 and F2 this season.

From a driver’s perspective, it’s all gravy of course. If you have a big enough wallet to be able to pay for a seat in both championships in one year, you could earn a bumper haul of Super License points and be waving said wallet at F1 team bosses before you know it.

The FIA’s International Sporting Code Appendix L, Article 5 covers the requirements a driver must meet prior to applying for a Super License:-

1. A minimum age of 18 at the start of their first F1 competition
2. An existing holder of an International Grade A competition licence
3. A holder of a full and valid road car driving licence for the country listed as the driver’s 4. nationality which has not been suspended, withdrawn, revoked, or in any other way prevents the holder from driving a motor car on public roads.
4. Passing of an FIA theory test on knowledge of the F1 sporting codes and regulations.
5. Completed at least 80% of each of two full seasons of any of the single-seater Championships reported in Supplement 1 of the regulations
6. Accumulated at least 40 points over the previous three seasons in any combination of the championships reported in Supplement 1 of the regulations

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In the example of Nannini, he will turn 18 during the course of this season and with the 12 points he earned winning UAE F4 in 2019 will require perhaps 3rd in F3 and only 7th in F2 to gain his Super License. Of course, coming from a single podium in F3 in 2020, this does seem like Nannini will require a major personal performance leap as well.

It is worth remembering that drivers running in a winter F3 series prior to competing in F2 is not a new phenomenon. Nikita Mazepin was racing in F3 Asia for 2020 prior to his second season of F2. Guanyu Zhou is competing in F3 Asia this year…prior to his third F2 season.

F3 Asia hasn’t had the strongest of fields in the past few years, which is ideal for blooding drivers moving up the ladder. Take Dino Beganovic for example. But I have to be honest, the idea that seasoned F2 drivers (and newly promoted F1 drivers) need to be competing in this championship makes me question their talent.

Then we come to F2 drivers racing in the full F3 championship at the same time. Or in Nannini’s example, an F3 driver running a dual campaign in F2. If you are a Formula 2 driver, again, why do you need to step down to F3? There are 40 points and an instant Super Licence points quota for finishing in the top 3 of F2. So are these drivers tacitly admitting that they cannot compete? That they know they won’t reach the top 3 of the championship, and need the extra points from an F3 championship?

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The Super License system is in place to ensure that the drivers that make it to F1 are at least competent and qualified enough to be there. We all accept that motorsport will never be a true meritocracy. We hold our noses and accept that billionaires’ kids will occupy a proportion of seats in every series. It’s what we must accept to have motorsport. However, being able to drive in both F3 and F2 at the same time makes a mockery of the current system. You are either an F3 level driver working to progress or you are an F2 driver looking to get to F1. You can’t be both at the same time.

People may try and claim that this is a way of getting super talents through the junior system and into F1 as quickly as possible. Well, that doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny at all. Junior drivers are reaching F4 at the age of 14 and 15. If they are good enough, they will have 40 Super License points by the time they reach 18 and can graduate to F1. And if they cannot manage those 40 points in that time then they are not ready for F1 at 18.

This article feels like a rant and that’s because it is. We don’t want to see drivers using huge bags of money to shore up any weaknesses in their driving talent.

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