As the cost of rising through the motorsport ranks continue to spiral upwards, many young drivers are seeking alternatives to the top ranks of single seater racing, instead looking to the likes of endurance championships.
Now, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has suggested that he may establish a GP2 team specifically to provide talented drivers who lack funding with a platform to progress to F1.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Ecclestone commented: “I am sure that there are lots of good drivers out there that will never get the opportunity. They will never get the opportunity to be in a competitive F1 car because people won’t take a risk.”
“If they are looking for somebody and they have a seat vacant they look at somebody who has a chunk of money. I am thinking we can maybe do something in GP2. We can run a team and if we can see people who can move on [into F1], then we will put them in the car.”
A report by Raconteur this July estimated a single season in GP2 could cost a driver as much as €1.5 million on average, bringing the total spent on their career to between €4.5-5 million to reach the second tier of single seaters. This is despite the fact that GP2 has only produced 45.8% of F1 drivers, while 79.2% of drivers in 2014 had raced in Formula Three – which costs around €650,000 per season.
Return of the third car debate
The introduction of third cars has proved unpopular with both fans and teams and would likely lead to considerable cost escalation. However Ecclestone has promoted the concept again as a potential solution for driver development:
“We have tried to get this idea of maybe some of the bigger teams running a third car. The idea then is that the third car could have a driver change four or five times a year, and then [the teams] can look for someone they think is talented who has been in lesser formulae.”
More room at the top
It is clear to me that the shrinking grid size at the ‘pinnacle of motorsport’ is, at least in part, to blame for the lack of opportunity available to developing talent.
Having risen through the ranks, drivers are faced with multiple seasons on GP2, which does little to further their own reputation, racecraft or bank balance. As such, many are forced to look elsewhere, with IndyCar and endurance racing proving popular destinations for those with big cheque books or enough of a reputation.
While the approach adopted in the early 1990s, with teams not even guaranteed race entry due to an abundance of entries, was certainly not sustainable, the loss of several teams in recent years has proved detrimental to the sport as a whole.
Increasing the number of cars on the grid to around 26 would not only provide more race seats for up-and-coming drivers but also offer more of a spectacle for fans, with an increased number of teams competing at the highest level.
And let us not forget that it is not only drivers that wish to progress to make more money and gain global recognition, the teams themselves are businesses and want to reach the very top. I would propose that a system to help GP2 and other lower category teams to advance to race in F1 would be considerably more beneficial for racing as a whole rather than taking the top-down approach of aiding individual drivers.
What do you think?