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GP Week : Issue 37
Racing On – as F2 proves to be a real Cinderella Will Buxton GPWeek Editor CAN it really be four months since we last brought you an issue of GPWeek? Believe it or not, that’s exactly how long it has been, and I’ve really missed it. The world’s changed an awful lot in that time, and Formula 1 has been no exception. Nobody’s been impervious to the credit crunch, and it’s going to be a tough year for us all. Hell, even the drivers have had to take pay cuts. With limited winter testing, it’s been a quieter off season than usual. That’s not to say it’s been completely dead… just ask the photographers! They’re all completely pooped, and the season’s not even begun yet. It’s not just been F1 tests – there have been all manner of other championships going on, from GP2 Asia to A1GP… and then there have been the launches. One of the best, to my mind, happened fairly close to home just a few weeks ago. On a pretty windy and cold March morning, Brands Hatch buzzed with excitement as the media centre, swollen with international press, awaited the launch of a new championship. When the FIA first announced its intention to launch Formula 2, I will fully admit that I didn’t think the idea would ever see the light of day. It just didn’t seem possible that for a few hundred thousand pounds, one could run a race car at F1 feeder level. I was worried, above all else, that this was a political ploy to try and unsettle Bernie Ecclestone’s GP2, a championship of which I am fond and which has proved such a good proving ground for today’s F1 stars. I was therefore surprised and pleased to be invited to the F2 launch, and more than impressed with what I saw. Flanked by Sir Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Jonathan Palmer, the visionaries behind the winning tender, the 2009 F2 car was unveiled to the world’s press and ran around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit without complaint. It’s a pretty little thing, and makes a great noise. A full grid of them will make a great spectacle. And quite incredibly, they’ve kept to their costs. A full season in F2 will cost around £200,000 (US$280,000). Stephen Kane, a former single seater driver who I personally have always rated highly but who today plies his trade in British Touring Cars, has been tasked with the car’s development and says that after minimal running it is already quicker than F3 and getting close to World Series pace. But what’s even more astonishing is that a full budget for a year of F2, which has as its top prize a Super License and F1 test with Williams, is half the price of a season’s budget for the BTCC. Half! While I truly don’t think it will ever rival GP2 for speed, spectacle, or for the preparation of its drivers for F1, F2 nevertheless has a very important place in the current hierarchy of international motorsport. In these financially uncertain times, a competitive championship at a level in between F3 and GP2 for that kind of money is astonishing. I honestly never thought F2 would become a reality, but now that it’s here I’m really glad that it has. I’m looking forward to the first race already. 20 opinion