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GP Week : Issue 178
>>> FEATURE Following the creation of the Single Seat Commission by the FIA toward the end of 2011, Gerhard Berger began the unenviable task of reconfiguring the ladder system to Formula One, with a view to both simplifying the route and bring costs under control. This remains no easy or quick job for the Wörgl native; however it appears the 53-year-old could be one of the few with the ability – and the desire – to reset a fractured system. Overpopulation Late October in a Formula 3 paddock can be something of schizophrenic experience. The season has just ended, battles have concluded and championships have been won – and lost. Thoughts are already racing toward the next step, the next goal, but as is so often the case, there will be a long wait ahead for drivers, with key decisions far from their hands. All they can do is wait – and hope to drive. “So, what are your plans for next year? Where do you go from here?” Shrugged shoulders are complemented by deepening frowns and the slightest hint of frustration: “No idea mate, no idea. It could be World Series by Renault or GP3 or GP2 or Auto GP or...” Talk to a few more drivers and a pattern emerges of a seemingly endless array of choices – many of which come with little in the way of tangible rewards for success. Even champions don’t always progress within single-seaters today – just ask Davide Valsecchi or Daniel Juncadella. Felix Rosenqvist, a youthful member of the Swedish racing fraternity summed it up best: “There are some things we want to do; there’s a lot of things I want to do, but can’t. Let’s hope it’s something good.” The impossibly blonde Swede has decided to stay in Formula 3 for another year, but beyond that a maze awaits. It seems so unusual when looking back now. During the early 1980s, Berger took three years to dial a way through Formula 3, before launching straight into Formula One with ATS. But that was then. Those graduating from the karting pool are now faced with a seemingly endless array of first-stop championships such as Formula Ford, Formula Four and club level Formula Renault. Beyond the entry-level categories sit a plethora of Formula Three championships, sidelined by several Formula Renault 2.0 litre categories and a handful of Formula Abarth series’. If a driver possesses enough talent – or money – to progress to the next level, they will be confronted by yet another myriad of championships, headed by GP3, before opting to move to either Formula Renault 3.5 or GP2, while out on the wings is the Auto GP World Series. Recognising a problem The once simple route – as taken by the likes of Berger – has long since evaporated, leaving behind a cracked ladder and system where future stars lose their way. Commenting in the July 2012 issue of the FIA’s in house magazine InMotion, Berger went some small way to outlining the task ahead: “The Commission looks at everything between karting and Formula One and I find that the pyramid at the moment is very loose: there are too many championships out there and attention between them is split too much.” It is a fragmentation that frustrates the former Grand Prix winner: “These days the best drivers are all over the place: one in Formula 3, one in GP3, one in Formula Renault and one in Formula Abarth. The system no longer does what it is supposed to do ...” It is a view shared by Sky Sports F1 commentator and former racer Martin Brundle, whose son Alex competed in Formula 3 and GP3 before switching to endurance racing full-time this year: “You could stand back and look at [the ladder system] and say ‘this is crazy’ – it is certainly fragmented and difficult to understand.” Brundle added, “You look at it and think ‘there is no way through the single-seater system at the moment’. I always think of it as an escalator that’s blocked at the top and they’re all spilling out and they’re spilling into GT, LMP1 racing and others just disappear off the scene.” With no regulation in place to manage the structure, several new or reborn categories have edged their way into view, while the cost of participation – even in these difficult economic times – have increased dramatically to the detriment to grids across the continent. In the UK, its leading Formula Renault 34 GPWEEK.com // 34 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: