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GP Week : Issue 178
>>> FEATURE championship never made to the first round, having collapsed two weeks before its 2012 season was due to start, while Formula Ford too often ran with 12 cars or less. Current BRDC President Derek Warwick has also become critical of the system’s lack of order: “I think we have to take ourselves back. I want to see a young karter [on] a platform where he can come and race at circuits, start getting noticed by us, by sponsors and hopefully set his career up. The whole scheme is too complicated.” For much of 2012, the British Formula 3 Series struggled to garner more than 14 entrants at its national rounds, although its European counterpart secured an additional half-dozen entrants on a regular basis. On the international stage, categories such as Formula Two and Auto GP made do with grids of approximately 15-16 drivers per race. At the end of 2012, the struggling Formula Two Championship had been put down – Luciano Bacheta set as its final champion. Centralisation and costs According to Berger, this is not merely an issue of too many championships, but also one of filtered competition and rising costs: “You need to bring the costs down. You see today that the British F3 Championship costs in the region of £700,000 (€870,000) and I don’t think that is the right thing for a formula for youngsters.” Inevitably there were casualties and the introduction and success of the renewed European F3 Championship hit the British F3 Series hard, with the latter struggling to attract entries for the 2013 season. Come the end of January, SRO [Stéphane Ratel Organisation] reduced the British F3 calendar to four dates, potentially signalling the end of the famed series. Although the European Championship reportedly comes with a lower budget, finding those funds is still a difficult task. “We know that most of the money has to be paid by families and we know that there is not much sponsorship available, so that is very important,” noted Berger. War wick, however, is keen to point to a change in attitude to funding that developed in the last decade-and-a-half: “We all got carried away with the economy; there was money to spill. Everybody was making money, it was a great economy and everybody was spending more and more money. We all got carried away by that same gravy train and now is the right time to come back and set new standards.” Brundle too points to differing attitudes today: “I think what’s changed in the UK is that everyone has become much more accountable. When I came through, there was a couple of guys that sponsored me through their company, because that was what they wanted to do. Silverstone used to put money into young drivers and a few others put their own hard cash in and that has virtually disappeared,” said the broadcaster. “That’s all stopped because there are so many places to spend your sponsorship money, whether it’s the Internet, TV or in sports sponsorship, everything has developed into such a competitive environment to raise that money.” Even within the Formula One support package, there is little protection from the economic crisis. Hounded by financial difficulties, Atech CRS sold their GP3 entry to Bamboo Engineering, while Ocean Racing Technology have withdrawn from both GP2 and GP3 due to a shortfall of funds. Last month Paul Jackson’s iSport International squad became the latest to feel the pinch and withdraw from GP2, after his team were unable to find drivers with sufficient funding. Brundle elaborates: “For two seasons of GP2, you will not get away with less than £3.2 million and there are a lot of lads going into their third and fourth season – who is going to find that [money]? If you look at what has been spent by Max [Chilton] to get to the point he is before engaging with an F1 team, it is out of reach.” With notice served to Formula 3, Berger must now concentrate on his next target – entry-level motorsport: “We are missing something between karts and Formula 3 – call it Formula 4, if you will. It has to be reasonably priced. It has to be safe, and drivers need to learn about aerodynamics. It mustn’t be too complex, but it should be a challenge, so that they can learn.” During the latest meeting of the World Motor Sports Council on March 8 the Commission took that next step by creating a set of sporting and technical regulations for Formula 4. The regulations have been designed to capture young talent emerging from karting, while also encouraging ASNs to introduce Formula 4 across multiple territories. One can only assume the market share held by Formula Abarth and various 2.0-litre Formula Renault series’ may fall into the firing line. Populated by a seemingly endless array of national, regional and international championships, the once relatively straightforward route to Formula One has since become an incoherent mess. For Berger, stabilising the road will be no easy task. Indeed, this may make his battles with Ayrton Senna at McLaren seem like a doddle in comparison! LEFT: Mitch Evans, GP3 champion in 2012, will make the jump to GP2 this year RIGHT: Power Brokers: Berger, Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing and Arden International), and Mr E. 35 GPWEEK.com // 35 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: