FIA Formula Two Championship
FIA Formula Two Championship
Jochen Rindt driving a Formula 2 Lotus in 1970 at the Nürburgring
Formula Two, abbreviated to F2, is a type of open wheel formula racing first codified in 1948. It was replaced in 1985 by Formula 3000, but revived by the FIA from 2009–2012 in the form of the FIA Formula Two Championship.
The goal of the 2009 revival was to develop a low-cost series to allow young drivers a chance to compete in the highest tiers of motorsport. In December 2012, series promoter MSV announced that Formula Two would not take place after 2013 due to declining entrant numbers, and the series was disbanded.
A third attempt at establishing the series was announced in 2015.
Formula 2 returned in 2017, the former GP2 series became ‘FIA Formula 2’ in the March leading up to the 2017 season.
While Formula One has generally been regarded as the pinnacle of open-wheeled auto racing, the high-performance nature of the cars and the expense involved in the series has always meant a need for a path to reach this peak. For much of the history of Formula One, Formula Two has represented the penultimate step on the motorsport ladder.
Prior to the Second World War, there usually existed a division of racing for cars smaller and less powerful than Grand Prix racers. This category was usually called voiturette (“small car”) racing and provided a means for amateur or less experienced drivers and smaller marques to prove themselves. By the outbreak of war, the rules for voiturette racing permitted 1.5 L supercharged engines; Grand Prix cars were permitted 3.0 L supercharged or 4.5 L naturally aspirated.
Official beginnings (post war–1953):
2.0-litre Veritas Meteor
In 1946, the 3.0 L supercharged rules were abandoned and Formulae A and B (later 1 and 2) introduced. Formula A permitted the old 4.5 L naturally aspirated cars, but as the 3.0 L supercharged cars were more than a match for these (and the pre-War German and Italian cars were no longer available), the old 1.5 L voiturette formula replaced 3.0 L supercharged cars in an attempt to equalise performance.
This left no category below Formula A/Formula One, so Formula Two (originally known as Formula B) was first formally codified in 1948 by FIA as a smaller and cheaper complement to the Grand Prix cars of the era. Among the races held in this first year of Formula Two was the 1948 Stockholm Grand Prix.
The rules limited engines to two-litre naturally aspirated or 750 cc supercharged (an option very rarely used). As a result, the cars were smaller, lighter, and cheaper than those used in Formula One. This encouraged new marques such as Cooper to move up to Formula Two, before competing against the big manufacturers of Alfa Romeo and Maserati. In fact, Formula One in its early years attracted so few entrants that in 1952 and 1953 all World Championship Grand Prix races, except the unique Indianapolis 500, were run in Formula Two (there were, however, non-championship Formula One events).
The 1.5-litre era (1957–1960):
1.5-litre Porsche 718
F2 went into decline with the arrival of the 2.5 L F1 in 1954 (with small-capacity sports car racing becoming particularly popular), but a new Formula Two was introduced for 1957, for 1.5 L cars. This became dominated by rear-engined Coopers drawing on their Formula 3 and ‘Bobtail’ sports car, with Porsches based on their RSK sports cars enjoying some success. Ferrari originally developed their ‘Sharknose’ Dino 156 as a Formula Two car, while still racing front-engined Grand Prix cars. The dominant engine of this formula was the Coventry Climax FPF four-cylinder, with the rare Borgward sixteen-valve unit enjoying some success.
A slightly enlarged version of the F2 Cooper won the first two Formula One Grands Prix in 1958, marking the beginning of the rear-engined era in Formula One. The 1.5 L formula was short-lived, with Formula Junior effectively replacing first Formula Three and then Formula Two until 1963—but the 1961 1.5 L Formula One was effectively a continuation of this Formula Two.
Formula Junior (1961–1963), 1-litre Formula Two (1964–1966) Edit
Formula Junior was introduced in 1959, an attempt to be all things to all people (both a training formula replacing Formula Three and a high-level international category below Formula One replacing Formula Two), and it was soon realised that there was a need to split it into two new formulae; Formula Two and Formula Three were reintroduced for the 1964 season, with Formula Three requiring one-litre production-based engines, which were similar to Formula Junior with very restricted tuning, and Formula Two also having a 1.0 L engine size, but permitting pure-bred racing engines. Formula Two was largely the domain of Formula One stars on their days off. Engines were mostly by Cosworth (based on Ford blocks) and Honda, though some other units appeared, including various Fiat based units and dedicated racing engines from BMC and BRM.
The 1.6-litre era, and driver grading (1967–1971):
For 1967, the FIA increased the maximum engine capacity to 1600cc. With the “Return to Power” of Formula One the gap between Formula One and Formula Two was felt to be too wide, and the introduction of new 1600 cc production-based engine regulations for Formula Two restored the category to its intended role as a feeder series for Formula One. The FIA also introduced the European Formula Two Championship in 1967. Ickx, driving a Matra MS5, won the inaugural championship by 11 points from the Australian, Frank Gardner.
The most popular 1600 cc engine was the Cosworth FVA, the sixteen-valve head on a four-cylinder Cortina block that was effectively the “proof of concept” for the legendary DFV. The 1967 FVA gave 220 bhp (160 kW; 220 PS) at 9,000 rpm. Other units also appeared, including a four-cylinder BMW and a V6 Dino Ferrari.
Nevertheless, many Formula One drivers continued to drive the smaller and lighter cars on non-championship weekends, and some Grand Prix grids (notably in Germany, where the long circuit at the Nürburgring could cope with large entries) would be a mix of Formula One and Formula Two cars. Jacky Ickx made his Grand Prix debut there in a Formula Two car, qualifying with the fifth fastest time overall. Forced to start behind even the slower Formula One cars, Ickx quickly forced his way back into a points position, only to be forced to retire with broken suspension. Less happily, Jim Clark, regarded as one of the greatest race drivers of all time, was killed in a Formula Two race early in 1968, at the Hockenheimring.
The “invasion” of Formula One drivers in Formula Two ranks (a situation similar to that of Buschwhacking in modern-day NASCAR) was permitted because of the unique grading system used. Any driver with an “A” grading was not permitted to score championship points. A driver gained an “A” rating via various means (that changed somewhat over the years), such as finishing in the points in two Grand Prix events or the top three in two World Sports Car events. The annual Formula Two champion was also granted an A rating for one year, and a Formula One World Champion was A graded for five. This system permitted less experienced drivers to work towards the championship and forward their careers, while allowing senior drivers to keep their hand in during the long breaks between Grands Prix of the time.
In the early years of the 1600cc formula, Brabham and Lotus were the most numerous constructors, although Ferrari intermittently entered a works team, as did BMW (with Lola and Dornier-built chassis). A number of smaller construtors such as Matra and Tecno where successful. Chevron also provided cars. The French firm Matra won the three first editions of the European championship, Tecno winning the fourth.
Peter Scharmann’s 1978 March–BMW
The 2.0-litre era (1972–1984):
In 1972, the formula was changed to increase power by permitting 2.0 L production-based engines—Cosworth BDs and BMW four-cylinder engines dominated the early years, with BMW-powered Marches gradually establishing dominance. For 1976, engines developed purely for racing were permitted to compete, with Renault developing a particularly potent V6; allied to a sponsorship scheme from oil company Elf the formula was briefly dominated by French teams and drivers; BMW started to back a works March team and raised the stakes in the late seventies. Even the Ferrari engine returned briefly with minimal success. The Hart 420R (ultimately derived from the Cosworth BDA) was briefly successful in Marches and Team Surtees won the European F2 Championship in 1972 with Hart engines, driver Mike Hailwood…but most notably in the works Toleman team’s cars. Dominant chassis of this era were generally from March and Ralt, with Chevron, the French Elf and Martinis and German Maurers being briefly successful.
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