Formula 1

F1 super licence rules could keep talented drivers out

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Last week Formula 1's governing body revealed the new points structure for drivers wanting to obtain a super licence to race in the so-called pinnacle of motorsport.

Under the system drivers no younger than 18 must have accumulated 40 points within three years to be eligible to make the step up to F1 with each of the feeder series carrying a different tally based on their own stature.

Also under the new rules it is harder for drivers to return to F1 as they must have either participated in five races in the year before or 15 in the previous three.

This means when Michael Schumacher retired for the first time at the end of 2006 he would not have been allowed to make his comeback with Mercedes in 2010 though Kimi Raikkonen would have been allowed as he only took two years out before returning with Lotus in 2012.

Main objectives

Of course the biggest objective with the restructuring of the super licence regulations was to ensure a driver had enough experience and had shown he or she had the talent to be worthy of a seat in F1.

*GMS related*

Much of this was caused by Toro Rosso's promotion of 17-year-old Max Verstappen to the junior Red Bull team for 2015 after just a single year of single-seater racing in F3 albeit the young Dutchman would finish second in the series in his rookie season.

Then there is the issue of teams bringing in drivers based on the amount of financial backing he or she brings rather than their talent behind the wheel.

Tackling the 'pay drivers'

Many teams are having to adopt this policy given the current financial strain some are facing with Sauber's new pairing of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr bringing in a combined $50m in sponsorship this year.

Again, at first glance, the new structure seems to benefit talented drivers with those racing at the front of the perceived feeder series' gaining the most points towards their super licence but dig a little deeper and in reality the issue isn't really resolved.

Many drivers in GP2 etc. are these so-called 'pay drivers' because their backers are able to outbid another driver who doesn't have so many sponsors for a seat in the better teams in the traditional feeder series.

Talent still being wasted

This means those potentially more talented drivers remain stuck in either lower racing categories or are racing for less competitive teams in GP2.

As a result they remain unable to gather the necessary points total to achieve a super licence and would never be able to reach F1.

Indeed, under the new system, only Daniil Kvyat of the five drivers who have or will race for Toro Rosso since 2012 would have been eligible whereas three-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo and his former team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne would have both fallen short of the mark.

Politics playing too bigger role

The main issue with the system is the structure itself, unsurprisingly the FIA governed series are given a much higher priority as well as those that support the F1 circus during the European season.

Yet whereas GP2 is seen as the main feeder series for F1, the highest points are given to the currently defunct F2 championship with plans possibility afoot for it's rebirth in the next few years.

In F2 the top three in the standings would receive the necessary 40 points while in GP2 only the top two would reach that mark but the most undervalued championship on the list is the Formula Renault 3.5 championship.

Drivers like Kevin Magnussen and Antonio Felix da Costa made their name by winning this series and it is seen by most to be certainly the third highest single seater category between GP2 and GP3.

However, under the new structure the champion only receives 30 points, the same as GP3 meaning he or she would need to have amassed a further 10 points over the previous two seasons.

Unsurprisingly, the French manufacturer is unhappy with the decreased status their series has been given and have asked the governing body to reconsider.

The only other series where the champion(s) is guaranteed a super licence is the same European F3 championship Verstappen claimed second place in last year, the drivers who make up the championship winning LMP1 car in the WEC and the IndyCar series in America.

Not on the list at all is the new Formula E championship, which ironically is full of drivers who have been unable to stay in F1 in recent years and the German DTM championship with several drivers including former Force India driver Paul di Resta have used as a stepping stone to reach the top.

FIA must ensure talent is rewarded

There has been a lot of negative reaction to the new system and given the reasons above it is easy to see why.

Many of the sport's top all-time drivers would have not come close to making their F1 debuts including Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher as well as past champions like Jenson Button, therefore it follows that when these young drivers do take the quicker steps up the ladder they did so for a reason, because they were rare talents.

And more needs to be done to ensure those kind of drivers, like Nico Hulkenberg, like previous GP2 champions are able to prove their worth and not be overlooked because the size of their bank balance may not match the size of their potential.

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