The FIA today announced new regulations relating to the issuing of a Formula 1 Super License. Our sport’s governing body has got itself into something of a flap over the fact that, in Max Verstappen, F1 will have its youngest ever driver in 2015 at the age of 17. While it can do nothing to stop the prodigious and, I must say from my own personal perspective, tremendously exciting Dutchman from being granted his license for competition next season, it has taken its time and thought long and hard about how best to deal with the situation.
And in typical FIA style, it has managed to contrive a system which would have excluded three of the world champions who will line up on this year’s F1 grid, half of the 2015 Red Bull Racing line-up, and both Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna from making their F1 debuts.
The system works on the basis of a points allocation per finishing position in sub-F1 categories. In order to qualify for a Super License, a driver must have amassed 40 points over his or her past three years of competition and must have spent at least two seasons racing single-seaters. I say “her” lightly, however, as there is not a single female racing driver to my knowledge who would, at present, qualify for a Super License.
The structure of the championships top to bottom weighs heavily in favour of its own categories, placing the FIA F3 European Championship on the same footing as FIA WEC and Indycar. It serves Formula Renault 3.5 a tremendous disservice by placing it both below Euro F3 and on the same level as GP3. But the actual cherry on top of this cake is that the championship which merits the most points (more than GP2, Indycar or WEC) is a “Future FIA F2 Championship.” So an event that doesn’t even exist, then. And one which, until today, nobody outside 8 Place de la Concorde, Paris, and I’d wager a fair few inside, even knew was going to exist.
There is no mention of Formula E, the FIA’s own flagship green “future” of racing. There is no mention of NASCAR. And only LMP1 drivers in WEC qualify for points.
The system’s intentions are good. It has clearly been brought in to try and stop drivers from either being rushed into F1 or from simply buying their way in. To that end it’s worth noting that Max Verstappen would have amassed just half the points required in his first and thus far sole season of single-seater racing and Marcus Ericsson would have fallen 26 points under the total required from his three years of GP2 results and would thus not have qualified to make his debut last season.
But, as is the increasing norm for a body which seemingly struggles to write its own name without getting one of the letters wrong or simply missing one out entirely, it is in the execution that the FIA hasn’t really thought it through.
Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button would both have fallen 35 points short of the 40 point requirement. Sebastien Vettel would have been just two points shy of the tally at the time of his USGP debut in 2007 if we use just his 04-06 results. On the basis of his 2007 WSR results, however, he’d have qualified for his Toro Rosso drive in 2008. Just the six world championships between them.
Daniel Ricciardo, voted by many as the F1 driver of 2014 would not have qualified for his debut either so that’s Red Bull Racing’s lead man out of luck.
Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, two of the finest drivers to ever grace the planet, would not have been granted a Super License under this system. Neither would Mika Hakkinen. Neither Gilles Villeneuve. Jim Clark’s tractor definitely wouldn’t have given him the points. Not entirely sure racing a Model A Ford taxi would have done Fangio much good either.
Drivers are rarely rushed into the sport if they’re not good enough. Those that are, tend to be the exceptions. And exceptional. The new regulations, as such, are an overblown and ineffectual reaction to a rarity.
Almost every driver that is currently maligned in Formula 1 would have qualified under this system had it been in place at the time of their debuts while, ironically, the majority of those that wouldn’t have been granted their licenses are either now Formula 1 World Champions, or driving for the team that has won the most world championships this decade.
Not to worry. On traditional form I’m sure there’s a loophole in there somewhere.