When Gerhard Berger left the role of president of the FIA’s Single-Seater Commission it was pretty clear that he do so because he did not wish to get into conflict with Bernie Ecclestone. Berger sorted out a new Formula 4 and bashed Formula 3 into some shape with a European series. But Formula 2 was not something that he wanted to go near. That is not a surprise. A serious Formula 2 championship would, inevitably, be seen as a challenge as to GP2, which is very obviously over-priced. If one looks at the books of GP2 Motorsport Ltd one sees that it makes a substantial profit on its turnover, which means that it is basically there to earn money rather than being a promotional formula. When it was introduced in 2005 it was dressed up as being a cost-effective alternative to the FIA’s Formula 3000. It quickly became clear that it was anything but that. The series had control over the pricing of the parts, which were forced upon the teams at around twice the price that they might have been able to find in the marketplace. The teams were soon complaining that the series was more expensive than Formnula 3000 and that it cost them $1.3 million to run two cars competitively. The
big advantage was that GP2 enjoyed was that it boasted a solid TV package and exposure at the F1 races because the series was owned by Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore and later by the Formula One group. The TV companies were encouraged to commit to taking GP2 coverage even if they did not really want it, as part of their deals to cover Formula 1. Today the cost of running a competitive two-car GP2 programme is reckoned to be around $4 million, although Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has claimed that the budget required for a top drive today is $6.4 million. A number of the F1 driver development schemes, notably Red Bull, have deserted GP2 in favour of the Renault World Series, which is seen as being much better value for money, even if it lacks the same level of coverage as GP2.
The profiteering has wreaked havoc with the competitors and only four of the original 12 teams from 10 years ago are still in the championship and the quality of the drivers involved is often questioned because the fast young drivers in F1 today, such as Daniel Riccardo, Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat have all reached F1 by other routes. These two championships are currently exploiting the participants to the tune of around 25 percent more than necessary and a more cost-efficient Formula 2 would be a far better idea to ensure that the best best youngsters would be getting to F1, rather than those who have the most money.
Berger and Ecclestone go back a long way and it is clear that Berger had no appetite for a fight. Putting Stefano Domenicali in charge of the Single Seater Commission is a good idea. He was less in Mr E’s awe. A good appointment.