The FIA’s new Super Licence system for 2016 has created widespread controversy. Although the overall concept of tougher Super Licence conditions is a good one, the execution of the FIA’s plan has caused a stir in the racing community.
Thankfully, there is an easy fix.
From 2016 the FIA will require aspiring F1 drivers to obtain a certain number of ‘points’ to qualify for an F1 Super Licence. These points are earned by achieving success in junior categories with each series given a different weighting. The idea itself is sensible since the FIA is trying to ensure drivers reaching Formula 1 are suitably talented for the sport’s highest level. For pursing this, the FIA should be applauded.
Unfortunately, the current solution is far from perfect. Many have pointed out that most of our recent World Champions wouldn’t have made their F1 debut had this system already been in place. There have also been critics suggesting the new process is overkill, since inexperienced drivers either blossom into winners or disappear quickly without a trace, and aren’t really much of a concern. There is certainly scope for debate around the points threshold and whether this should be relaxed.
However, one of the key issues with the new FIA process is that each individual category is weighted differently. This particular feature of the system creates a number of problems.
Firstly, such weightings are subjective and could never accurately represent the true value of each series. For example, how can you realistically and fairly judge the difference in value between GP3 and Formula 3. How do you objectively compare IndyCar to the WEC? It’s simply not possible, and it never will be, especially as championships change and develop throughout the years.
The current ratings also feature a number of significant inconsistencies. For example, success in Formula Renault 3.5 is now worth less than success in a slower less powerful Formula 3 car. That isn’t right, especially since Formula Renault 3.5 is a proven training ground for upcoming F1 drivers. There are several other examples of flaws in the current rankings, such as the Formula Renault EuroCup which is only worth half a National Formula 4 title despite being significantly faster.
It’s also particularly disappointing the FIA has taken the political opportunity to rank the championships it controls very highly. The idea of a clear path to F1 via F4, F3, and F2 is a good one, in the same way that a clear path to MotoGP, NASCAR, and IndyCar serves those championships very well, but that simply isn’t how it works in practice at the moment. Formula 2 doesn’t even exist right now!
Another potential issue is that, by rating each series individually, the FIA is creating a situation where some championships are now significantly more valuable to young drivers than others. In theory this could attract more pay drivers because the value of a seat in those championships is now higher. A situation where the naturally talented drivers are squeezed out certainly isn’t ideal.
The overall concept is great, but the execution is poor.
Perhaps a better solution would be to create a much simpler three-tiered system, with success in each tier worth a set number of points.
- Tier 1: GP2, Future Formula 2
- Tier 2: Formula Renault 3.5, European Formula 3, WEC, Indycar, GP3
- Tier 3: National series (Formula 3, Formula 4, Formula Renault)
This achieves the FIA’s primary goal without unfairly comparing the value of each individual series. This rates drivers on their results within a type of championship, rather than their specific results in Formula Renault versus Formula 3.
No system is perfect, but this would certainly help smooth out many of the inconsistencies in the existing process. As a bonus, it also makes it much easier to add other categories into the system as well (such as Formula E which is strangely missing).
Importantly, it gives the FIA time to develop credible Formula 4 and Formula 2 championships before making them a necessary step towards Formula 1.