Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
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The title for this post is a bit of a play on words but when I write this list of drivers, what springs to mind?

Zonta, Comas, Heidfeld, Modena, Danner, Bourdais, Liuzzi, Wilson, Glock, Maldanado, Pantano.

Not exactly the greatest selection of drivers ever to grace the F1 stage are they?

The interesting thing is, every single one of them was an international F3000 or GP2 champion.

Another interesting fact, Between the introduction of the first organised Formula 2 championship (the European Formula 2 championship) in 1967 through to the present day GP2, only 2 drivers that were champions in those series, in that time period have ever gone on to win the F1 world championship. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Of the last 3 champions, the curent champion Pierre Gasly is racing in something called Super Formula which I've never heard of, Vandoorne is skulling around the back of the grid in the god awful McLaren and we all know the trouble that Palmer is having over at Renault.

Until the late 70's Formula 2 was seen as just another class of racing with drivers regularly appearing in both F1 and F2 races. All of that went out of the window at the start of the Bernie era. When Formula 3000 entered the fray in 1985, motorsport really had a true second tier racing series.

That said, few of the very top drivers found their way to the top by going through its ranks. This is the reason for the pun title. I would argue that if you are around long enough to win the GP2 title then the chances are, if you were that good, you should have already been talent spotted by an F1 team.

Lets look at some champions:

Senna - Signed on the back of the British F3 championship to join Toleman.
Prost - Signed to McLaren after winning the French and European F3 championship
Piquet - Signed to Ensign after winning the British F3 championship
Mansell - Raced in F3 and 5 times in F2 before being picked up by Lotus
Schumacher - Picked up by Jordan and then Benetton after winning the German F3 championship and racing Mercedes sports cars.
Hill - 2 half seasons and 2 full season of F3000, 2 podiums and 3 other points finishes before siging for Brabham
Villeneuve - Japanese and Italian F3 series (best championship result 3rd overall) before winning the Indy car series and signing for Williams.
Hakkinen - British F3 champion before sigining for Lotus.

And so the list goes on.

So, is it true that GP2 drivers are too late to the party. The evidence would suggest this is the case. Is this going to change over time? Or is alway going to be a case of GP2 little GP2 late??
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Interesting thoughts cider_and_toast. There is certainly some truth to it, but driver management also plays a significant role and that has to be factored in to the equation.
Difficult to answer, some drivers such as Heidfeld never achieved any success after leaving the junior categories; Heidfeld for example has not won a race since 1999. The closest he got to a race win was in Formula E, but he was taken out by Nicolas Prost.

However, there are drivers, like Hill who you mention, who have completed one or more seasons in F3000 and never won it, but won the F1 WC, e.g. Alonso.
It seems that the champion of the junior category is cursed. :D

Many experts say that Formula Renault 3.5 is much closer to F1 in terms of setup work and car handling and therefore, it should be the series in which aspiring F1 drivers should race in, but even there many of the series winners never had huge success in F1,
I think the sample size of champions is too small to make any judgement upon the junior formulae. There've been 4 champions only in the last decade!

Where's the line of success though? Winners? I'll never count Maldonado more successful in F1 than Heidfeld. Podiums? Then we're talking Piquet and Hulkenburg.

I suspect that talent-spotters of F1 teams have a greater effect than any number of junior formulae.
Interesting read cider_and_toast :thumbsup:

This sort of stuff is always a bit debatable though.

100% of the F1 world champions in the last three years have been GP2 Champions

40% of F1 Champions since 2005 have been GP2 Champions

60% of F1 Champions since 2005 have driven in GP2 or F3000

25% of the current F1 field are former GP2 champions.

40% of the current F1 field have raced in GP2 or F3000.

There are a lot misses from GP2 but there are so few success in F1 the stats work out pretty good.
The old saying just because you are good at junior formula does not mean you will be good in F1

On the list of candidates you mentioned

Wilson - only had 1 season in F1 and part of the problem was his physique limited his opportunities

Pantano - the problem was he did F1 before he was Gp2 champion and developed properly. His early career potential was derailed by the problems he had to deal with at Jordan who were cash strapped and his family were not just helping him pay for his drive but some of it was actually to help keep Heidfeld in his seat. It was bankrupting his family and the chance to prove himself was derailed by Klein able to bring in £10m in sponsors from Red Bull

Liuzzi - this guy seems to be a magnet for bad luck no matter which team he drove for. Red Bull did not fully support his F1 career with their confusing contracts to both him and Klein which he only ended up racing 4 GPs in 2005. Then 2 years at Toro Rosso in which he was better than Speed but it was difficult to assess. A decent start at Force India was not helped by constant rumours and PR from EJ suggesting Di Resta should replace him

Zonta - his career was essentially messed up by his BAR experience with Villeneuve
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I have little sympathy with

Maldonado - £30m each year from a country run by corrupt government so it seems now landed him drives with Williams and Lotus. He had plenty of chances to show his abilities but spent most of the time in the gravel or barriers when it should be a regular points scorer. Denied someone like Hulkenberg the opportunities to show what they deserve

Heidfeld - backed by Mercedes ... could not deal with rejection ... dumped by Sauber and rescued by Jordan which BMW picked up to get him a drive at Williams over Pizzonia. Then signed with BMW as part of their F1 team in the Williams split whilst feigning a supposed shoulder injury.

Showed his ability in 2007 but once Kubica got into the groove he found him formidable in 2008 to the point the team said they needed their focus rather than supporting Kubica's challenge to the championship strangely

BMW left so a last chance saloon to show himself at Lotus ironically replacing Kubica ended sourly so he's had the chances to show his abilities
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