The revival of Formula Two is one of the most intriguing stories of 2009, with the FIA hoping that the new low-cost category will revolutionise junior single-seater racing.
Jonathan Palmer's MotorSport Vision organisation won the tender to run F2, and he attended the Autosport International Show today to reveal the latest developments in the build-up to the new season.
Q. The revival of the Formula Two championship is an exciting prospect. How are the preparations going?
Jonathan Palmer: Formula Two is very exciting indeed and I think it's going to be the motorsport success story of 2009. It's a very big challenge. When the FIA invited tenders for the new championship back in July it looked a mission impossible - to be able to produce a car with 400 horsepower, to 2005 Formula One safety standards, and to be able to run it on 200,000 Euros looked impossible.
But we did apply, we were thrilled to have won the tender in September. The hard work was well under way then. We've got the Williams F1 team designing the car, led by Patrick Head. It's a quite remarkable car, really beautiful, light, compact. The power unit is an Audi turbo engine with 450bhp on overboost, there are going to be 16 races arranged over eight weekends - five of those with the World Touring Cars.
Q. How much have the FIA been involved in things so far?
JP: Formula Two is something the FIA are really enthusiastic about. They're very concerned that young drivers who are trying to reach Formula One should have a far more cost-effective way of doing so than currently exists.
GP2 is a marvellous championship.The cars are superb, they're quick, the teams that run them are very expert, but it is a huge amount of money - 1.5 million Euros is what a driver needs to have a front-running GP2 car. You compare that to 200,000 (Euro) for Formula Two and it's a no brainer.
Q. How pleased have you been with the level of interest from high-quality, proven drivers?
JP: I'm very pleased indeed. I think it's very significant that Red Bull have chosen Formula Two and are actually going to have three cars in it - there's another driver who is a great talent that hasn't been announced yet. Having got Robert Wickens, Julien Jousse, Sebastian Hohenthal and some top drivers from Formula Palmer Audi, I think even in our first year we're going to have a stronger line-up in Formula Two than anything else.
Q. How soon do you expect all the places on the grid to be taken?
JP: We've already got 16 drivers committed. We were originally only going to do 20 cars, but I could see pretty early on that it was going to be a big success, and we've got 24 that we're going to run - that's the maximum.
I could see the level of interest we had. I'm sure there are lots of drivers out there who would love to find 1.5 million (Euro) for GP2, 750,000 for Formula Renault 3.5 or 650,000 for F3, but just don't understand how difficult it is to find that sort of money in the current climate.
I think that by the time Formula Two is full in a couple of weeks, there are going to be a lot of drivers that feel that they've missed the boat. It's taken off far quicker than I've expected, there's some great talent in there and it's going to be looked at very seriously by the Formula One teams.
The other thing is that everyone knows each driver has the same opportunity - the guy that wins it is going to be the best driver out there and that's important because he's got to go and do a good job in the Williams.
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