SEPTEMBER 15, 2008

FIA picks Palmer as F2 supplier

The FIA has awarded the tender to supply chassis and engines for the new FIA Formula 2 Championship to Jonathan Palmer's MotorSport Vision company. MSV will become the promoter of the series in addition to operating all of the cars. Palmer, who won the European Formula 2 Championship back in 1983 before beginning a career in Formula 1, has commissioned Williams F1 to design the car, which will incorporate a turbocharged 1.8 litre Audi engine, which has been used in recent years in Formula Palmer Audi. The FIA says that the new cars will be "built to Formula 1-level safety standards" although it is not clear who will actually build them. Williams is not going into the chassis manufacturing business as it needs to concentrate all its resources to improve the F1 programme. The original Palmer Audi cars, which are still being used, were built for the series by Van Diemen International, but it is not clear at the moment who will building the F2 cars. Palmer was not available for comment.

In all probability the new F2 series will follow the pattern of the Formula Palmer Audi series, which will mean that identical cars are prepared by a central organisation (as happens in A1GP) and they are prepared to identical standards, including being ballasted to weigh the same. The current championship operates with push-to-pass buttons which will no doubt be retained. Formula Palmer Audi has been mainly British-based but has hosted events at a variety of European tracks.

The plans announced by the FIA call for a prototype car to be testing in November with the championship due to start in May 2009 and comprising 16 races over eight events. It is not yet clear where these races will be held but they are almost certain to be linked to the FIA World Touring Car Championship. The performance of the cars will be between that of F3 and F1 and the aim is to keep the costs down to less than $350,000.

According to the FIA the objective is to make top-level international single-seater racing available to drivers who at present have difficulty in raising enough money to demonstrate their talent. The federation also hopes that it will reveal new talent from countries which do not yet have an established motor racing structure. The FIA has the right to grant Superlicences for F2 and it will be interesting to see if it continues to grant the same licences for GP2. At the moment the top four finishers in the championship qualify for superlicences if they go on to complete more than 300km of testing in an F1 car. There are similar stipulations for Formula Nippon in Japan, the Indy Racing League and various Formula 3 champions. A revamping of the superlicence regulations could make F2 rather more attractive that GP2.