Analysis: are the 2018 F2 specs what the series needs?

After the recent rebranding of Formula 2 following the Liberty Media takeover, the first whisperings have appeared of the technical changes that are to follow. Series boss Bruno Michel has revealed some details of the new spec car that will be introduced for the 2018 season, which will bring them more in line with the new model of F1 car launched for 2017. While the finer details of the new specifications are yet to be released, there is the need to question whether or not these changes are what Formula 2 needs to move forward as a series.

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.
Thursday 30 March 2017
Norman Nato (FRA) Pertamina Arden
Photo: Malcolm Griffiths/FIA Formpula 2
ref: Digital Image MALC8799

The most dramatic change will be the engine. Though it will continue to be supplied by Mecachrome, from 2018 onwards, engines for the Formula 2 series will be V6 rather than V8. The new six-cylinder specification will bring the regulations in line with GP3 and, more importantly, with Formula 1 as well. In an effort to keep costs down, the engines will not follow the hybrid model of F1, but will be turbocharged.

This marks the first change in engine specification since GP2 was founded in 2005. Motorsport purists, who enjoy the sounds of F2’s current V8 engine, will be disappointed to hear that go, but the real problem lies in the potential cost.

Keeping down the price of Formula 2, and other feeder categories of motorsport, has long been in the mission statement of the FIA, and so long as the upgrade is handled correctly, then the financial repercussions of the new regulations should not impact upon teams too much. However, the risk is there, and it will be up to the FIA, working together with Mecachrome, to ensure that Formula 2 still remains accessible for teams and drivers alike.

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.
Thursday 30 March 2017
Antonio Fuoco (ITA) PREMA RACING
Photo: Malcolm Griffiths/FIA Formpula 2
ref: Digital Image MALC8251

Plans for a new aerodynamic package have been vague for the time being, though Michel did indicate that they would replicate the new 2017 F1 regulations more closely than they currently do. Such a move is entirely necessary if Formula 2 is to act as a step ladder for Formula 1, since the difference between the two categories is currently rather striking.

It is unlikely that in 2018 the drivers will be facing the levels of G-force that F1 drivers do, but the experience of driving the two sets of machinery will become more comparable. Ideally, these aero regulations would have been introduced for the 2017 season, as there is now the threat that F2 will be placed in a cycle whereby they are constantly playing catch up with F1, always a season behind.

GP MONACO F1/2016 – MONTECARLO 28/05/16
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

While there will be changes to the engine and aerodynamics, statements made by Bruno Michel suggest that the Pirelli tyres run by Formula 2 will remain largely unchanged. Michel has been vocal about wanting to maintain the high degradation tyres currently used by the series, and ruling out a move towards the much wider models that are now being used in Formula 1. This is one decision that definitely poses a problem for drivers graduating from F2 to F1, and other categories with lower degradation tyres.

Such was the case for 2016 GP2 runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi who filled in for Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber F1 team for the first couple of races of the 2017 season. After the Australian Grand Prix the Italian admitted he drove too conservatively on the supersoft tyres, on account of expecting the degradation to be similar to that which he had experienced in GP2. While high degradation tyres are part of the excitement and appeal of Formula 2, keeping it as its current levels runs the risk of providing young drivers with the wrong kind of preparation for their senior racing careers.

The announcements by Michel do make it clear that the FIA is committed to developing Formula 2, following their acquisition of the series earlier in the year. In the meantime, we will have to wait until 2018 to see whether or not these changes will be a step in the right direction.

Georgia Beith, F2 Correspondent

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