Motorsport legends give their verdict on Formula Two's debut
A number of key dignitaries and motor racing greats attended the opening two races of the 2009 FIA Formula Two Championship - including FIA President Max Mosley, FIA Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting and Patrick Head, Director of Engineering at the AT&T Williams F1 team.
FIA President Max Mosley hosted the podium ceremony for the opening race of the 2009 FIA Formula Two Championship, before heaping praise on the new series. "I'm astonished with how successful the day has been," Mosley declared. "Jonathan Palmer and Williams have done an absolutely fantastic job; the championship, the racing and the whole set up is extraordinary and it has been a really great success.
"I think the championship fits precisely with the cost cutting measures that are being adopted in Formula One. The barriers to entry have just been too big and too expensive in the past, and this championship is a means for people to get into Formula One without spending a fortune. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some drivers from this year's Formula Two championship progress into Formula One."
Williams' Director of Engineering Patrick Head led the podium ceremony for the second race on Sunday, and was similarly impressed with the Formula Two operation: "I think it’s a fantastic start and a great achievement to get here. The whole setup has looked very professional, and the series is certainly one that we would look at in terms of selecting drivers.
"You have to be very careful in F1 with who you select for a test drive, because there are only three new driver test days available each year - that's where Formula Two is beneficial, because you know there aren't any great car advantages and it therefore comes down to the driver."
Red Bull Racing's team advisor Helmut Marko came to monitor the progress of the three Red Bull Junior Team drivers competing in Formula Two this year, whilst past F1 and F2 greats Christian Danner and Philippe Streiff were also in attendance. Danner will be mentoring Austrian Philipp Eng over the 2009 season, whilst Streiff will mentor French compatriot Julien Jousse.
Christian Danner, who competed in Formula Two between 1980 and 1984 before progressing into Formula One, said: "I think it's very good to have a championship like this because drivers get a very fair deal. Its great value for money and it gives you a very clear result whether you are good or not. The cars look good, they are fast, they are very drivable and the overall setup is fabulous. I can absolutely see this championship being a feeder series for Formula One in the future."
Philippe Streiff, who competed in Formula Two between 1982 and 1984 before moving to Formula One, said: "The new Formula Two Championship feels like a return to the good old days, when I was fighting in the series 25 years ago. The series is fantastic value for young drivers, and their families or sponsors, who might otherwise struggle to progress in motorsport." For 25 years Streiff was the last man to win a Formula Two race, a title that has since passed to Robert Wickens after he took two wins at Valencia.
With three sons of ex-F1 drivers competing in the 2009 championship there were several famous faces in the garages, including Martin Brundle, Jonathan Palmer and John Surtees - the only man to win world championships on two and four wheels. Ex-F1 driver Julian Bailey also came to support stepson Jack Clarke.
The second round of the 2009 FIA Formula Two Championship will be held at Brno on 19-21 June. Robert Wickens currently leads the series with two wins in the opening two races, with Mirko Bortolotti second and Carlos Iaconelli third.