The machinery on the track might have looked the same in Bahrain, but off the track Formula 1’s leading feeder series has a new identity. Enter, the Formula Two Championship. The championship takes over that title from the now defunct GP2 Series.
Throughout its duration from 2005 to 2016, the GP2 Series maintained the same style of graphics: a combination of blue and white, with rounded ‘squircle’ like edges. Whilst Formula One Management (FOM) enhanced the graphics set when Formula 1 moved to high-definition, it retained the same look and feel as the original non-HD version.
By 2016, the graphics set had outlasted its stay compared to other championships. Formula 1, MotoGP, and IndyCar had refreshed their graphics on numerous occasions whereas GP2 and GP3 were left behind. A common GP2 complaint was the lack of a timing tower during qualifying, meaning that it was incredibly tricky to follow the action. In this respect, GP2 was a decade behind Formula 1, FOM introducing the tower when Formula 1 moved to a three-part qualifying format in 2006.
Finally, with the rebirth of Formula Two, F1’s leading feeder series is no longer treated as inferior in the production department. The new graphics set is consistent with F1, the only difference being the colour scheme, which is distinctive to Formula Two and with a call back to GP2’s colour scheme. I dare say that Formula Two’s graphics set is better than its bigger brother.
Elsewhere, there was some evidence in Bahrain that the new FOM may use Formula Two as a testing ground for new techniques. For the first time in twelve years, FOM used picture in picture during both of their live race broadcasts. The first occasion was as one of the leading drivers made a pit stop, with the second used on the formation lap of the sprint race.
I do not know if this happened in the old regime, but it would make sense to use GP3 and Formula Two as a test bed for new ideas, bringing the new features into F1 once tested. Admittedly that is difficult when the two championships run different schedules (unlike Moto2 and Moto3; Formula Two and GP3 are not present at every of their big brother’s races such as the Russian Grand Prix this weekend), but it is something that FOM should look to do now that both series are using a streamlined graphics set.
It is not just on the graphical side, but all the way through production, the feeder series are a feeding ground in many ways. New talent should start work on directing GP3 and Formula Two, working their way to Formula 1.
Is it right to criticise Sky over lack of Formula Two promotion?
A criticism on social media over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend was Sky Sports F1’s treatment of the series. Sky did little to promote the series opener, treating Formula Two (like they did with GP2) as a channel “add-on” rather than an integral piece of furniture. Furthermore, Sky’s scheduling was not up to scratch throughout the weekend, cutting off an excellent feature race on the slow-down lap as opposed to after the podium celebrations.
On one hand, yes, Sky should promote the series more through their supplementary programming. However, it is Liberty Media’s task to help encourage broadcasters to promote the series further, and to help embed the championship into the wider product. The new FOM needs to make Formula Two and GP3 feel important, in the same way that Dorna treat Moto2 and Moto3 with care.
Formula Two’s and GP3’s social media standing across Facebook and Twitter for an international motor racing series is alarmingly poor, whilst neither championship has a presence on YouTube. The second Formula Two race in Bahrain won by Charles Leclerc featured fantastic racing, but this was unexploited due to Formula Two’s absent YouTube presence (GP2 did not have a YouTube channel either).
A lot of drivers in Moto2 have built up sizeable fanbases due to social media, which needs to occur in Formula Two as well, given that Formula 1 will be relying on this talent in the future. It is probably no surprise that Sky have treated GP2 / Formula Two the way they do given that the Commercial Rights Holder has done little historically to help the championship. Hopefully that will change under Liberty Media’s ownership.