Formula Two, abbreviated to F2, was a type of open wheel formula racing. It was replaced by Formula 3000 in 1985, but the FIA announced in 2008 that Formula Two would return for 2009 in the form of the FIA Formula Two Championship. The goal was to develop a low-cost series to allow young drivers a chance to compete in the highest tiers of motorsport.
In December 2012, series promoter MSV announced that Formula Two would not take place from 2013 due to declining entrants.
While Formula One has generally been regarded as the pinnacle of open-wheeled auto racing, the high-performance nature of the cars and the expense involved in the series has always meant a need for a path to reach this peak. For much of the history of Formula One, Formula Two has represented the penultimate step on the motorsport ladder.
Prior to the Second World War, there usually existed a division of racing for cars smaller and less powerful than Grand Prix racers. This category was usually called voiturette ("small car") racing and provided a means for amateur or less experienced drivers and smaller marques to prove themselves. By the outbreak of war, the rules for voiturette racing permitted 1.5 L supercharged engines; Grand Prix cars were permitted 3.0 L supercharged or 4.5 L naturally aspirated.
Official beginnings (post war–1953)
In 1946, the 3.0 L supercharged rules were abandoned and Formulae A and B (later 1 and 2) introduced. Formula A permitted the old 4.5 L naturally aspirated cars, but as the 3.0 L supercharged cars were more than a match for these (and the pre-War German and Italian cars were no longer available), the old 1.5 L voiturette formula replaced 3.0 L supercharged cars in an attempt to equalise performance.
This left no category below Formula A/Formula 1, so Formula Two (originally known as Formula B) was first formally codified in 1948 by FIA as a smaller and cheaper complement to the Grand Prix cars of the era. Among the races held in this first year of Formula Two was the 1948 Stockholm Grand Prix.
The rules limited engines to two-litre naturally aspirated or 750 cc supercharged (an option very rarely used). As a result, the cars were smaller, lighter, and cheaper than those used in Formula One. This encouraged new marques such as Cooper to move up to Formula Two, before competing against the big manufacturers of Alfa Romeo and Maserati. In fact, Formula One in its early years attracted so few entrants that in 1952 and 1953 all World Championship Grand Prix races, except the unique Indianapolis 500, were run in Formula Two. (There were non-championship F1 events, however).
The 1.5-litre era (1957–1960)
F2 went into decline with the arrival of the 2.5 L F1 in 1954 (with small-capacity sports car racing becoming particularly popular), but a new Formula Two was introduced for 1957, for 1.5 L cars. This became dominated by rear-engined Coopers drawing on their Formula 3 and 'Bobtail' sports car, with Porsches based on their RSK sports cars enjoying some success. Ferrari originally developed their 'Sharknose' Dino 156 as an F2, while still racing front-engined Grand Prix cars. The dominant engine of this formula was the Coventry-Climax FPF four-cylinder, with the rare Borgward sixteen-valve unit enjoying some success.
A slightly enlarged version of the F2 Cooper won the first two F1 Grands Prix in 1958, marking the beginning of the rear-engined era in F1. The 1.5 L formula was short-lived, with Formula Junior effectively replacing first F3 and then F2 until 1963—but the 1961 1.5 L Formula One was effectively a continuation of this Formula Two.
The Formula Junior interregnum (1961–1963) and the one-litre Formula Two (1964–1966)
Formula Junior was introduced in 1959, an attempt to be all things to all people (both a training formula replacing F3 and a high-level international category below F1 replacing F2), and it was soon realised that there was a need to split it into two new formulae; F2 and F3 were reintroduced for the 1964 season, with F3 requiring one-litre production-based engines (very similar to FJ in fact) with very restricted tuning, and F2 also having a 1.0 L engine size, but permitting pure-bred racing engines. F2 was largely the domain of F1 stars on their "off-days". Engines were mostly by Cosworth (based on Ford blocks) and Honda, though some other units appeared, including various Fiat based units and dedicated racing engines from BMC and BRM.
The 1.6-litre era, and driver grading (1967–1971)
For 1967, the FIA increased the maximum engine capacity to 1600cc. With the "Return to Power" of Formula One the gap between F1 and F2 was felt to be too wide, and the introduction of new 1600 cc production-based engine regulations for F2 restored the category to its intended role as a feeder for F1. The FIA also introduced the European Formula Two Championship in 1967. Ickx, driving a Matra MS5, won the inaugural championship by 11 points from the Australian, Frank Gardner.
The most popular 1600 cc engine was the Cosworth FVA, the sixteen-valve head on a four-cylinder Cortina block that was effectively the "proof of concept" for the legendary DFV. The 1967 FVA gave 220 bhp (160 kW; 220 PS) at 9,000 rpm. Other units also appeared, including a four-cylinder BMW and a V6 Dino Ferrari.
Nevertheless, many Formula One drivers continued to drive the smaller and lighter cars on non-championship weekends, and some Grand Prix grids (notably in Germany, where the long circuit at the Nürburgring could cope with large entries) would be a mix of Formula One and Formula Two cars. Jacky Ickx made his Grand Prix debut there in a Formula Two car, qualifying with the fifth fastest time overall. Forced to start behind even the slower Formula One cars, Ickx quickly forced his way back into a points position, only to be forced to retire with broken suspension. Less happily, Jim Clark, regarded as one of the greatest race drivers of all time, was killed in a Formula Two race early in 1968, at the Hockenheimring.
The "invasion" of Formula One drivers in Formula Two ranks (a situation similar to that of Buschwhacking in modern-day NASCAR) was permitted because of the unique grading system used. Any driver with an "A" grading was not permitted to score championship points. A driver gained an "A" rating via various means (that changed somewhat over the years), such as finishing in the points in two Grand Prix events or the top three in two World Sports Car events. The annual Formula Two champion was also granted an A rating for one year, and a Formula One World Champion was A graded for five. This system permitted less experienced drivers to work towards the championship and forward their careers, while allowing senior drivers to keep their hand in during the long breaks between Grands Prix of the time.
In the early years of the 1600cc formula, Brabham and Lotus were the most numerous constructors, although Ferrari intermittently entered a works team, as did BMW (with Lola and Dornier-built chassis). A number of smaller construtors such as Matra and Tecno where successful. Chevron also provided cars. The French firm Matra won the three first editions of the European championship, Tecno winning the fourth.
The 2.0-litre era (1972–1984)
In 1972, the formula was changed to increase power by permitting 2.0 L production-based engines—Cosworth BDs and BMW four-cylinder engines dominated the early years, with BMW-powered Marches gradually establishing dominance. For 1976, engines developed purely for racing were permitted to compete, with Renault developing a particularly potent V6; allied to a sponsorship scheme from oil company Elf the formula was briefly dominated by French teams and drivers; BMW started to back a works March team and raised the stakes in the late seventies. Even the Ferrari engine returned briefly with minimal success. The Hart 420R (ultimately derived from the Cosworth BDA) was briefly successful in Marches but most notably in the works Toleman team's cars. Dominant chassis of this era were generally from March and Ralt, with Chevron, the French Elf and Martinis and German Maurers being briefly successful.
Honda returned to F2 in the early 1980s with a powerful V6, but this was very much a works engine and the cost of competing with the works Ralt-Honda team became prohibitive. As a result, grids diminished in size and declining interest in the series threatened it with extinction.
After the 1984 season, Formula Two was replaced by a newly created Formula 3000 category in an attempt to merge F2-style chassis with the naturally aspirated 3000 cc Cosworth DFV V8 engines that were by now obsolete in the all-turbocharged Formula One. The category gradually evolved into a spec-racer series and was replaced in 2005 by GP2 Series partly reviving the Formula 2 designation.
Following an absence of 25 years, the Formula Two name returned in 2009 following an FIA announcement on 25 June 2008.
MotorSport Vision (MSV) won the tender to supply chassis and engines for the new FIA Formula Two Championship, following a fax vote of the FIA World Motor Sport Council. As part of the winning tender it was agreed that MSV would be the promoter of the Championship as well as the operating entity for all of the cars[dead link].
The 2009 championship comprised eight events in Europe between the months of May and November. There were two races per weekend – each 110 km long (around 40 minutes). Two 30-minute practice sessions and two 30-minute qualifying sessions preceded both races.
The cars were designed by Williams Grand Prix Engineering Ltd and prepared by MotorSport Vision (MSV). The open wheel chassis is powered by a 1.8L turbocharged Audi engine developed by Mountune Racing. The new F2 cars are aimed to fall between F1 and F3 in performance. MSV, owned by former Formula One driver, Jonathan Palmer, also runs the British series Formula Palmer Audi,  as well as the British Superbike Championship. The inaugural championship was won by Andy Soucek although was marred by the death of Henry Surtees during Round 4 at Brands Hatch.
Other Formula Two series
Japanese Formula Two
Prior to the Formula Nippon, during the 1.6 L 1967–1971 era, a Formula 2 series championship existed in Japan. Japanese teams were building their own cars and engines. As for races ran in Europe, the series was simply called Formula 2. Amongst the makes, the best known was the Mitsubishi Colt. Cars raced with parallel FIA rules, using 1600 cc displacement engines, from 1967 to 1970.
Japan ran a series known as "Formula 2000" to rules similar to two-litre F2 for several years. Production-based single-cam engines were permitted to run at 2.4 L, but they soon came into line with FIA rules in the mid-1970s. The Japanese F2 series ran for two years after the end of European F2, before Japan too adopted a set of regulations very similar to F3000 rules. The series is now known as Formula Nippon. Japan also ran a series for full-bodied versions of F2 cars called Fuji Grand Champion Series—somewhat akin to the F5000-based revival of Can-Am.
Australian Formula 2
Australia has had its own Australian Formula 2 category since 1964. From 1978 the formula has specified that cars be powered by a production-based single-cam engine with a capacity between 1100 cc and 1600 cc. Induction must be by means of carburettor/s, the engine must be naturally aspirated and a 8500 rpm rev limit is applied.
Mexican Formula Two
British Formula Two
Formula Two racing was popular in the United Kingdom in the late 1940s and early 1950s. During the 2.0 litre engine era, HWM, Connaught and Cooper were among the constructors who built cars for the class, usually powered by Bristol. When F2 was brought back in 1.5 litre form in 1956, Cooper and Lotus were the first to build cars to the new specification, taking advantage of the availability of Coventry Climax engines.
The British Formula 3000 series was briefly known as "Formula Two" in an attempt to make its status more apparent to casual spectators. Sadly the series was in terminal decline and the change of name did not help. At one point the use of 4.2 L TVR engines cars in F3000 chassis was discussed as a possible British F2, but this did not materialise.
Formula Two champions
- Formula 2 (1967–1984) Retrieved from www.oldracingcars.com on 1 February 2011
- "FIA to relaunch F2 in 2009". FIA F1. 2008-06-25.
- "FIA to relaunch F2 in 2009". FIA F2. 15 September 2008.
- "How Formula 2 can work". grandprix.com. 18 July 2008.
- "Palmer's MSV wins F2 contract".
- "FIA picks Palmer as F2 supplier".
- "Henry Surtees dies after F2 crash". Autosport. 19 July 2009.
- Racing Car News, December 1963, page 23
- Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring, 1986, page 172
- Specifications of Automobiles – Australia Formula 2 Retrieved from www.camsmanual.com.au on 2 August 2009
- Australian Titles Retrieved from www.camsmanual.com.au on 2 August 2009
- Official Website of the FIA Formula Two Championship
- Formula 2 register
- Formula 2 research at OldRacingCars.com
- Photos of F2