At the top of the tree, British motorsport has a lot to cheer about. If the British-based Red Bull Racing isn’t dominant, McLaren are on a resurgence. This weekend in Melbourne, Lewis Hamilton took pole position. Jenson Button took the victory.
But nearer the bottom, things don’t seem to be quite as rosy. I have already noted the worrying trend of major international motorsport series apparently deserting Britain for 2012. World Series by Renault, the World Touring Car Championship and the GT1 World Championship have all removed Britain from their calendars this year.
Apart from Formula 1, it seems as though the only major international car race to take place in Britain in 2012 will be a round of the fledgling World Endurance Championship.
This morning it was announced that the Formula Renault 2.0 UK championship has been cancelled for 2012. Formula Renault is a big deal for youngsters hoping to make their way up the motorsport ladder. Lewis Hamilton cut his teeth there, as did Heikki Kovalainen. Others that made it to F1 include Pedro de la Rosa and Antônio Pizzonia. Most impressively, Kimi Räikkönen made the leap directly from Formula Renault 2.0 UK to a race seat at Sauber.
It’s still a championship to keep an eye on if you want to have an idea of who the stars of the future might be. In recent years it has boasted grids in the 30s. But this year, with drivers and teams said to be struggling to raise the cash required, a measly six drivers had entered.
The British Formula 3 championship is also said to be on the verge of making a similar decision.
Meanwhile, the super-talented Scott Malvern is struggling to scrape together the funds to get any form of a drive at all. This is despite the fact that he utterly dominated the British Formula Ford Championship last year.
There is a worrying trend towards the lower-level single-seater categories becoming more and more extravagant. They are increasingly expensive to run. As such they are increasingly about the survival of the richest.
Take Auto GP, which in a few short years has evolved itself from being a European Formula 3000 championship to billing itself as a “World Series” with global ambitions. GP2 is virtually a destination in its own right, despite its semi-official role as a feeder series for F1.
Meanwhile, attempts at a more modest championship, like Formula Two, fail to hit the mark. They lack the prestige to be truly seen as an option for aspirational racing drivers.
I’m glad I’m not a young driver trying to make my way through the ladder at the moment. It’s a worrying situation. Formula Renault 2.0 UK and British Formula 3 are well respected championships, but they are on the rocks. It seems as though a generation of young racing talent is at risk of having their careers ruined. I hope that’s not the case.