Drugovich may have clinched the F2 championship early, but a lack of interest from F1 teams is expected to make him yet another F2 title winner to not graduate to F1 immediately.

, Felipe Drugovich Wins Formula 2 Title, F1 Future Still Unlikely
Joe Portlock – Formula 1Getty Images

Felipe Drugovich represents a major problem for Formula 1. The modern F1 ladder ends at Formula 2, a series that ostensibly exists only to create new Formula 1 drivers on merit. Despite that lofty goal, Drugovich is expected to be its third champion in four years to not actually join a Formula 1 team on track a year later.

Drugovich is a third-year Formula 2 driver, admittedly behind the expected curve for a major F1 prospect. He’s beaten a notably weak field, but it is nonetheless the entire field of eligible drivers currently one step away from Formula 1 in the system’s official ladder and Drugovich nonetheless trounced them all. He has done all he can possibly do to prove his merit to teams, but F1 teams do not seem to be particularly interested.

It’s an issue the series has had since it was formed as GP2 in 2005. The category’s fourth champion, Giorgio Pantano, never raced in Formula 1. Davide Valsecchi and Fabio Lermer share that honor, and Joylon Palmer shared oscar Piastri’s fate in having to sit out a full season before converting his GP2 title into an F1 shot.

But graduation is not the only issue. The bigger problem may be the category’s inability to develop and discover major talent. Just two Formula 1 champions, inaugural champion Nico Rosberg and 2006 champion Lewis Hamilton, have ever raced in GP2 or Formula 2. Of 18 GP2 or F2 champions, only five have won F1 races. Two of those, Pierre Gasly and Pastor Maldonado, have won just once in their entire F1 careers.

All of that makes the arguments against Colton Herta’s candidacy for F1 particularly absurd. Herta, a seven-time race winner in a senior series, is considered by an F1 superlicense point system that heavily weights toward Formula 2 to be unqualified without a waiver. In theory, that’s a wagon-circling protection to ensure drivers who invest their whole careers into making F1 are more likely to get onto the grid. In practice, even the FIA potentially telling Red Bull it cannot hire the driver they think is most qualified does not seem to be enough to open a spot on the grid for Drugovich in 2022.

Drugovich is not the only 2023 F1 hopeful with a Formula 2 title under his belt and very few paths to the grid open to him. As 2019 Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries prepares to make his F1 debut as a fill-in driver for the appendicitis-stricken Alex Albon ahead of a push to earn a seat in 2023, he claims that a waiver for Herta could “almost kill” the F2-led ladder system. Despite handily beating Nicholas Latifi in the 2019 F2 season, de Vries is expected to join the 2023 grid only if Williams drops Latifi in his favor this offseason.

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