US Grand Prix
Analysis: FIA makes changes to F1 superlicence system
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Sep 2017   |  10:14 pm GMT  |  63 comments

Should the FIA make it easier or harder for young drivers to get an F1 superlicence?

The topic is back on the agenda after a decision by the FIA World Council today to make some changes to the points structure behind the licence system. A driver needs to accumulate 40 points over a three year period to be eligible for a super licence and different categories provide varying levels of points for success.

While the FIA F2 champion gets an automatic licence still, the FIA F3 champion will have more to do. He or she now gets 30 points for winning the title. Lance Stroll graduated straight from F3 this year, which would be more difficult for Lando Norris, for example, to follow. The young Brit will have to do a season of F2 next year or SuperFormula in Japan to get the qualifying points he needs. He was always going to do that anyway, but this move today just makes it a little harder for drivers to make rapid steps from the junior categories to F1.

Mick Schumacher has some work to do to get up to F1, having learned the ropes this season, he will be back next year to try to challenge for the title and then he will have to do F2 as well, so it could be 2020 or 2021 by the time he reaches F1, which German TV and other corporates are longing for to boost ratings.

This raising of the threshold for licences follows lobbying by the current F1 drivers association to make it harder for youngsters to come into F1 without the necessary steps of preparation. Drivers like Esteban Ocon did F3 and GP3 before moving up, Leclerc has done F3 and F2 and Norris will do the same. All three are among the brightest stars of F1’s future.

Much of this has happened since Max Verstappen exploded onto the scene as a 17 year old, without winning the FIA F3 series. Such was the faith of Red Bull in his talent and he has certainly repaid the faith. His 2017 season has had its share of reliability problems but he has shown that he is right up there with the best, having outqualified the super-fast Daniel Ricciardo 10 times this season.

But the minimum age was set at 18 and now the licence criteria have been toughened up.

The desire from F1 owners Liberty Media to reach out to the USA may have had some bearing on the inclusion of several new US based championships becoming eligible for points – including NASCAR Cup, IMSA and Indy Lights. The IndyCar champion still gets an automatic 40 points and eligibility for a superlicence. Josef Newgarden was recently crowned 2017 champion and is now eligible for an F1 superlicence.

The flip side of the F1 drivers argument that the criteria should be made more tough is drivers like F2 drivers Nicolas Latiffi or Nobuharu Matsushita, who will miss out on the points threshold this year. Latiffi’s family is like Stroll’s in terms of wealth, enough to help to support a struggling team, while Matsushita is a Honda protege and under consideration for a Toro Rosso seat next season.

But the desire for F1 drivers to be seen as the best of the best is strong and once the budget cap is brought in, from 2021 with a three year glidepath, with a simplified F1 engine which will bring overall costs down to around $150m a year, the premium will be on the drivers to be the best of the best.

This is good news for the Verstappen, Ocon, Leclerc, Norris generation, which looks like it will be very exciting.

What do you think? Should it be easier or harder than it currently is to get an F1 superlicence? Leave your comment in the section below

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Since there are two topics covered a) Super License qualifications and b) engines/costs in F-1 hope it's all right to touch on both.

The paragraph above reading: "Much of this has happened since Max Verstappen exploded onto the scene as a 17 year old, without winning the FIA F3 series. Such was the faith of Red Bull in his talent and he has certainly repaid the faith." Use of "exploded" in particular generates a thought: Believe there are some opinions out there that while talent may not be an issue, judgment may have benefitted from additional experience. To quote a famous (in these pats) Texan Philosopher, Will Rodgers: 'Wisdom is the result of experience and the experience is often the result of poor judgment.' or words to that effect.

Where cost is concerned, there has been some discussion in the past regarding use of IndyCar engines in F-1 (or possibly an architecturally-based [philosophically] equivalent for power output comparisons) which would open the door, presumably to a wider range of manufacturere. Is there any chance for those discussions to become serious in the light of the hunt for more economical applications ?

And while we're talking about that particular series and the granting of Super Licenses to Champions from that group -- Newgarden has certainly impressed with his progress and demonstration of talent as well as related assets these last few years -- what's the crib sheet on his opportunity for moving "up" since he's only 20 years old ?


Newgarden is 26.


Didn't Leclerc do GP3 rather than F3?

I know Mick Schumacher is an F3 rookie this year, but he's not exactly showing great promise, especially compared to fellow rookie Lando Norris. It'll be interesting to see if Mick can develop, but at this point in time, I don't think he's got the stuff for F1.

Another youngin to look out for is Marcus Armstrong. A Kiwi in ADAC F4 this year, I'd hope to see him in GP2 with Prema; but F3 is more likely.


He did both. 2015 he was a rookie in F3. He beat Lance Stroll to the rookie championship, finishing 4th overall in the standings.

2016 he did GP3, where he won the title.


"F2 drivers Nicolas Latiffi or Nobuharu Matsushita, who will miss out on the points threshold this year,"
And that right there is why this has happened, the FIA and especially Liberty Media want drivers with big trophy cabinets, not big bank accounts. The perception that talented drivers are being passed over for rich ones has been enormously damaging to F1 recently (even if that's been the case in F1 since the dawn of the series). Of course it's somewhat ironic that neither Sebastian Vettel nor Michael Schumacher would have met these criteria when they debuted in F1.


It has also occured to me that under these new rules Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso would also not have been eligible on their debuts. Whilst I understand what the FIA are trying to achieve, I think they've got it wrong with this.


The new super license formula could be first big mistake by Liberty. Time will tell.

Interesting thing missing from this article is the rise of paid driver. I would've thought the rule will allow more talented guys to go through the junior categories in a systematic manner before entering F1, not because someone has parents or big sponsor.


Liberty don't decide who gets a licence - the FIA does. I think this misconception is down to those in the media suggesting that Liberty 'owns' F1 when it only holds the commercial rights. It remains the FIA Formula One World Championship.

Tornillo Amarillo

Lance Stroll graduated straight from F3 this year, which would be more difficult for Lando Norris, for example, to follow.

Yes, not a problem, Lance Stroll could have done whatever necessary to get the licence, Lando Norris too, it's just a matter of planning. 🙂

Tornillo Amarillo

James, talking about youngsters, what happens with Wherlein, can he go as reserve driver to Merc next year?


Amazing how Mick looks so much like his mom, not much like his dad. Or is it just me?

I don't see his dad in him, just yet. Maybe he needs a Ferrari?


It's all in the lower mandible!


James where it leaves Kubica does he has superlicence?


Anyone who ever had a F1 superlicense, is no longer required to gather points.
I remember both Kubica and Whiting say 'superlicense is not a problem'.


He'll get dispensation under appendix L one suspects


No ! That's one of the problems in him getting a seat at Williams or anywhere else. He simply doesn't have enough points and past experience doesn't seem to count for much !


Good question. Does Jackie Stewart still qualify? James, any chance to add the full set of qualifications to the article? I think it will only add to the discussion.


F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and therefore the drivers should reflect this. So in my view, it should be hard to get an F1 superlicence. Every driver on the grid should have, in my opinion, earned their place. If I was an aspiring F1 driver I would want to know that I have reached F1 because I AM good enough, not kind of good enough because the criteria to reach it has been made easier.



Mercedes has made a new post about efficiency claims of the F1 PU engine.

Can we please get to the bottom of the efficiency claims so we, the geeks can understand these claims better?

Some questions for Mercedes:

Can this efficiency be sustained indefinitely as long as there is fuel in the tank? Example, I'm on the Autobahn in a Project One, I'm driving at 280km/hr. sustained over the next 30 minutes without using brakes. Is my efficiency also continuously sustained? If not, what is the period where it is sustained?

The Project One splits power into 520 HP from ICE and 483HP from the three 161HP Electric motors. How long can this vehicle sustain maximum power to both elements, if again on Autobahn at above sustained continuous high speed without braking?

When they measure these PUs on the bench for efficiency, do they run the engine at a sustained continuous power to take the measurements, or do they simulate periodic braking and recover energy to recharge the batteries of the PU? Or is heat recovery enough to maintain continuous power to electric motors continuously in the Project One configuration, since in the F1 configuration the maximum power last 33s or less.

Without braking, how much electricity is recharged at maximum ICE output?

Is there a minimum ICE operation level at which optimal heat recovery is achieved?

Thank you.


I read it as thermal effeciency from engine output vs fuel used, no batteries involved.
Used to be much lower, as most dissapered to heat in exhaust and cooling


You aren't a geek Sebee. A geek is someone seriously interested in technology, and who reaches obsessive knowledge levels of their favourite subject. Your only interest in learning about the technology used by Mercedes is to pick holes in it, call their claims into question and be as dismissive and disbelieving as possible, despite having no evidence at all that their claims are false.. That's not what a geek does.


Let's start with all the information holes present in the technology, which even in the 4th year have not been filled. Well...burning oil sure is impressive about the PUs, aint' it?

And since when are we not allowed to question claims? Especially if they rely on unique to F1 braking of a few Gs over and over again and aren't at all relevant to road going cars? Like those efficiency claims for starters. Or like the fact that in the real world there is a serious debate if efficient coasting is more energy efficient than trying to recapture the energy by braking. Conclusions from real world tests point more and more to coasting being the preferred solution to range and efficiency, and recovery only when brakes are applied manually by the driver.


The above performance should be read as the Hight Jump world record. How many seconds could the athlete stay at that hight is not the question, but how high did he jump.
Anyways that article is something at PR level it has no technical reference in it. As efficiency is in automotive science of several kind. My impression is it was about thermic (or thermal - my technical english is limpy) effiiency. Obtained in a configuration where the electrical necessary input was supplied from outside source -hence for as long as thei kept the fuel flowing.
But as all the technical gizmos on a F1 PU, it is irrelevant as it cannot be maintained in normal exploitation.
So the record is not without merit, but the trophy for it should be put on the same shelf as the one for the longest traveled distance with one liter of fuel


Good questions -- and while we're at it, would it be possible to touch on the perspectives for overall carbon footprint relating to construction and recycling of the batteries (plus exotic materials employed) as well as production of the electricity for stationary recharging (primarily coal and other fossil fuels in Europe isn't it?).

Oh, and then there's the outright cost per mile (purchase and operation) discussion to be considered.

Probably enough for several articles, but seems those considerations ought to be dealt with from the wider scope instead of simply looking at a car to car comparison. Thanks for the consideration.


In Portugal our electricity is 87% from renewables, mostly wind with a bit of hydro, very little from coal (~10%).


"the Mercedes-AMG F1 power unit has now achieved a conversion efficiency of more than 50% during dyno testing in Brixworth."

The engine isn't in a car moving when on a dyno; no brake regeneration.


How can they bench testing a hybrid PU dependent on regeneration without regenerating?


Sebee. Because it doesn't depend on regeneration. The MGUK provides an extra boost when on track, but the car does not depend on its operation.


Is energy recovered from braking even counted in engine energy efficiency? Surely it is just the fuel to energy output ratio. If that energy is used to accelerate a car and then recycled during deceleration it isn't any more energy from the fuel. It is the same energy recycled, so shouldn't be double counted.


How do you think the PU batteries get charged in a GP? Mostly during massive F1 braking each lap.


Yes but that isn't increasing engine fuel efficiency. It does increase the fuel efficiency of the car but energy that came from fuel and accelerated the car, charged a battery during deceleration and accelerates the car again can't be counted twice in fuel efficiency. It is the same piece of energy converted to different forms. It isn't new energy gained from the fuel. It isn't much different to climbing up a steep hill and using less fuel on the way down due to getting the potential energy back.


Well given engine is based on Mercs 2016 F1 PU I presume this energy would have to be recovered under braking after the charge is used. The LaFerrari does too. The AMG Project One with it's three MGU-K systems and 1 MGU-H in use would 1,020 bhp. The ICE part produces 748bhp Sebee


Yes, I've read what you say and I've also read that the car has three 161HP motors, two on each front wheel and one connected directly to the crankshaft of rear wheels. That would mean that the ICE is the balance after this 483 the way I read it. But perhaps you're right with all these numbers being thrown around.

If you take 161HP x 2 for front wheels and you have 322HP and then something in the range of 700HP as you say would be at the rear to get to 1000HP, 161HP of that 700 in rear is the 3rd electric motor connected to rear shaft leaving 540HP. Something like that seems to add up.

There are all kinds of numbers being thrown around, but I think above is what makes sense.

Which in itself is quite interesting because it means power claim rating wise Project One is nearly 50% electric car, but for how long does it have full power available?


So first they're saying that it's too easy to get into F1 so we need to change the rules, but now they're saying that it's too hard to get into F1 so we need to change the rules, but then it will be too easy to get into F1 again so we'll need to change the rules...yep, sounds like the FIA 🙂

For my money, damn right they should have to do a bit of GP2/F2 (whatever it's called now) before they race with the big boys (and hopefully some day girls 🙂 ).


so long as it's fair, the cream will always rise...i think f1's increased in popularity over the past 10 years that it's attracting a lot of talent. the unfortunate problem is not everyone can afford it. until finance is completely eliminated, we will only get to see those who can afford it. the more i read about the climb into f1, the more i appreciate the achievements of anthony hamilton in getting hamilton to f1...i doubt we'll ever hear of another..


As an American I find it interesting that they have added NASCAR and Indy Lights to those formulas that can accrue points towards a super license one must wonder what those formula, especially NASCAR, can do to prepare a driver for Formula 1. Even Indy Cars and their junior series are vastly different to a Formula 1 car in complexity and handling and with the inclusion of faux fenders to Indy cars they aren't true open wheel racecars anymore.

All that said I'm sure I'm think what most Americans are thinking and what most people of country X are thinking, who will be the next of my countrymen to race in Formula 1? There was a time when I thought that person was Rossi but that never happened and he now seems more than content in Indycar. Newgarden is a fine young driver but I don't think he's Formula 1 material and Indycar's split focus on oval racing does not lend itself to producing talent for the Grand Prix of Formula 1. All I do know is that I do not want the next American driver to be a Scott Speed. I love the guy but he was out of his depth. Looking back on it maybe it is me. Speed, Liuzzi, Sato, Rossi and Raikonnen are my favorite drivers of the last 15 years and they have one championship amongst them. Maybe I can convince some team to pay me not to be a fan of their drivers.


It's a simple move to be able to snatch the other series star drivers.

Turns out drivers know that their success is unlikely in Formula 1 and prefer a series where they have a better chance. Montoya came over and went back to both NASCAR and IndyCar and has repeatedly stated in interviews that politics and preference gets a driver a seat in a car that can win a championship in F1. And there are few of those seats.

We can see that basically Formula 1 casts their starring protagonists like a show casts leading actors. Any American future F1 champion will be hand picked for the role. The remainder of the grid is filler. Look at any NASCAR of IndyCar season and notice all the different winners as a starting point to see an illustration of this. We all watched Indy500. At what point did you know who was going to win it?


Sebee, remind me how many championships Juan Pablo won since he returned to the "free and fair" US racing scene....


Not sure what your point is there Tim....

In 2015, Montoya had as good a shot at the championship as anyone. Lost it in the final laps of the final race....was part of a 3 way battle between himself, Power, and Dixon. Montoya and Power crashed into each other, allowing Dixon to waltz through to the championship.

As far as competition over a season, it doesn't get more balanced and fair than that 2015 for maybe this recent 2017 season of Indycar.


Twitch, the point I am making is, if the only reason Juan Pablo didn't win a title in F1 was because "politics and preference" kept him out of the plum seats, then why didn't he win one in Indycars or Nascar either? Sounds like a racing driver dipping into the big book of excuses to me.....


Because things are more competitive there. That's the point. It's not so easy. He did win the Indy 500 in 2015, and as noted came very close to IndyCar championship.


TimW. Firstly its Indycar and not Indysars.JPM has in fact won that title (1999 when the series was call CART).
Have a read of JPM's pedigree. You might find that he has won in a variety of categories, not limited to open wheel racing and not limited to 2 hour races. Its worth educating yourself beyond your one minded approach to one category and one driver.


David, I'm well aware of Juan Pablo's victories, I followed his career since his F3000 triumph in 1998, and then into CART in 99. I was a fan of his, but felt that despite his undoubted talents, he lacked the commitment to reach the very top level in F1.
The point I was making was not that JPM is a poor driver, just that if the US scene was so much fairer than F1, why hasn't someone as talented as him won more there? Montoya drove for two top teams in F1, it wasn't politics or preference that prevented him winning a WDC.


10 winners in the 2017 IndyCar season, basically 1/2 the grid
16 winners in the 2017 NASCAR far, 40% of the grid, quite close to 1/2 the grid with the new 40 car maximum
4 winners in the 2017 F1 season or 20% of the grid.

Numbers confirm what Montoya says, opportunity to succeed is missing in F1.


Indycars sound great Sebee, surely the answer is for you to switch allegiances and watch that instead? Perhaps you could carpet bomb their internet forums as well...


..or people like me, and I guess Sebee could enjoy whatever sport they choose and watch more that one category in Motorsport as well. Would that be ok with you?


David, The point is Sebee does not enjoy F1, he has been coming to this site every day for at least three years leaving thousands of comments, all saying how terrible the sport is, not one positive comment out of thousands and thousands! Sound like he is enjoying himself to you?


James in principle it's a great idea. Certainly when looks back at Lance Stroll particularly in the first 5/6 races of the season it does seem like he would've be better served doing least 1 season in F2 to mature. However as long as the caveat of Appendix L of FIA's International Sporting Code is still around there will always be a way around this for certain drivers. Also people talk about Max's jump from 3rd in Euro F3 in 2014 to F1 2015 being big . Well there have been bigger ask Kimi or Jenson. Jenson moved from British F3 to F1 and Kimi jumped to F1 straight from Formula Renault UK which would considered absolutely insane now.


And even so, both Kimi and Jenson are world champions.


Raikkonen is probably the most unusual example in modern F1, as he had only 23 car races under his belt before he got his super license and drove in F1. All based on a good word from Peter Sauber to the FIA, promising them that Raikkonen would do well. ;o)


I would have thought a podium at any of the 24hr sports car races would warrant super licence points on its own. Particularly LeMans.


I'm not sure what these changes achieve tbh. The new rules don't prevent time-serving but decidedly average drivers getting the points over 3 years but they may easily prevent stunning drivers from joining on merit at the age they are good enough not at some arbitrary limits...


LMP1 is gutted and the flown of drivers seems to be in the other direction, F1 to LeMans. Plus the age of drivers tends to be older, and drivers at the top tend to be known quantities who raced elsewhere, especially those chosen by top teams. But it is interesting indeed as you point out that they won't open the door to flow the other way, just in case.


In the words of the chisel chin entertainer
"Bruce 'Toupee' Forsyth"...




I find it a little disheartening that Matsushida, Latiffi, and Schumacher are the names even mentioned in this article.

Matsushita and Latiffi have been ok in F2/GP2, but nothing special. What about Latiffi's teammate Ollie Rowland?? Hell, Markalov is doing a better job than Matsushita. Since he switched teams, I'd also rate de Vries higher than the two of them.

Mick is in 11th place in an F3 field that is average at best, while driving for the reigning team champions, with Norris being the exception. Verstappen, Ocon, Stroll; all of them were miles ahead of Mick in terms of development and raw pace in their rookie F3 season.


I was watching F3 from Austria last night...learned something interesting.

Prema Power Team has won every single F3 Driver's and Constructor's championship since the current formats inception in 2011.

Kind of puts some things in perspective.

Stroll drove for Prema....

Ocon drove for Prema...perhaps what gave him the edge over Max.

Schumacher is driving for Prema...currently 11th in the standings...

Gunther drives for Prema, with full BWT sponsorship.

Illicit drives for Prema

Norris drives for Calrin, beating them all right now. Impressive.


yeah this is another "Verstappen effect" situation....

I do think that even when VER has shown his great talent, also has show his lack of take more mature choices, clearly VER deserve his seat in F1 but not beause of that every other young start MUST be in F1 RIGHT NOW... It is correct that everyone likes and look for excitement in F1 , but with or without the teens in F1 we still have that, there are plenty of good drivers, young and "olds" who can do the same.

what F1 doesn't really have are ENOUGH SEATS specially GOOD ONES, so I think thats what liberty need to put emphasis in to.


It should be call the 'maxeffect'. Such big impression created this young boy until rules have to be rewritten!


Budget cap from 2021??????? I doubt it, Else F1 will have been browbeaten into another sport altogether.
We know that F1 teams engineers spend the year finding loopholes and ways around over or under the tech regs. It would be impossuble to suggest that team personnel numbers would not tbe swelled by tens of accountants similarly finiding ways around any budget cap. Even now it is impossible to say how much a car costs when you consider how many different suppliers and sub-contractrs are invoved. Then there is the issue of this year's car and next. We know that teams are now working on the 2018 cars, some started on some parts of it montha ago, but they are also still working on this years car and quite likely testing some bits for next year on it! So how does that work out in a budget cap? What was subcotractor "X" 3D printing and machining certain parts working on? He was never told, he signed a non disclosure agreement about the whole thing, it was issued by a company he had never heard of who may have been a thrid tier suplier to an F1 team, but good luck in proving it. Quite apart from anything else, Ferrari will never stand for it as it means competing on the same terms as the other teams. Do they still have a veto? Does the F1SG still exist?


Hi James I've been meaning to ask you this: Do you select the pictures yourself for these articles or do you have team doing it? And what sources do you use? Your own team's pictures or from freelance F1 photographers? Because the photo's sync in so well with the written articles all the time and certainly get the schematics activated!



We select them as we need them from and going forward with the Motorsport Network tie-up it will be with LAT Images

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