F1 feeder series at Albert Park more than just support categories
By Mat Coch
Thursday 18th August, 2022 - 1:17pm
The appearance of Formula 1’s feeder series on next year’s Australian Grand Prix support bill is a significant boost to aspiring Australian racers.
While at surface level is adds a new layer of interest to fans, there is a deeper commercial value to those chasing a career in the sport’s pinnacle category.
Traditionally, Australian youngsters have had to leave home and spend their formative years racing abroad, with little coverage or name recognition until they reach the point where they’re associated with Formula 1.
For most, that never happens and they return home, typically having run out of money.
One of the most significant issues driver’s face is gaining financial support to fund their plight.
There is a balancing act in terms of the sorts of businesses that can afford to sponsor young drivers; usually bigger than the Mum and Dad operations but smaller than a wholesale corporate giant.
The latter may become interested in the end, but typically need to be able to demonstrate a return on investment young drivers simply can’t deliver on.
For the former group, with little to no local exposure or relevance, it’s difficult to justify the cost to the business.
As a result, it usually comes down to family and friends tipping in to fund the dream, or as much of it as they can.
The addition of Formula 2 and Formula 3 to the Albert Park programme goes a long way to changing that status quo.
At its most basic surface level, young Australians competing in those categories will be afforded the opportunity to race in front of a home crowd – something they’ll probably have had little to no experience of in their career to date.
But more than that, the competition now offers a significantly stronger return on investment for drivers and their sponsors, a point not lost on Christian Mansell as he eyes a move into the FIA Formula 3 Championship next season.
“It’s very good for sponsors,” he told Speedcafe.com when asked about the commercial value an Australian round offers him.
“I have a lot of Australian sponsors, hence it’s just like, ‘you know, I’ve been racing in in Europe’, no one in Europe knows who [they] are’.
“Not anymore. I’m racing at the Australian Grand Prix, quite possibly the biggest event of the year.
“It’s very appealing, not just for that but also as an Aussie, I feel it’d be quite a cool weekend – and a bit of a stressful, hopefully good weekend.
“But it also gets my name out there so much more because it’s like ‘oh, there’s an Aussie kid in Formula 3 – how’s he going? I want to support that guy’.
“I’m very patriotic, so I think it would be very cool to walk the track as an Australian, with Aussies around you.
“It’s as simple as asking for a photo or something silly like that, it’s just like ‘wow, people have your back’.”
There is also the longer game at stake, with the seemingly impossible – a berth in Formula 1 – becoming somewhat more tangible with the feeder classes on display.
That can inspire the next generation to chase the European dream by offering a clearer picture of the pathway to the top.
The addition of Formula 2 and Formula 3 to the support bill for next year is far more significant than simply adding two new support categories for fans to enjoy.