Points mean superlicencesLaurence Edmondson January 7, 2015
The route to Formula One for a young driver has never been simple. In recent years, accepted feeder categories have been GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5, but when given the opportunity drivers have also made the jump from categories with lower horsepower engines.
The FIA's new superlicence system should have been an opportunity to make the route clearer, but the ranking of the various categories has caused some controversy, with FIA-backed series awarding more points than rival championships. For example, the champion of the FIA F3 European Championship will earn more points towards his or her superlicence than the winner of Formula Renault 3.5, who will only score as many as the winner of GP3 and not enough to qualify on that achievement alone.
Although it will make no difference to their position in the sport now, half of the 2015 grid would not have accrued the necessary 40 points in their junior careers had the same system existed before their debut. Some of the categories they raced in are now defunct, but we have equated each series' standing at the time to give an idea of how many points they would have acquired in the three years before their F1 debuts. It is surprising to see who would not have made the grade, but it should be noted that it was much more common for young drivers to test thousands of miles in F1 cars - arguably the best preparation of all - before stricter testing limits were introduced in 2009.
Drivers who would not have qualifiedKimi Raikkonen - 5 points (Formula Renault 2.0 UK, 1st)
Jenson Button - 5 points (British Formula 3, 3rd)
Marcus Ericsson - 12 points (GP2, 6th; GP2 8th; GP2, 10th)
Max Verstappen - 20 points (F3 European Championship, 3rd - Also under age)
Fernando Alonso - 25 points (FIA F3000, 4th; Open by Nissan, 1st)
Daniel Ricciardo - 35 points (Formula Renault 3.5, 2nd; British F3, 1st; Formula Renault 2.0, 1st)
Felipe Massa - 35 points (F3000 Euro, 1st; Formula Renault 2.0, 1st)
Sebastian Vettel - 38 points (F3 Euro, 2nd; F3 Euro, 5th)
Carlos Sainz - 38 points (Formula Renault 3.5, 1st; F3 European Championship)
Drivers who would have qualifiedDaniil Kvyat - 42 points (GP3, 1st; F. Renault Alps, 1st; F. Renault Euro, 3rd, F. Renault NEC, 1st)
Sergio Perez - 42 points (GP2, 2nd; British F3, 4th)
Valtteri Bottas - 50 points (GP3, 1st; F3 Euro 3rd)
Felipe Nasr - 52 points (GP2, 3rd; GP2, 4th, GP2, 10th)
Romain Grosjean (before debut in 2009) - 60 points (GP2, 4th; F3 Euro, 1st)
Nico Rosberg - 63 points (GP2, 1st; F3 Euro, 4th; F3 Euro 8th)
Pastor Maldonado - 68 points (GP2, 1st; GP2, 6th; GP2, 5th)
Lewis Hamilton - 98 points (GP2, 1st; F3 Euro 1st; F3 Euro, 5th)
Nico Hulkenberg - 110 points (GP2, 1st, F3 Euro 1st, F3 Euro, 3rd)
Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1