**Short history of the feeder series**

While Formula One is the pinnacle of open-wheeled auto racing, the high-performance nature of the cars and the expense involved in the series has always meant a need for a path to reach this peak. While there are and have been many types of junior formulae, Formula 3 being the most popular, for much of the history of Formula One,

**Formula Two**has represented the penultimate step on the motorsport ladder. In 1984, Formula Two (with their 2-liter engines) were upgraded to 3000cc engines, and the series was renamed to

**Formula 3000**. In 2005, the new

**GP2 series**replaced Formula 3000.

In 2005, Formula Renault ran a new, faster series from their trade-mark Formula Renault 2.0 championship. The new Formula Renault 3.5 series was almost on the same level as the GP2 series and FR3.5's first champion, Robert Kubica, became a Grand Prix winner. The World Series by Renault, as of 2012, are now actualy as fast as the GP2 series, and can really be considered one of the direct feeder series.

Formula 2, while the original series evolved into GP2, returned under that name in 2009 and is slightly slower than Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2, but still a clear step up from all the other junior formulae. Despite a relatively large field of contenders, the organisation announced that 2012 was the final season of the Formula 2 championship, due to declining entrants for 2013.

**Formula One drivers in the 'feeder series'**

**Michael Schumacher**(F1 debut in 1991) won the 1990 German Formula Three championship and won three races in the World Sportscar Championship.**Jenson Button**(F1 debut in 2000) finished 3rd in the 1999 British F3 championship.**Fernando Alonso**(F1 debut in 2001) finished 4th in the 2000 Formula 3000 championship, after winning Formula Nissan (class between F3 and F3000) in 1999.**Kimi Räikkönen**(F1 debut in 2001) got his chance in F1 after impressing in the 2000 British Formula Renault 2000 championship.**Felipe Massa**(F1 debut in 2001) won the 2001 European Formula 3000 championship.**Mark Webber**(F1 debut in 2002) finished 3rd and 2nd in the 2000 and 2001 Formula 3000 championships.**Nico Rosberg**(F1 debut in 2006) was the first driver to win the GP2 championship in 2005.**Sebastian Vettel**(F1 debut in 2007) dominated Formula BMW and was promoted to F1 while leading the 2007 Formula Renault 3.5 championship.**Lewis Hamilton**(F1 debut in 2007) convinvingly won the 2006 GP2 championship.**Romain Grosjean**(F1 debut in 2009) debuted in F1 while being 2nd in the 2009 GP2 championship, won the 2011 GP2 championship.**Kamui Kobayashi**(F1 debut in 2009) won the 2008-09 GP2 Asia championship.**Nico Hülkenberg**(F1 debut in 2010) won the 2009 GP2 championship.**Bruno Senna**(F1 debut in 2010) runner-up in the 2008 GP2 championship.**Sergio Pérez**(F1 debut in 2011) finished 2nd in the 2010 GP2 championship.**Paul di Resta**(F1 debut in 2011) won the 2006 Euroseries Formula 3 series and the 2010 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championship.**Pastor Maldonado**(F1 debut in 2011) won the 2010 GP2 championship.

**Formula One drivers of old in the 'feeder series'**

**Jim Clark**(F1 debut in 1960) was offered a F1 drive after some impressive drives at Le Mans and in Formula Junior.**Jochen Rindt**(F1 debut in 1964) was very succesfull in Formula 2.**Jackie Stewart**(F1 debut in 1965) won the 1963 British Formula 3 championship and finished 2nd in the 1964 Formula 2 season.**Gilles Villeneuve**(F1 debut in 1977) impressed James Hunt after beating several Grand Prix stars in a Formula Atlantic race in 1976.**Nelson Piquet**(F1 debut in 1978) dominated the 1977 British Formula 3 championship.**Alain Prost**(F1 debut in 1980) won the 1979 French and European Formula 3 championships.**Ayrton Senna**(F1 debut in 1984) won the 1983 British Formula 3 championship.

**What became of feeder series' champions**

*Formula 2**1967 European Formula 2 champion***Jacky Ickx**debuted in Formula One in 1967 and went on to win 8 Grand Prix'.*1968 European Formula 2 champion***Jean-Pierre Beltoise**debuted in Formula One in 1966 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.*1969 European Formula 2 champion***Johnny Servoz-Gavin**debuted in Formula One in 1967 and finished second in 1 Grand Prix.*1970 European Formula 2 champion***Clay Regazzoni**debuted in Formula One in 1970 and went on to win 5 Grand Prix', finishing 2nd in the championship in 1974.*1971 European Formula 2 champion***Ronnie Peterson**debuted in Formula One in 1970 and went on to win 10 Grand Prix', finishing 2nd in the championship in 1978.*1972 European Formula 2 champion***Mike Hailwood**debuted in Formula One in 1967 and finished second in 1 Grand Prix'.*1973 European Formula 2 champion***Jean-Pierre Jarier**debuted in Formula One in 1971 and finished three times on the podium in F1.*1974 European Formula 2 champion***Jacques Laffite**debuted in Formula One in 1974 and went on to win 6 Grand Prix'.*1975 European Formula 2 champion***Patrick Depailler**debuted in Formula One in 1972 and went on to win 6 Grand Prix'.*1976 European Formula 2 champion***Jean-Pierre Jabouille**debuted in Formula One in 1974 and went on to win 2 Grand Prix'.*1977 European Formula 2 champion***René Arnoux**debuted in Formula One in 1978 and went on to win 7 Grand Prix'.*1978 European Formula 2 champion***Bruno Giacomelli**debuted in Formula One in 1977 and went on to finish once on the podium in F1.*1979 European Formula 2 champion***Marc Surer**debuted in Formula One in 1979 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.*1980 European Formula 2 champion***Brian Henton**debuted in Formula One in 1975 but never scored any points.*1981 European Formula 2 champion***Geoff Lees**debuted in Formula One in 1978 but never scored any points.*1982 European Formula 2 champion***Corrado Fabi**debuted in Formula One in 1983 but never scored any points.*1983 European Formula 2 champion***Jonathan Palmer**debuted in Formula One in 1983 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.*1984 European Formula 2 champion***Mike Thackwell**debuted in Formula One in 1980 but drove only 5 Grand Prix'.

*International Formula 3000**1985 International Formula 3000 champion***Christian Danner**debuted in Formula One in 1985 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.*1986 International Formula 3000 champion***Ivan Capelli**debuted in Formula One in 1985 and went on to score 3 podiums in F1.*1987 International Formula 3000 champion***Stefano Modena**debuted in Formula One in 1987 and went on to score 2 podiums in F1.*1988 International Formula 3000 champion***Roberto Moreno**debuted in Formula One in 1982 and went on to score 1 podium in F1.*1989 International Formula 3000 champion***Jean Alesi**debuted in Formula One in 1989 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.*1990 International Formula 3000 champion***Érik Comas**debuted in Formula One in 1991 and went on to score a best 5th place finish in Formula One.*1991 International Formula 3000 champion***Christian Fittipaldi**debuted in Formula One in 1992 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.*1992 International Formula 3000 champion***Luca Badoer**debuted in Formula One in 1993 and went on to went on to become a faillure test driver for Ferrari in Formula One.*1993 International Formula 3000 champion***Olivier Panis**debuted in Formula One in 1994 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.*1994 International Formula 3000 champion***Jean-Christophe Boullion**debuted in Formula One in 1995 and went on to score a best 5th place finish in Formula One.*1995 International Formula 3000 champion***Vincenzo Sospiri**debuted in Formula One in 1997 for one race in the failed Lola F1 team, after which he scored 2 podiums in Indycar/CART.*1996 International Formula 3000 champion***Jörg Müller**never debuted in Formula One, although he did become test driver for Williams and had some succes in AMLS and WTCC.*1997 International Formula 3000 champion***Ricardo Zonta**debuted in Formula One in 1999 and went on to score a best 6th place finish in Formula One.*1998 International Formula 3000 champion***Juan Pablo Montoya**debuted in Formula One in 2001 and went on to win 7 Grand Prix'.*1999 International Formula 3000 champion***Nick Heidfeld**debuted in Formula One in 2000 and went on to score 13 podiums in F1.*2000 International Formula 3000 champion***Bruno Junqueira**never debuted in Formula One after losing a Williams seat to Jenson Button, but finished runner up 3 times in the CART series.*2001 International Formula 3000 champion***Justin Wilson**debuted in Formula One in 2003 and went on to score a best 6th place finish in Formula One.*2002 International Formula 3000 champion***Sébastien Bourdais**debuted in Formula One in 2008 and went on to score a best 7th place finish in Formula One.*2003 International Formula 3000 champion***Björn Wirdheim**never debuted in Formula One but drove two seasons as a test driver for Jordan and Jaguar.*2004 International Formula 3000 champion***Vitantonio Liuzzi**debuted in Formula One in 2005 and went on to score a best 6th place finish in Formula One.

*GP2 series**2005 GP2 series' champion***Nico Rosberg**debuted in Formula One in 2006 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.*2006 GP2 series' champion***Lewis Hamilton**debuted in Formula One in 2007 and went on to win the 2008 Formula One championship.*2007 GP2 series' champion***Timo Glock**debuted in Formula One in 2004 and went on to score 3 podiums in F1.*2008 GP2 series' champion***Giorgio Pantano**raced in Formula One before in 2004, but has not been very succesful in America since his GP2 win.*2009 GP2 series' champion***Nico Hülkenberg**debuted in Formula One in 2010 and went on to score a best 4th place finish in Formula One.*2010 GP2 series' champion***Pastor Maldonado**debuted in Formula One in 2011 and went on to win

1 Grand Prix.*2011 GP2 series' champion***Romain Grosjean**debuted in Formula One in 2009 and returned this year with Lotus. He scored 3 podiums since.*2012 GP2 series' champion***Davide Valsecchi**has tested a HRT in 2010, but has not yet debuted in Formula One.

*Formula Renault 3.5**2005 FR3.5 champion***Robert Kubica**debuted in Formula One in 2006 and went on to win 1 Grand Prix.*2006 FR3.5 champion***Alx Danielsson**has not debuted in Formula One and has moved to touring cars since.*2007 FR3.5 champion***Álvaro Parente**has not debuted in Formula One and has moved to touring cars since.*2008 FR3.5 champion***Giedo van der Garde**has not debuted in Formula One, but is test driver for Caterham.*2009 FR3.5 champion***Bertrand Baguette**has not debuted in Formula One and has moved to Indycar and Le Mans since.*2010 FR3.5 champion***Mikhail Aleshin**has not debuted in Formula One but stayed in FR3.5.*2011 FR3.5 champion***Robert Wickens**has not debuted in Formula One and has moved to DTM since.*2012 FR3.5 champion***Robin Frijns**has been signed as test driver for Sauber in 2013.

*Formula 2 (revived)**2009 FIA Formula 2 champion***Andy Soucek**did some Formula One tests but now drives Endurance Races.*2010 FIA Formula 2 champion***Dean Stoneman**earned a young driver test with Williams before having to put his racing to a halt because of cancer.*2011 FIA Formula 2 champion***Mirko Bortolotti**earned a young driver test with Williams and has disappeared off the radar since.*2012 FIA Formula 2 champion***Luciano Bacheta**tested for Williams on Silverstone on October 19th. No word yet on his future.

**Conclusion**

Of the 58 'feeder series champions' listed here, only 15 went on to win a Grand Prix, only 8 won more than one Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton is the only one who actually became a champion in Formula One.

Of all the 32 Formula One champions, only Denny Hulme (1967), Jochen Rindt (1970), Keke Rosberg (1982) and Damon Hill (1996) spent more than one season in a feeder series, and of those, only Hulme and Rindt really impressed there.

Making this list, it was interesting to see that of all the current world champions, only Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton have spent a full season in a direct feeder series. Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen were picked up after the junior series, while Sebastian Vettel earned his first test based on his Formula BMW results and was only half-way through his WSR season before Formula One called him. Even looking at the big names of back when, most champions were picked up by a Formula one team after impressive results in Formula 3.

The career path to Formula One, more so success in Formula One, is very short and very shallow. It is sometimes lamented that Formula One is only for the rich kids, but aside from champions present and past showing otherwise, it seems the biggest talents will make it before the need for the big money (in the feeder series) kicks in. Might we have lost out on some talents because of the monetary requirements of auto racing? I'm sure we have, but the biggest talents have always found a way to impress very early on in their career.

note: I had already started writing this before SpaceHorseParty posted his thread and I thought it'd be a shame to let it slide because of that.