In recent seasons both Stoffel Vandoorne and Pierre Gasly have spent time in Super Formula after their GP2 (now Formula 2) successes and in 2019, the grid in Super Formula will feature Briton, Dan Ticktum, who is backed by Red Bull and will hope for a similar path and find himself in Formula 1 in 2020. But what exactly is Super Formula?
To give its current full title the FIA Japanese Super Formula Championship is a spec-chassis, open wheel racing series based in Japan. It has been previously known as Japanese Formula 2000, Japanese Formula Two, Japanese Formula 3000 and Formula Nippon at various points since the series creation in the 1970s.
Another way to think of it is the Japanese version of the IndyCar series that is in America. In that there is one chassis supplier, Dallara. One tyre supplier, in the case of IndyCar it’s Firestone, and in the case of Super Formula it’s Yokohama. There are also two engine suppliers in both series, with Honda and Chevrolet providing engines in IndyCar, but with Honda and Toyota providing engines in Super Formula.
This also gives a certain edge in the series as Honda and Toyota are rival Japanese car companies and therefore certain backed Honda or Toyota drivers will find themselves driving for particular teams, depending on which engine the team runs. Two examples from the 2019 grid is Dan Ticktum being placed in Team Mugen which run Honda engines, since Red Bull have linked up with Honda in Formula 1. While Kamui Kobayashi will drive for Team KCMG who run Toyota engines, Kobayashi having had a long affiliation with Toyota.Embed from Getty Images
Despite recent tradition to place junior drivers in the series for a season before moving them on, Super Formula is not a junior or feeder category as the series itself states on its website, that it aims to create the third great open wheel racing competition after Formula 1 and IndyCar.
This is further backed up by seasoned drivers such as Loic Duval, Narain Karthikeyan and Andre Lotterer all having spent multiple seasons in the series, as well as multiple Japanese drivers making a career from running parallel Super Formula and Japanese Super GT campaigns, such as reigning Super Formula and Super GT champion, Naoki Yamamoto (pictured below on the right), who was partnered by Jenson Button in his 2018 Super GT season.Embed from Getty Images
The championship races at circuits based in Japan, including Suzuka, Fuji Speedway as well as Twin Ring Motegi. The points system is similar to the system used by Formula 1 from 2003 to 2009 with the top eight drivers being awarded points (see table below), as well as a point being awarded to the driver who claims pole position.