Max, baby—uh, wait, that's not what we mean—it's not that we don't love you, it's just that there are some concerns about your age and experience level. The FIA released more stringent criteria for earning a Formula One Superlicense today, which fans have unofficially dubbed the "Verstappen Rule."
While age is in the news because Max Verstappen will be the youngest driver ever in Formula One, it isn't the only factor the FIA is cracking down on. Prior experience is going to be a bigger hurdle for most potential F1 drivers to clear.
As summarized by NBC Sports, competitors previously had to meet one of the following requirements for obtaining a Superlicense:
- Made at least 5 Grand Prix starts the previous year, or 15 over the past three years
- Have previously held a Superlicense and been regular test driver for a team over the past year
- Have been classified, in either of the last two years, in the first three in the final classification of: F2, International F3 Trophy, GP2, GP2 Asia or Japanese Formula Nippon; in the first four in IndyCar; or current champion of F3 Euro Series, principal national F3 championships (Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Japan), World Series by Renault
- Be judged by the FIA to have consistently demonstrated outstanding ability in single-seaters but with no opportunity to qualify, at which point they'd need to drive at least 300 km in a current F1 car over two days
A minimum age of 18 has been added, plus the requirement that the driver hold a valid driver's license. The less stringent Free Practice Only variant of F1's license has both of these requirements now, too. No more sneaking seventeen year old kids into FP1; the FIA would prefer they stay off the lawn.
Furthermore, the FIA is looking at results in previous series before they hand over a full Superlicense to participate in a race. A weighted points system has been assigned to series they consider relevant to the sport. Here are the points breakdown outlined in the new rules, as summarized by NBC Sports:
The table of points is outlined with finishes from first through 10th place, and is revealed as follows:
- Future F2: 60-50-40-30-20-10-8-6-4-3
- GP2: 50-40-30-20-10-8-6-4-3-2
- F3 Europe, WEC LMP1, IndyCar: 40-30-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
- GP3, World Series by Renault: 30-20-15-10-7-5-3-2-1 (points to ninth)
- Super Formula: 20-15-10-7-5-3-2-1 (points to eighth)
- Formula 4, National Formula 3: 10-7-5-2-1 (points to fifth)
- Formula Renault: 5-3-1 (points to third)
Competitors seeking a Superlicense also need to pass a quiz on the International Sporting Code and of the F1 Sporting Regulations, and have completed 80% of the season for two full seasons in the series listed here, per the latest release of Appendix L to the International Sporting Code:
- Formula Renault 1.6 National or International Series
- Formula 3 National Championships
- Formula Renault 2.0 International Series (EuroCup, ALPS or NEC)
- Formula 4 National Championships certified by FIA
- Japanese Super Formula
- GP3 Series
- Formula Renault 3.5
- FIA WEC (LMP1 only)
- FIA F3 European Championship
- GP2 Series
- Future FIA F2 Championship
Quizzing prospective drivers on sporting regulations seems fine, but it's the experience piece that many are questioning. While current Superlicense holders only need to have either made five race starts the previous year or fifteen over the previous three years, new drivers have to rack up 40 points in other series over the three years preceding their application for a Superlicense.
This is a bit of a problem, because the most heavily weighted series listed (Formula 2) doesn't even exist yet. Missing from the list of series that qualify are WEC's LMP2 prototype class, IMSA's P2 or DP prototype classes, any non-prototype sportscars, touring cars or stock cars at all, and most shockingly for a sanctioning body touting it as the future of green racing, Formula E.
The list, unsurprisingly, is also heavily biased towards European series, particularly those sanctioned by the FIA themselves. Have a great run in Pro Mazda in America? Too bad; it doesn't count. Never mind that the similar Formula Renault series that feed into F3 are on the list—including the single-seaters that feed into IndyLights would make too much sense.
Will Buxton explains the biggest issue with the experience requirement as such:
Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button would both have fallen 35 points short of the 40 point requirement. Sebastien Vettel would have been just two points shy of the tally at the time of his USGP debut in 2007 if we use just his 04-06 results. On the basis of his 2007 WSR results, however, he'd have qualified for his Toro Rosso drive in 2008. Just the six world championships between them.
Daniel Ricciardo, voted by many as the F1 driver of 2014 would not have qualified for his debut either so that's Red Bull Racing's lead man out of luck.
Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, two of the finest drivers to ever grace the planet, would not have been granted a Super License under this system. Neither would Mika Hakkinen. Neither Gilles Villeneuve. Jim Clark's tractor definitely wouldn't have given him the points. Not entirely sure racing a Model A Ford taxi would have done Fangio much good either.
That's a lot of legendary names who would have been forced to wait a while before entering F1 under this new system.
Some of the more controversial hires lately would have fallen short in this points system as well. As Buxton mentions, Verstappen had only one season of single-seater racing before entering F1, which would give him only half the points now required. Marcus Ericsson, too, would have been 26 points short from his three years in GP2 prior to joining Caterham last season.
James Allen on F1 went through the entire 2014 grid, finding nine drivers who wouldn't make the new 40-point rule, including both Carlos Sainz, Jr., but also Felipe Massa. Oops?
More confusing yet is that not all of the sport's most controversial names fall short. Everyone's favorite crashbot Pastor Maldonado would have had far more than enough based on winning first place in the GP2 Series' driver championship for the 2010 season. One GP2 championship win nets you 50 points, 10 above the entire 40 points you need to get a Superlicense. (Why he's not consistently good in F1 given his background, we're not sure.)
Point being, though, many of the names who have been rushed through to F1 in the past, such as Schumacher and Räikkönen, were rushed through for a reason, not just because someone's check cleared. There should be some kind of loophole for raw talent and a team's faith in a driver to bring home the wins.
The new system should at least partially accomplish its goal of discouraging drivers from making the jump from F3, GP3 or Formula Renault straight into F1 without having some additional experience behind them, based on how the points are weighted. The problem is that, as written now, the points system weeds out decent competitors too well.
Photo credit: AP Images
[Edit: We originally miscalculated Maldonado's point count based on wins as opposed to championships. Points are awarded based on a driver's championship finish for the season. This has been fixed now.]