Motorsport is regulated by various sanctioning organizations, with one of the largest international bodies being the FIA, which awards points to drivers that essentially qualify them for competing in top-level series like Formula One. But in the COVID-19 era, where many racing series have cancelled or postponed events, some drivers will be prone to losing more points than others. Here’s how the FIA is regulating the Super License system in the wake of the pandemic.
The Super License was first issued in the 1990s as a way to show that a driver was equipped to pilot a specific level of machinery—mainly high-level cars like those found in F1. Since 2015, the FIA has created a pretty complex formula to determine Super License eligibility based on the accumulation of points (along with several other requirements, like age). Ultimately, a driver needs 40 points to qualify for a Super License.
Points are accumulated based on a driver’s final championship position in a race series the year before. So, if you finish in the top three in the Formula 2 championship, for example, you’re awarded 40 points and are eligible for a Super License.
Every series has a different level of points. If you win a championship in Indy Lights or Supercars, you’re only awarded 15 points. So, an Indy Lights champion wouldn’t be able to qualify for a Super License unless they had also won a Formula Regional European Championship or a Super Formula championship.
Basically, the FIA has looked at global racing series and have decided which correlate most directly to F1. There has been criticism about the way it awards points, but that’s a blog for a different time.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, however, most racing series are facing various levels of crises. Some, like Indy Lights, aren’t contesting at all in 2020. Others have been severely shortened—which is a problem, since a series is required to host five different events over three different circuits.
For impacted drivers looking to work their way up to F1, that’s something of a downer. So, the FIA has announced in a bulletin that every driver who had a Super License going into 2020 will retain that same license level for 2021.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course. A driver that wins a championship in 2020 will obviously want to capitalize on the increase of Super License points if they finished in, say, 10th place last year.
Other exemptions include series like Formula E that contest a 2019-2020 schedule, or drivers who wish to be reevaluated due to non-COVID concerns.
Mainly, a static license is a good thing for drivers who were contracted to series that ultimately did not take place. Without the accommodation, it’s likely that a lot of young drivers would have fallen off the F1 ladder.