There have been recent rumblings in the Formula 2 community about the imposition of a maximum limit to the number of races or years that a support series driver can spend in junior categories.
However, F2 CEO Bruno Michel recently implied to the media that such a rule will not be put in place, stating: “I’m not going to say, ‘leave space to the young people’, you know, I think it’s good to have a little bit of everything in the category and they (the more experienced drivers) are part of it as well.”
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the top five drivers to have started the most races in GP2 and F2. This is by no means a cause for celebration for these drivers, who surely hoped to reach greater heights in the world of motorsport. But with the likes of Ralph Boschung (95) and Roy Nissany (93) expecting to surpass 100 races in the F1 feeder series in 2023, it is time that we recognise the true veterans of this open-wheel racing series. The F2 Report investigates.
5. Nicholas Latifi: 98 starts
Before the GOAT entertained us with his legendary antics in F1, Nicholas Latifi (pictured above) has also achieved legendary status in the junior category below.
It took a while for the Canadian driver to get to grips in the feeder series, failing to score a single point in his first two seasons in 2014 and 2015. 2016 started off with a bang, second place in the Feature race at Catalunya catching many by surprise. Things only went uphill from there.
2019 was Latifi’s big break, as he started off the year with three wins in the opening six races. While he was ultimately unable to compete for the Title with Nyck de Vries claiming the Championship with three races remaining, Latifi finished comfortably in second.
With Williams strapped for cash in F1 and the Canadian’s family very much not so, he was promoted to F1 where he cemented himself deeply into the history books. Perhaps not for the greatest of reasons, but at least he will be remembered for many years to come…
4. Julian Leal: 102 starts
This Colombian race driver competed with an Italian license and is the first on this list with over 100 starts, albeit not with any notable success. The fact of the matter is that Julian Leal was brought in for his God-given gift of… money.
His results did slowly improve as he gained more experience, but his best results were a smattering of podiums in 2013 and 2014, which are referred to as the “dark ages” of GP2/F2 due to the severe lack of real talent on the grid. Leal was replaced part-way through the 2015 campaign by Dean Stoneman, his crowning achievement being making it to a century of race starts.
3. Luca Filippi: 110 starts
Luca Filippi was yet another driver who was seriously fast on his day, but a lack of consistency meant he was forever destined to remain in the junior categories. With six class victories to his name however, the Italian deserves more respect than many place upon him.
The manner in which he pulled off some of these wins is also to be lauded. The highlight of his career has to be his return to the series in 2012 after almost a year on the side-lines, and managing victory at the first time of asking at home around Monza in front of a fervent crowd. That must have felt good.
Filippi came closest to Championship glory in 2011; a move from Super Nova Racing to Scuderia Coloni in the middle of the season resulting in a miraculous change in fortune. After the team change, he scored more points than anyone else but was unable to bring down the lofty deficit to eventual Champion Romain Grosjean.
2. Johnny Cecotto Jr.: 126 starts
With the second-most race starts in GP2/F2 we have Johnny Cecotto Jr. He is the son of prolific motorcycle World Champion and F1 points-scorer Johnny Cecotto, and thus had a lot of expectation on his shoulders to perform. But Cecotto Jr. became infamous for his erratic driving style and unpredictability on track. He was the Maldonado before Maldonado. Coincidentally, both are Venezuelan.
There is no denying that the Cecotto Jr. was quick. Taking pole at Monaco two years on the bounce is testament to that. But causing several huge pile ups and retiring from almost a quarter of your races is the flipside to the Venezuelan’s legacy.
1. Artem Markelov: 129 starts
And the driver with the record for most race starts in GP2/F2 is… Artem Markelov! The F2 veteran got his break in the feeder series with Russian Time, staying with his compatriot squad for five seasons.
His best year was in 2017, as the F1 feeder series transitioned from GP2 and was incorporated into the FIA to create the inaugural FIA F2 Championship. Unfortunately for the Russian driver, Charles Leclerc competed in the same year, so the best Markelov could muster was second position in the final Driver Standings. But with a total of nine wins in the junior category, he is the most successful driver in this list.