Bedford racer Nick Tandy reckons that a drive in this year’s F2 championship could be his last realistic prospect of a full-time career in single-seater racing.
Whether or not he and fellow Brit Duncan Tappy, who is also hopeful of funding a season in the series, both succeed will prove a test of its early promise to provide a route into top-flight open-wheel racing for talented but underfunded drivers.
Tandy was the winner of the 2007 Formula Ford Festival and that year’s FPA Shootout, securing him a place among the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award nominees, while Tappy is a two-time award nominee following his Formula Ford victory in 2005 and Formula Renault UK title in 2007.
Both have struggled to fund their racing careers beyond that point.
Tandy said: “F2 is my greatest and probably my last real chance of becoming a professional single seater driver. If I am racing in F2 this season then there will be no messing from me. There is only one aim and that is to win the championship.
“The link with Williams is a massive draw – testing an F1 car would be a huge achievement and of course there is the chance to win an FIA superlicense – F2 has rewards that you just don’t get in other series.”
Last season Tandy took a victory in British F3, racing for his late brother Joe’s team JTR Racing, but lack of money prevented him from mounting a full-season challenge. He said one of the major attractions of Formula Two is the championship prize, as the successful driver will earn a test with the Williams F1 team.
“I was the first ever driver in the JTR F3 team, which was largely built around car development for Mygale. It turned into a lot more than that of course, as we went from nothing to being a front running team in just 12 months, which was pretty unheard of in F3. The win at Rockingham was obviously the biggest win of my career so far.
“I genuinely feel we would have been able to challenge Daniel Ricciardo for the title last year, but unfortunately we had to stop racing midway through the season as the funding just wasn’t there.”
He said seeing the opportunities enjoyed by well-funded contemporaries such as Ricciardo, who won the title with Carlin and is now a Red Bull reserve driver in F1, could be frustrating.
“I think that Formula Two is now my opportunity to continue my career in single seaters. F2 gives drivers like me the chance to reach Formula One for a fraction of the budget when compared to things like F3 and most definitely GP2.”
If he makes it onto the grid he could be challenged for the title by Surrey’s Tappy, who is also trying to find the money to compete in the series this year and believes that he, too, could be a championship contender.
Tappy, who spent 2008 and 2009 with a mish-mash of drives in series such as Superleague, the Renault World Series, Formula Master and Indy Lights, said: “Formula Two is definitely what I am pushing to do this season. It is at the top of the list but we still need to raise some finances. Things are going reasonably well in that area and hopefully we will know more in the coming weeks.
“F2 is a very impressive championship – I want to make a career out of motorsport and I believe that F2 gives me the opportunity to get as high as possible in single seaters.”
Tappy was among those testing at Portimao in December, ending up sixth-fastest overall – a little more than two tenths slower than the timesheet-topping Kazim Vasiliauskas.
He added: “The F2 car is very nice and comfortable to drive. I got out of the cockpit with a big smile on my face after each session, which is the important thing. I had a few sessions to get used to the turbo as it was my first experience with such a system, and things seemed to go pretty well.
“The F2 package is very good. The Formula One test is a really big thing to aim for as it will hopefully open doors. I don’t want to be competing for the odd podium and I will not be racing just to make up the numbers – I plan to be challenging for the title.”
A season in Formula Two costs a basic £275,000 plus VAT – although last year’s champion Andy Soucek is said to have used personal sponsorship to hire extra engineers beyond those supplied by the series. By contrast, a season in the official F1 feeder series, GP2, requires a driver to find up to a million pounds in sponsorship.