“Some Super Licence Points Pointers”

A few weeks back, I received a query from a correspondent on Twitter, asking to clarify a few elements regarding the Super Licence Points system.

So, I did, I hope.

Formula One can be a forgetful business and it is incredibly rare that a driver returns to the top-level once they have departed.

Some go to race in other distant categories for good money, while others become pundits or commentators.

There are a few that maintain a presence in Formula One, as simulator/test drivers or reserve drivers (alongside other racing duties), although the use of reserve drivers is quite rare. As such, drivers have been known to let their Super Licences lapse, particularly given that they are only a requirement for Formula One Grand Prix weekends {note 1}.

In an e-mail correspondence with the FIA’s Safety Director, Adam Baker, it was confirmed that technically there is nothing in the regulations that would prevent a driver from renewing their Super Licence within every three-year period, in order to keep it live; however, it would be an expensive process.

For drivers competing in the 2020 Formula One World Championship, the basic fee for a Super Licence is $556,509 (USD) {note 2}, but those competing in other championships across the globe, such a cost would be an unnecessary and prohibitive expense

One point that often gets mixed up. It is often assumed that when a driver has amassed forty points, then they are automatically awarded a Super Licence; however, this is not the case, as it would be illogical and unnecessarily expensive for drivers who have no use for a Super Licence for the reasons noted above.

As an aside to this, when a driver has amassed the necessary number of points to obtain a Super Licence, then they can apply for the licence and hold it, even if they continue to race in junior formula thereafter.

For example, Mick Schumacher collected the necessary number of points to apply for a Super Licence at the end of 2018, when he won the European Formula 3 Championship.

Once a driver has that Super Licence but opts to stay in the junior ladder system, it does not matter what their achievements – or lack thereof – are come later contests. Once the licence is possessed, it is theirs to properly maintain.

Which – unfortunately for him – is where Esteban Gutierrez fell foul in August. During the run-up to the British Grand Prix, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff told Racefans.net that regulations and circumstance blocked Gutierrez from obtaining a Super Licence in order to replace Racing Point’s Sergio Perez following his COVID-19 diagnosis {note 3}.

Wolff reasoned that, “There is a new rule this year that if you haven’t raced in a Formula 1 car in an official event for the last three years you need to have done the test of at least 300 kilometres.”

Technically Wolff was correct, but also not. For a start, this is not a new rule, but rather one that was refined and re-introduced back in 2016, so it is disappointing that neither Mercedes nor Gutierrez himself picked up on it, especially given Gutierrez is the team’s reserve driver – but more on that at another time.

Gutierrez could have reactivated his Super Licence; however, it is unlikely that the application would have been approved in time for the first race at Silverstone.

In the case of a driver change in the Championship for reasons of force majeure, the FIA state that they may accept applications up to 48 hours before the start of initial scrutineering for the competition; however, Gutierrez’ Super Licence had expired on December 31st, 2016.

Baker confirmed too that for Gutierrez’ licence to be reinstated, Racing Point would have had to arrange a test whereby Gutierrez would have to complete 300km at racing speeds in a representative F1 car over a maximum period of two days.

Generally complete applications for Super Licences must be received by the FIA at least 14 days before scrutineering for the first World Championship event in which the driver is to compete.

A quiet note regarding the calculation of Super Licence points – when calculating totals, it is necessary to collate points as allocated during the year’s positions are achieved. For example, a champion in Formula Renault Eurocup in 2017 would collect just 10 points; whereas in 2020 a driver in the same position would collect 18.

On the other hand, the FIA International Formula 3 Championship offers far fewer Super Licence points in 2020, than the European Championship did in 2017. Indeed, from 2017 to 2018, the FIA dropped the award for winning the European Championship from 40 points down to 30, ensuring Schumacher needed to beat Dan Ticktum to the title in order to be in a position to secure his full Super Licence.

Looking at the points table in 2020 and surmising that the same points were on offer two years will merely lead to incorrect totals.

Finally, Baker also acknowledged that while there is no officially published list of drivers who possess live Super Licences, it is not considered a confidential subject either. There has just been no need to publish a list of those who currently possess live licences.

{note 1}
Formula One is not the only category that applies Super Licence points concept – Formula E does as well. Drivers wishing to obtain an e-Licence must have either an International Grade B licence {note 4}, have made at least three starts in races counting toward the Formula E Championship in the previous year (or had ten starts within three years) or have collected 20 Super Licence Points over the previous three seasons.

{note 2}
For drivers already competing in Formula One and therefore renewing their Super Licences, as well as the initial $556,509 (USD) outlay, they have additional costs of $5,563 (USD) per championship point gained in the previous season for their respective constructor. The only exception is for World Champion driver Lewis Hamilton, who had to fork out an additional $6,677 (USD) per Constructor’s Championship point.

This means that following an ultra-successful campaign last year, Hamilton is likely to have forked out in the region of $3.314 million (USD) in order to secure his Super Licence for the 2020 season. This is generally paid in instalments, with the basic fee expected at the time of application and the rest of the monies transferred by December 10th.

{note 3}
Racefans.net – Mercedes seek “another solution” for reserve driver after rules change blow for Gutierrez

{note 4}
An International Grade B licence is a racing licence required for drivers utilising cars with a weight-to-power ration of between 1 and 2 kg/hp.

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