The upcoming S5000 series is anything but a feeder series for Formula One. Still, fans of those feeder series should keep an eye on it, as it follows the same basic rule that makes them exciting. (by Mathias Kainz)
It’s a very simple concept that makes the new S5000 series so exciting, despite the slightly cumbersome name. That simple concept is as basic as it is promising: Stick a V8 in the back of a monoposto, and you’re likely to end up with some great racing. That at least is the hope that leads up to this weekend’s debut for the new series.
There’s a few names on the grid that motorsport fans might recognise. Above all, of course, is Rubens Barrichello, an eleven-time Formula One Grand Prix winner and to this day the man with the most GP starts to his name. Then there’s Matt Brabham, a few years back one of the hottest names on the Road to Indy; former Australian F3 driver Ricky Capo, a race winner the 2017 ELMS campaign; Supercars stalwart Alex Davison; or up-and-coming Kiwi racer Tom Alexander.
But although there’s some promising names on the grid at Sandown this weekend, they’re unlikely to be the main attraction. Instead, the fans are expected to be tuning in (the race weekend is live on Motorsport.tv) to experience the archaic, retro feeling of the V8-powered 560 bhp machines in wheel-to-wheel battle.
It’s not one, but three steps back from where Formula One stands today. No talk of hybrid engines, no over-complicated aerodynamics, no discussions (as of yet) about tyre working windows and the like. Instead, the new S5000 series follows the basic principle that makes feeder series so exciting to watch: Everyone gets the same base to work with, and it’s setup and driver skill that makes the difference.
Difference between teams
Arguably, there will be a sizeable difference between the teams, as is often the case in spec series. Experienced teams like BRM or mtec are likely to be slightly better at getting their act together than private entries like that of Ricky Capo. The same is rather obvious in feeder series like Formula 3 or Formula 4 (see Prema in recent years for further information).
But the overall concept that makes Formula 3 or Formula 4 so entertaining is the same as we see it in S5000. Drivers get a spec chassis with a spec engine to try and make the difference on track. In addition, the S5000 car – based on an Onroak-Ligier chassis – is far from aerodynamically sophisticated, and for good reason. The simple front and rear wing designs will keep dirty air behind the car at a minimum, hopefully enabling drivers to closely follow each other through corners.
There’s still a few questions to be answered. Does the radical (and incredibly complicated) qualifying format make sense, or will it confuse viewers? How raceable are the cars going to be at Sandown, a notoriously tricky track? Will the driving standard across the field measure up to the expectation?
With all those questions yet unanswered, it’s hard to give a verdict on what S5000 could become. But the excitement over a return to “irresponsible” motorsport is certainly tangible on social media. The retro F1 feel and the presence of a well-known and beloved former F1 driver are sure to add to the attractiveness for both viewers and potential future drivers. Feeder series fans should definitely keep an eye on the free live stream on Sunday (even though the starting time of 04.15 GMT could scare off those who would like to sleep in on their day off).