The second season of the FIA Formula Two Championship got underway at Silverstone this weekend, but the standard of drivers on its entry list is threatening the series' growth.

Last year, the series had names like Soucek, Wickens, Aleshin, Jousse, Bortolotti and Pavlovic. This year though, you'll struggle to find any such names. Champion Soucek has become a tester for Virgin Racing, Aleshin has returned to Formula Renault 3.5, while Wickens and Bortolotti have moved to GP3.

Two of the favourites for 2010 are second year drivers Kazim Vasiliauskas and Philipp Eng, who finished last year in 7th and 8th respectively. Other second year drivers are Nicola de Marco and Armaan Ebrahim. Expect them to remain around the midfield this year. Three Brits return from last year; Jolyon Palmer, Jack Clarke and Tom Gladdis. Between them they only managed to score a handful of points after their graduation from Formula Palmer Audi and, in Gladdis' case, Star Mazda. However, this year they look set to be regulars at the front.

Its the newcomers that really lack the quality. Euroseries 3000 Will Bratt will be up there, as will Formula Master frontrunner Sergey Afanasyev. The lack of quality is shown best though by the fact that Johan Jokinen, who failed to score in 2009's F3 Euroseries, and Dean Stoneman, who finished fourth in Formula Renault UK, are amongst the F2 frontrunners. Arriving from the back of the Formula Renault 3.5 field, Mihai Marinescu will be found in the midfield, as will Formula Renault 2.0's Benjamin Lariche and Formula Renault 1.6 champion Benjamin Bailly. Ivan Samarin comes from the Russian Formula Three Championship, but who knows who good that is?

Further at the back are FPA graduate Paul Rees, Formula Master backmarker Kelvin Snoeks, ex-A1GP driver Parthiva Sureshwaren, Polish female Natalia Kowalska and oil-funded Ricardo Texeira. Bringing up the very rear are the inexperienced 37-year-old Bulgarian Plamen Kralev and 38-year-old Indian actor Ajith Kumar.

In terms of driver quality, F2 has dropped below Formula Renault 3.5, F3 Euroseries and has been further displaced in the single-seater pecking order by GP3. Even the revised Auto GP series can boast Giorgio Pantano and other names in its original A1 GP cars. F2 really needs to sort itself out if it is to hold its own.
The 2010 Formula Three Euroseries kicks off this weekend with a round at Paul Ricard in support of the Le Mans Series. The size of its grid though has become a concern, with only 13 Dallaras taking part.

The 13 drivers are spread between just five teams, taking either two or three drivers each. Each of the teams was supposed to have five cars, but Mucke and Prema both failed to find drivers for their third cars.

One reason for this, away from the usual financial issues, is the birth of the GP3 Series. Successful F3 teams Manor and Carlin have both moved to the new series, lured by the promise of a series that is as successful as its parent, GP2, with both teams also looking to take the empty 13th slot in the Formula 1 feeder series.

GP3 is positioning itself at exactly the same level as the F3 Euroseries, but it has the draw of being a support series for F1, giving drivers a better chance to impress team bosses. The return of Formula Two last year has also contributed to the grid size issue for F3.

However, as title contender Alexander Sims has pointed out, the Euroseries line-up for 2010 has still got its quality, even if it has lost quantity. Sims lines up with teammate and Williams tester Valterri Bottas as the dominant ART, but Edoardo Mortara has stepped down from GP2 to the improving Signature team, and will hope to maintain the form that saw him win the Macau Grand Prix in Novemeber.

The question is, if the Euroseries continues to struggle, what can it do? It was formed with a merger of the French and German national championships in 2003. The German championship was replaced by the ATS F3 Cup, but there is now no F3 series in France. One option would be to merge with the German Cup and run as a German-only series. Another option would be to also have a separate series for France, but interest would probably be limited.

The Spanish F3 Championship has grown in recent years, and recently was renamed the European F3 Open. Could the Euroseries merge with this developing series? Another potential option would be to join up with Stephane Ratel's British F3 Championship.

I believe that one option could be to join all these series together to maintain a European series, but the calendar could continue to have a certain amount, say 4, races in each participating country. This would allow for the national championships to remain as, for example, smaller British teams that did not want to compete in the European events could continue to compete for a British title. This would help to keep grid numbers up, but there would still be a core of frontrunners from teams such as ART, Carlin and Signature.

For now though, the F3 Euroseries is still going, and 2010 looks set to be a good fight between Sims, Bottas and Mortara, with maybe a few others getting involved too. It does seem though, that GP3 could be one junior formula too many.
It appears that double British Touring Car Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi could line up on the grid at Thruxton this weekend. According to Italiaracing.net, the Italian will drive the second Triple Eight Vauxhall Vectra, despite the team losing its official Vauxhall backing at the end of last season.

Giovanardi, who won the title in 2007 and 2008 for the Triple Eight-run, Vauxhall backed VX Racing squad, has been left without a drive after the manufacturer withdrew its support for Triple Eight. He had been rumoured with a switch to GM sister-brand Chevrolet and its WTCC team, but this did not come about. He was also linked with a move to the increasingly popular Superstars Series, based in Italy.

It was looking increasingly likely that Giovanardi would have to sit on the sidelines for 2010, due to the economic climate reducing the number of paid drives available. However, having announced Clio Cup champion Phil Glew last week, Triple Eight look set to announce Giovanardi in the #888 entry tomorrow. This speculation was heightened further when the offical BTCC twitter, @DunlopBTCC, announced this evening "....no news from 888 re its 'top name' driver. All should be revealed tomorrow...".

If Giovanardi does line-up with Triple Eight on Sunday, it'll provide another big name driver capable of stopping Chevrolet's Jason Plato from taking the title, following the news that reigning champion Colin Turkington would miss the beginning of the season due to a lack of funds.

Stay tuned to @Frontofthegrid for the latest.

Photo Credit: Phillip Roberts