Although Formula 1 racing is the pinnacle of high-powered racecars and is often the most represented in terms of market value, F2 is arguably the most popular of all of the Formula formats. Formula 2 cars are powerful racecars in their own right with a lot of raw energy under the hood.
F2 cars have a V6, 3.4L Mecachrome engine that is turbocharged and achieves 620hp at 8,750rpms. Once upon a time, F2 cars were significantly slower than F1 cars, however, that is no longer the case as they are closer than ever to the top-tier F1 format.
Newbies, just coming into the sport, would probably assume that there is a massive difference between F1 and F2, with a significant drop-off when you get into the F3, F4, and other, various formats.
Back in 2017, F2 racecars were timed in comparison with F1 cars on the same race tracks. The result was a 10-second difference in the time that it took the F2 car to reach the finish line, in comparison with the F1 car.
Of course, ten seconds seems like quite a long time, however, that was a little over five years ago now, and the difference has tightened even more. There is a lot to love about F2 and these cars are not slothfully dragging their way through the tracks.
They are fast, with enormous acceleration, and a lot of that zip of they break out of a turn and accelerate into a straightaway. The original, V8 engine was recently replaced with the V6 mentioned above, however, it is anything but a downgrade, adding 8hp over the original one.
F2 cars are very similar to their F1 counterparts. In fact, they use the same diameter Pirelli tires that you see in F1 racing, along with the same DSR, and the same halo protection features that the F1 car offers.
It's definitely a step up from F3 and F4, however, it's not far behind the overall dimensions of the F1, especially since the narrow divide between the two is getting more and more narrow as time goes on.
As we mentioned above, the engine in the F2 car was swapped out in 2018. The original V8 was plenty strong but Mecachrome, an Italian manufacturer, replaced it with a new, V6 variant that is ultimately stronger than the original V8.
The F2 can accelerate from 0 to 63mph in under 3 seconds and 125mph in 6.6 seconds. It can reach a maximum speed of 208mph, which rarely happens because most of the tracks are designed with short straightaways.
In terms of braking power, the force created at maximum brake is over three Gs. When it comes to F2 racing, all of the cars have the same components across the board, which makes it an attractive venue where the consumer wants to see competition based on driver skill, rather than engine superiority.
This is where the F2 and F1 cars are nearly identical. Both utilize tires that are manufactured by Pirelli with a lowered level of grip on the F2 tires, mostly because it would be overkill for a slower car.
F2 cars have tire rims that are 18” in diameter and each team has multiple sets of Pirelli tires, each with varying compounds that are designed to deal with changing track conditions. Some are designed for hot asphalt while others are for cool asphalt or damp tracks.
The width of the F2 tire is slightly smaller than the F1 variation with almost all of the other specs on the tires so close that the difference is largely negligible.
Mecachrome has been manufacturing engines at the Formula 2 level since prior to 2005. The 2005 engine in F2 racing is known as a 1st generation engine while the 2018 variation is considered to be 2nd generation.
The first gen engine was a V8 with a four-stroke piston—naturally aspirating engine. It was capable of 612hp at 10,000rpms. The engine was considered to be a prototype though it was continuously used under that label for nearly 13 years.
Mecachrome didn’t manufacture the electronic components of the engine, however, as that was left to Magneti Marelli, including the CDI ignition system. The water cooling pump and the engine management system all fell under the Magneti Marelli umbrella.
In 2018, Mecachrome introduced an all-new engine to Formula 2 racing. This one seemed at first to be a powered-down version, dropping from a V8 to a V6. However, the exact opposite is the case, at least in a few ways that are very significant out on the track.
The engine is labeled as a V634 Turbo engine, with a 3.4L direct-injection turbo charge. It was unveiled in 2017 and went into practical application in 2018. As of now, it is the only engine used in F2 racing and is likely to remain that way for some time. Or, at least until Mecachrome drops a 3rd generation version.
The first generation engine was an electronic injection system while Mecachrome decided to go with the gasoline direct injection for the second generation Formula 2 car. This added 8 horsepower to the original 612. Not a huge difference but a step up nonetheless.
The second generation engine is designed to last for 5,000 miles and each driver is only given one of them at the beginning of the racing season. If something goes wrong, however, they are allowed to rebuild them.
Today’s Formula 2, second-generation engine, manufactured by Mecachrome, is capable of 620hp at 8,750 rpm, which is higher than the 612hp at 10,000rpm that the first generation engine offered. The 1st gen lasted for nearly thirteen years so it will be interesting to see what the 3rd gen has to offer in the next decade or so.
(Top photo: Lukas Raich, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)