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Since the very earliest days of motor racing there had been a small car class, whether it was termed "light cars" or later "voiturette". Formula 2 was introduced as a less-powerful and less-expensive supporting category at the start of 1948. F1 was the elite but when race promoters and the governing body deemed that there were not enough competitive such constructors to challenge Ferrari, the World Championship was run to F2 rules in 1952 and 1953.
The category briefly disappeared once new F1 rules were introduced in 1954 but F2 had re-emerged by the end of the decade. That was a series of non-championship events before the introduction of new 1600cc engines coincided with the new FIA European F2 Championship in 1967.
Although Grand Prix drivers often used to compete in F2, it was decided at this time that the new European Champion should be an emerging driver on his way up the racing ladder. Experienced drivers were therefore ineligible to score championship points (see Graded Drivers). The series gave newcomers the opportunity to compare their skills with the likes of Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, and the formula's then acknowledged master, Jochen Rindt.
The maximum engine capacity was increased to 2000cc in 1972, and the championship was held until the dwindling number of competitors led to its replacement after the 1984 season by the newly announced Formula 3000. While the category nurtured many a talent – drivers, engineers and teams – its critics claimed that it failed to foster new Grand Prix stars. No F2 champion went on to win the world title and the sport's hottest prospects such as Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, and Nelson Piquet bypassed the formula by moving straight from F3 to F1.
A driver was A-graded by the FIA when he had finished in the top six in two GPs, or in the top three in two or more World Sportscar Championship events, or a combination of these during the previous two seasons. In addition, the European F2 Champion was graded for one season and F1 World Champions for five years. A-graded drivers were ineligible to score F2 points.