Is Dean a Formula One champ in the making?

If it hadn't been for the mass foot and mouth outbreak a decade ago, Dean Stoneman's life could have taken a very different road.

Back at the turn of the new millennium, he was just 10 and loved tearing it up on his motocross bike.

His family had moved down to Bishop's Waltham, near Fareham two years earlier and dad Colin, a property developer, had bought Dean the bike to race around their home's six-acre grounds.

'It wasn't anything serious at first,' says Dean, now 20. 'I was just enjoying myself.'

However, he soon got the racing bug.

'But then foot and mouth came,' says Dean, 'so for a whole season we couldn't go anywhere. If it wasn't for that outbreak, I don't know what I would be doing with my life now.'

He jokes: 'I guess I would probably be in motocross but with a few more broken bones.'

Deprived of his adrenaline fix on the bikes, he picked up karting instead, soon becoming a regular at Camberley Karting Club in Blackbushe, near Yateley.

After swapping two wheels for four, he climbed through the various formulae until getting to Formula Two – and winning the title in Valencia, Spain last month at his first attempt.

He shone amongst an international field of drivers, securing victories in Morocco, Belgium, Portugal, Germany and at Brands Hatch in the UK.

Going into the last F2 race, Dean knew he was in a commanding position. He had finished two places behind fellow Brit Jolyon Palmer in the previous day's race on the same circuit, knowing this gave him an unbeatable points advantage in the championship ranking.

He says: 'Everyone was giving me the same advice – just follow him home.

'When you are racing you don't feel any emotions at all, but when you get to the last corner of the last lap and you cross the line, that's when it kicks in.

'I felt so emotional.'

As champion, his prize is a test-drive for the Williams Formula One team in its current car. If he shines, he could follow other ex-karter and home-grown world champion Lewis Hamilton into GP2 and then the glamorous world of F1.

The test drive will take place in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates next month, just after the F1 season comes to a thrilling climax at the same circuit. He will also qualify for an FIA super licence, required to compete in all F1 grands prix.

Dean says: 'If I can prove myself to Williams, or another team likes what they see, I could be in Formula One next season.

'I'm just going to turn up and do what I do best: get in the car and drive as quickly as I can.'

He is certainly not short of confidence, adding: 'There's talk of Rubens Barrichello moving from Williams, so I might be able to replace him straight away. But I could go anywhere. I think I've got the ability to compete at that level.'

Dean says winning the F2 title means he is already getting recognised more. After he did a radio interview with the BBC, ex-Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine called him to offer congratulations and advice.

Meanwhile Formula Two Championship series director Jonathan Palmer, another ex-Grand Prix star, has paid tribute to Dean's performance throughout the 2010 season.

He said: 'Dean is an outstanding talent, being extremely quick, a tough fighter and very consistent. I am very confident Dean will prove the high standard of competition in F2 by performing impressively when he has his Williams F1 test drive.'

Palmer also hopes that Dean's success this year will inspire other drivers to follow in his footsteps in Formula Two next season.

'The fact that the affordable, level playing field of F2 has given Dean the opportunity to highlight his talent, without having a big budget, will undoubtedly inspire others.'

F1 HERO

So does Dean have a Formula One hero that he dreams of emulating?

He says: 'Everyone asks me who my favourite driver is, but I don't really have one, I've always looked at all of them and see what I admire in each one.'

But he does admit to liking the current F1 world championship leader, Red Bull's Australian driver Mark Webber, pictured below.

Dean says: 'I do like him – I like the way he drives.'

Even if he doesn't make it into F1, Dean hopes to carve a career in motorsport one way or another.

'Hopefully I can see myself in Formula One, but there are other paths if that doesn't work. I want to make a living out of this.'

DEAN'S CAREER SO FAR

2010: FIA F2 Championship – champion

2009: Awarded coveted BRDC Super Star Status

Formula Renault UK Championship

2008: Formula Renault UK Championship

- Graduate Cup Champion

AutosportBRDC Young Driver finalist

2007: Formula Renault UK Winter Cup

Formula Renault BARC- Vice-Champion

2006: Formula Renault BARC Championship, three races

Formula Super ICC – Champion

Super ICC Championships in France and Italy

2005: Junior Gearbox Karting, 4th overall

2004: Renault Formula JICA Super One Karting

Stars of Tomorrow JICA Karting

2003: Renault Formula JICA Super One Karting

Stars of Tomorrow JICA Karting

2002: Junior Rotax Max Karting

2001: Minimax Karting Championship

2000: Formula Cadets Karting

To find out more, go to deanstoneman.com

FORMULA TWO SERIES

The original Formula Two series ran from 1967 to 1984, when it was effectively replaced in the racing calendar by Formula 3000.

However, in 2009 it was reinstated as the FIA Formula Two Championship, with Dean Stoneman becoming the second champion in the revived era.

All 25 of the drivers compete in identical cars, designed by the Williams F1 team.

The Fdration Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) considers it a direct stepping stone to F1, and because all the cars are the same it keeps the costs relatively low.

Each season consists of 18 rounds at nine venues across Europe between April and September, including two each at Brands Hatch and Silverstone in England.