It is a dream many parents would like to make true: get their children into Formula One.
The easiest part of this adventure is giving young children an experience about motor racing. It is well-known that getting into this sport is very difficult and expensive. Until few years ago, the exact cost has been a top secret: now it is not! The first step is to race on a local kart track. After there is a bewildering range of options to go forward to get into Formula 1. One of the most difficult task, it is to select the best route to choose.
Some former Formula 1 pilot created the word “Formula 1 pyramid” to explain the selection process to allow a driver to race on a Grand Prix. The last step is wide and full of many pilots while the tip of the pyramid is very small and only one place is left: a space for the Formula 1 champion. For every seat available, a number of drivers will struggle to obtain it, each one with different backgrounds or experience.
After karting, one championship useful to help you to go into Formula 1, is Formula 3 category (79,2% of F1 drivers competed in this category). Another one is Formula Renault (58,3% of F1 drivers competed in this category. Daniel raced in this category before to go to Formula 1). Last good option is GP2 category (48,5% of drivers competed in this category before to move to F1).
Another solution is to drive in those two series tied to manufacturers but they make use of similar car designing to highlight the most talented drivers. Those series are Formula BMW and Formula Renault 3,5. One expert, at steering young drivers into motorsport, is Toto Wolff. Team principal of F1 racing team Mercedes, Toto knows really in depth the selection process of young driver before they can race in Formula 1:
“If somebody is very talented, it is necessary to spend around € 1 million of karting to compete through junior, senior and international races. Next step is to do at least one season of Formula 4 or Formula Renault. This might cost another € 350,000 if it is done properly.
It is not over, you need € 650,000 to race with a Formula 3 and you have reached € 2 million. It is possible you will need to dp another season of Formula 3 so you are at € 2,6 million and you have not done any season of GP2 or World Series. Suppose you have already spent € 3 million and you must be an extraordinary talent otherwise the price is going to increase.
Next is GP2 category. This is another € 1,5 million to invest. If you want to be competitive, you are going to spend € 4,5 million or 5 € million but you have done only one year of GP2.
You are not so far from getting into Formula One but it is not done yet. You need another € 2 million to € 3 million to get there. At the end, we are talking about € 7 million to € 8 million: we can round-up to € 8 million but only if you are a talent pilot.
Right now, it is impossible to bring that cost down because we are talking about a business. You need to have a rich father.
The most useful route to F1 is right now Formula Three. There are many cars almost 40 and it is a wonderful training.
I would like to set-up a Mercedes young program up again. There is just one problem, I can not give them a proper access. It is impossible to afford to take any risk. I need to have the best guys in the cars. To find them, they must get a good experience, this is the reason I will never take somebody without any experience”
One of the brighest talent outside F1 is New Zeland’s pilot: Mitch Evans. His story is very good to explain what is going to happen if you are very talented but without money:
“The best route at the moment is Formula Three. In the last couple of years, some of the best F1 pilots have come from Formula 3. This is probably the race series I would select for my son.
I received different offers from a number of top teams, even Red Bull and Ferrari. They called me to go on their junior schemes but it was necessary to provide some money. Every driver must do it, it does not matter if your name is Carlos Sainz junior, Daniel Ricciardo or Lewis Hamilton. It does not matter who is the pilot , they have to bring some money. Those are guys who come from wealthy families, money is not an issue but in my case I did not have that option.
Many driver development schemes are jokes because you have to pay to be there. Everybody is paying through the roof to be there.
I mean, a lot of it is just to place a foot in a F1 team but without money is almost impossible.
If you come from Australia, it is definitely better than from New Zeland. There are only four million people in my country, it is very hard to get a sponsor while in other countries is a bit less difficult”
Inside this intricate F1 world, promises are rarely made. This scheme, pay to drive, may seem a modern concept but it is something created with racing itself. Even Jaun Manuel Fangio obtained funding from the government of Argentina to race and won five titles during 1950s.
Sir Jackie Stewart former F1 champion, explains what might be a solution to this problem:
“This idea to pay to drive is a very unfortunate thing.
One option is to make the cars less easy to drive. Almost anybody can go fast in this car, if it is a performant Formula 1 car. Anybody can get in those cars and almost immediately drive them. There is something to change and the engineers should come with some solutions because we are to a point where too many people can drive them.
The cars must be tougher to drive, it would be a perfect way to select the best drivers instead to choose those with money”
There is not doubt you need to find a good amount of money to compete in this motor-sport. If you do not have it, last option is the WEC. They have a reputation to select drivers based on their ability and not their bank account. Now you know what is necessary to do to become a F1 pilot. Share this information to those looking to become a F1 driver…
Do not give-up: nobody said it was going to be easy!