For loads of folk out there it’s a dream to become an F1 driver – but can you really make that dream a reality?
Now, this probably isn’t going to give you too much hope if, like me, you’re in your mid-thirties (or mid-twenties or mid-forties, for that matter), as the majority of the F1 drivers started their F1 career behind the wheel of a kart by the age of ten.
If you’ve got a kid who wants to get into F1, then get them down to a local karting club – visit karting.co.uk for a good list of tracks and competitions in your region.
Next, get down to a racing school – there are loads of decent ones around the UK, and all teach pupils the very basics of how to handle a powerful single-seater vehicle.
Nigel Mansell now runs Devon’s best karting circuit, Mansell Raceway, helping children train for motorsport career of their very own. In an interview with BBC Sport, Mansell acknowledged that it’s just not that easy to get into motorsport, and it’s not just a case of having that elusive, magic “talent” that we hear about.
“Motorsport is a roulette wheel,” said the 1992 world champion. “It’s very tough, and sometimes even the most talented individuals will not be able to keep going in the sport.”
“I was one of the lucky ones, but opportunities can be limited. You could get an amount of money together, race for one or two seasons in motorsport, but if you haven’t made a position or a name for yourself then you can fade away,” Nige added.
The next rung on the ladder to F1 stardom is to get into Formula Renault or Formula 3 – If you can afford it.
It costs around £400,000 per year for everything, including young drivers insurance, for a competitive seat in British F3, although this outlay is considered to be an essential investment in a young driver’s career, because a successful career in F3 can lead to a place in World Series by Renault, GP2, or perhaps even an F1 test seat.
Then, if you’re lucky enough to get through that stage, get yourself into a good team, work hard and win yourself a few podiums or perhaps even the odd win. Easy – once you’ve got past forking out £400k.
If you perform consistently highly in your class and grab those F1 bosses’ attention. And it’s not just all about performance or connections – it’s a healthy mix of these with perseverance. Take Lewis Hamilton, for example, who, aged just 10 years old, approached Ron Dennis at the Autosport Awards ceremony to tell him, “I want to race for you one day. I want to race for McLaren.”
At just 13-years-old, Hamilton was recruited to McLaren and Mercedes-Benz’s Young Driver Support Programme and coached for F1 championship success with them.
A good agent with sound connections in motorsport and media is necessary to help promote you, as is sponsorship or funding to help pay for your expensive career.
So reaching F1 race level immediately is just not an option – it takes years of dedication, a strong and determined character, and years of honing race strategy in the various levels of motorsport.
Thanks to MoneySupermarket for this article