F1 driver draft system? Driver contract limits?

It’s Saturday and as my friend in M83 says, Saturday=Youth so with the strains of “we own the sky” playing in the background, I set about reading the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, as is routine, and then moved to email and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s new Orphée disc and some online Formula 1 news.

What caught my eye was a piece over at the Independent concerning a three-time world champion’s father who goes by the name Anthony Hamilton. Now my observations of Anthony over the years have been well documented on this website so I won’t engage in re-hashing hints and allegations but let’s just say that Anthony has had a primary, secondary and now tertiary relationship with Formula 1 over the years.

In the beginning, he picked up the kid off a couch in Stevenage and got him in front of McLaren’s Ron Dennis who financed his progress to the F1 world title in 2008. After crashing a Porsche into a playground and orchestrating a Turkish opera stunt for his son, Anthony swung his weight around the McLaren garage like a 2-ton heavy thing and eventually fractured his relationship with his son only to begin managing F1 driver careers that ended in court litigation with Paul di Resta.

It’s been a bit of a noble effort and sacrifice for his son’s career only to suffer from instant celebrity and fortunes to a more realistic life correction and I can’t fault him for any of it. I get it. I understand how this could happen to anyone so my critique of Anthony is one of observatory acuteness and not moral judgment.

What I was interested in is his comments regarding the current driver system in F1 as juxtaposed with just a mere eight years ago. I’m not quite sure if the following concept is Anthony’s as it’s not in quote but placed between two quote from Hamilton. As such, it could be a notion Hamilton himself relayed to author, Christian Sylt or simply a concept that the two discussed as a possible solution. Either way, there’s nothing untoward about it or who said it rather than an interesting point of discussion, I just didn’t want to ascribe it to Anthony if Christian actually proffered the concept. I’ve italicized the portion I’m speaking of that isn’t in quotes:

“F1 could end up with the majority of drivers paying for their drives, rather than earning them through being a junior champion,” says Hamilton. This could be prevented by introducing a driver draft and selection process that only allows the best through on merit alone. If a driver failed to meet performance targets after two years he could be replaced with another to ensure that the racing stays unpredictable.

“You could also limit the drivers’ contracts with a team to three years so that the leaders would have to trade with their rivals below them. It would give others an opportunity to get the best drivers and to win races and ultimately championships. The dominance of one team and driver for several years has had its day. Drivers managing tyres, engines, and not being allowed to race the pants off the race car is not real seat of the pants motor racing like it used to be. Mixing it up would be great for the sport and the public who want to see the best racing drivers, real competition and exciting racing.”

If F1’s new owners were interested in bringing an American vibe to the series with team ownership potential and perhaps a new, more direct path toward F1 for young drivers (which the FIA was supposed to be doing and have done with their license points system), they may be interested in creating an American style driver draft system like we have in the NFL. I’m just not quite sure how fans would react to that. Would you follow driver draft day and the junior series more closely in order to see who would go for which driver etc?

As Anthony and Christian bring up in this article, I’m not sure you would be able to mandate a 3-year limit on driver contracts unless you had all teams signatory to this agreement and that would/could place serious concerns for long-term sponsor investment. Imagine investing in Mercedes only to know that it will be attached to the brand Lewis Hamilton for only 18 more months etc. You’d only be looking for investment behind major driver names at the beginning of their contracts in order to make the most of their sponsor commitments.

I could argue that this is happening already, and it probably is, but with a line in the sand and a mandate that they must move to a different team, that would add a dynamic that isn’t present today.

What do you think about the driver draft system or contract limits for drivers?

Hat Tip: the Independent

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Who, me? Okay…I’ll start the discussion at our table over here in the corner… I think this is a BRILLIANT idea no matter WHO said it. Not the 3-year cap, because that will not work. It takes YEARS to build the momentum and F1 program up to a championship winning team obviously. Brawn and Merce Et.al brought the talent world on-board and it took a long time to arrive where they are, as will Ferrari again, McLaren (right?) and Williams. What is intriguing to me are 2 things that I personally believe need to happen. (1) Eliminate the awkward elevator… Read more »

Fred Talmadge

As a team owner I don’t think I want someone working for me that doesn’t want to be there.

Negative Camber

I can understand that too. I wonder, though, if their career depended on performance and the possibility of being retained in another team, would they just phone it in or would they try hard even if they didn’t completely want to be there?

Paul KieferJr

If the top level teams had contractual arrangements with the lower tiers (ala baseball), it might work. Draft? I dunno. I’ve never known any sort of auto racing league do a draft..

charlie white

I can see the teams being the primary speed bump over the driver draft idea. I remember some team vs. team squabbles over drivers and contracts(Ralf Schumacher, Jenson Button). I would love for teams to choose drivers based on skill than sponsorship deals attached to them


One of the teams beefs against a draft system would be all the investment they make in young drivers careers. What’s the point of having a Red Bull or Ferrari Driver academy that sponsors youngsters if you have to put them all into a general talent pool and then draft them out and hope you get them? If you want to stop Pay drivers in F1 you have to target the actual problems. 1. Put in more stringent minimum requirements for drivers to get a super license and actually enforce them! 2. Make the penalty system more consistent but enforce… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

In Baseball, they draft the talent but they still let them develop, be it college or contracted minor league teams. That way, when the player is ready, he’s still beholden to the team that drafted him.


Wrt item 1: Increasing the difficulty of becoming a qualified driver is going to make it more expensive. Making it more expensive will increase the likelihood that a driver is going to need outside money (sponsorships) in order to survive. Forbidding sponsorships once the driver has “made it” eliminates a significant portion of the return on investment that a sponsor would expect for investing in a driver’s early years. The higher up front investment, combined with the dramatically lower expected returns, makes it increasingly likely that fewer sponsors will invest in a driver’s early years. Lack of funds in the… Read more »


To paraphrase the immortal words of Steve Matchett: This sounds more like a curly sandwiches” issue. The current system may not be great, but there are so many other issues that one would want to tackle first… I. Can’t. Even.


We are told time and time again that this is a TEAM sport. So if we are to start drafting drivers, we should probably start drafting the engineering, support and the pit crews as well. “I’ll trade you a first round driver for an engineer and a top shelf data analyst to be named later”