We all know Formula 1 is expensive. It’s expensive to participate in as a team and even as a driver with the pervasive pay-driver scenario these days. We all know that but how much does it cost to be a part of the F1 feeder series such as GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5?
Thanks to a very nice article by our friend Christian Sylt, we get a glimpse behind the curtain at the costs to just have a chance to make it to the big show in F1. Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, shared the details:
“If somebody is talented, very talented, you probably need to spend €1 million in karting through junior, senior and international races,” says Wolff. “You need at least a season in F4 or Formula Renault which is another €350,000 if you do it properly. You need €650,000 for an F3 season so we are at €2 million. You probably need another season of F3 so you are at €2.6 million or €2.7 million and then you haven’t done any GP2 or World Series. So let’s say you are at €3 million if you are an extraordinary talent.
“GP2 is another €1.5 million so probably, if you want to be on the safe side, you are around €4.5 million and €5 million and you have only done one year of GP2. You are on the verge of getting into Formula One but you are not in there. You need another €2 million to €3 million to get the drive. So you are talking about €7 million to €8 million so let’s call it $8 million.”
So if you are young, a really good driver and fancy taking a crack at a F1 ride, you’ll need $8 million and chances are, even then, you won’t get the ride.
It’s an interesting read and I recommend checking it out as there are some nice graphics and more detail on junior series team budgets but one thing that stood out for me was the story of Mitch Evans and his quest to be in F1:
“I’ve had offers from a number of top teams, including Red Bull and Ferrari, to go on their junior schemes, but I still had to provide some money,” says Evans. “Every driver, whether it’s Carlos, whether it’s Daniel, it doesn’t matter who it is, they still have to bring some money and it is probably more than meets the eye. And those are guys who come from wealthy families so it’s not an issue but I don’t have that option.
“A lot of driver development schemes are smoke and mirrors in terms of the drivers paying to be there. They are paying through the roof to be there. So a lot of it is just about getting a foot in an F1 team in a roundabout way.”
“There can be benefits if it all goes well but there aren’t many drivers who have come through. There are some like Vettel, Ricciardo, now Carlos and I guess Lewis from the McLaren days. So you benefit but the chances are very slim either way you do it.”
The fact is, merit alone will not get you to the big show and while many bemoan the pay-driver scenario, it’s been a part of racing for a very, very long time. Senna himself—as good as he was—paid for a seat.
The article also speaks about Sam Bird and Will Stevens as they try to forge careers in F1 and motorsport in general. The WEC seems to be a series slightly more concerned about merit than a driver’s ability to pay but even that series has similar earmarks and is by no means cheap to get in to.
Sir Jackie Stewart says he feels the cars might be par of the problem:
“For one thing, and this may sound bad, but the cars currently seem to be too easy to drive,” says Sir Jackie. “Almost anybody can go fast in a Formula One car, if it’s a decent Formula One car. Anybody can get in those cars almost immediately and drive them. So therefore there’s something wrong that the engineering has come to a point where too many people can drive them.”
Make the cars harder to drive and fewer people will be able to do it well meaning the driver market would be based less on his wallet and more on his talent. Would that work? It’s what Nikki Lauda has been espousing too. The cars are too easy to drive and the money to pervasive in the series that relies on the cash just to balance the books. Concerning times to be sure when the feeder series costs are $8 million or more.
Hat Tip: Raconteur