Ready for F1? Bring $8 million in cash

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

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I am sorry to say but I disagree with Sir Jackie. Have a read of the piece in the UK F1 Magazine about driving F1 cars by Martin Brundle. Getting them fast these days is pretty challenging. There is a lot going on in the cockpits as you rocket around. They have so much grip they look easy, but they are anything but.


I think it would be useful to make a distinction between driving the car and operating the car. Driving the car consists of application of throttle, braking, and steering inputs. Doing those things in order to hustle your vehicle around the track as quickly as possible is what (I believe) Sir Jackie and Mr Lauda mean. I would add that is what most people would think in this context. I think we have enough testimony from those who should know – Alonso among them – to know that that aspect of driving is substantially easier than at times past. Operating… Read more »


Off topic spoiler…..Given that I see a lot of p*** poor driving by normal people when I am out and about I would argue that a lot of people don’t have the ability (and hence deserve) to be behind the wheel of a normal easy to drive car.
On topic though. I have no problem with the cars being absurdly complicated to drive. The distractions just allow the innated talent to come to the surface


innate….. typing with glasses off not a good idea


These figures just go to show that everyone is a pay driver really. They have all had to fund many years of racing in junior categories before they are ever paid to race. Even Max Verstappen has been racing for nearly a decade before F1, and Lewis Hamilton (who was signed by McLaren at twelve) had four years to fund.

Dr T

Did you know even taxi cabs are now using pay drivers – can’t be a cab driver on merit anymore

Dr T

Wolff explains that, “it’s not possible to bring that cost down because it has become a business so you need to have a sugar daddy or a rich daddy.”

Aha… that’s how you score a Williams development driver role…



Tom Firth

I think the WEC point is rather debatable, I’d argue that hiring drivers for talent over money is more the anomaly rather than the rule, outside of the LMP1 factories and in most instances GTE PRO. The other two classes, as least the Am driver in the pairing is bringing alot of money, and not in every case, brimming with talent.