Formula 1 features the 20 best drivers in the world. Becoming one of these 20 drivers is not an easy task, but it’s not impossible by any means. There are a lot of factors to consider if you want to become a Formula 1 driver, but you might wonder just how hard it is.
It is very hard to become an F1 driver, and even making it past the karting level is difficult. Formula 1 is made up of the best drivers in the world, and there are only 20 seats available, with tough competition for each one. It’s also estimated to cost about $10 million to make it to F1.
With only 20 seats available it’s incredibly difficult to keep your seat once you’ve made it to Formula 1 as well. Below, we’ll discuss just how hard it is to get to Formula 1, and we’ll go over your chances of making it to the top.
Your Chances Of Becoming An F1 Driver
Formula 1 has always been known as an elite sport, and that remains the same today. With 20 of the best drivers in the world on the grid, making it to Formula 1 is incredibly difficult, and the chances for any given driver – no matter how talented you are – are extremely slim of making it to the top tier of motorsport.
There are a lot of requirements that a driver needs to meet in order to make it to Formula 1. But above all else, they’re going to need a lot of luck when it comes to being in the right place at the right time. Meeting the right people that will sponsor your racing career or introduce you to a team principal is crucial to your success.
Getting Through The Early Stages
Oftentimes some of the most talented drivers don’t even make it past karting because they lacked the other elements they needed to become a Formula 1 driver, or they were just unlucky to miss their big break. Aspiring Formula 1 drivers are under a lot of pressure to perform at their best at all times, both in and out of the car, and one mistake could end your entire career.
In Formula 1’s 70 year history there have only been 770 drivers in total. In the same time frame, there have been millions of racing drivers who have tried their luck at landing a seat in Formula 1. This shows that very few people succeed at making it to Formula 1.
KEY POINTS• It’s very difficult to get into Formula 1
• Thousands of people are on the motorsport ladder all around the world
• Only 20 full-time drivers are ever in Formula 1 at one time
How Long Does It Take To Become An F1 Driver?
It can take anywhere from 10 to 15 years of racing to become an F1 driver, depending on the driver and their circumstances. In general, drivers start racing at the age of six, and they tend to reach Formula 1 in their early 20s if all goes according to plan on the motorsport ladder.
Drivers usually spend several years in karting before moving onto junior single seaters. Drivers will only be allowed to race in junior single seaters at the age of at least 14, which means that drivers could expect to spend between five and eight years in karting depending on their starting age.
Once a driver steps into single seater cars their progress should speed up. On average, a driver might spend around two years in each category, depending on how well they perform. It’s rare for a driver to make their way through each category without needing more than one season to win the title.
Some drivers can become ‘stuck’ in one category, such as Formula 2 for example. Drivers could even spend as many as four or five years fighting for the Formula 2 title and waiting for a Formula 1 seat to open up. Even when they do make it to Formula 1, waiting for a competitive car could take even longer. But it’s not just time that matters, as you need money too.
How Much Does It Cost To Become An F1 Driver?
It can cost about $10 million to become an F1 driver if you start at the bottom of the motorsport ladder in karting and then work your way up through the junior formulas. This cost can be lower or it can be higher, but it’s clear that funding is vital if you want to become a Formula 1 driver.
One of the main obstacles that prevent young racing drivers from reaching Formula 1 is the cost involved. It can cost 8 figures for a driver to go from karting all the way into Formula 1. This makes it arguably the most expensive sport to get into.
Of course, there are very few families who can support their drivers with such immense costs, which is why having financial backing from sponsors is essential to becoming a Formula 1 driver. It’s impossible for the average or even upper class family to get a driver into Formula 1 without sponsors.
Even at the karting level, the cheapest and most basic form of motorsport, you can expect to spend around $10,000 just to get started. What makes motorsport more expensive than other sports is that you need to pay just to practice. And in racing, practice is absolutely essential to the success of a driver.
With seats becoming more and more difficult to find the higher you go up the motorsport ladder, you can expect to pay incredible amounts of money just to secure a seat for one season. When it comes to FIA Formula 3 and Formula 2, drivers need to pay millions of dollars just for one season of racing.
KEY POINTS• It can take 10+ years of racing to make it to F1, with double that being likely for many
• It can also cost $10 million to make it from the bottom of the motorsport ladder all the way to F1
• This makes patience, dedication and sponsor backing vital for aspiring F1 drivers
Do You Need Any Qualifications To Become An F1 Driver?
You don’t need any qualifications to become an F1 driver. Due to the fact that the majority of drivers that reach F1 are in their early 20s, they often don’t have the time or the need to go to college or university and get a degree anyway. Talent and funding are far more important.
Racing drivers will be focused on FIA Formula 2 and Formula 3 when they leave school. At this point their career as a racing driver (although not necessarily a Formula 1 driver) is solidified, which means that they can easily carry over to another series to become a professional racing driver without having any qualifications (as long as they’re good enough).
KEY FACT: The most important factors to consider when becoming a Formula 1 driver are experience, finances, and skills
There are some qualifications that can be beneficial to a Formula 1 driver. For instance, studying physics or mechanical engineering will help the driver to have a better understanding of their car. Nevertheless, drivers spend over a decade driving and working with cars and will naturally develop their mechanical knowledge simply through their time in motorsport.
What You Need To Become A Formula 1 Driver
The first element that a prospective F1 driver needs is dedication. There are thousands of drivers that aim to make it to Formula 1 one day. Many of them have big budgets and a lot of them also have incredible skills to boot. If you want to make it in the world of motorsport, you need to have the dedication to go up against the best drivers in the world.
One of the most crucial ingredients here is the input from the driver’s parents. Each driver has their own motivation, but at the end of the day they need to be pushed if they are going to make it against the best drivers in the world. If drivers aren’t pushed from an early age, it’s simply unlikely they’ll progress to the top. This is the same for any sport, not just Formula 1.
The motorsport world is an incredibly tough place, and oftentimes drivers will encounter tough situations such as patches of poor form, difficulty finding sponsors, and even finding race seats. Drivers need to be able to persevere through these difficult scenarios and keep believing in themselves.
When it comes to making it into Formula 1, experience counts for a lot. Formula 1 teams won’t choose inexperienced drivers to race in their cars. While making their way up through the motorsport ladder, drivers need to take part in as many racing series as they possibly can. The more experience they can pick up at a young age the better.
Just like with other careers, the more you race, the better you get. Drivers who have spent a lot of time in different cars have had the time to develop their skills and have built up more flexibility and adaptability when it comes to driving different cars, which makes it easier for them to adjust to Formula 1.
Motorsport requires experience before a driver can start to perform well. This is especially true in the smaller series on the motorsport ladder such as karting, where we often see drivers being more fearful rather than simply being too slow to compete. This fear subsides as drivers get more experience.
Of course, building experience is not easy in motorsport. The more time a driver spends in a car, the more they need to pay. At the end of the day, the only way to become more experienced is to have the budget for it, which is often not possible for the majority of racing drivers.
Another crucial element that racing drivers need is fitness. Something that’s often lacking in the junior motorsport ladder is the fitness levels that drivers need to get the better over their opponents. Being fit enough can help a driver push harder for much longer.
During karting races, especially those at a more amateur level, you can often see which drivers are fitter than others. It’s easy to spot the drivers that start dropping off in pace towards the end of the race, and a lot of the time this is simply down to fatigue.
Fitness only becomes more and more important the higher the driver goes up the motorsport ladder. As the cars get faster, the G forces acting on the drivers’ bodies become more severe. When the drivers reach Formula 1, they have to withstand up to 6 G’s in some of the fastest corners.
Even at the Formula 4 level drivers start to take their fitness more seriously. This means that a young driver really can’t afford to overlook this aspect of themselves as they will only begin to fall behind their competition, especially in the long run.
Being able to speak in front of people and conduct interviews in front of cameras is not something that everyone has an easy time with. But it’s one of the most important parts of being a Formula 1 driver. As a global sport, the superstars are always at the center of attention.
Working on public relations from a young age will be beneficial to any driver. It’s not always about being able to speak well in front of a crowd either. Drivers must be able to think outside of the box when it comes to securing sponsorship for their careers as well, which is why public relations is very important in Formula 1.
Sponsorship is no longer just about sticking a company’s logo on the side of the car. Drivers need to be able to offer the same value back to the company that’s sponsoring them. This becomes more and more difficult the higher you go up the ladder. When you get to Formula 2 you need to offer millions of dollars in ROI for your sponsors.
Public relations is not just the team’s job in modern Formula 1. Drivers need to be just as proactive in securing sponsors and keeping fans happy. Daniel Ricciardo is the perfect example of a driver who has excellent marketing skills because he stands out from the other drivers on the grid by being unique, thus appealing to sponsors and fans alike.
If you want to make it in any field of motorsport, and not just as a driver, networking is crucial. Oftentimes it’s not about what you know, but more about who you know, and this is the most important factor that an aspiring Formula 1 driver can learn. Making the right connections can carry a driver’s career a long way.
Of course, a driver still needs the skills and dedication to make it to Formula 1. However, being able to network effectively and knowing the right people can go a long way. From securing race seats to finding sponsors who are willing to pay millions of dollars, strong networking skills can get you high up the motorsport ladder.
Networking is never easy though, and a young driver might be too shy to go up to CEOs and marketing managers to introduce themselves. But sometimes it’s moments like these that can lead to a driver’s big break. Landing that one sponsor who will stick with them for their entire career, or meeting that team boss who will offer them a discounted race seat – it all comes from networking.
Networking is a skill that you need to work on, and you’re not born with it. If a driver learns how to effectively build their network from a young age, it becomes easier for them when they are older. Drivers will need their networking skills the most when they reach the junior single seater stage. This is the stage where they need to really fight for race seats and sponsors.
KEY POINTS• Prospective F1 drivers must have patience and dedication throughout their racing careers
• They also need to put a focus on fitness, as racing is a tough and physically demanding sport
• Being able to market yourself well is key to building a network and getting sponsors
Is It Harder To Become An F1 Driver Now Than In The Past?
It’s not necessarily harder to become an F1 driver now than in the past, as the sport has never been easy to get into. Whether it was 1956 or 2006, becoming an F1 driver has always required dedication, funding, and talent, and so it has always been and always will be difficult to get into Formula 1.
Formula 1 is a sport that has never been easy to get into. As the pinnacle of motorsport, it’s always been known as the playground of the rich and famous. In other words, the money factor has always been there, and drivers have always had to spend a lot of money before they reach Formula 1.
Super Licence Points
With the introduction of the Super Licence points system in 2015, you could argue that it then became harder to get into F1. Drivers have to accumulate at least 40 Super Licence points before they are allowed to race in Formula 1. Drivers therefore also need to prove themselves worthy of a seat through their performance in a junior category.
Each category has a different number of Super Licence points that the driver can be rewarded with. Each championship position also gives the driver a different number of points. For example, winning the Formula 2 title allows the driver to go straight into Formula 1 as they are awarded 40 points, but they’ll likely have accumulated many points before this anyway.
When Is It Too Late To Become A Formula 1 Driver?
It’s probably too late to become a Formula 1 driver if you haven’t started racing by the time you’re 15, or if you’re not in F2 (or equivalent) by age 25. With many F1 drivers racing karts from as young as 6 years old, the level of competition simply means you need to start early.
Racing drivers are determined and dedicated and will chase their goal for as long as it takes before they reach it. However, at some point a driver has to understand when it’s time to move on to the next step in their career.
Each driver is at a unique stage in their career which makes it difficult to understand when it’s the right time to give up on becoming a Formula 1 driver. It’s important to remember that missing out on Formula 1 does not mean that you have failed as a racing driver. Out of millions of racing drivers, there have only been 770 (so far) that made it to F1 in the entire history of the sport.
The Cut-Off Point
When a driver reaches the age of 25 it’s often too late to make it into Formula 1 (at the Formula 2 stage). Formula 1 teams tend to move for the younger drivers in Formula 2, which is usually in the range of 18 to 23. They simply want to try and lock in talent from a young age in the interest of keeping them on the team for a long time.
If a driver is in the junior single seater category it’s more difficult to judge. However, a driver should be moving up to Formula 3 or Formula 2 from the age of 17. If they reach the age of 20 and are still in Formula 4, it could be time to move onto the next phase of their career, or pursue a different motorsport.
Other Options For Racing Drivers
Giving up on Formula 1 is never easy when you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into it. But you never know, an opportunity might open up for you in the future if you perform well elsewhere. So, what other options do racing drivers have?
The World Endurance Championship is always a great option for any racing driver, especially those interested in endurance racing. Many drivers, including Formula 1 drivers, dream of one day winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the most prestigious motorsport events in the world. Staying within European borders, DTM is also an excellent racing series to consider.
If you’re looking for something similar to Formula 1, IndyCar is your best bet. While the series only goes to venues in the US, the racing is excellent, and you stick to your single seater roots. There’s always the chance of impressing in IndyCar and making the switch to Formula 1 too.
It’s incredibly difficult to become a Formula 1 driver. With thousands of racing drivers around the world and just 20 spots on the Formula 1 grid, your chances of making it are slim. But if you work hard enough, meet the right people, and find the right sponsors, you can definitely make it.
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