For many years, Formula 1 has been considered the pinnacle of all motorsport. As such, most racing drivers dream of racing in this elite series. However, with only 20 spots available on the grid and occupied by the best of the best, most people wonder how do you even get into Formula 1?
To get into F1, drivers usually go from karting to junior single seaters such as F3 and F2 before eventually being able to land a seat in a Formula 1 team. However, in recent years, new avenues have emerged. Sometimes drivers get into F1 through sheer financial backing.
There are a lot of elements to consider when it comes to getting yourself into Formula 1. The pathway that you take is important, however, there are some crucial elements you need to have in place in order to make that path successful.
Formula 1 is an elite series of motorsport. There are some things you need to consider before you even start your journey onto the motorsport ladder. Below we are going to cover some areas that are absolutely key to becoming a Formula 1 driver. Without any one of these, your chances of reaching the top are very slim.
It’s so important to remember that Formula 1 is an extremely ruthless and cutthroat sport. If at any point you lose any of these key elements as a driver, your shot at reaching Formula 1, or even staying there could be at risk. There are thousands of other drivers out there to choose from, and you need to be the one that rises to the top.
Don’t for one minute think that Formula 1 is not achievable though, it definitely is. It’s just an extremely difficult journey. So, let’s quickly cover the 4 key elements you need to bear in mind before you start your pursuit of that coveted Formula 1 race seat.
The first thing you will of course need is talent. Those 20 race seats in Formula 1 are reserved for the best drivers in the world. You won’t see a driver there who isn’t good at what they do. There may be some controversial drivers (who we call pay-drivers, more on that later). But the fact is that you need to be a capable driver with some talent in order to make it that far.
The junior motorsport ladder is put in place specifically for this reason. It shows which drivers are good and have a lot of potential. However, unfortunately, talent on its own is not enough. This has been a huge debate within the motorsport community for a number of years now. Many talented drivers have missed their chance at racing in Formula 1 for various reasons.
That brings us to arguably the most important factor you need to consider. Motorsport alone is expensive, but when you look at reaching Formula 1, the numbers become unfathomably high. Unfortunately, motorsport is a business. If you want to drive, you have to pay.
This is an issue all the way down the motorsport ladder, from Formula 1 all the way down to karting. This is why many drivers aren’t able to make it to Formula 1 even if they are extremely talented. Talent alone is not enough for a team to take you on and allow you to race their car.
The unfortunate reality is that even some Formula 1 drivers don’t get paid by a team to race. The bottom half of the grid relies on sponsors to pay their drivers rather than the team itself. Sponsors are extremely difficult to find, and unfortunately this is probably the main cause of the death of many driver’s careers.
However, it’s not all bad news. If you can land a big sponsor and keep them on board with you on your journey, you should be able to comfortably make your way up the ladder without having to constantly try and find sponsors.
There are of course other options such as agencies or driver managers. But of course, these will charge you a fee or commission on sponsorship deals. However, it does help to take the stress off finding sponsors and being fully focused on your driving instead.
The Downside Of Sponsorships
This is where the controversy comes in. Some drivers rely on their big sponsors or relatives to pay their way into Formula 1. Lawrence Stroll is one such example, his father bought the team that he is now racing for.
The argument is that these drivers do not deserve the seat because of the fact that they ‘cheated’ their way into a team rather than working harder for a team to take notice of them. However, the reality is that it is not always the case. A driver reaches Formula 1 through a motorsport ladder, but the funding certainly plays a big role in that.
Further into the article we will cover the exact costs you might be looking at when it comes to moving up the motorsport ladder. However, in total from karting all the way up to Formula 1, you are looking at spending around $10 million.
Driver fitness was not always considered very important. But modern-day Formula 1 drivers are top athletes. Most of them are super-fit and compete in various athletic competitions in between seasons to keep fit.
If you want to make it to Formula 1, you will need to be really focused on being as fit as you possibly can be. The higher up the ladder you go, the more difficult the cars become to drive and the more fitness you need in order to stay competitive.
At the same time, you need to keep your race fitness up as well. Endurance and strength training is not enough to stay fit when you are not in the car. Unfortunately, there is no substitute to train your muscles for G Forces that you will experience in the car.
Being a racing driver takes a lot of your time and it requires a lot of sacrifice, even if you are not at Formula 1 level. Firstly, you will be giving up your weekends in order to race. On top of that, some racing series require you to travel. After the race, you will most likely be analyzing data to see where you can improve.
During the week you are back at the gym or training to keep your fitness up. You will also be preparing for your next race, maybe you do some sim racing, watch onboard footage, or study the circuit map. When you are done with that, you might have some meetings with new sponsors, or have to attend events being hosted by your current sponsors. Or you might be working on a social media campaign.
If you are still at school or still studying, this takes even more time away from your day. Either way, the life of a racing driver is a really busy one. So, prepare to sacrifice some time with your friends or family if you are serious about your career.
In addition to sacrificing time with your friends and family, you might also be sacrificing some relationships. If you are in school and you are open about your goals and ambitions to become a Formula 1 driver, you will always find some resistance towards it.
As with any ambitious athlete starting their career, there will always be some doubters and people telling you to keep on dreaming, that your goal is unachievable, and you are living a ‘pipe dream’. I can assure you that every single Formula 1 driver has heard it all at some point in their life.
Lewis Hamilton for example was bullied because of his dream to become a Formula 1 driver, but now he’s a 7-time Formula 1 world champion. It just shows what you can achieve when you shut out the negative influences and stay dedicated and committed.
You may even find some pushback from family members. This is what hurts the most in your pursuit of becoming a Formula 1 driver because you always expect your family to have your back and support your dreams no matter what.
I want to assure you that your goals and your dreams are not unattainable. Every driver who is in Formula 1 right now has faced the same backlash from people, whether they were strangers, friends, or even family.
With the right mindset and a huge amount of dedication and commitment, you can become a Formula 1 driver. But it definitely won’t be an easy task. You just need to stay focused and do the absolute best that you possibly can, both on and off the track.
Before you even reach Formula 1, there are a few requirements that you need to fulfill. Being the pinnacle of motorsport, there are of course some boundaries to overcome to get into this elite sport. It’s always been hard to become an F1 driver, but in recent years it has become even more difficult to break into the world of Formula 1.
Max Verstappen made his Formula 1 debut at the extremely young age of only 17! After this, the FIA decided to put some measures in place in order to preserve the elitist nature of the sport, and to prevent anyone from becoming a Formula 1 driver at such a young age. As such, Max Verstappen will go down in the Formula 1 history books as the youngest driver to ever make a debut in the sport.
In order to qualify for a Formula 1 seat, a driver needs to possess a Super License. This has been in place for many years, however since the arrival of Verstappen, the FIA has brought in new rules to make a Super License more difficult to obtain.
Super License Requirements
A new system has been brought in which sees drivers scoring Super License points in junior categories. Only a few series qualify for Super License points, so you should pick your racing series based on where you will be scoring points on your Super License.
Here are the basic requirements for you to get your Super License:
- Over 18 years of age
- International Grade A competition license holder
- Valid driving license in your national country
- Passing an FIA theory test on Formula 1 sporting regulations
- Complete 80% of two seasons in qualified single-seater championships
- Accumulated 40 Super License points over 3 seasons in any qualified championships
Here are the racing series that qualify for Super License points:
These series are ordered in ‘importance’. For example, placing first in FIA Formula 2 will give you 40 Super License points, however, placing first in FIA Formula 3 will give you 30 points. In brackets you will find the amount of points given based on your finishing position in the final championship standings. Points are allocated to the top 10 positions in higher tiers.
F1 Super License Points System
|FIA Formula 2 Championship||40||40||40||30||20||10||8||6||4||3|
|FIA Formula 3 Championship||30||25||20||15||12||9||7||5||3||2|
|FIA Formula E Championship||30||25||20||10||8||6||4||3||2||1|
|FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1||30||24||20||16||12||10||8||6||4||2|
|Formula Regional European Championship||25||20||15||10||7||5||3||2||1||0|
|Super Formula Championship||25||20||15||10||7||5||3||2||1||0|
|FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2||20||16||12||10||8||6||4||2||0||0|
|Super GT GT500||20||16||12||10||7||5||3||2||1||0|
|Formula Regional Asian Championship||18||14||12||10||6||4||3||2||1||0|
|Formula Regional Americas Championship||18||14||12||10||6||4||3||2||1||0|
|Formula Regional Japanese Championship||18||14||12||10||6||4||3||2||1||0|
|Formula Renault Eurocup (series folded 2020, points expire post-2023)||18||14||12||10||6||4||3||2||1||0|
|Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters||15||12||10||7||5||3||2||1||0||0|
|World Touring Car Cup||15||12||10||7||5||3||2||1||0||0|
|NASCAR Cup Series||15||12||10||7||5||3||2||1||0||0|
|Super Formula Lights||15||12||10||7||5||3||2||1||0||0|
|Formula 4 Championships||12||10||7||5||3||2||1||0||0||0|
|FIA World Endurance Championship LMGTE Pro||12||10||7||5||3||2||1||0||0||0|
|Asian Le Mans Series Prototypes||10||8||6||4||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|European Le Mans Series Prototypes||10||8||6||4||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|FIA World Endurance Championship LMGTE Am||10||8||6||4||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|IMSA GTD Pro||10||8||6||4||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|F3 Asian Championship Winter Series (series folded 2019, points expire post-2022)||10||7||5||3||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|National Formula 3 Championships||10||7||5||3||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Indy Pro 2000 Championship||10||7||5||3||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|NASCAR Xfinity Series||10||7||5||3||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Toyota Racing Series||10||7||5||3||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|International GT3 Series||6||4||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|FIA Karting World Championships Senior||4||3||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|FIA Karting Continental Championships Senior||3||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|FIA Karting World Championships Junior||3||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|FIA Karting Continental Championships Junior||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Formula 1 teams have put together their own driver academies which they use in order to scout for new young drivers and help them to get through the ranks to get into their Formula 1 teams. This is a huge help and massive confidence boost to any young driver; however, these academies are extremely difficult to get into.
With the backing of a Formula 1 team, you will be given a lot of guidance on your career path. You will be assisted in finding sponsors, guided through fitness and diet as well as PR and media training. In addition, you will be working closely with the people who can get you into Formula 1.
Almost every team has its own driver academy in which they will scout drivers. It’s impossible to apply to become an academy member, however you can get in touch with them so that they will take notice of you.
One academy that I can definitely recommend you look into is Campos Academy. Campos has a Formula 2 team, however, they also have an academy in Spain which you can enter (at a cost) and they will train you as a racing driver.
How Competitive Are Driver Academies?
Some driver academies though, such as the Red Bull Junior Team have proven to be extremely ruthless. If you have a couple of bad races or a bad season, they could easily drop you from the team, and we have seen many drivers go through the academy without success.
However, they have produced some of the finest Formula 1 drivers that we have seen such as Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen. So, if you are able to perform really well and consistently, they can take you directly into Formula 1, but it is extremely competitive.
On top of that, most driver academies don’t give you the option of choosing where or what you race. This is what the Red Bull Junior team has been criticized of for many years now, with drivers such as Antonio Felix Da Costa choosing to leave the team for that reason.
For many aspiring race drivers, karting is the first step of their career. It is the perfect step as well. Karting provides drivers with the ideal learning platform for car control as well as racecraft. The close wheel-to-wheel nature of the racing means that from a young age, drivers are able to learn how to control their vehicle around others at high speeds.
Many Formula 1 drivers start their karting careers at extremely young ages such as between 3 and 5 years old. However, it’s never too late, as some drivers started karting at ages of around 12 to 14 and still made it to Formula 1. The key is to learn how the sport works and to develop as a racing driver.
Karting is perfect because you can race locally in small championships as well as head into huge international events to go up against the best karting drivers from around the world. It’s an opportunity to see where your strengths and weaknesses are as a driver and to find out if you really want to pursue a career in motorsport.
How Competitive Is Karting
Karting can become an extremely competitive sport as most of the karts racing in their class are equal and only differ based on driver preferences. So, this makes it an ideal arena to showcase your talents and to measure how you compare to the other drivers.
However, this doesn’t mean that if you aren’t winning you won’t be successful in motorsport. Not every driver wins before they move onto the next level. Charles Leclerc for example lost out on the Under 18 Karting World Championships in 2012, however, he still made it to Formula 1, whereas the drivers who finished 1st and 2nd in the same championship are nowhere near Formula 1.
So, just because you don’t win, doesn’t mean your motorsport career won’t be successful. At the same time, just because you do win, doesn’t mean you will be successful in motorsport. Everyone at that stage in their career is learning and growing towards their goals.
Karting is a good place for a driver to learn about setups which will become crucial by the time they step into single-seater racing. This is the perfect time to experiment with setups and to learn what kind of handling you prefer on your car. Knowing this before you move into single-seaters will give your engineers a huge help in setting up your car.
When To Start Karting
The ages of drivers in karting varies greatly. You will find drivers from the young age of 3 all the way up to drivers who compete at ages of 20 and over. Some are seriously competitive, but others might just be racing as a hobby.
Your best career path in karting is to start early, at around age 8. Your goal should be to become familiar with the motorsport world and how it all works. You need to aim to win your local championship, and then try to raise a budget to compete at an international event with an experienced team that you can learn from.
Competing at an international event will give you an idea of how you measure up against other drivers from around the world, and you might even race against another future Formula 1 driver. In addition, international karting events are where scouts look out for up-and-coming drivers for driver academies.
If you perform well at an international event, it’s also something you can add to your racing resume for future reference to prove to a single-seater team that you do have the experience and the talent required to drive for them.
Is Karting Expensive?
Despite being the entry step into the world of motorsport, karting is still expensive. If you are starting from scratch, you are looking at around $11,000 to buy your own kart, plus the equipment and tools needed in order to compete.
A senior class kart (ages 15 and over) features a 30-horsepower engine, but thanks to its extremely lightweight can reach a top speed upwards of 70 MPH. It’s incredibly quick in cornering as well, as karts tend to slide rather than actually turn through corners. The combination of all these factors sets a good tone for what’s to come in a single-seater racing career.
Recently there has been a huge rise in Esports. Even Formula 1 teams now compete in their own Esports championship. This has led to a brand-new pathway to getting into motorsport. If you have a console or a PC, you can now compete in various competitions which award a real-world racing prize to the winner.
This has been a huge help to aspiring drivers, especially those who do not have the budget to start off in karting. Motorsport has always been expensive, even just to try out. But if you can prove yourself in a less expensive series it might give you the ideal opportunity to get straight into a team at little to no cost.
This could even lead you into an official Formula 1 Esports team. From there if you can prove yourself and negotiate with the team you are racing for, you could maybe get yourself sponsorship for a season in Formula 3 while working as a simulator test driver for the team. This is just one example of how you can use Esports to land a seat on the motorsport ladder.
Your first steps into a single-seater are crucial ones. There are so many series across the world to consider. However, what is important here is not the Super License points just yet. You need to go for a series that will allow you to comfortably learn how to drive a single-seater car.
In terms of which age you should be in order to step foot in a single-seater racecar, it varies from driver to driver. Some start as young as 14 and others as late as 18. It’s more about whether you are ready to take that step. Too early and you could shake your confidence in driving a powerful car. Too late and you can miss out on crucial single-seater race experience.
You need a good team around you that can help you to learn, grow, and develop. This is why it’s important to choose a team with good experience and a strong history in the series they are racing in.
Since junior single-seaters allow unlimited training (limited only by your budget), which is a great way to get as many miles as you can under your belt before the season starts. You don’t want to go into your first race weekend in a single-seater car still trying to get used to the car. Use this testing to find your limits in the car and become more comfortable with it.
How To Get Into A Single-Seater Series
There are a few ways that you can find yourself a seat in a junior single-seater series. The first step is to choose the championship that you want to race in. Let’s take Formula 4 UAE as an example. This is a great series because the cars are easy to learn, andis the best possible next step you can take out of karting.
So, once you have evaluated your series and you have chosen the one that’s right for you, you need to get in touch with some teams. The best way to do so is to visit the website of the series in question. On the website, you will see a page that lists all of the teams that participate in the series.
Each team should have contact details on that page, but if they don’t, simply visit the team website and get in touch with them. You can either send them an email, or you can try to connect with the team owner or manager on social media (LinkedIn works best for this).
How Much Does Entering Formula 4 Cost?
Find out how much it will cost for a season in your desired series, and make sure to ask exactly what it covers. The budget that they give you may not cover the travel and accommodation expenses for you to get to the circuit. In the case of Formula 4 UAE, you are looking at around $200,000 for a season.
Of course, the Formula 4 series is regional, so there are a few different series including the US, Asia, and European series. Each one is the same concept but with different levels of competition and exposure, so choose whichever one suits you best. I have seen that the US series has the best media coverage, but in terms of competition and acclaim, the British series may be a better option.
Formula 4 is the best step out of karting in terms of a young driver’s learning curve, but it is really expensive. Don’t be afraid to explore different options. You don’t have to take the exact perfect path to get into Formula 1. There are tons of other fantastic series to consider as well.
Alternatives To Formula 4
Be sure to also get in touch with Formula Renault teams. This series has been around longer than Formula 4 and you will find some great racing in these series. Formula Renault has always been the go-to series before Formula 4 came along, and there’s no reason to ignore it going forward. This series will almost always be a cheaper option as well.
It’s also a great idea to look at a winter series, like the Toyota Gazoo Series in New Zealand, which runs during December, January, and February. This is great because while other drivers are in between seasons, you will be racing. It will keep you active and gaining experience in between your seasons. Lando Norris participated in this exact same series and picked up some Super License points.
Some other series you can also consider: Formula Mazda, Formula Ford, Toyota Gazoo Racing series, Formula Vee. The specs of these cars vary from one to another, but they are all similar in the sense they are considered the same class in terms of performance. So, let’s take a look at a Formula 4 car for reference.
Formula 4 cars feature a 2-liter 4-cylinder engine that puts out 160 horsepower. It introduces adjustable wings as a setup element and features a 6-speed paddle shift gearbox. These cars can reach speeds of over 150 MPH.
Just as a reference to how fast this car actually is, in case the stats weren’t enough. A track test was done in the UK between a Porsche 911 Turbo S and a Formula 4 car. The Porsche, a $200,000 supercar set a lap time of 1:19.2. The Formula 4 car was taken around shortly after and it set a lap time of 1:13.0. That is 6 seconds faster, which in motorsport, is a lot!
In terms of your steps up the ladder moving into faster cars, you have some different options. Regional Formula 3 series has always been the preferred option for drivers moving up the ranks. For some like Max Verstappen, it was even the first step out of karting.
Regional Formula 3 series is great because you can race in your preferred region. For example, there are Formula 3 series in the US, Europe, and Asia. You can even go more specific like British F3. Formula 3 is extremely competitive.
How To Find A Regional Formula 3 Team
The process of finding a team is similar to Formula 4, but with such a long history in motorsport, Formula 3 features some really experienced and long-standing teams, most of whom have links to Formula 1 teams. One such team is Carlin racing.
Choosing your team becomes a bit more important here, as the teams with more history and experience tend to be the more competitive and successful ones, so if you are looking to win races you need to do some research into possible teams and their histories.
How Much Does It Cost To Enter Regional Formula 3
The budget here takes a big step up from the more junior series. Formula 3 has a bit more acclaim and the cars are faster and more expensive, so don’t expect to be paying the same amount as you did for Formula 4.
A season in British F3 for example will cost you around $500,000. But this series has seen winners such as Daniel Ricciardo, Takuma Sato, and Rubens Barichello. The prices will vary between teams, so it’s important to look around and see which team fits your budget best.
This is also where the scouts will be most actively looking for up-and-coming talent to pick up for academies and sponsorships. So, if you are able to perform well here, then you could be well on your way to success.
Regional Formula 3 Cars
These Formula 3 cars feature a 2.0-liter engine that produces 230 horsepower, and they weigh in at only 500kg. They feature a 6-speed sequential gearbox. These cars can top 160 MPH and can go from 0-60 MPH in just 3 seconds, making them the 4th fastest single-seater car in the world.
FIA Formula 3 was formerly known as the GP3 series. This Formula 3 series differs from the regional Formula 3 series not only in that it travels with the Formula 1 calendar, but also in terms of the cars. Therefore, you should expect this series to cost you a bit more than Regional F3.
Traveling with the Formula 1 teams gives you an incredible opportunity to feature as a support race to F1, as well as having your races broadcast across the world on the same platform as F1. This is the best way to get your name out there as a racing driver, and the easiest way that people will be able to spot your talent.
It’s not easy though, FIA Formula 3 features the best up-and-coming drivers in the world. The drivers will have gone through the same racing experience as you, if not better. Don’t expect to arrive and immediately start winning against this tough competition.
Regional Formula 3 vs FIA Formula 3 Cars
These Formula 3 cars are completely different from the Regional Formula 3 cars. You will notice a big difference in how the car looks, but also in terms of its performance. The FIA F3 cars are all the same, and feature a 3.4-liter V6 engine that puts out 340 horsepower. These cars are around 6 seconds slower than F2 cars, and around 20 seconds slower than F1, but they are still really fast.
How To Join An FIA Formula 3 Team
The cost of a season in FIA Formula 3 is around $800,000. Again, it depends on the team you are looking at joining. The process for finding a team stays the same as before. Contact the various teams or team owners who participate in the series to find out how much they ask for a seat on the team.
It’s extremely rare for a team at this level to go out and look for a driver. They always have drivers coming to them to ask for a seat, so there’s no need for them to go out and look for one. In addition, the driver (or their sponsors) needs to pay in order to race, so it is pointless for them to look for drivers who might not even have the budget to race.
FIA Formula 2 is the step up from Formula 3. In this series, you will be sharing track time with Formula 1. Your race sessions will be either directly before or after the F1 sessions, so now you have even more exposure in front of thousands of spectators who are there for F1.
Formula 2 is also considered to be the final step before you reach Formula 1, so there is a huge focus on these drivers, and they are often closely watched by the media as well as the Formula 1 teams. At this point, most drivers are already backed by some form of a driver academy.
You will see a lot of drivers who are part of the Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes, or Red Bull junior teams. You will need to really perform well in this series, as it is considered the make-or-break series for potential Formula 1 drivers.
Despite that, even if you do win a championship, you are still not guaranteed a drive in a Formula 1 team for the next season. It’s important in this series that you are not only quick on track, but you are able to show that you stand out off-track in terms of your personality and media capabilities.
You will have the advantage of being in the same paddock as the Formula 1 teams and drivers though, so you will need to use that to your advantage and make as many connections as you possibly can while you are there.
Cost And Benefits Of Formula 2
The cost for a season in this series doubles from a season in Formula 3, and you are looking at around $1.7 million for a season. Most drivers spend 2 or 3 seasons in this series though, so you might be looking at even more than that.
However, the exposure you get from this series is huge, and even if you don’t make it into Formula 1, many drivers have moved on into another series such as LMP1 or even Formula E. Being in Formula 2 gives you a huge advantage as a driver looking to race since it’s an experience that so few actually get.
Formula 2 racing is extremely competitive and exciting, as you would notice if you were to watch a race weekend. This series aims to develop your skill as a driver even further. All cars are equal once again like in Formula 3, so that no teams with bigger budgets can build a better performing car.
The series also features a reverse grid race, which means if you won the first race of the weekend, you will be starting further back in the second race. This is to ensure that drivers develop their overtaking skills in these high-speed cars and don’t just qualify on pole and stay in front for the entire race.
Formula 2 Cars
Formula 2 cars are the closest you will get to Formula 1 on the junior single-seater ladder. These cars feature a 3.4-liter turbocharged V6 engine which can output 620 horsepower. These cars are around 13 seconds slower than a Formula 1 car in terms of lap times, which is still incredibly fast.
That means that these cars can lap faster than any road-legal car. If you make it to Formula 2, your chances of getting into Formula 1 are high, but at the same time it’s still not guaranteed! As we have seen recently, Renault Formula 1 team for example chose to bring back Fernando Alonso for the 2021 season rather than promoting one of their academy drivers from Formula 2.
Despite the single-seater ladder being the ideal route into Formula 1, it’s not the only way. As you saw earlier, there are a ton of other series that also provide Super License points. Many drivers have been called into Formula 1 from other series as well.
IndyCar is one such option. Although there haven’t been major switches from IndyCar to Formula 1, we have seen drivers go from Formula 1 to IndyCar. Alexander Rossi is one example of that, and so is Takuma Sato.
IndyCar has a huge Super License point count, and in theory, the IndyCar champion can switch straight to Formula 1 based on their Super License points that they have earned. The only obstacle here is contact with Formula 1 teams and negotiating for a competitive seat in a top team.
We have seen drivers in the past even make a surprise entry from the LMP1 series in the WEC. Brendon Hartley for example went from winning the WEC with Porsche to racing for Toro Rosso for a short while.
Japanese Super Formula is considered to be the closest car to match a Formula 1 car. It’s easy to see why too, they look almost identical to Formula 1 cars. For this reason, many drivers have used this series as a stepping-stone to reach Formula 1. Formula 1 teams often look to the Japanese Super Formula series to look for potential future drivers.
Even a series that does not feature open-wheel race cars like the DTM in Germany also awards Super License points. Although the cars are polar opposites to single-seater race cars, you can even use this series to get into Formula 1.
The standard route into Formula 1 is not the only one that is viable. Don’t be afraid to explore other options based on your budget or level of experience. In the pursuit of becoming a Formula 1 driver, you need to be really open-minded. You might need to spend a few years in WEC or IndyCar, but if you are driven and committed enough, you will eventually break through into Formula 1.
Sometimes you need to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing in order to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps a DTM driver with a Formula 1 dream will create a better story and lure in new sponsorship avenues to explore. The point is, it’s your journey and you need to make it your own rather than simply copying what has worked in the past.
Formula 1 is a strange sport. Sometimes teams will offer junior drivers contracts and pay them to race. Other times you will find that an F1 driver buys their way into a team through an extremely rich relative (Lance Stroll) or an extremely successful sponsorship (Pastor Maldonado).
Other teams will be used as a junior team to bring in academy drivers, with the parent team providing the finances for the driver’s season (Alfa Romeo and Alpha Tauri – formerly Toro Rosso). Being a Formula 2 driver is stressful, you not only have to perform and show your potential as a Formula 1 driver, but you also have to wait for the perfect moment.
Teams will only take on new drivers once their current contract has run out. You will also only be looking at bottom-tier teams and midfield at best for your first season. The top teams will only sign drivers with Formula 1 experience (there are some exceptions to this though, such as Lewis Hamilton with Mclaren in 2007).
Landing a seat in a Formula 1 team is tough but staying there is even more difficult. There is constant pressure on you to perform because at any moment in time, there are 100 drivers or more ready to grab that seat straight from underneath you.
A seat in a Formula 1 team is what many drivers dream of having, but it’s not an easy task. You will need extreme focus, dedication, talent, and perhaps even a sponsorship. Just remember, every single driver, even Lewis Hamilton has been where you are now.