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Being an F1 driver is the dream of all motorsport fans, but how many of us have been told it is impossible because it is a very expensive dream? In this article, we will find out how expensive it is to be an F1 driver and if you need to be rich.
F1 is a really expensive sport. Very few people have the resources to pay to compete from a young age to enter F1, and in many cases, those who reach the top are thanks to the help of corporate sponsors and patronage.
Below, we will discuss some questions about the price of getting to F1, how current drivers did it, and some alternative options in recent years.
What Makes F1 So Expensive?
Before we look at the lower ranks and what it takes to get to F1, we must ask ourselves why F1 is such an expensive sport, as everything is related. First of all, F1, and motorsports, are fairly complex sports, unlike other sports such as football or athletics, in which you just need a couple of things to practice.
F1 uses the most advanced and technological cars on the planet, and teams spend millions of dollars a year developing their cars with state-of-the-art materials such as carbon fiber.
Here is the price of an F1 car and its parts:
|Rear wings and DRS||$85,000 – $150,000|
|Floor and bargeboards||$141,000|
|Brake discs and pads||$78,000|
|Tires||$3,000 per set|
Total cost of an F1 car: $20.62m
Pretty expensive, right? And this is just the car. To this, we must add the price of worldwide logistics, as there are 21 races in 21 different countries, all team employees and people behind the car, which can reach almost a thousand, and all the infrastructures and technology so that the team can operate and work optimally.
Furthermore, F1 cars can’t race anywhere. The circuits F1 cars can race are complex, spacious, and expensive to build and maintain. Because of all this, F1 is full of sponsors and publicity so that both teams and promoters can afford these expenses and be an ideal place to promote your brand.
How Much Money Is Needed To Get To F1?
This is the question we all ask ourselves: how much does it cost to get to F1? For this, we will analyze the price of all previous competitions.
Karting is motorsport in its purest form, where everything begins. It is where drivers develop their skills and learn to compete from as young as 5 years old. There are national, European, and international championships.
A racing kart can cost up to $8,000 – $10,000 depending on the quality of its components, and the price increases more when you compete, as you have to pay for entry fees, fuel, consumables, repairs, and travels. One year of competition can cost around $11,000.
And this price increases as you compete in higher and more powerful categories. For example, a year in KF1, the highest karting category, can only be accessed from 15 years old and costs about $ 100,000 per year.
Therefore, depending on how old you start, how good you are, and how many years you are competing, which can vary between 6 and 9 years, your karting career can range between $150,000 and $230,000.
This is the first competition with “real cars.” There are many F4 competitions, but the most prestigious are the English, Italian, German, Spanish and French. The F4 engines have a capacity of 1.6 L and a maximum power of 180 hp. The price of a season of F4 is around $175,000, which can vary between competition and teams.
Categories between Formula 4 and Formula 2
Between F4 and F2, there are a few equally valid and relevant categories full of talented drivers, and it is expected that some current F1 drivers have competed in one or the other.
- Euroformula Open: This category is similar to the F3 or GP3 but has the philosophy of keeping the rules simple while having great exposure. The season costs about $ 470,000, making it the most affordable one.
- GP3: This category shares the paddock with F1, so they are more in touch. It is very similar to the F3, and in fact, they want to merge in the future.
They have a 400 hp V6 engine developed by Renault and a Dallara GP3 / 13 chassis. Its price is around $ 585,000 per season. Some F1 drivers such as George Russell, Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon, and Valtteri Bottas have won it.
- European Formula 3: This championship is very competitive, and many F1 drivers such as Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, and Lando Norris have raced in it. In 2014, 79’2 of Formula 1 drivers competed in Formula 3 throughout their careers. Its price is around $760,000 per season.
- Formula Renault: It has two separate championships, the Formula Renault 2.0 L, an intermediate step between F4 and F3, and the Formula Renault 3.5 L, which is equivalent to Formula 2.
Formula Renault weighs 565 kg with driver included and has a power of 195 hp (Renault 2.0) and 480 hp (Renault 3.5). It doesn’t have as much exposure as F2, but F1 drivers like Carlos Sainz, Nicholas Latifi, and Pierre Gasly have raced in it.
Formula Renault 2.0 have a price of around $235,000 per season and Formula Renault 3.5 between $800,000 and $1,400,000.
The last step before F1. F2 is a very prestigious competition, and it has a lot of media exposure. The level of competition is very high, so it usually takes a couple of years to get it right. If you race in F2 and do it well, you have a lot of ballots to be signed by an F1 team.
Each year in F2 costs between $2,340,000 and $2,800,000, depending on your team.
How Much Money Is Needed To Be An F1 Driver?
So, in total, how much money does is needed to be an F1 driver? As we said before, the price varies a lot in karting, depending on how many years you are competing and in which teams, but we could estimate the total cost at about $ 7,000,000.
Yes, as we said earlier, it is true that if you stand out from a young age, a sponsor who trusts you may be able to promote you and offer you financial backing. In the same way, it may be that some academy or program of young drivers, such as those of Red Bull, Ferrari, or Mercedes, could sign you and boost your career from a young age.
Can You Become An F1 Driver With Simracing?
Simracing is an alternative to traditional races that have been emerging in recent years. Its cost is practically zero compared to what we have seen previously, as you only need a computer or console and a steering wheel with pedals for it.
There are more and more racing simulators that allow almost anyone to experience realistic and demanding driving and to be able to compete with people from all over the world from home. That is why in recent years, simracing competitions have increased, which have an increasing level and attention, and it is something that has come to stay.
Due to the greater number of people who can access this medium, many competitions and teams are created looking to bring virtual drivers to reality, making it an increasingly promising option.
Since 2017, F1 has organized an esports program called Formula One Esports Series to provide a greater engagement between the official F1 game and its community of players. F1 teams have joined this competition in search of virtual drivers, so if you stand out in them, someone may look at you and sign you for their virtual team, and you could work in an environment close to F1.
Apart from F1, there are many simracing competitions like the GT Academy of Gran Turismo, and you can have team offers around motorsports if you are good.
It is not yet something consolidated, and there are not many drivers who have made the leap to real life. Still, it must be taken into account for the future, and even if you do not become a driver in real life, you can have the opportunity to become a virtual driver of some prestigious brand.
Do All Formula 1 Drivers Come From Rich Families?
The best example we can give to know if you have to be rich to be an F1 driver is to see their backgrounds:
|F1 Driver||Background / Financial backing|
|Lewis Hamilton||Middle-class family. Sponsored by Mclaren from a young age|
|Valtteri Bottas||Middle-class family|
|Max Verstappen||His father Jos was an F1 driver|
|Sergio Perez||His father, Antonio, is a successful businessman and politician|
|Charles Leclerc||Middle-class family. Sponsored by Ferrari and Richard Mille from a young age|
|Carlos Sainz||His father Carlos is a successful rally driver|
|Fernando Alonso||Middle-class family. His father was a mechanic|
|Esteban Ocon||Middle-class family. His father worked as a mechanic|
|Pierre Gasly||Middle-class family but with a tradition in motorsports|
|Yuki Tsunoda||Middle-class family. Sponsored by Honda|
|Kimi Raikkonen||Middle-class family. His father was a road builder and his mother an office clerk|
|Antonio Giovinazzi||Wealthy family|
|Sebastian Vettel||Middle-class family. Sponsored by BMW|
|Lance Stroll||His father, Lawrence, is a successful millionaire investor. He owns the team, Aston Martin|
|George Russell||Middle-class family. Sponsored by Mercedes|
|Nicholas Latifi||His father, Michael, is a billionaire businessman|
|Mick Schumacher||His father is seven-time world F1 champion, Michael Schumacher|
|Nikita Mazepin||His father, Dmitry, is a billionaire businessman|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Wealthy family|
|Lando Norris||His father, Adam, is a millionaire businessman|
The road to F1 is challenging and extremely expensive, and to get to the top, you need financial backing, whether from a wealthy family or sponsored by a big brand.
Perhaps once you start and stand out, it will be easier to find sponsors, but the most difficult thing is to start, and for that, you do need money or have a family linked to motorsports. That is why it is tough for a working-class family to start and pay all expenses.