Formula 1 is the pinnacle of single seater competitive motor racing. Some of the best drivers in the world, after rising through multiple levels of feeder series, get to drive probably the most cutting edge automobile in the world. If you are one of the chosen ones who has the right skills, right connections and backing from the big-wigs, you might, just might, make it into F1.
Getting into Formula 1 requires years and years of dedication to hone your technical skills, the character to lead a relatively lonely and nomadic life and the kind of edge required to put your life on the line at every corner to seize the rapidly closing gap. Formula 1 drivers are thought of as mavericks who are in it for the thrill and adrenaline rush. Infact, Formula 1 drivers are some of the bravest souls on the planet.
When you are six or seven years old, you start karting. After a couple of years of doing it as a hobby, your parents get serious one day and sign you up into a karting school. The school exposes you to a range of locally hosted competitive karting races. You get whisked away from post-lunch classes to compete in these races.
Slowly but surely you start getting good, you start winning. It’s time to now consider Formula 1 a serious career choice. You’re fourteen and you are travelling across Europe, living out of a suitcase, competing in various feeder race series.
Ultimately, you turn enough heads to earn a seat in Formula 3. You fork out £400k just to earn the rights to race in Formula 3. Doesn’t matter if you’re a star performer, the fee is non-negotiable. After plying your trade in F3 for a couple of years, you achieve enough good results to get into F2.
Next, you perform consistently in F2 and hope you can attract enough sponsors/funding or impress one of the team bosses in F1 or convince your dad to buy an F1 team to make the ultimate step up. Once you do step up, this is it. You have made it to the pinnacle of competitive single-seater racing. You’re one of the top 20 drivers in the world (well, technically!) of single-seater racing.
Most F1 drivers are just thankful to be in it. Some have the technical skills to race consistently. Fewer still have what it takes to win an F1 race. To see how big of a deal it is for drivers, just look at the reactions of Pierre Gasly or Sergio Perez after they won their first-ever F1 race last year.
For Gasly in particular, it was redemption. After being treated like an amateur and ultimately booted by Red Bull to their feeder team Alpha Tauri, Gasly went on to secure his maiden F1 podium at the Brazilian GP in 2019. Then in 2020, the stars aligned and he bravely defended his lead against a charging Carlos Sainz to win his first-ever Formula 1 Grand Prix at Monza, the home of the Tifosi and Ferrari
Then there are the elite few, who are a step above the rest. Drivers like Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time world champion or Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world champion, take the sport by the scruff and leave a mark which will forever be remembered. Drivers like Max Verstappen and Charles Le Clerc have future F1 world champion potential as they wait in the shadows of the man, the legend, which is Lewis Hamilton.
If you are reading this article and have not karted in your life, ever, then it probably is a little too late for you. But if you’re reading this for your son or daughter, get them into a karting car and let them express themselves on the track. If they enjoy it and are good at it, they just might be the select few who have what it takes to become an F1 driver.