No one ever said that the world’s best racing talents are the only ones who can make the grid in Formula 1.
F1 champions Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff just wish there might be a way to break up the “billionaire kids’ club” and allow drivers with talent, and just deep pockets, make their way up racing ladder.
Hamilton says the exploding costs of becoming a professional racing driver is locking out youngsters from more modest backgrounds and ramping up the representation of drivers with extremely wealthy fathers.
“For me personally, we live in a time where this has become a billionaire kids’ club,” Hamilton and in a recent interview with European spots media outlet AS. “If I were to start over from a working-class family, it would be impossible for me to be here today. Because the other boys would have a lot more money. We have to work to change that and make this an accessible sport, for the rich and for people with a more humble origin.
His Mercedes team principal, Wolff, agrees.
“We need to do something so that children without this sort of financial background can also be successful in the junior categories,” he is quoted by German media outlet RTL. “At the moment, a good karting season costs 250,000 euros (approx. $300,000), a Formula 4 season costs 500,000 (appox. $600,000) and it’s a million ($1.2 million) for a season in Formula 3.
“That is totally absurd and has to stop,” said Wolff.
Four-time world champion Vettel also recognizes the problem, insisting that the motorsport industry must try harder so that “children from all walks of life” are able to aim for a career in racing.
“It has always been an expensive hobby,” said the Aston Martin driver, whose teammate is Lance Stroll, son of billionaire team owner Lawrence and who has become somewhat of a poster boy for those who say kids with money have a decided advantage over kids with lesser means but possibly more talent. Michael (Schumacher) needed help, I needed help. You were able to make it about half the way – after that it got difficult. I was lucky enough to get support.
“But more recently it has developed in a wild direction. It’s not easy to fix, either. The costs are simply too high.”
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