Astronaut. Rock n’ roll star. Footballer. Racing driver. Glamorous professions that unambitious careers advisers think are way beyond the reach of mere mortals. But it does happen to normal people – not all the time, but it’s not impossible either!
As a massive fan of F1, I reckon I’ve found a sure way to become an F1 driver (probably) by looking at how the likes of Alonso, Webber and Vettel got started. Interested in becoming the next Hamilton? Listen up…
The first crucial element is experience. Go-karting has paved the way for many world champions – Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and many more.
Karting teaches them the fundamentals of driving and the competitiveness they must show in order to win. Alonso started karting as a three-year-old, won his first race at age nine, and went on to take the Karting World Championship at 14. It is the ultimate breeding ground for any Formula One star of the future, and a medium that was endorsed by Ayrton Senna (one of the sport’s greatest drivers). In Mark Webber’s words, “I suppose it’s like learning new languages when you’re young. Karting is the best way for you to get a feel of how to race each other, dealing with the competition, dealing with winning, dealing with losing, and you soak up so much at a young age and learn very fast.”
A determined and positive mindset can prove handy in some situations, as Fernando Alonso has shown by finishing second twice to Vettel in the championship in a non-competitive car. He taught us all how valuable it is to never give up and to keep pushing (something he certainly needs to believe this year).
Fearlessness is crucial – a driver knows that every time they hop into that car there is a risk. And although safety has improved in the past 20 years, danger is always lurking. There’s no room for nerves in Formula 1.
For many drivers, living in Europe is the key to getting a drive. Australian Mark Webber left New South Wales for the cold shores of England in order to put himself out there and was rewarded with a spot at Minardi.
Financial backing; these days it is more about money than talent for some lower class teams. A prime example of this is Pastor Maldonado, a questionable talent with a huge amount of sponsorship money behind him. For Lotus, the need for investment was paramount – and so Maldonado was chosen over the brilliant Nico Hulkenburg.
Connections are always handy! Knowing Michael Schumacher worked for Sebastian Vettel (flashback to the final round in Brazil 2012 – Schumacher moving out of the way for Vettel when he was chasing down crucial championship points). For Sergio Perez, being in with the richest man in the world was a great thing; Carlos Slim has provided huge backing for the Force India driver. Networking is crucial in all careers and racing is no exception.
Finally, the difference between a brilliant driver and a mediocre one is how far they are willing to push to win. Whether that is ignoring team orders or getting the most out of the car, bravery in all its forms is massive. Formula 1 creates legends, not just world championship winners. And that’s down the individual – reckon you’ve got what it takes?