So you want to be a Formula One driver?

When I first sat in a racing car three years ago I was certain that I was the next Grand Prix star in waiting and duly confirmed this (in my mind) by winning my first race.

Since then the ascent to F1 has been slower than expected, hampered by a lack of money (a little) and a lack of Senna-esque talent (quite a bit more), which is how I’ve wound up in the 2005 Formula Vee Championship.

Formula Vee is the most competitive single seater championship in the UK and regularly attracts entries of 50 or more cars per meeting. The cars themselves could crudely be described as Volkswagen Beetles with Formula Ford bodywork. This is a dramatic oversimplification, they go a heck of a lot quicker that a Beetle and are to all intents and purposes thoroughbred racing cars.

Last Thursday was my first test in the car in which I will be competing at Brands Hatch next weekend (big thanks to Cordoba Consulting – my sponsors). Leaving the flat in London at 7am it was overcast but brightening; at Brands it wasn’t. It was wet – very. Although I love Brands I’ve never had the best luck there – indeed my last visit for the Formula Ford Festival resulted in two 100pmh+ crashes in one weekend. So obviously the omens looked good for a first test in a car I’d never seen before on a track with rivers running on it!

I was out in what is known as a ‘General Test Day’, when basically you can run anything. Now, for Mondeo man a Formula Vee is fast, but compared to the Formula 3s and Formula Renaults that were lining up behind me in the pit lane it isn’t. Me: bald tires, never sat in the car before, no downforce. Formula 3: you’ve got to be good to race one, wet tires, loads of downforce.

In the first session I was tentative to say the least, as I found my way round the track and the gearbox and tried not to put the car in a wall. In achieving this I managed to cut up quite a few of the faster cars. By the end of the third session I’d got the hang of it, still not put the car in the wall, set reasonable times and had Calum Lockie (six-time Le Mans driver) come over for a chat (yes, I’m a petrolhead namedropper!). However, not cutting up cars was still a problem. Formula 3s in the wet produce a lot of spray, so you can’t see them very well in your rear view mirrors, and you just have to guess where the faster cars are coming from and hope you don’t hit them – and vice-versa. Even though the Formula 3s were lapping seven seconds a lap faster, the difference in velocity seemed like warp speed.

Despite this the Formula Vee was a great car to drive and infinitely more user friendly than the Formula Ford I drove last year. Furthermore I’m being run by Andy Storer and Scarab Racing, who have forgotten more about Formula Vee than I’ll ever know. He is a great teacher and helps me to get the most from my time in the car. Handling wise the Vee is very neutral, not tending to oversteer or understeer, whilst the amount of mechanical grip (even in the wet) is astounding. Consequently whilst the straight-line speed is not great, the corner speed is comparable to slicks and wings. For anyone not sure where to first try out a racing car -Vee is a pretty good place to start.

The other major characteristic of the general test session is red flags – you get loads of them. Unlike racing, whenever a car goes off in testing it brings out the reds. So on a wet day, you can only really expect to do five or so laps at a time and get used to rubbernecking wrecked exotica. Luckily I managed to complete the day without visiting my friends in the Brands Hatch Medical Centre or even spin the car, although the guy who took both ends off his Formula Renault wasn’t so lucky (that’s more or less ???10k by the way).

Despite that, testing can be great fun as you get to play with the car in a no-pressure environment. It tests your concentration in ways racing never does as you have to push for a fast lap as and when because of traffic, and continually judge closing distances. Test days also offer a great opportunity to see tracks when they’re quiet away from the buzz of raceday. As for how I’ll get on next weekend – we’ll see.

P.S. You may have read my article on underrated drivers a couple of weeks ago. The F1Fanatic editor vetoed the inclusion of one-time Ferrari driver Nicola Larini in the article on the grounds he was soundly thrashed by Johnny Herbert at Sauber in 1997. Larini was testing his Chevrolet World Touring Car at Brands on Thursday. He was incredible to watch – the only driver all day to use the kerbing at Paddock, carrying more speed through the corners than you would believe. He may not have made it in F1, but believe me: this guy can drive.

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33 comments on So you want to be a Formula One driver?

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  1. mohamed alharbi said on 10th May 2007, 17:23

    hi

    my name is mohamed 21 years from kuwait i’m in love with this kind of sports when i was young boy iwant to be formula one driver like mickle or olonso but i don’t know how ?

    can u guide me plz !!

    i’m waiting ur forword

    • hai ,
      mohamad dis is ashok i want to be f1 racer driver i wiold like to join in the trcak so if u get anythg about f1 race plz advice to me
      mail:saragadamashok4777@gmail.com

  2. I’ve never raced in motor sport, but Tiago Monteiro was only one year younger than you when he decided he wanted to go into motor sport, so you should be heartened by the fact that he did get into F1 in the end.

    If you’re looking for a template, his path of: Manufacturer series -> F3 -> F3000 -> World Series via any other series you can afford would seem to be pretty efficient. Of course, the exact series you choose depend upon how far you are willing to travel from Kuwait in the first instance (the Middle East doesn’t have a comprehensive motorsport ladder yet, and F1 bosses are rather Euro-centric) and your budget (sometimes obscure series, or recognised series in obscure countries, can be helpful to those with little money).

  3. my big dream FORMUL1 any one can help me to get there ? I m not intersting about money what I got is enough for me ,I want just proof I can do it.

    THANK ……………..

  4. Proof you can do F1 is quite difficult to get, and it will take a lot of money (and several other things, not least contacts). Your local friendly circuit should be able to help you more. If you don’t know where your local friendly circuit is, then try Racing Circuits.net – it’s a bit out of date, but it’s a pretty comprehensive list of circuits and contact details (active ones are highlighted). Also, you will find it useful to get a racing license from your country’s branch of the FIA (known as an ASN), if you don’t already have one. Go to the FIA’s website, and click on the regions until you find your country’s club information, and you’ll get the contact details.

    The basic principle of Manufacturer series (e.g. FFord, FRenault), -> F3 -> F3000 -> F1 still stands for the best sort of sequence, though depending how young you are, you may want to do some karting before trying the manufacturer series.

  5. Hi i have been riding quads and had a kart since i was 6 now 10 years on i was wondering how to get into racing more seriously i have raced karts on occasion and have beaten many plz help me to be a racing driver.

  6. kirk elba said on 5th September 2008, 20:03

    Hi My name is kirk elba and im 24 yrs old i need some help and advise on what to do and how to do it i know iv left it a bit late but i want to race seriously in the hope of moving up to formula 1 (a dream of mine)i raced go karts when i was youger and was very good stopped when i was 12 and started with motocross which i was quite good at as well i stoped that cause i really didnt belive i could go all the way and it was costing to much. I have started racing go karts again and am winning every think im entering. I have raced ferr 360s and lots of diffrent cars round some well know tracks and cant belive i ever stoped racing 4 wheels. Please tell me what i should do now, if i really think i can make it, im not made of money but money is avalible to get me started. Thanks again

  7. baviwe ngalwa said on 4th November 2008, 10:54

    my name is baviwe and i am 15 years old i live in south africa. i would love it if u would tran me to be the best i can for formula one racing

  8. Domenic Capoverde said on 14th November 2008, 23:46

    My name is Domenic Capoverde, i am from the United States and i want nothing more, than to be a race car driver. I feel the most comfortable when i am in my car and i prefer the sound of an engine to any music in the world. I dont have much money, but i just want to prove myself, any recommendations?

  9. Hi my name is Nav,i am from Canada and i want to see myself as a F1 driver.I feel very comfortable while driving any car in any weather condition.All i want one chance to prove myself.If there is any way to give a performance in canada please recommend me.

  10. Rommell Archer said on 9th April 2009, 4:29

    Hi my name is Rommell and i am 16 years old. My dream was to be a formula one car driver and i am asking you how i can sign up to be one in the future. Thank You

  11. Doned said on 24th June 2009, 17:53

    Hi my name is Doni and i’m from ALBANIA. I drive cars since i was 12 years old and now i’m 20. All the time i try to do tricks but what i like the most is the high speed races… I love to drive any kind of car just to have 4 or more wheeles. I just want to know how can i do to get in the GPR. Here where i am i know that is a little difficult for everything but i hoppe you can help me. Thank you

  12. Ankur Sawant said on 1st August 2009, 11:19

    Hey m ankur… m 19 years old… want to sign up to b a formula one car driver… pls guide me to become one…

  13. Hi my name is vijay rathor and my age is 26 and want to be the formula 1 car race champion i know its to late but my dream is that and that only because I have to prove myself to everyone. My life is challenging for me and i have to prove myself for it because in this small time so many people had broken my trust so I have only the way to prove for it, so i not need any money for it but i have to prove them by winning the championship.

    ” eagle fly higest against the wind not with it “

  14. plz give me the change and i willprove myself and always do hardwork in the right direction and also taking knowledge of the whole car by mail about engine tyres and speed et. So its my great dream equal to god so plz help and give me the chance

  15. “winner don’t do different think but they work differently” So am I and believe on it and i will work whole life for it till death.

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