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

  1. Guys click on the link to my name if you want more info about making it to F1.

    I have loads of info about sponsorship, pre-race rituals, waht you need to do to go quicker!!

    See you there!

    • Janes said on 9th November 2009, 19:29

      Robin,
      My name is James and I want to be a F1 driver. I am 13 and I know that many stars start off a lot younger than I am. so what do I do from here?

      Please reply ASAP
      James

  2. rahimi said on 31st December 2009, 13:39

    Hello..my name is Rahimi.i’m 18 years old and from Malaysia.i started driving since i 14’s.I always driving fast but i cant show my ability because I never entered the circuit.where can i show my spirit to race..I hope you can guide me.
    thank you…

  3. Martin said on 7th June 2010, 20:31

    Hi my name is Martin from dominican republic and my only dream is to be a F1 driver I watch F1 since I was 3 years old and I don’t like watching anymore I want to be one of them, I’m 19 years old is not late still…

  4. Elios said on 9th June 2010, 21:13

    Hi
    I’m Elios . I’m 15. I’m from Albania .I want to be a F1 driver . I love speed and F1 !!!

  5. Cedric Fitzsimmons

  6. Morris said on 13th July 2010, 13:43

    Hi

    My name is C Morris
    i have read all of your comments and thought’s.
    i am in the same boat as every one of you guys and girls
    there is nothing i want more then to be given a chance but ive had to face reality unsless you have a good size bank account, funding’s sponsors then im affraid we will never be given the chance- witch is very hard to take.
    i once went to shalm el shaik (( eygpt ))
    went karting for the 2nd time in my life-
    the owner said if i could hit a 1:45lap i could take out the rotrex kart witch had the paddle shift was water cooled disk back and front- the real deal 120+mph. the track record by there local champion in the little auto was 1:35- i went out on a 15 lap race solo….
    i set a new track record on the auto with a 1:33.989
    i have laptime printout.
    i took the big boy out and matched the champion lap record.
    i got free meal for me and my partner and they gave me free t-shirt signed ect.
    i went on a full size f1 simulator on the silverstone circuit- after 8 laps i was down to 1:25 a lap
    my best was 1:25 but i ran out of money as it was £5-3 laps.. i had the fastest lap time of the day and 2nd they had ever had i got 3 tickets to the grand pre this year.
    NOBODY WILL EVER GIVE ME A REAL CHANCE THO I HAVNT GOT THE MONEY!!!! im not saying put me out in your fastest f1 car thats stupid but you could shoot me at me of your lower f3’s or something..
    lets face it tho :( i could be the world champion in potention but no chance given….

  7. Sujith said on 17th July 2010, 16:47

    Hai,
    I m Sujith, from Kerala, India . I am 17 yrs old. I lov f1 and i want to be a part of it. but i don’t know how ?
    if u can help me please help me……..

  8. maged said on 4th October 2010, 16:27

    hi

    my name is maged sultan 25 years from egypt i’m in love with this kind of sports when i was young boy (until now) iwant to be formula one driver like mickle or olonso but i don’t know how ?
    And this is my favorite hobby is only one

    can u guide me plz !!

    i’m waiting ur forword

  9. hey,i am ahmed farooq i want to join formula one as a driver i am crazy about it and i am 17 years old this is f1 is my life please help me how can contact f1 team?

  10. I am vaibhav. I am 13 years old I want to be a formula racer

  11. hello.
    my self Salman Sajjad from pakistan .I am writing this because i want to be Formula 1 driver, I have qualities which Formula 1 want in its driver.I hope that you will give chance ,so i can show you my talent .

    for more details you can call me on my cell #0333-5634772.

  12. Rahat said on 29th August 2011, 5:27

    I’m a boy of 16 from BANGLADESH, I wanna be racer,I’m very much interested in it..
    “I can drive a car from STD-3″,and now I’m a skilled driver.”I dive a car up-to 160 kilometer in hay-way road when i was going to my village”..
    when I race with my friends always I place 1st..
    Money is not a fact for me, “but IN my country there is no opportunity to become a racer”..
    “It’s my dream to be racer”..
    I’m a hard-worker..
    “SO I NEED A CHANCE TO BE A ‘RACER'”..

  13. Rahat said on 29th August 2011, 5:36

    ^^^Plz watch my Comment..^^^^

  14. Nitin Singh said on 23rd January 2012, 3:37

    Dear Sir/Maam
    i Nitin Singh driving car since at a age of 9yrs and presently i m 25 yrs old i use to watch all the races. i need 6months traing on track so that i can prove myself and i m financially not good plz give me one single chance i can raise my country flag in next season in hongkong.

  15. stanley Nkosi said on 3rd July 2012, 22:53

    hi pls help me to b a south african f1 drive please i love this spot i do know some stunts coz im used to play with the bmw 325 2.7 { E30 } do the drug race, drifting n spinning. so pls im asking u 2 help me make m dream com true. I did work for nitros n turbo n i cn fix do convention 2 any car tanx hope n blive u can help m stanley 4rm south africa .

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