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FIA to create a training ground for young drivers
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FIA to create a training ground for young drivers
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Sep 2010   |  3:13 pm GMT  |  29 comments

The sport has often been criticised for not doing enough centrally to develop and nurture young drivers.

It has been left to the likes of Elf, Renault, Red Bull and individual teams to run young driver programmes. These are very expensive and do not always produce results. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are products of McLaren and Red Bull programmes but there is a lot of wastage.


I was interested to see, while we were in Singapore at the weekend, that the FIA Institute has announced that it is going into partnership with former Benetton and Williams driver Alex Wurz to create an Academy for young drivers.

Each year the Academy will work with 10 drivers and over the course of five workshops, lasting three to five days, will train them to improve as drivers, athletes and ambassadors. The Academy won’t fund their racing programmes, but there will be some prestige on the CV attached to being a graduate and the driver who finishes top of the class each year is likely to be taken seriously by the leading teams.

At the heart of this initiative is a desire to groom drivers to be not just top class racing drivers, but ambassadors for the sport and for driving in general, with particular emphasis on road safety. The FIA is committed to a Decade of Action on road safety, last year 1.3 million people were killed and 50 million injured. In 20 years from now the number of deaths on the world’s roads will be roughly double the current level if no action is taken.

Racing drivers and particularly those with the biggest platform – Formula 1 – are a key part of getting the message across about road safety.

The thinking is that a graduate from Africa or India who makes it into a high profile racing series will then have a platform to deliver a strong message on road safety back in his own country. It’s a long term thing but in time you can imagine that working.

An FIA Institute statement says, the Academy’s objective is:

- to prepare young drivers to compete at the pinnacle of the sport;
- to increase skills in the area of driver and road safety;
- to actively promote the principles of safety, fairness and responsibility both on and off the track.

The Institute Academy will initially be based in Europe, but the intention is to broaden it out into regional programmes around the world. Certainly the pool of talent will be global from the ouset, the Academy is selecting 10 drivers, with at least one driver chosen from each of the following five regions: North, Central and South America; Western and Northern Europe; Central and Eastern Europe; Middle East and Africa; Asia and Oceania.

Applicants will be assessed at the end of this year and the first 10 students will be selected in February 2011.

Wurz will work with Richard Burns’ former rally co driver Robert Reid on the programme. Reid runs a company called ESP, which works on human performance.

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29 Comments
  1. Jock Abroad says:

    James,

    Second ever post, but again must say this is my ‘go to’ place every day for the latest insights, brilliant site and forum.

    Regarding the F1 driver’s role in promoting road safety, I’ve noted on a number of occasions, when having crashed out or having a mechanical failure, that driver’s often get a ride back to the pits on the back of a scooter – more often than not with their crash helmet tucked firmly under their arm! Although I may be being a little picky here, and certainly don’t want to appear as a killjoy, is this not something that should be stopped ‘in the interests of safety’? As an ex-biker I am all too aware of the risk of head injuries in motorcycle accidents even at slow speeds!

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, agree with you there

    2. JR says:

      I’d insist that drivers never did doughnuts in F1 cars, for similar reasons of legitimising behaviour which is often copied in inappropriate places (like shopping centre car parks).

      1. Steve Earle says:

        When was the last time you saw a driver do doughnuts in a F1 car? Perhaps while your at it you should stop them breaking the speed limit too.

      2. Nathan says:

        I certainly remember Hamilton doing some in 2009 at Silverstone, and I have a feeling Webber did some in the same year.

  2. JamesF1 says:

    James,

    I was just wondering, on this subject, what’s happening with Anthony Hamilton’s GP Prep project? It seems to have all gone a bit quiet apart from having a website – http://www.gpprep.com/.

    1. James Allen says:

      NOt heard much about that lately

    2. Williams4Ever says:

      During the initial announcement of the program I had heard, the plan was to use “Old McLaren F1 Cars”. In fact getting exposure on F1 cars was the USP of the program. Given the ban on in-season testing, I look at this as novel loophole to get “parts” tested under the guise of training young drivers.

      I suspect the plan must have been blocked by other FOTA members who might have had same doubts as the ones I expressed above.
      And again I saw that announcement on back of Lewis announcing “he is his own man” as attempt to sideline Anthony from influencing Lewis. McLaren have been historically known as a team that is not very driver friendly when it comes to their entourage, Which made Kimi a ideal McLaren driver, someone to gel perfectly with Ron Dennis.

  3. Rob says:

    A good idea…
    …as long as Bernie doesn’t start influencing the driver selection process for political reasons.

    1. murray says:

      The entire proposal is dodgy! Who finances it? If it’s the FIA, they’re using general revenue to benefit a select few. Once the candidates have graduated and reached competitive status, aren’t there obvious opportunities for corruption in team selection, in the resolution of on-track incidents between drivers, and in sponsorship negotiations? As for the control of a driver’s life outside of competition, words fail me. Selection looks like the opportunity to live in a gilded cage, never mind what criteria are going to be applied to prospects in the first instance.

  4. jmv says:

    I want leading teams to take drivers seriously solely based on their race craft and competitiveness.

    The rest they can learn within a month after being in F1.

    We have too many “groomed drivers”… get us more Webber-type of drivers… those who have struggled through the ranks and by doing so have developed a “personality”

    Senna was also once asked.. why Brazilian drivers (of his generation and before) were so good… and he said: we come from faraway, we leave our family, home land behind, often we go racing with lesser means… this makes us become inventive, tougher etc…

  5. Jordan S says:

    I wonder what this means for Anthony Hamilton’s “GP Prep” program that I heard he was working on? He saw the gap with respect to young driver development, and I understand he had secured agreements with a couple of F1 teams to lease year or two old F1 machinery for young drivers to test out. Not sure if it’s off the ground yet. The FIA’s program looks to be different, but is filling the same basic gap. Glad to see more activity happening in the area of developing young talent.

    1. James Allen says:

      That has its place as the place to get hands on experience of driving F1 cars. This is more of an educational process

  6. Williams4Ever says:

    The moment you mention “The Academy won’t fund their racing programmes, but there will be some prestige on the CV attached to being a graduate ”

    I see as just another venue to fleece young drivers (and their families) of valuable monies. If this is going to be paid program with no assurance of getting test/drive role with F1 team the whole purpose fails.

    As it is drivers (and their families) are pouring loads of monies in GP2, F2 drives and even delivering good results in those series doesn’t necessarily translate into role in F1 is a big let down.

    I wonder how proud will FIA feel about their program if their graduate who is projected as “Ambassador” of the sport doesn’t actually get an opportunity to participate in the sport at highest level?

    1. James Allen says:

      My understanding is that it is fully funded by the FIA. No cost to participants

      1. EMComments says:

        Ah so it’s either a scam to rip off drivers and their parents (Williams4Ever) or a source of profound corruption (murray October 1st, 2010 at 4:02 am). Probably both ;-)

        No good deed goes unpunished!

  7. Stuart Fenton says:

    I like Wurz. He’s a funny bloke, a great personality. Ive always wondered what happenned with Williams in 07. He did alright in comparision to Nico, got a podium then walked away? Thats my understanding anyway? Can someone shine any light on this?

  8. Jim says:

    I feel the FIA saying good drivers promote road safety is a ridiculous statement. I mean, do they? Do you, reader, drive more safely/dangerously because Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton does? I bet you couldn’t name anyone who does either…

    And what is the academy going to teach these racing drivers about “road safety”. Not to speed on normal roads? Don’t overtake on the inside of people on a motorway? Use indicators when turning? I wasn’t aware that racing drivers did not know how to drive safely on normal roads? I was also not aware that their driving tests for their road license did not check for these skills, the same as everyone else?

    However, i agree young drivers do need to be trained before coming into f1 – no more Yuji Ide’s please. Will allow more fluidity in driver line ups, and give new drivers to gain valuable experience, rather than simply resorting mostly to old trusted favourites.

  9. jacko says:

    What’s wrong with karting? the fia need’s to stop the rot there if it wants to train young drivers, as a karter in north europe all i see is reducted grids, increased costs, over complicated karts (through fia imposed long life engines) tracks closing or threatend with closing (amsterdam, kerpen of all places) instead of trying to produce boring media trained drivers.

  10. jacko says:

    Great blog by the way!

  11. Dom says:

    What’s happened with Anthony Hamiltons one then?

    1. jacko says:

      You mean Nyck de Vries, a future superstar if he keeps on winning, but my point is i’ve never seen the fia do anything to support karting, schumacher’s done more to promote karting than the fia has.

      1. Jeroen says:

        He was on a Dutch sporting program last Monday. It is of course hard to tell, the lad is only 15 but he probably has got a more sensible head on his shoulders than most F1 drivers. He already looks the part and time will tell but predicted it will be within 5 years that he hopes to duel with Lewis

  12. jose arellano says:

    where do i sign ?

  13. Alan Dove says:

    I will have to wait to see how this works, but as of today I can’t imagine there will be too many happy competitors out there who find they might be racing drivers who are supported by the FIA themselves.

    In terms of developing talent in India and Africa there needs to be a serious look at the infrastructure of motorsport in those countries/continents. And that James, is no mean feat.

  14. michael says:

    So uhm scratch GP2?

    Reading this I kind of have to think of the A1 GP plight. It all comes over as some artificial, over-hyped political correct nonsense. What’s the average age of F1 viewers and how does the answer correspond to who they are trying to reach? This whole idea won’t change a sad thing in the streets. Even so the best connected will get their chance certainly not the best driver with the best promise just look at the Red Bull program for numbers and facts, although, one could put blame to Helmut Markow for his poor management skills. I feel things should remain as they are and it is a good thing if there are teams willing to put money on the line for any one hopeful it makes more sense and seems more authentic genetic to the whole F1 business whilst we maintain and further build on GP2 to become the official training ground for promising drivers. Something like the Yamamoto experience should never be possible in F1, that said, somehow it makes F1 what it is – true to its heritage.

  15. Brian Kiloh says:

    The key phrase here is “but won’t fund their racing programme”. The FIA has to realise that the cost of competing is a major stumbling block to allowing truly talented drivers to progress through the ranks even in the lower categories as proven by the occupation of many of the best seats by wealthy pay drivers and former drivers’ sons.
    I was disheartened to hear Richard Branson say that he would consider a British driver for Virgin but only if he brought sponsorship money.
    A far more constructive move would be for the FIA to pay the smaller teams a reward if they give a young driver a place for the season (on the proviso that they did not also receive funds from the driver).

  16. Jo Torrent says:

    James,

    I’ve seen your comments in an italian website 422.com. It’s a good idea. I’m fond of FORMULA 1 and I look for analysis in French, English and Italian 3 languages I understand and I must admit that your blog is really interesting.

    I’m particularly impressed with the races strategy analysis which I found nowhere else with such input. I hope you carry forward with this and I think that if you can have your blog translated in more languages it might have a great success.

    I wish you the best.

  17. Faisal says:

    What about Asian countries especially the developing ones like Pakistan, India ? There are lot of aspiring drivers but have no circuits, funds to enhance their skills

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