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Looking for the next generation of elite racing drivers
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Sep 2011   |  11:31 am GMT  |  9 comments

The second year of the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy is about to get underway, with young drivers wanting to be in with a chance of being selected, required to get their entries in by tomorrow (Friday 9th September)

All eligible young drivers, aged 17 to 23 years old, need to apply to their National Sporting Authority (ASN) and each ASN is then responsible for assessing the applications they receive and choosing two candidates to be put forward to the FIA Institute. This year, 30 candidates will be chosen to go forward to the selection event on 15-18 November 2011 and a final 18 will be selected for the full training programme.

The FIA Institute’s Young Driver initiative is a partnership with former Benetton and Williams driver Alex Wurz. It works not only on driving skills, but carries a strong message of road safety, which graduates are supposed to project once they reach prominence.

Of the first year’s crop, finishing the programme now, there are already some exciting names, particularly 19 year old Kiwi Richie Stanaway who is leading the German F3 Championship with ten wins and impressed a lot by winning on his debut drive last week in GP3 at Spa. He is definitely a driver to watch out for.

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.

If you think you have what it takes to emulate Richie Stanaway, then download an entry form HERE

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I believe that this is really great. While I may agree with most comments that this is unlikely to produce F1 drivers, the positives of the dynamics (many) such things create are beyond question. Let it not be the only thing motorsports, our sport can do to raise awareness and to promote road safety, because the figures for the drain of lifes are ridiculous.


Notwithstanding their talent, unless they have the sponsorship (eg Red Bull academy), its unlikely they will get a ride in the junior/customer teams.


I remember reading the details that Wurz and ex-WRC Co-driving World Champion Robert Reid in Autosport. It seemed to be very focused on turning them all into good little PR robots but had little to nothing to do with actual driving. The present and future acadamey drivers may all be very good drivers, but it will have nothing to do with the academy itself.

And how much do we really expect teenagers to push the FIA’s Road Safety message?


Do me a favour – Have a look at the Academy section on the Institute website, look at what the drivers got up to on the individual courses and then see if you still think that


OK, I’ve looked at the website and it does seem a lot more comprihensive than when the initiative was originally launched (if I remember correctly, at the time they were doing little to no talking of helping drivers improve their on-track skills, but a lot of talking about diet, marketing and road safety). Still, as Newey Jnr in the post below mine points out, without money to back these drivers up on their way up ladder, it ma all just become irelavent as money tends to talk louder than anything, particularly these days when there’s so little of it about.


Eh? Is this a bit like the lie teachers tell children, when they say that joining the school council will help them later in life?!


How does the FIA incorporate road safety into this programme? Is it literally a case of ensureing that these selected drivers are ‘good’ drivers on the road? If that’s the case you would think the FIA could come up with a prograame that is a little more wide-reaching.

As for grooming young drivers to be excellent ‘racers’ and ‘ambassadors’ – that can only be a wholly positive thing.


The kiwi drivers are coming back, we have a nice generation. But the next big thing in F1, will be JEV, Bianchi and Grosjean.


They’ll only be the next big thing in F1 if they are in the right car. McLaren is sewn up for 2-3 years. Ferrari will not employ anyone who will upset Alonso and why would a great driver want to go there just to be a support driver? RBR is likely to replace Webber with Ricciardo…. Then these new guys have to contend with the likes of DiResta who are proven and known entities….

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