F1 Winter Break
Formula 1 storing up a big problem for itself in five years time
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Sep 2012   |  11:24 am GMT  |  309 comments

The focus on the driver market this Autumn is on Lewis Hamilton and whether he will stay at McLaren or move to Mercedes. The future of 43 year old Michael Schumacher and of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa is also pivotal to whether there will be any vacancies among the top teams or whether things will stay as they are for another year.

But below that there are some worrying signs, as the effects of the global financial crisis are increasingly keenly felt among F1 teams, with the result that drivers who bring money to a team -either family money or corporate backing, are at a premium. Most of the opportunities being given to “reserve drivers” today are in reality opportunities for the teams to earn extra much-needed millions.

These drivers will never rise to the highest levels, but they are taking seat time and opportunity away from the next generation of Alonsos, Hamiltons and Vettels. And in five years from now we will really feel the impact of that.

The situation is not helped by some of the driver development programmes appearing to be failing, with the result that there is a paucity of exciting young drivers coming through the ranks.

And to compound the problem further, the testing ban is creating a raft of problems in terms of young drivers. There is no opportunity for young drivers to get any testing mileage in an F1 car; for example Sam Bird’s two days with Mercedes at Magny Cours were his first seat time for a year.

The only opportunity is the Friday morning practice session at Grands Prix, which is woefully under utilised. Force India and Williams are the only ones using it properly to bring drivers on, but again there are signs that cash strapped teams the length of the grid are now using these opportunities to bring in additional funds.

This is simply not sustainable. If the sport wants superstar drivers to wow and entertain the public as well as talented second tier drivers, it has to nurture them, as it did with the current generation drivers like Hamilton, Vettel and the much-missed Robert Kubica. F1 will not win over increasingly distracted and sceptical audiences with the Charles Pics and Max Chiltons of this world, although no offence is intended to them.

One can envisage a situation, five years from now, when Button and Webber will be retired, Alonso aged 36 will probably be retired, or close to it. So that will leave Hamilton who will be 32 and Sebastian Vettel, who will be 30 and there is no sign of a driver who will rise to challenge them.

And as teams like Williams, Sauber and maybe next year even Force India, look to drivers who bring budget, the scope for the next Hamilton or Vettel to rise is very limited. It will need to be someone from a driver development programme, but the Red Bull programme has largely failed (apart from Vettel) and Renault and BMW are no longer active in F1.

The next few years may offer some opportunities to the second tier drivers, like Di Resta, Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Perez to show whether they have what it takes, but who’s coming up behind them?

The testing ban was brought in to save money and one could argue that if that had not happened, then some of the teams would have run into even greater financial difficulty. There are one or two teams in F1 today that are close to the edge and when the likes of Sauber, Williams and possibly Force India are looking for drivers with budget, we have a major problem brewing.

But the testing ban also hinders driver development and this in turn leads to some of the problems we have had this season, with Grosjean and Maldonado driving with too much desperation because the only chance they get to drive is on race weekends.

They don’t get the track time between events to grow fully conversant with their cars, they don’t haven’t had the 10,000kms of testing that the drivers a generation ahead were able to get which made them rounded drivers and yet they are under equal or greater pressure, so they take risks…

It’s like asking footballers to only play on match days; they could not possibly improve.

The only ray of light in all this is the opportunity offered by Pirelli for a test driver, although this has tended to be a driver who has dropped out of F1, rather than a promising newcomer.

Nevertheless it has merit; the current Pirelli test driver, Jaime Alguersuari, (also my colleague on BBC Radio 5 Live) has done a number of tests this year in a 2010 Renault, engineered by Lotus F1 Team, working on 2013 tyres. But he’s been covering 700 kilometres a day and as a result is a far more experienced and complete driver than he was when he was racing for Toro Rosso. He’s now the driver he should have been 12 months ago, far more experienced and rounded. That’s kind of opportunity should be there for young drivers, but Pirelli has a programme to run and needs to keep it focussed.

So it needs something more co-ordinated, an Academy approach. Trouble is, F1 teams are currently wrapped up in arguing with each other about entries for 2013, no rules in place, cost control measures and the merits of an expensive 2014 engine programme, costing three or four times as much as the current units. That alone will impact budgets negatively far more than a few days of testing would and further enhance this worrying trend for pay drivers.

There isn’t much long-term thinking going on as regards funding to produce the next generation of drivers, the sport is just relying on them coming through, because they always have.

F1 is increasingly an entertainment business and with annual revenues of $1.5 billion, it’s a successful one.

But it needs to make sure that it has a supply of performers.

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Is this a concern that gets raised in the meetings that count James? Or is your wisdom expressed without any real solution on the horizon? Good piece though and interesting about Jaime - I hope he gets back on the grid and shows us what he can do...


How can an article about driver development not mention the lower formulas once? You mention Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton etc but were any of them ever test drivers? Can you name someone who's been a test driver that's gone on to win the world championship? - I very much doubt it. What is article proves is that you're in the "Motorsport = F1" camp....


I think you'll find that Alonso tested for Renault back in 2002 as well as Vettel for BMW in 2006-7 but that was at a very different economic climate those days had test drivers being given their own car for Fridays engine development was permitted and refuelling was allowed the main problem I can identify is the type of sponsorship. We all know that Tobacco and alcohol is bad for you're health and all but the fact is they pay out massive amounts of money which is necessary in times like this, do we honestly want to see great teams like Mclaren and Williams fall by the wayside because they can't find good sponsors.?

Tornillo Amarillo


I think James doesn't mention Maldonado (a F1 winner), isn't he on the radar?

And you did mention Perez, Di Resta & Hulkenberg, I agree they can be the new generation. And what about Valtteri Bottas?

Maybe from the new project Velociudad from Argentina could come a new generation also, very interesting international project.


It has always been difficult and 'unfair'. With the media's help turning 'no talents' into 'heros' we'll never notice the difference.


Great point.

In 20 years time, we'll have Terence Stamford, 8 time WDC winner with Airspeed F1.

Obviously all the stats will show that he's the most successful driver, winning 31 GP's a year out of 40, poles and everything else, but what the stats won't reveal will be that all the others are drivers who Mummy and Daddy have paid for their weekend fun.

They crash out after 3 laps, and uncork champagne.

Yet the yoof of that day will tell us that "Terry is the greatest eva, even better than that Kettle geezer or that Senna laxative and as for that Louis, isn't he on the Y front? His missus in the X wing...."

Vettel has got talent, I have no doubt he's in the Top 3. But becase of a poor strategy call and then a season with a dominant car, he's being placed in the same bracket as Senna.

Maybe this is the first indication that the media has too much influence when it comes to understanding the qualities of an F1 champion.


But going the other way you don't shy away from laying it on thick when it comes to Alonso. Alonso is good, a great even, just not as great as you think he is.


I think that teams etc are all distracted by Resource Restriction wrangles and with 2014 engines, no rules for 2013 and all the rest of it


Wise and precise story James, cash is king and in a sport of kings the same rule applies. Hamilton would rather change teams to have sponsorship freedom because he wants to be a rock star, seat time is what drivers need and everything else should come second. Especially the size of their wallet.


Damo! PLEASE tell me that you were kidding about the "rock star" comment. The term "rock star" has precisely NOTHING to do with music style. Mozart was a rock star. Rossi is a rock star. Jordan, Beckham, Senna (and, at one point, Schumacher) are also primo definitions of what one could call a "rock star".

I certainly hope you were kidding. That could well be the case, because you appear to be a rather intelligent person, judging from your other comments--most of which mirror my own sentiments.

Anyway, enough of my nit picking and being excessively pedantic. You made some good points, my friend.


Hamilton isn't a rock fan and doesn't remotely come across as a rock person - he is a rnb/hip-hop/urban man!

Also, yes I saw the quote/interview/contract/confession he made about that being the reason he signed for Mercedes too... Hamilton's salary comes with his talent. HIS talent is what teams are willing to pay so much for so why should he not be entitled to it? You're completely missing the point of the article being about drivers getting into teams because of the finances they bring with them, not the finances they take from them (ie. their salaries).


Brilliant article James, very interesting read!


This is an utterly exceptional article. Thanks.


Absolutely Jame keep up the good work .

You always seem to hit the nail on the head!!


If you liked this check out Will Buxtons from a few days, just as interesting



Agreed! Great read. Sonething never considered until explained so well.

... It's actually quite sad that F1 seems blind to it!


I think the view on Charles Pic is a little unfair as his performances have stacked up pretty well this season given the limited running. I think Pay Drivers are getting more stick than they deserve. As Damon Hill mentioned on Sky - he has no doubt that the drivers in formula one are the very best in the world regardless of money. Money is always an issue and I don't think that will ever change - it's natural selection.


James this is undoubtedly the best piece you've ever written and it really shows a problem with the current thinking around Formula 1. I can't see any driver on the grid over the next few years challenging for a championship even if they did move to a top team because there isn't 'the next vettel' (or Lewis for that matter) in the grid.

It is a big worry and I wonder if/how it will be addressed.


I have no doubt that talent vacuum will be filled quickly when needed. Let's look at Vettel and Alonso. While I don't know their entire history I do know that they came into F1 young and got the accelerated learning program. And before we knew it, these guys who came out of nowhere had a huge following and were propelled into royalty status in F1.

While these driver programs are nice, I fear they are too slow in progressing drivers along and essentially proven to not be that useful. If all of them yield a Vettel and nothing else, that's serious lack of ROI. F1 needs them young and hungry, not 30 and triple graduate of 5 driving programs.

Also, may I point out that we are spoiled right now - and as usual don't know it. All these champions, even eras on the grid at once, it is not normal. It won't happen again.

I for one wouldn't mind if suddenly young bucks were given a shot at F1. Their lack of experience and driving errors bring a level of humanity we can connect to in this era of computerized everything. Rookies are the manual gear shifters of yesteryear and add an unknown to the mix. Look back over the last years and look at the amount of reaction and discussion generated by growing pains of rookie drivers. Enough said.


More likely we'll end up with a situation like the late 90's, where we had Schumacher and Hakkinen then a big gap to a large number of solid if unspectacular drivers that would most definitely not be Championship material without a dominant car. When the likes of Fischella and Viellneuve are vieing for the 3rd-best-driver-in-F1 accolade then there's something wrong.



You forgot that Vettel made his debut at 19, and was the youngest driver to race at the time, after graduating Redbull's jr program.


An interesting and quite valid point of view, makes one think.


I agree that this article is amazing and James and his team should be proud of it.

But I disagree that there's no driver on the grid like Seb and Lewis.

Who can say that Perez or Di Resta are not stars? We all know that is 80% car and 20% driver currently in F1..

But the problem that James is highlighting is there..and needs to be addressed.


Did Perez just get accelarated or what?


Perez might win a WDC if he can get a seat in a top team. Di Resta is the next David Coulthard..


To c-m, Vettel was already a Red Bull driver when they raced together at ASM in Euro F3 and Di Resta was a Mercedes driver. The difference being that Mercedes young driver programe was focused on producing DTM drivers, a championship Paul won, and not F1 drivers, which is the point of the Red Bull programe.


we will see about Perez now he is at McLaren!


Why was Vettel picked over someone like Paul. Perhaps he had better management, perhaps despite getting beat he showed more potential. Perhaps both of those, perhaps none.


Frentzen beat Schumacher back in the days..


Di Resta beat Vettel when they were racing together. I know this doesn't guarantee he will get as high as Vettel, but in the same time doesn't say he will not be better than him.

Paul has got the potential..he showed that beating Vettel early on. He just didn't get picked like Vettel by a team which can supply him with top equipment.


Whoever picks up Jaime is going to have someone who already has a grasp of the tyres, as well as probably more driving under his belt than any other.

If he does not get a drive, then I will eat my own hat, (in case I am wrong I have constructed a hat made entirely out of Toblerone). His performances in the TR made me thing he would be an easy addition to any number of teams, but alas, he had no drive. Very astutely, he went testing.


He may have a grasp of the tires/tyres but currently he has grasp of them with a 2-year old car with vastly different downforce characteristics.

Where a team who picks him up might benefit is if he has a very good understanding of the test mule and of the new team's car and how he can get the new team's car's characteristics to match up with a superbly set up test mule. Or if he simply knows tons of tire/tyre info.


I'm pretty sure Jaime tweeted during the Singapore GP he'd announce his plans for next year soon. I understand he has signed up with a team.


Judging by this article, I'd say he's still negotiating over pay. Hopefully James negotiated some exclusive interviews with him in return for writing this piece!


Interesting. I'm thinking that perhaps an 'F1 Academy' of some sort or other could be set up with the sole purpose of nurturing new talent and more importantly getting them in to a car (albeit a previous years car). Each team would be mandated to pay in to the academy but it would have no direct link to any one particular team. This could provide a more level playing field for teams to pick/spot talent rather than building their own young driver programme.

Craig in Singapore

The teams don't have the money to put in - that's why they're hiring pay drivers.

It's FOM/CCV that take all the money out of the sport and don't really put any back in. That's why CCV is looking at getting out soon - they can see they've taken it to it's heights and sooner rather than later the profits will start becoming less. They don't care about the future of the sport becauase they won't be involved in it.


With the exception of the typo CVC, bang on the money.

The activity (I refrain from using the term 'sport') has never adequately compensated teams from the generated profit that couldn't occur without them.

Tinkering with increases via the CA ignore the underfunding issue which only occurred because as you say CVC and Ecclestone syphon off far too much. About time any management of F1's commercial rights were managed on a 'not for profit' basis and for the benefit of motor sport in general via the FIA and not FOM.


I've always wondered whether an NFL style selection wouldn't be out of place here - take the top 12 drivers of GP2 and then allow the F1 teams to pick 1 driver every other season (in reverse order of course - so HRT can pick up a Valsecchi for example.)

Its an outlandish idea I know, but it allows progression up through the formulae.


Yeah, taking the most promising talent and put them in the worst on the grind.. what could possibly go wrong!

Can you imagine Hamilton starting is F1 career in the slowest car on the grind??


Vettel debuted midway through 2007 in a BMW and scored points in his first race.


Did Vettel not start at Toro Rosso and win their first (and if I remember correctly) and only race? Yes, it was at a time when TR were getting support from their sister team but it still showed his talent in a lower team.


I can imagine Alonso starting his career for Minardi. Oh look, he did.


Hamilton and Vettel starting their careers in lower-ranked teams and working their way up (like Alonso and Webber) would have been good for F1. It would have allowed the world to see their talents for what they were, without the hottest chariots on the grid artificially making them look good.


Nando started his F1 career in what was by far the worst car on the grid...


i wish he had, he might be a little more humble! Alonso, Webber and plenty of others did...

I really hope the premise of this article is incorrect and we don't have to put up with Hamilton and Vettel battling it out, 2 thoroughly dislikable men hogging all the headlines for the foreseeable future, sigh...


Yes, very concerning. Thanks James.


I think what makes the testing problem in regards to young drivers all the more apparent is this year's YDT situation. It really seemingly encompasses every issue that exists in the world of junior single-seater racing:

- Drivers with lots of funding not good enough to make it to F1 but hogging up test days - check (Ma Qing Hua, Rodolfo Gonzalez)

- Teams using the test as a rare opportunity to mess about with the vehicle instead of actually running young talents - check (Mercedes this year)

- Teams running drivers that already do FP1 sessions for them, thus presenting them with another testing opportunity that really does go to waste when you consider the amount of other talent looking for any chance to run in an F1 car.

There are plenty next Vettels, Hamiltons and Alonsos in the ranks right now. F1 teams either don't want to or institutionally can't pay as much attention to them as they should be. I'm thinking both.


Hey JourneyTH,

Which Journey do you like more? Hamilton who was hand picked and given all the tools all the time as needed, when needed silver spoon style? Or Schumacher, who's everyman roots and dedicated father clawed their way to 7 championships?

How much testing did Schumacher have? How many years did he spend in a driver development program?

I just think that if F1 wants to connect to the fans, they better start finding drivers we can associate with and connect to. Not kids of rich parents with connections who got a $10m sponsorship package from their company when they were 16 to get into F1. We want the everyman story. I do at least. I don't want the groomed perfect F1 machine. I want the human, flawed, hungry, but fast guy to make it into F1.


Umm, Lewis' parents were rich? They lived in a council house and his dad worked three jobs to support his karting. That's one dedicated father.

At any point during his McLaren sponsorship, if he wasn't up to snuff, or not progressing, he would've been dropped like an old shoe. Fact is he's in F1 on his skill alone.


This is it! So many people slate Hamilton because he supposedly 'didn't go through the ranks' - yes he did, just not in formula 1. People think he just jumped into a McLaren regardless of what he did in junior formulae - utterly ridiculous. The naivity of people to not realise, or even worse, not think that he would be dropped if he didn't keep his performances up is crazy. In fact, it likely put more pressure on his junior formulae performances than any other driver as he had McLaren's expectations to maintain to!


Uncle Ron was droping some money in as of 13. No doubt it played a role in why Mercedes snatched Lewis. They probably felt they paid for his development as well.


Schumacher was a product of Mercedes' sportscar program, so got loads of guidance and experience there before he hit F1.


Ade - you do recall correctly indeed 😉


If I recall correctly, Paul di Resta is a recent product of sports car racing in the DTM. So that system appears to still be working then!


Who comes into F1 from sports cars today? No-one. Which goes to show you - when you get the accelarated hand on F1 program you get there. You sit in driver programs for years - you become institunionalized.


So was Webber I believe.


Despite being a "groomed perfect F1 machine", Lewis Hamilton has clearly spent the bigger part of 2011 being a "human, flawed, hungry, but fast guy".

Also, the more testing there is, the more likely F1 teams are to spot the "flawed hungry fast guys" and the more likely they are to risk. It's current rules and institutions that lead them to not take that risk - you either nurture some guy into F1 for year after year or you request a big bag of money from whoever wants to join. Not seeing everyman roots here.


Doesn't Sergio Perez bring a lot of money to Sauber? He's pretty exciting (I think) and doesn't take many dangerous risks. Take your point though, there aren't nearly enough young, exciting drivers like him coming through.


He does.. He did not Crash in Monza because Raikonnen obliged. He was thinking Big Picture, bring the car home with Some points. If he had been trying to Overtake Hamilton with that move he pulled on Kimi, may have ended in a Crash.


Give me a break! Look at the times when Lewis has been passed, he is more than fair and gives room.

See Schumacher passing him lap 1 Monaco '11, Grosjean passing him in Bahrain this year, Grosjean and Raikkonen passing him in Valencia, Alonso passing him at Silverstone.

I'll assume the image you have in your mind is of the Hamilton-Maldonado collision in Valencia. That was a fair move by Hamilton, and unfair from Maldonado to just barge back onto the track and into the side of Hamilton (hence why he got a penalty). If Pastor would've waited, he could've lined up a pass just down the road, in the same spot that Kimi passed a couple laps earlier.


Yes, he has some backing form Telmex and other Mexican companies.

He's good and he's well backed. But there are other drivers as good as him or better who have fallen by the wayside


Agreed. He's quick, but I wouldn't say exceptional. Find it remarkable all this talk of Kamui getting the boot but Perez has hardly blown the doors off him. In fact Kamui leads 8-6 in qualifying...Perez has had three podiums, but two have come from outside the top 10 (greater strategy flexibility?) and one came in the wet when no one knew how the tyres worked. I actually believe Perez's stock is above where it should be. As is Di Resta's. Neither are exciting. Tend to find their "stellar" drives aren't littered with overtaking, or daring and instead come from their strategies.

Sadly the cream doesn't always rise to the top within elitist sports, such as motorsport. The greatest driver of all time is probably mining in Chile or cutting down trees in Siberia. Money talks in F1, especially during these difficult financial times. I can only hope the sport heeds your warning.


James, that's not the first time that comment has been raised.

DC himself said in an interview once, that he raced against many better drivers than himself, yet they never progressed beyond FF1600 or Formula Vauxhall.

Off the top of my head, I can name Mike Thackwell and Tommy Byrne as exceptional talents, but circumstance didn't allow their progression.

What about Dan Wheldon or Gil De Ferran over in Indycars?


This is a perfect opportunity for the FIA/CVC/Teams to get a win/win/win. Each team fields one current car at three tire tests where ONLY your reserve/third/test driver can drive so you force teams to give a new driver experience. The money (or a logically large portion) for these tests should be funded by a cut of F1's revenues so the test doesn't benefit just the bigger teams. The real point is for rookies and third drivers to get seat time. This also creates a legitimate route to a superlicense. Two full days or four half days within 107% of the top time gets a superlicense. Have one during pre-season testing (go back to 4 pre-season tests instead of 3). The second test after the first European race. Barcelona is usually dry and cheap to keep the teams there an extra two days. And the third just after Monza at Paul Ricard. It's on the way back to England for most teams, not far for Ferrari/Sauber/Toro Rosso/HRT. The FIA get better safety, the teams get cost controlled testing, and F1 gets a steady stream of ready and able drivers. Plus Renault could fix their alternator, Mercedes could understand tire degradation, and Caterham would finally have new events to try to close down the midfield unsuccessfully.


Alvaro Parente was one of those... but coming from Portugal in a time of world global crisis he could not gather enough sponsorship, not even to have a season in a GP2 Top Team. He won the very first GP2 race he competed in Barcelona 2008 and he won in Spa 2009, in both occasions with lower midfield teams. Before that he had been champion in British F3 (2005) and World Series by Renault (2007).


An interesting subject. But I think there is no need to worry too much. Drivers like Grosjean, Perez, Maldonado, Hulkenberg or Di

Resta are all great, no matter the amount of sponsorship they carry with them. Bruno Senna is also very talented but he needs more time to improve, as he lost too much time these last few years, due to the global crisis (could have started in F1 with Honda) lack of

testing (consequently losing the Brawn drive) and difficulties to gather the right amount of sponsorship at the right time (consequently failing to start with an established team also in 2010).


I don't think its time to hit the panic button just yet.The likes of webber and button had to wait a long time to establish themselves as top tier drivers. I am sure the likes of grosjean & perez will eventually reach there if they are given the right equipment.

And F1 was in a far more precarious state at the turn of this century with only schumacher & hakkinen as top level drivers.The following year in 2001, 3 future stars made their debut . I am sure there are a couple of 16 year old's out there who will storm into f1 like alonso & raikkonen did.


Who else in '01? Alonso, Kimi, and??? If you're saying Button, he was '00.


And Montoya.



I think there is another problem here too...

Teams seem obsessed with staying with an old and proven (slow) driver rather than take a chance on a young gun...

Just look at the grid : Webber, Button, Rosberg, Massa, Glock, Kovalainen, Petrov, Karthikeyan, de la Rosa have been around for too long -- and you just know they dont a sparkling performance left in them...

I know it was very much out of characther for Ron Dennis to put a relatively unheard of Hamilton in a grey car alongside Alonso....

Will we ever see a team take a chance like that again??

Will we ever see the back of the drivers mentioned above ??- or will they still be there in 2020?? -- Will Coulthard, Heidfeld, Fisichella, Barrichello be lured out of retirement to come back to race again??

The future is bleak indeed.


"Webber, Button, Rosberg, Massa, Glock, Kovalainen, Petrov, Karthikeyan, de la Rosa have been around for too long"

Petrov has been around for, what, 2 years?


F1 teams are pretty risk averse. If you were a team principal, having spent millions on developing a car you wouldn't want to risk handing it over to a rookie unless you were 100% sure of him. Hamilton won the GP2 championship (in his first year) the year before his F1 debut; Ron could be sure of his pace. The same with Grosjean and Eric Boullier this year.

Motorsport costs money. Those who do well will get sponsorship. Those with sponsorship will get to F1 if they perform. Motorsport was never cheap.


Seems a tad harsh to argue those in that list who have won a GP this year don't have a sparkling performance left in them.


Are you seriously ranking Webber, Button and Rosberg (who have all won races this year) in the same bracket as Karthikeyen and de la Rosa?


Exactly! I think the article is exaggerated on the matter. This has happened before in F-1. As you mention, around the 2000's, Schumacher's only real challenge came in the form of Mika. Then came Alonso, Montoya, Raikkonen, etc. For the past 5 years we have enjoyed an unusual crop of talents. But to say F-1 is in danger (driver wise) is really wide off the mark. F-1 has always healed itself.


I agree in principle with you. Don't forget Villineuve and Hill in the mid-late nineties. There have been champions racing each other for most of F1 this era is remarkable. Change in technical eras may change things as well bringing new drivers better suited to changing cars, a different sort of cream to rise.


"I am sure there are a couple of 16 year old’s out there who will storm into f1 like alonso & raikkonen did."

There are, but will they get noticed without the right amount of funding?


A very thought provoking article. There is a short-term view in a lot of sport and the assumption that the cream will rise to the surface. Money doesn't necessarily mean talent.

There isn't an easy answer as all teams are looking for any advantage they can get. But, how about all teams support a driver programme, whereby a number of "neutral" cars are provided, with all data made available to all teams;

Testing could then be done on race weekends, either alongside the main running, or between FP1 & FP2, for example.

This programme could also go as far as an academy for mechanics, engineers, etc, vying for a permenant place on a top team.

This way, everyone involved gets involved in all aspects of preparing and running a race car, including the drivers.

Either that, or the nominated test driver from each team runs the car in between sessions.

I agree, something has to be done to ensure quality, naturally talented drivers and support personel come through the ranks and have an equal opportunity for their respective talents to be witnessed and appreciated.


James, that is as succinct a comment on the current state of F1 as I have ever seen. Bernie, and every team boss should memorise it.


hi allen im in australia and i think danial ricciardo never gets mentioned, which is a shame!


He's doing alright, but still a long way to go, I'm afraid


There are currently three practice sessions for each GP, totalling four hours total track time:

Friday FP1 - 90mins

Friday FP2 - 90mins

Saturday FP3 - 60mins

I propose increasing the number of sessions to four but making them each 60mins long, and having the first practice session for reserve and rookie drivers only.

Both cars must run so no race driver gets an advantage in having his car set up by the reserve, so 24 young drivers get a chance, at a Formula One circuit in front of the team principals, to make an impression.

James do you think is at all feasible/possible?


The problem with testing on race weekends is that if the testee stuffs the car in a wall, the team then has to scramble to rebuild for the part that actually matters, i.e. qualifying and the race.

In my opinion, testing needs to be completely decoupled from race weekends.

There definitely needs to be more testing in F1, both for upcoming prospects and for the actual drivers. The problem is that if more sessions were added the teams would likely run rampant testing widgets on the car rather than providing a stable platform for the drivers to learn on.

Here's a thought: how about introducing more testing rounds on quiet weeks during the season, but force the teams to use the car as run in the last race prior to each test?

Dunno how you'd enforce that, though...


I think you are underestimating the talent of the driver. Whether they were simply testing widgets or not, any time spent on the limit in an F1 car would not be wasted on a rookie or experienced driver.


What happens if a rookie puts the car of a title contender in the barriers during P1?


It's a good idea, but that probably dooms it to failure in this context...


What about a Monday test after a race weekend (like moto gp?). Obviously not feasible in all places like Singapore or Monaco, but could help give good comparisons with current drivers and could allow some in season development, but much much cheaper as all equipment is there. Also those periods of time in (young person) test where the track needs rubbering in and a comparison with current car specification won't be needed.


This all for one reason:

[mod] Bernie Ecclestone. If he didn't squeeze F1 until he wrung the last drop of blood from it, then there would be money left.

The "shareholders" (him included) get far too much. The money left is not enough for the teams to run on without totally stupid sponsorship deals and paying drivers.

Give 20% more of the money to the teams, stop making venues go bust and **** the shareholders.

In fact, [mod] everyone move and start a new Formula 1. Then all the money can go back into the sport instead of it being a big merchandising effort to make Bernie and his cronies rich.

That's why F1 is a mess and we will be watching Daddies rich little boys racing for the next 20 years.


Mr.E was paid £3.3 million in 2011, and NO dividend was paid to shareholders.

The top 10 teams were paid £356 million.

Ferrari got a bung of £19 million on top.

£12 million was paid to HRT and Marussia.

And £51 million to teams for signing the Concorde.

If the teams share was increased by 20%, F1 would have made a £76 million loss.


Very interesting article James.

I still don't understand why the FIA does not grab F2 and F3 by the scruff of the neck and make the most of these brands by aligning them much more with F1. I think a properly funded, supported and televised F2 (replacing GP2) and F3 series would be very popular if it followed the F1 calendar and travelled to all 20 races. Particularly if more of the F1 teams extended their branding into these categories (I'd certainly be interested in Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren racing in F2 with their young drivers). Many of the circuits, particularly in Asia, could use the additional support races to entertain the fans.

A possible alternate to this could be to split F3 into regional series (ie European F3, Asian F3 and American F3) that each had turns supporting the primary F1 and F2 series. This would reduce travel costs and they could branch out with stand-alone races in their respective regions. This could work particularly well in the Asian region if Australian motorsport branched out into Asia more than it does, and vice-versa. This has worked well with Australia joining the Asian confederation in football, for example.

There's no doubt the FIA would really be taking on an enormous political, financial and logistical challenge to create a unified, global structure such as this... but hey, isn't that what they are here for?


I think part of the problem with that is that Ecclestone has money invested in GP2 and GP3, but not F2 or F3!

Also, F2 and F3 are far from aligned themselves, regardless of F1. But GP3 and GP2 you could argue are very much aligned.

But essentially you're right - look at Moto GP for example. Moto2 and Moto3 get fantastic fan bases and massive grids - some people I know follow those more than Moto GP itself and there's a clear path for riders to progress.


Thats a good point and the financial and political challenges are probably too big for this to happen in the short-medium term.

Moto GP is a great example of this concept done well, with Moto 2 and 3 providing a fantastic breading ground for young drivers. When the top riders from Moto2 move up into Moto GP people get genuinely excited to see what they can do.


Why was the situation not like this back in the golden era of the late 80s/early 90s? Is it because money coming in from tobacco advertisement?


That certainly helped, I guess. But there was also testing so the young guys got much more familiar with the cars


James - regarding testing time, is there any restriction on teams running older spec cars, like you mention Alguersuari is doing for Pirelli/Lotus?

Also, do you feel that the GP2 and GP3 'feeder' series are not doing their job? Yes, the current crop of top-team drivers are likely to retire around the same time, but with any sport there will be another young charger coming up to challenge the 'second tier' drivers of today, some of whom will probably challenge for a driver's championship within the next few years and we'll be taking about the latest GP2 champ who is putting his more experienced team mate in the shade.

I agree though that F1 is going to go through a major change over the next few years, not only financial, but technical and personality-wise but without change life would be very dull!


Quite simply, excellent prescient article.

One thought I immediately had: whoever team employs Vettel in the near future, should be calm about having a complete racing driver with championship skills.

F1 is in really delicate situation, indeed. Drivers simply do not get enough mileage.


As with the majority of the financial issues in F1, it seems that sending huge proportions of the generated revenue out of the sport and into the hands of venture capitalists might be in no small part a contributing factor.


A couple of questions spring to mind.

Firstly, I know it's not quite the same as driving an F1 car, but surely GP2 has successfully delivered on its aim of providing the next generation of drivers into F1. Hasn't it?

Toro Rosso and the Red Bull young driver program is something I just don't get. Why on earth go for two new rookies at a time? There is no reference point. If they had kept either Alguesuari or Buemi on, then they would be more able to tell how good Ricciardo and/or Vergne are as racing drivers. By comparing them only to each other all we know is that they are roughly about the same - they could be hopeless journeymen in what could be a great car or true future superstars hamstrung by a lemon of a car. How can anyone be sure?


A lot of people I think make the mistake of comparing the STR rookies to Buemi and Alguersuari last year who had 3 or so years of experience. I use the benchmark of 2010, as back then Buemi and Alguersuari had roughly the same amount (if not more)of experience that the current guys have now. Buemi ended up on six points that year, Alguersuari on 5. With still six races left JEV is on 8 and DR is on 6. Relatively the new guys stack up well, but unlike the guys at STR I used common sense here.


very very good point of the Torro Rosso team...especially with new regulations forbidding the blown diffusers that have changed the performance of the cars quite a lot from last year.

But I think they got the message. Just look at their points..14 in 12 races. They are miles behind others they were fighting last year.


Well, Rosberg, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Grosjean, Glock, Maldonado, Perez, Kobayashi are all from GP2 so I'm not sure you can really day that


Off point, but is there any news of where Ascanelli will finally end up?


How though do you persuade a team to keep their young driver with a fantastic resume in favour of someone with an 8 figure cheque from their government?

F1 is entertainment but is also a business and in tough economic times, when you have drivers of questionable talent offering £20m+ for a seat, its tough to turn down.

Surely more of a worry is that the majority of the teams on the grid cannot afford to take a punt on a young driver. Marussia, Caterham, HRT, Williams, Sauber cant afford to subsidise £7/8/9 million to give a Frijns or Da Costa a chance, when lesser drivers with bigger bank balances are happy to write huge cheques or have huge cheques written for them by sugar daddy manufacturers.


This is a very informative post James, thanks.

But what are your actual suggestions for the change?

Also, while I completely agree with the point your making, is it not also surely possible for any real 'great' talent to simply show himself (or herself)?

I mean, Hamilton (and let's say Vettel) showed themself to be head & shoulders above the rest from a very early age.

If a talent is to come who is as good as Hamilton, surely he will show it from a very early age also, in karting??


You would think they would run 3 1 hour test sessions on a friday, (as the do the two 1 hour 30 minutes sessions anyway) and the first one they could not run their current drivers so they would have to use rookies/test drivers in their cars.

Its something easy, but not a huge amount of time in the car. Something is better then nothing though


Just to pick up on Sam Bird, he is 25 years old, has driven 2 seasons of GP2, a season of FR3.5, 3 seasons of Formula 3, a season of Formula Renault and 2 seasons of Formula BMW without winning a title in his career.

The maligned Charles Pic actually has a better resume.


At the same time you have Robin Frijns winning titles in 2010 & 2011 and beating Ferrari & Mercedes drivers in 2012 in his FR3.5 debut season yet he has no prospect of an F1 drive next season.


Yah. The Dutch future in F1 might look bright if you consider Beitske Visser as a viable prospect as well. If there were seats available 😉


Time for a fourth low-class team perhaps and the return of a 26-car grid? At least there should be 2 additional seats... Though I can't see some new, really strong driver coming in the near future from MAR, CAT or HRT.


Brilliantly written article, and I think it voices the concerns everyone has about F1 and it's long term future. I needs to be more than money and investor focussed, it needs to nurture the upcoming talent to secure it's own future.


JA, there's no attribution to this statement: "But he’s been covering 700 kilometres a day and as a result is a far more experienced and complete driver than he was when he was racing for Toro Rosso. He’s now the driver he should have been 12 months ago, far more experienced and rounded." I'm curious to know who's said he's now "far more rounded" and "the driver he should have been". Nothing against Jaime and yourself, but you sound like his manager!


Well it's very clear from talking to Pirelli and to the engineers, but also it's a more general point.

Grosjean or Maldonado would benefit from five or six days of doing 700km.

Jaime doesn't have a manager - just himself and a lawyer!


James.....On this point, Jamie has been very vocal that he will be returning to F1 next year, especially on his BBC column and even stating he isn't attending the next races due to his training schedule to get him ready for F1.

Any news on which team has him in his sights? I would imagine with his knowledge of next year’s tyres and the track mileage you mention he is a great prospect for many teams and engineers?


Very perceptive article;

One possible solution is FIA to mandate some of the following ideas;

1. that each team setup a driver academy which may be run as a cash generative business centre. Academies linked to FIA projects like road safety etc;

2. Driver 'transfer' system. Teams receive a percentage of the transfer price when a driver moves to another team or 'graduates' from the centre. Teams therefore receive a return on investment. Could include bonuses on wins/championships etc;

3. Flexibility on sponsorship. Each car may run in different livery if required (i believe this is restricted currently? - may offer one-off funding deals, allow corporates to 'taste' F1 and test the water;

4. 3-car/team option, 3rd car to be used as an 'Academy car'. May want to apply spec restrictions to reduce costs etc. Gets car and track time to the rising stars.

A few thoughts!


Don't think that this lack of depth of talent is limited to drivers alone.

I know from personal experience the problem of recruiting good quality designers with a complete grasp of design and engineering with a racing background. Universities around the UK, and further afield are producing engineers with motorsport degrees, but there are few opportunities for these graduates to cut their teeth in lower formula. Make mistakes, learn what makes a car fast, what makes a car hard to build, expensive to manufacture, difficult to maintain. With the demise over the last 20 years of the likes of March, Reynard, Van Diemen and more recently Lola, combined with more and more single make formulas with fixed designs for multiple years it is becoming much more difficult to get rounded engineers.

Many graduate and go into Formula One, some are good, a few could be the future Brawns, Byrnes, Postlethwaites etc. but they have a very jilted and narrow view of engineering. F1 requires engineers to be specialists in narrow areas now, which does not produce the strength in depth of general understanding that designing a whole car as part of a small team gives. How does your little world affect the big picture?

This also goes for drivers. So many now come through the ranks having only driven one make cars. How do you learn, as a driver, the feedback you need to give to help develop a car that is poor handling? If the first time you drive in a championship where there is more than one manufacturer is Formula One then its a bit late to develop those skills, and this can truncate your career.


When you say second tier drivers, do you mean second rate, drivers in second tier teams, or something else? Could you clarify that please?


I would assume second tier means the next best behind first tier, which is to say the world champions, aside from Schumacher whose a decade past his prime and Räikkönen whose been away for two years.


Hello, James!

No doubt, the F1 testing ban has created a huge obstacle in terms of young driver development.

There was a time, not too long ago, when aspiring, up and coming, drivers from the lower formulas participated in shoot-outs, hence, competed against one another in timed tests for available F1 seats.

If I'm not mistaken, Jenson Button was one those, competing against, Antonio Pizzonia of Brazil for Williams vacant second driver spot before the 2000 season. Button had the fastest time, won the drive, and the rest is history....

Tragically, ex-F2 multiple race winner Jason Watts, a black driver from Denmark, who was a sensational racer, was also scheduled to compete in that face-off. However, he was paralyzed in a motor cycle accident just weeks before the event.

Personally, I think that these sort of contests would draw positive publicity and prove attractive to potential sponsors. Especially, in these hard economic times, providing a informative guide to the type of young driver talent a firm's investment money was backing. What do you think James?


Actually, that was Bruno Junquira in stead of AP 🙂


Thanks Spark for the correction, really great!


... and Bruno Junqueira was slightly faster than Jenson Button but the latter was judged as a better promise, as he was a match for Junqueira despite having a lot less experience...


Yeah, I had to dig deep into the old memory box on that one! Anyway thanks a heap for the correction!


The sport is relying on them coming through, because they always have,

If the sport has 20 drivers in 5 years and the likes of Vettal, Alonso have gone then people are always going to think the guys at the front of the grid are the best drivers, actually there are not there are better drivers out there with more talent like I am sure there is now maybe not as good as Vettal, Alonso but certainly better than Bruno, Glock, Pic etc


Perhaps there is some money to be made in fielding 1 or 2 recent cars independently and renting out seat time? Same as what Pirelli is doing, but independently.


Excellent and insightful piece, spot on.

It's currently hard to spot up-coming talent accurately because junior formulas also require significant finance, plus lack of vehicle-equivalency etc.

A "flat playing field" sponsored open wheel formula as the next step up from karting would be brilliant – a sort of "prize race series" for kart stars to graduate to, with funding from senior teams.


What is wrong with Charles Pic and Max Chilton? Are they pay drivers? If so I wasn't aware of this....


I think Pic's dad owns the largest haulage company in France and so as James says he can provide financial support.


Both have very wealthy families who can ensure significant amounts to secure drives.

Both are good drivers, but from what I've seen they are not likely champions or even GP winners


Actually the more I think about this the less it concerns me. True true talent will find a way, whilst pay drivers will block some seats they don't deserve. Isn't this how it has always been with F1 a rich man's game. Even if corporate sponsors (for drivers) were blocked then you need to be pretty wealthy to fund karting and lower formula racing etc. I know my family couldn't have afforded it for me and we weren't on the breadline so to speak.

No matter how you look at it F1 is a rich man's game by the rule, the rest an exception.


Motorsport in general is a wealthy person's game. The cost of competing even at club level karting is expensive.

Is Max Chilton the same Chilton as the one who used to race in BTCC?

With regards to the ban on testing I think some of the team principles should read Bounce by Matthew Syed. This excellent book highlights that to become world class in a sporting discipline requires 10000 hours of meaningful practice. With the ban on testing no young driver is going to get sufficient meaningful practice in driving an F1 car.


His older brother Tom is the one who used to race in the BTCC, and currently races for Arena Motorsport in the WTCC in a Ford Focus. Their father Grahame is (or was - not sure which) vice-chairman of Aon Corporation, which presumably explains how they've bankrolled a very expensive motorsport programme. They're both decent enough drivers, but as far as I can see nothing exceptional.


Motorsport in general is a wealthy person's game. The cost of competing even at club level karting is expensive and is out of reach for the majority of people.

Is Max Chilton the same Chilton as the one who used to race in BTCC?

With regards to the ban on testing I think some of the team principles should read Bounce by Matthew Syed. This excellent book highlights that to become world class in a sporting discipline requires 10000 hours of meaningful practice. With the ban on testing no young driver is going to get sufficient meaningful practice in driving an F1 car.


Does Karthekeyen pay for his drive? Surely he must!

And it must be a HUGE amount too!


The answer is so obvious, you needn't have asked...


Words never spoken truer....nice piece on reality !


This has been brewing for some time, although it's not simply a problem that originates within the ranks of the F1 field. The global recession has greatly redcued the scope for young drivers to win any significant sponsorship (there was an article recently in F1 Racing about the difficulties that Italians in particular seem to be havig in winning even nominal sponsors from their home country), so that I get the impression the talent pool in the junior formulae issignificantly less impressive than it ws when the likes of Hamilton and Vettel were coming through.

This happened, of course, in the early 90s and the result a few years down the line was a Formula One field full of well-endowed Lavaggis, Dinizes, Marqueses and Tueros. Plus drivers such as Gil de Ferran and Tom Kristensen, who were unable to bring sponsors to potential F1 employers in the cash-strapped mid-90s, had to go off and do other things, much to F1's loss.

During the economic boom there were always drivers coming through who were hyped as the next big thing. Some of these, like Pizzonia, were far from it, but it was abundantly clear from an early stage that Vettel, Hamilton et al were rare talents well before they reached F1. Who is on the radar now? None of the GP2 drivers seems to generate muchenthusiasm among the teams; nor does the GP3 field. Does anyone see Daniel Abt as someone who can potentially win 3 F1 titles? Perhaps that's unfair, but I don't see anyone rushing to get his name on a contract. British F3? A 15-car field this year with modest talent at best.


Some of the financial issues could be alleviated if the commercial rights holders didn't take quite so much money out of the sport and allowed it to be re-invested in the teams and/or new drivers instead.

Perhaps what needs to happen is that a portion of the money coming into F1 is ring-fenced specifically for testing - before any is taken out of the sport (by investors, rights holders etc). There could be several specific testing days where non-competing drivers get to drive the car and the costs of these days covered by the FIA/F1. This would give experience to new and/or reserve drivers.

There is also the issue of stock flotation. Who benefits from the profits from that and could some of this money be used as well?


Well said and it is exactly what I thought when testing was first banned. Also the limiting of engines, gearboxes and no T-car means it is a risk to let a rookie drive on friday morning, canning the car, and the race driver has to sit out FP2. Without testing, he only has one hour FP3 en Q left.

I miss the times where F1 was about speed and not only show. The same will be when Schumacher quits, half the press loses something to write about. The flak he is getting after Singapore is unbelievable, like they were saving it for an occasion where he crashes. But he is a character and I found 2007-2009 bleak without him driving.


James, what makes testing so expensive? Is it the cost of actually running the car or is it all the effort that goes into developing and evaluating new parts?

It seems like the current young drivers test tends to focus more on developing the car rather than developing the driver. Would it help reduced costs if teams were forced to use the previous year's car and tyres for young driver tests and just let the kids go nuts? Surely the could have 4-5 young drivers tests a year on the Monday after some of the European grands prix without it costing too much?


Hi James, I always find it curious how talented drivers don't have money and the ones not so talented do? How does this happen? Is there not Is it about looks, nationality, personality? Would like to hear your thoughts.


It's about connections. As in life.

That's the way of the world, but it won't create a new generation of high level performers


Hi james,its my 1st ever comment although have been visiting your site for many years now ! just wanna know, don't you think this article is based on assumption that economic environment remaims grim or more tough for teams financially?, if economic environment globallly improves,more money team may have,testing returns so quality improves! what you think?


Thanks for the comment

Of course economic upturn would help, but F1 cannot control that

It has to act on what it can control


Rich kids or those with backing can always pay their way into the next level (not to say they don't have talent). Drivers with serious talent but not from the right background (whether it's money or a country with companies eager for F1 exposure) can't always afford the next level up the ladder.


Bring back tobacco advertising!!!!




Right! Why not?! The self-defeating nature of some rules and regulations is staggering at times (regardless of field/endeavour, be it F1 sponsorship or light bulb standards. Humans are idiots sometimes!)...


James, what is your opinion on Robin Frijns? The Dutch media only recently seem to have realised he is doing quite good in WSR. Stories and rumours in the Netherlands already have him linked with Sauber, Williams and Lotus. (3rd driver contracts)

How much of this do you think is true and do you feel he is rated highly in de paddock? Or are us Dutch people just talking up their own man?


If I could add a little meat to the bone, Tim you and your countrymen are right to get excited as Frijns looks like a great prospect.

He is maybe a little raw but he also has had the most raw speed in WSR this year, I would say he is probably a couple of tenths faster than Jules Bianchi the Force India tester at least who he is competing with for the title.

Some close to him have already said he has an arrogance too that he knows he's the real deal, dont know if thats a good thing or not at this stage but budget depending he will make it to F1 and possibly to the top. A third driver role would probably be good for him next season.


I've not studied him closely, but he sounds like a good prospect.


James these companies throwing their money behind drivers, why don't they want to put their money behind the best ones?

If you were asking me to put my money behind a young Vettel or a young Maldonado I know straight away which one to pick.



Vettel had backing in lower formulae. In fact Seb was backed in karting from the age of 12.

He is a talent though. BTW Maldo although in a different class than Sebastian Vettel is still much better and faster than many other drivers. BTW I don't think there r anymore talented Vettel's in jr formulae.

Mark in Australia

Here here James...

Something must be done sooner rather than later or the results could be simply diabolical.

Limited in season testing must be brought back, or making the Friday co-driver sessions compulsory could be an equally good start.


Any coincedence that outstanding F1 talent was thin on the ground from mid to late 90s, Hakkinen and Schumacher the only outstanding talents to emerge after the worldwide recession at the start of that decade. Schumacher's subsequent dominance nearly killed the sport....so we should worried.


Yes, maybe.

Although they had testing then and my point is that some testing is definitely needed now for younger drivers


Oh dear, your mentioning of Charles Pic and Max Chilton in the manner you did, wasn't very complimentary was it? 🙂

However your general theme on the subject matter in hand, is unfortunately correct. Indeed where will the future Alonsos, Hamiltons, and Vettels come from?

James, you yourself didn't offer a suggestion. What do you think should be done?


A bit of concerted forward planning

Engage with Pirelli and their testing programme. Encourage an Academy process for the sport as a whole., rather than relying on the hit and miss of sponsor driver programmes


Didn't Anthony Hamilton put together a propsal set up such an academy a few years ago? I imagine he encountered the same problems as Pirelli did in sourcing contemporary cars.


Wasn't Anthony Hamilton planning to set up a Driver Accademy for exactly these reasons? If not, someone should!


Very prescient article, excellent stuff.

Seems like whoever team employs Vettel in the next years will have the edge on the others.


Great article. I think it is something that is too often overlooked.

I personally think that the Thursday of a grand prix weekend should be turned over to testing. Let the teams run a "development" car and make it mandatory to run a 3rd, "development" driver.

Two sessions should do it. 4 hours of running. Or perhaps, 3 sessions, with a 30 minute unofficial "quali" session and unofficial points given for the best performance of the weekend. Doesn't have to be the whole season, maybe just make it the European season to keep logistical costs down.


I don't think its coincidence that there are currently 6 world champions on the F1 grid. In the absence of driver development, top teams are looking for proven talent and experience.

Perhaps this is another possible future; that the average age of the grid will increase, and that drivers will continue to drive into their late thirties and beyond.

Despite his difficult return, perhaps Michael Schumacher's greatest victory - and contribution to Formula 1 - will be demonstrating that age is no longer a barrier to competing at the highest level of motor sport.

I know he just ploughed into the back of a Frenchman last weekend, but he's been out qualifying his exceptionally quick team mate this year and shown a real turn of speed. Ok, not quite as fast as he once was, but still quick enough to be regularly amongst the finest, fastest dozen drivers in the world.


I think this is already happening. Although James asserted that Alonso will have retired at 36 I'm not convinced. When you have drivers in their 40s asking people like webber to retire at 8 years younger seems bizarre.

Alonso, if anything, has gotten better. For sure Button was a better driver post 30 and I can imagine he'll be improving for a few years yet.

The issue of performance in driving is less age specific than sports where people have to run, jump or otherwise pit solely their muscle capacity against each other.

Does anyone think a racing driver will retire early now after seeing how badly Michael needed to come back. Button and Webber have both said it - they won't make the mistake of leaving too early.


First of all, I would like to ask why is that when I wrote a comment some days ago it just disappeared and was never published. There was no sign that it was under moderation. I guess there was some problem with the site. It's not such a big deal but it's nevertheless not pleasant when you write a longer piece and then left wondering what happened.

On the subject - I was waiting when you will write something about the situation with young drivers, James. I remember that you said that in other categories there are a lot of crashes because the young generation wants to prove themselves and they only have that opportunity so they do aal they can to overtake, impress etc. Then there are people who invite to look at other categories whenever Maldonado or Grosjean do something unacceptable. But it is only the consequences. The reason for all this could be somwhere else.

Some drivers have almost no backing so they try to impress in GP2 or other series. There are crashes, incidents. They try to prove something because there is no other way.

You say that we will see the real results of all this in five years. I think that we see it at least partially already now. Hamilton was the last really promosing talent. Then there was undoubtedly Vettel. But after Sebastian there has been almost nobody who has really impressed. An on the horizon there aren't young drivers who are in the spotlight. Of course, there are talented guys but not everybody gets recognition. Those who does - well, why are not teams very keenly interested in them? There are some names but nobody mentions them like the new superstars, nobody puts them in their cars consistently.


I'm sorry, there is something weird happening with some of the comments.

We've been right through it and cannot replicate the problems or see what's causing it, but some readers are finding that comments aren't getting through or are being rejected. It's a Wordpress thing, not a JA on F1 thing and you haven't been blacklisted or anything.

Readers will have to bear with us while our technical staff try to get to the bottom of it.

Sadly it doesn't help that we get hit with about 100 spam messages an hour, so the filters are set pretty tight.


Same thing is happening to me. Of four comments submitted on this article, none of which included any objectionable content or anything that would trigger auto-filtering, exactly zero have gone live and been published.


Good point raised. I was wondering, seeing as you don't reference the academy directly yet mention Perez, is the Ferrari Driver Academy different to others?


Very emotive article, you seem to be quite passionate about this issue Allen, and spot on. It's an issue that has been brewing for sometime time and F1 has completely overlooked the problem.


Interesting food for thought. Whilst the cream will always rise to the top, there mightn't be the depth of talent. But then again cars matter more than drivers in F1, so will a lack of talent really hinder the show?


I don't see this situation changing drastically (unless the teams get more share of the F1 revenues - ho ho) so isn't the solution to make the lower formulae more and more like F1, so that the leap to F1 isn't so great? I know strides are being made with GP2 etc, but clearly more needs to be done. Who will pay for that is another matter.

Or maybe F1 could actually plough some of it's massive profits back into the sport and pay for test days, young driver programmes and the like..? Or am I being too naive?


Very interesting post, agree with all your points but.... as far as the elite "superstar" drivers go, wont the cream rise to the top ie attract backing through performance, perform with little track time? Still great article as usual



Wickens was considerably faster than Pic at the ybg drivers last year. But who got the shot? And now who is moving on to a better team? Not the fast Canadian, but the big-walleted Frenchman.


Wickens is a classic example of the kind of talent F1 has allowed to drift away


Brilliant article. As usual.

It looks like Jaime will be back. And that makes me very happy. Now only one question remains, for which team James? We know you must know something.... 🙂


Petrov has no seat next year....


And there is an open spot at Sauber. Yes please please please let it be...


James, Wow! Porbably one of the most (if not the most) opinionated posts I've ever read on this blog. You obviuously feel testing is critcial to the furture spectacle of F1?


When it comes to the testing ban everyone always brings up the obvious Pros/Cons (Cost saving & lack of running for young drivers), However there is a bigger pro that is often over-looked.

I think the biggest pro for the fans is that the testing ban has been one of the biggest factor is closing up the field & has also helped produce some of the excitement we have seen in races this year.

Before the test ban we just used to be in the situation where those that could test pulled big performance gaps on those who couldn't. One of the big reasons Ferrari dominated for as long as they did was because they were testing more than anyone else, Teams like Jordan slipped back down the order because they coudn't afford to test so got passed by those Mid-field teams that had bigger budgets & could test.

Bring back in-season testing & the bigger teams would be able to develop there cars more which would increase the gap between the front & the mid-field again.

Bring back in-season testing & the teams will figure out the Pirelli tyres a lot faster than they did & this would harm the racing.

The testing ban isn't perfect for the reasons you mention in your article, However I think its been brilliant as far as what I believe its done to help improve the actual racing.

To give the young drivers more running why not just do what they did a few years ago & allow teams to run 3rd cars on Friday? That allowed guys like Davidson, Vettel & Kubica to get track running & get running an F1 circuits during F1 weekends & all ended up moving into race seats.


I disagree. Unlimited testing did that in the past. A certain amount of testing..or limited..will suffice and should make teams better. I really didn't like the tyre lottery at the begining of the season. The occasional viewer maybe did..but I didn't.


I voiced my concerns about this James when you did the thing about James calado. I said at the time that there is no real stand out superstar in that series. Gp3 though could have a few good ones. Been impressed with the de costa guy.

I think if Robert was in f1 today the field would be the best it's ever been at the front and the best it will ever be. Unfortunately there is some guys in f1 at the minute who just can't cut it.


I can't help but think that this article is a little contrived as Jamie is your colleague on BBC from time to time. However the merits of the article still stand


Not at all. It's about the wider picture. Jaime deserves a place in F1 but this article is about all the drivers in F1 in five years from now.


And as you mentioned at Spa last month we should expect him back next year, right? TR should never have gotten rid of him, they are really struggling this year.



What about GP2?


Bit harsh on Max Chilton?


While it may never replace actual driving, one could argue that current drivers do far more KMs than previous generations due to simulator work. This will only improve with time.


Talking about experience, Lucas Di Grassi has tested much more for Pirelli on 2011/12 - quite a shame he's not even mentioned for a F1 seat. He's got both speed and technical skills, should be somehow useful on racing teams.


I more concerned about equal opportunity. There is a weight penalty for every driver but the lighter drivers are able to ballast more weight in the car to artificially improve performance.

Until a system is found to level the playing field all the other arguments are arbitrary.

There must be an engineer somewhere who can calculate a drivers centre of gravity above the reference plain when sitting in the car.


Testing is sorely missed on a lot of levels not just for nurturing drivers but also not least for us punters to see F1 relatively cheaply (the Silverstone test was always very low key in terms of not having to queue for hours and also within the stratosphere cost wise). If you keep testing within Europe then the costs shouldn't be enormous and the top teams must be spending more in simulators and CFD anyway as a result of the ban on testing and unfortunately the little ones will always suffer whatever the system


Having two competing feeder series doesn't help - it weakens the field in both GP2 and Renault 3.5 - and then the F1 teams choose their test drivers from the tier below that, in GP3!

The series champions should get an F1 test day, if not a contract, as reward - at the moment their prize is to watch the rivals they beat receiving investment, support and even tests from F1 teams.

Who'll be commmentating in Jaime's place at the next three races?



After reading about the issue with comments I've decided to give it another go, so if this gets through I'm happy to be back after several months of forced silence (but I never stopped reading!). I'm changing my email address to see if that makes the trick.

Very interesting post. I certainly don't look forward to another post-Senna-like era where there were very few drivers capable of occasionally taking Schumcher on, none to consistently do so.

One wonders how many great talents have been or will be lost due to lack of running. I'm of the opinion that somebody lacking the initial raw adaptation speed can reach the level of a, say, Hamilton, with the appropriate running and nurturing you mention. Having said that, I think the Di Restas and Perez and Rosbergs still constitute a good safety net, but again, F1 needs superstars, several at a time if possible. Any valuable winning by a youngster has to be done when the old guard is still in place, otherwise a lot of panache and time is lost in the transition to the next generation of greats.



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I'm not a huge fan of Red Bull and the way they treat their junior drivers, but to say their driver programme has failed "apart from Vettel" is a little ingenuous considering the success he's had.

I do agree though that it's hard to see exactly where the next generation of drivers is going to come from. If Ferrari don't replace Massa with Perez next season and groom him alongside Alonso then it really shows they have no commitment to their young driver programme at all. There's no real evidence of anyone coming through at McLaren to follow in Hamilton's footsteps.


Yes, the real test for Red Bull's program will be a year or two down the track when Vettel (and Webber for that matter) have moved on and they need to replace them.

It has to be said though that having those extra 2 seats in the Torro Rossos to play with doesn't do any harm though...


The real financial problem is that the teams cannot agree on a budget cap. Ferrari, Red Bull and McClaren have huge budgets which all other teams strive to compete against is what causes financial pain to F1 and the resulting damage to the rest of the sport.

If there was a realistic budget cap which could be funded from sponsorship and the sport itself, then there would be no need for pay drivers in most teams and so the focus would be on the best driver not the richest.

Like all money driven sports, it cannot resist shooting itself in the foot in the short term and loosing a whole leg in the long run.

I must say I do enjoy it though, especially the shenanigans like this.


Football has clubs with different budgets..but they still have practices whenever they want.

Why should F1 be any diferent?

PS: I'm not in favour of unlimited testing.


Nice article James. If you go back to the days before all the modern safety measures were introduced and there were frequent deaths among G.P drivers, opportunities were regularly opening up for new drivers. Obviously we don't want to go back to those days, but I think that is a major reason why new drivers find it so difficult to make the step up to F1. I think one approach could be to run racing similar to the football league and demote the bottom F1 team to GP2 and promote the top GP2 team to F1.


Great article, James. Super that you take the time to highlight something so important to the future of the sport.

I still say F1 as a business model needs a complete overhaul. As it's running now it's not sustainable.


Great article James. My opinion as an American watching F1; In 5 years I will be over 40 and if this projection comes to reality, I will just turn it off and watch what ever "entertainment" is on at 04:30AM on Sunday (usual time F1 runs live in Western USA).


The problem with testing is easy: Bernie doesn't make any money on it.

Also, I hope Schu will resign after this season. Problem is however, like you say, who is to replace him?


James.........an excellent but somewhat concerning article. You mention that one or two teams are 'close to the edge'. Care to name them James?


No, but you can probably work it out


Couldn't agree more James,

I'm a big fan of the British Touring Car series (BTCC) & the opportunity to see young drivers getting out and giving it a go and talking to some of them at races, it is obvious they would love to drive in F1 but they know they'll never get there. Not because of a lack of talent, but down to funds.

Max Chilton is probably the next best British hope for an F1 drive. He's a good driver but having watched him for a few years, there are, in my opinion, better out there. Max's trump card is that his father is the chairman of AON and this contributes hugely to his budget.

There are a plethora of junior formulae available to those with small and large budgets but the exclusivity of F1 means that a tiny percentage of the potential will make it into a cockpit. What is undeniable is that if a driver comes with a deficit-destroying wedge of cash, he'll probably get the drive over someone that was 0.5 second a lap quicker.

I don't think this situation helps the promotion of female drivers to F1 either.

What is appalling in F1 and is the 'elephant in the room' as far as I'm concerned when they start talking about the sport's green credentials is that the teams spent an obscene amount of money on couple of cars that only race twenty times a year. No matter how you slice the figures, it’s terrible value for money.

I'd love to see some 'tester races' or even an old-fashioned non-championship series where talent could get in and take Lewis' car out for a race. Greater exposure for sponsors, more racing for people at the track and a chance to audition the drivers against the current F1 talent. Could you imagine the fireworks if someone from a lower formula hopped into an established teams motor and beat the times of the F1 pilot?

Jackie Stewart & Jim Clark both attracted attention to themselves by hopping into the same car as more established drivers and beating their times - wouldn't that be great to see today. It really could bring down the wages bill

'So you think you're worth $15 million do you? Mr Alonso. That kid has just beaten your time in the same car and he's on £125 a week. Let's negotiate.'

Let's get the cars out more often...


Although hopefully things won't turn out quite so drastically in 5 years time, one point to consider if no new 'greats' arrive to challenge, is that it could mean lots of World Championships for Hamilton and Vettel!!! Maybe one of them could eclipse Schumacher's tally?!

Considering the amount of money generated by the sport, you'd think the FIA would be willing to investment in proper young driver testing or a development programme and subsidise the teams, rather than letting them sort themselves out.


FIA Institute has the Young Driver Academy, which is all about improving yourself while learning about road safety etc

But it's not pushing talented drivers through the ranks


Hi James, Anthony Hamilton was attempting to get a project off the ground where young drivers would get some experience in F1 cars supplied by the teams. Do you know if his plans ever came to fruition? It's not the whole solution but it would be a start!

Off Topic: listened to a great interview with Alex Zanardi on Radio 5 Live tonight on the way home. Very humbling and i'd urge others to take a listen.


You make a very good point, James.

With testing very limited these days, F1 should think about having a FP3 at every circuit mandating the use of young drivers/testers. They could probably bring a 3rd car for this purpose. Most teams have enough spare parts anyway. Even if this might put additional stress on teams in terms of resources, it is still much cheaper than dedicated testing.

Even if it is not possible at every circuit, they should do it at all European circuits.


it's just what one would expect. the anglophile business model is incredibly short sighted and hinges on its day to day sharemarket value.

there is no vision, just a bunch of greedy suits that treat f1 as a cash cow, pure and simple.

if you want long term planning then maybe f1 should be managed by the japanese or chinese. their business models typically run to 20 -50 years ahead.

as for future star drivers - the big E doesn't care too much about drivers. never has. its not really mr e's job to get the best drivers into f1. after all he is only the commercial rights holder.

to produce great drivers you need healthy junior open wheel categories that are affordable and also provide a logical stepping stone to f1.

the fia are the real owners of f1. it is in its interests to ensure a good supply of f1 drivers. i wish berger well in his endeavours to sort out the problems in the junior open wheel categories. a true meritocratic system is what's required.

if the fia fail in this area then look forward to the day when all the drivers in f1 come from well off backgrounds.

there are a host of challenges for f1 in the future; drivers being just one.

probably a bit more urgent is for f1 to establish an affordable business model. f1 could learn a lot from series' like nascar.

we can also do without all the behind the scenes financial hanky panky.


IS there anything stopping teams from running a young driver in an old car? Prost will be driving a 2010 Red Bull soon so why not let a young hopeful test for a few days in 2 year old machinery? Surely, that would even allow a team to really focus on driver training rather than testing new bits?


Valid points made, but will we be able to tell?

What I mean is that if the very best don't make it into an F1 car won't the bar just be reset a little and the performance of the drivers who are in F1 will be the "new best" as far as the viewing public is concerned?

We will still be watching races with high class drivers competing wheel to wheel - hopefully with a bit of personality thrown in.


Hi, a question slightly off topic on the new engine regs.

With the level of uncertainty seemly rising have the manafacturers paused development of the new machines? Do we have a possible situation where milloins has been spent on the new engines already which may turn out to be dead ducks? In this case would they have a legal case against the WMC or FIA?


This all comes down to attention. F1, as an entertainment business, needs to attract attention, so it needs drivers like Hamilton who are fast and exciting and will be noticed by the media.

Di Resta, Perez, Rosberg and Hulkenberg are great drivers and potential champions but they aren't going to have the kind of impact someone like Hamilton does.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: If tobacco advertising was still allowed, the gloabl financial crisis would have no impact at all on Formula 1. Teams should be looking for drivers with talent, NOT drivers who bring with them a truck load of cash.

Cigarette money would more than cover teams costs (as it once did). This would allow teams to focus on driver talent and also enable them to afford to pay for the better drivers.

Bring on the flak! 🙂


Testing sessions were great. They had a special atmosphere, kind of pure f1 encounter when the cars used to break the silent prevailing in the racetracks.


Hi James,

I'll add a hypothetical dimension to the lack of testing. We come to the final race of the season. There's a two week gap from the previous race. The teams fighting for the championship bring new parts, untested tunnel. An equivalent of Hamilton's million dollar wing from 2008 is mentioned in the media. It doesn't work and the other driver gets the driver's title. While every race of the season is like this, it isn't a good look in the final race.

Your claim that Grosjean and Maldonado would be in fewer accidents if they were allowed to test more is an interesting one. Obviously testing will not help develop wheel-to-wheel instincts. Driving installation laps may help develop familiarity with driving with out of the norm brake and tyre temperatures, but this doesn't seem to be either driver's problem. In removing those elements, it would appear to be that your argument comes down to experience showing how to manage a race, knowing how to get a race to come to you, rather than taking the wrong risks at the start. By having testing you tend to remove the odd results, such as Mercedes in China, as everyone understands their car so well, so I'm not convinced that a driver would feel he could make up places later due to an advantage not shown in qualifying.

Jaime Alguersuari gave me an - while your ratings last year suggest you think he has what it takes, my sense is that Red Bull feel that he isn't fast enough. If we could use old F1 cars for a time attack style championship. GP style points, but points lost for damage. All driver throttle, brake and steering inputs would be available to all F1 teams.

The results would show who could deliver under pressure and teams would have pretty good information on who has the talent to drive an F1 car. By not having races, the damage bill should be reduced, and the wear and tear on old cars would be reduced too.




As always a fantastic article.

For me the solution shouldn't be that hard though. Given the amount of money made by Formula 1 in general (read Bernie).

If Bernie wants to have the best stars, he should set up an academy which comprises of growing a couple of must-have qualities. Include that with a couple of testing days with 2 year old f1-machinery. Then whoever is the most all-round and/or fastest should be the first to be drafted in as a reserve driver at minimum.

Combine this with a 3rd practice on Friday where the drafted in reserve driver(s) can learn the circuits. Of course the particular driver is supported the first year by the BE academy.

The selection criteria for the academy should be something like that you at least have driven in GP2 or WSR and have shown some type success. The first selection could be that drivers will be tested in an old simulator from an F1 team so not too many drivers have to drive an old F1-machine.


James, maybe the FIA should allow the teams to remain behind for an extra day, except on back to back races for obvious reasons, and allow a mornings testing for young drivers before everyone is packed up and on their way home.

To limit cost, teams should only be allowed to use one chassis and not test any new parts. This would allow the young guns to concentrate on their driver training. To limit costs a little further, this should only happen for 50% of the races on the calender.

I am sure the teams can organise their logistics to leave behind a skeleton crew that can run a car for a morning...


Didn't Anthony Hamilton try to set up a young driver academy a few years back, to allow young drivers chance to test using F1 cars from the previous season - I presume this never got off the ground?


James, what are your thoughts on Alex Rossi, Valsechhi and Razia?


James, what are your thoughts on Alex Rossi, Valsecchi and Razia?


T-cars in FP1 and FP2 for the test drivers.

Also would prevent driver's missing a race like Alonso did after his monaco hiccup.

Other than that I believe there should be a number of FIA controlled test sessions during the season. This would allow current race drivers and test drivers get in some mileage and would not be as costly as private testing.

Also I would not be adverse to the teams on bottom half of the constructors been allowed a wild card test day or two mid season....


Great article James.

It is very true and one of a range of problems that, in my view, stem from the original knee-kerk resource restriction.

My wife, who is not a fan of the sport, believes that the lack of testing is "silly" - I think your football analogy is entirely apposite for the drivers and equally so for the teams.

My view, as a "hard-core" purist who ultimately wants Formula Libre, agrees with you and her but for very different reasons. This sport is about the ultimate in innovation, technology and skill and the current restrictions are far too much. No-one wants to see "empty" grids if teams were to fold but I for one would rather see customer or "sister" teams to the big players and a return to testing than watch Marussias and HRTs trundling round. Pure commercial forces will restrict spending far more healthily than artificial agreements that most major teams can always get around anyway - RBR are rumoured to have done that repeatedly and Ferrari and McLaren are now so large and diverse that I am sure they can "hide" investment.

Please open it up again for the good of the sport in many dimensions, not only drivers.


I'm thankful for James's ability to put into clear words how the opportunities for young drivers within F1 have developed over the past few years. It seems to me, too, as if it's proceeded to a point where drivers are expected to get into F1 fully formed. Yet, they won't be. Actually, if that were the expectation, it makes even less sense to overlook drivers who've, say, been legally able to buy a beer in the US and have a few seasons in runner-up categories and good results to their name.

What I'm also getting is the impression that the professional-grade simulators most of the teams have access to can somewhat substitute for testing in terms of getting a driver to develop a good understandingof how to perform on an otherwise empty track. Where most of the current generation of "younger" drivers, up to and including a Lewis Hamilton, can still improve, though, is getting more feeling for and understanding of how to behave when it's the first few laps of the race and they're buried deep in the field somewhere, with cars almost scraping left, right, front and rear. That's experience that can come after race, not just track time. I think this is an important distinction to make. (It's also why I think that any statements been made lately about shortening the races are bad, bad ideas.)

The problem is far from just originating within F1 itself, though. It's expensive to go racing to begin with, which means we're seeing similar problems, down to financial problems constraining testing more than would be advantageous for the drivers all the way down the category ladder. Even at the karting level, I'm expecting there's quite a bit of talent that falls by the wayside. And I don't think it only happens strictly because of monetary concerns. I'm also thinking, for example, about young drivers who might not conform to the kinds of "outgoing and funny" personality patterns that I'm seeing repeated in recruitments time and again. So it's fully possible this generation's most talented racing driver may be a guy or girl delivering pizzas somewhere instead.

Craig in Singapore

But you can be sure that pizza will be hot!


The problem exists because cash strapped teams are forced into selling seats to pay drivers. If F1 teams could share in greater revenue streams form Bernie then they would not be under this pressure to secure additional funding.

Should the increased revenue by substantial enough then testing in some limited format could be introduced..

It seems paradoxical that while teams are under this financial pressure to survive, they need to absorb the significant development costs for the new 2012 engine configuration..

Something doesn't add up..


I sincerely hope the FIA, Bernie, team managers and personnel are your site readers, James.


I sincerely hope the FIA, Bernie, team managers and personnel are your site readers, James..


Ban pay drivers. Some teams are exploiting this extra source of revenue and the Driver market is being artifically manipulated.

As far as I am concerned, cash strapped teams don't add any value to formula other than providing a mobile roadblock - if they go bust they go bust - is there REALLY a shortage of want-to-be formula 1 team out there?


What constitutes a "pay" driver though? Alonso has massive financial backing from Santander, he has earned the backing through his talent though. I can't think of a single driver that is in F1 now who isn't talented enough to be there. Is Petrov taking a seat that could go to a more talented driver waiting in the wings, yes, but Petrov is good enough to fill that seat. It is a tough situation...


Yrs, it's very tough to set up an F1 team. There is one potential buyer out there though

Plus FIA has put a ceiling of 12 teams I believe, excluding that 13 th franchise which US F1 would have taken up


Could someone explain how drivers 'bring' money?

If this is the case, why don't the best drivers bring the biggest money? Is this all about nationalism? Seems like that's the part that's broken here. We live in a global economy, but global corporations are tying their sponsorship of drivers to nationalities. Seems a bit odd. Why couldn't a German multi-national sponsor a Scott? A Brazillian multinational sponsor a Canadian? Just a thought.


There is a relatively simple fix for all of this (I think), and I am not the only one who has suggested it. I have thought through it a bit and here is what I think would work best.

Friday practice sessions should be combined into an 8 hour window with 3 hours of testing per team. Only one car allowed per team (to control costs?) and the test driver cannot have competed in the previous Grand Prix (this would allow an injured driver to do real mileage again before a Grand Prix). Allowances for engines and transmissions should be made to ensure that the teams aren't unduly penalized for running their cars during testing.

It may even be beneficial to allow the teams to use a 3rd car specifically for testing on Friday, I don't know what the cost difference would be between building up a test chassis and the potential costs of repairs due to damage of a race car during the test sessions.

One other thought I had was to provide a reservation system for time slots throughout the 8 hour test window. Allow only 4 cars on track at a time to reduce congestion. The time slots could be in 1/2 hour increments and could be offered to the teams in reverse of the previous years World Constructor Championship results. According to the 2011 results, Virgin would get first crack. They could determine which times would be most beneficial to them and then reserve those time slots. I would even allow teams to trade the time slots, or to buy them if they wanted. How much would Ferrari, Red Bull or McLaren pay to Virgin to get a prime testing window? If Williams suffered a hydraulic system failure they could trade their time slot with another team to allow them time to make repairs.

Saturday's first practice session would then be used to validate the Friday test session and to fine tune setup prior to qualifying for the Grand Prix.


So where do you then put GP2, GP3 and, on some weekends, Porsche cup practice/qualifying if F1 practice is an 8 hour ordeal. It's also not what you would call spectator (both on track and via media) friendly.


The goal isn't to support other events, although I am sure they could be accommodated with relative ease. This formula wouldn't have to be followed at each event. Some events could have a 3 hour window with all cars on track at once.

Also, testing isn't for spectators, it is for testing.


Wasn't Vettel, and Rosberg from the BMW program ?


Bring back in season testing but force teams to run young/reserve drivers 50%/75% (or whatever) of the time in each test session. I'm sure there will be other details to work out (i.e., how many tests/milage, etc) but this way the current race drivers will get a bit of car time in between race weekends and will ensure upcoming drivers get the experience to help them move up to a race seat. Sure, teams in need of cash will use drivers with a budget (not a solution to the current problem) but i'm guessing (or hoping) most teams will use this time wisely.


Well stated, James. As a former professional sportsman, it simply boggles the mind that F1 intentionally prohibits both current and future drivers from developing their skills, under the guise of limiting costs. Yeah - limiting costs in the short-term maybe, but, as you write, ensuring quite the epic problem in five years' time! Who's piloting this ship, or is it simply adrift?! And why do they have to switch engine specs anyway?! F1 seems truly insane some times...


An interesting subject. But I think there is no need to worry too much. Drivers like Grosjean, Perez, Maldonado, Hulkenberg or Di Resta are all great, no matter the amount of sponsorship they carry with them. Bruno Senna is also very talented but he needs more time to improve, as he lost too much time these last few years, due to the global crisis (could have started in F1 with Honda) lack of testing (consequently losing the Brawn drive) and difficulties to gather the right amount of sponsorship at the right time (consequently failing to start with an established team also in 2010).


While the article highlights some key issues, it don't you can say the second-tier drivers can't match up to Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel (or even imply). You have to let these drivers develop their craft on the track.

Furthermore, while extra track-time is important, I think the relative lack of it will help drivers be more analytical and get their set-up right the first time around.

It'll be interesting to see how things develop but there's no reason why Hulkenburg, Kobayashi, Di Resta, Grosjean, Perez, Bianchi etc to step up.


Here's a thought about the possible situation in 2016/17. Alonso, Webber and Button would have retired and with no other quality drivers coming up the ranks, it will be time for Hamilton or Vettel to dominate the sport like Schumacher did after Hakkinen retired. If that happens I will stop following F1 just like I did during the Schumi dominance years. I guess the tv viewership will fall and the F1 authorities will realize their mistake.


If you stand back for a minute, this has always been a rich gentleman's sport. There is no way that out of 7 billion people, it is truly the ~20 people that had the absolute most potential to drive fastest that ended up in F1 seats. This isn't football or basketball, where all you need is a ball and some nets to start playing. There's an enormous barrier to entry - namely, a vehicle and all the support required to maintain it - involved, and that's just not attainable (nor culturally relevant) to most people on this earth.

There always have been, and always will be, a mix of accidentally-discovered supernatural talent nurtured by someone else's wealth, and those with sufficient talent and the necessary wealth pre-packaged. I'm not worried - there are enough people on the planet that statistically speaking, we will always discover a handful of supremely skilled drivers whose raw talent will, through coincidence and luck, overcome the lack of wealth to snag an F1 seat.

What we should really be worried about is that 15 years from now, car driving (and racing) may become quaint old-timer stuff, as successive generations stop idolizing individual motorized transport as an ultimate expression of "freedom", in favor of more attractive 21st-century inventions that express their vision of "freedom."


An interesting subject. But I think there is no need to worry too much. Drivers like Grosjean, Perez, Maldonado, Hulkenberg or Di Resta are all great, no matter the amount of sponsorship they carry with them. Bruno Senna is also very talented but he needs more time to improve, as he lost too much time these last few years, due to the global crisis (could have started in F1 with Honda) lack of

testing (consequently losing the Brawn drive) and difficulties to gather the right amount of sponsorship at the right time (consequently failing to start with an established team also in 2010).


Great perspective you don't see elsewhere James.

The FIA and teams have the perfect opportunity through their cost cutting discussions to factor in some allowance for finding and training young drivers. Whilst their operating costs are being reviewed to be dramatically reduced, Their funding from the FIA and other revenue would be at similar levels to now. So they can formulate a plan to set aside funds for additional time on race weekends and pre season testing- not full blown testing -just adding an hour or two to each race weekend, pre/ in season tests.

I think f1 needs to work with the GP2 & other series to assist the formulas into following similar principles / rules as f1 allowing a smoother transition. As we've already discussed the incidents of Maldonado & Grosjean in earlier posts.

I've always found it crazy that young talented drivers have to come with serious money to be identified at the pinnacle of Motorsport. Yet really it should be the other way round - especially given the amount of money the FIA earns from the sport and what teams spend on other "components". Like any sport it needs to get out there and find talent that exists in other categories and help them move up through the formulas not just GP2 .at the end of day it's F1's future earnings it would be investing in.


I completely agree. They should start by getting rid of Schumacher. He's just a wasted seat. I'm surprised they dusted off that old boot from the storage closet.



One of your best articles yet, commend you especially for being brave enough to name drivers who aren't up to scratch.

I have nothing personal against Max Chilton, some just seem pleased there will be another Brit on the grid but being a close follower of GP2 there's no real potential there in him, just money. Shame when the actual GP2 champion is struggling to make the last step.


And James,

Would you agree some of the young driver schemes now becoming a front to bring in more sponsorship for some of the lower grid teams?


I think FOM has its priorities all wrong. Rather than expanding the reach of the sport and orchestrating more "exhibition" races like the proposed 2014 night race in Thailand, FOM should put their efforts into driver development programs.

If the sport loses its stars then the quality of racing will undoubtedly suffer and then it wont matter who's sponsoring or where the events are being held. Most fans of the sport are watching for the Alonsos and the Hamiltons.

Take a driver like Karthikeyan. Surely he's in the sport because of the money he brings to HRT. But how long is a team willing to put up with a driver who fails to perform every race weekend. It doesn't matter how much money you put into a team if you're driver is incompetent.

Would further reducing the technical development budgets for the teams help? This would of course be done so they could invest in better driver development programs.


I think the talent will come regardless. When I started watching F1 it was dominated by Williams/Renault there was no other team. Senna and Prost were in rubbish cars and no one I can recall did anthing of note.

In fact more ...er...less talented drivers have alway had much longer careers than the more gifted, Coultard, Barricelo I'm sure others have been mentioned.

Its like buses nothing, nothing then 3 come all at once, thats sport.


Did Antony Hamilton ever buy his fleet of old F1 cars for his driving academy ?

This would be a potential way forward for driver training. . .


Fantastic article James, thanks.


Again another very interesting and thoughtful article, and very true in its content, i agree fully James


Terrific piece of journalism James, this is an article a true F1 fan understands.

I’m always watching the junior formula’s in both europe and the rest of the globe looking for the next big stars.

One stand out young gun (although at 23 not that young by comparison) for me - Valtteri Bottas – I’ve got 12/1 for him to be F1 champion before the end 2020


You have good reason to be concerned. I agree with you 100% when exceptional talents like Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi, Kubica or even Montoya emerged, they made immediate impact so significant that nobody can ignore that. Right now, I don't see any of them in the younger gen.


Vettel is still in the younger generation. 2XWDC Vettel is still younger than some of the rookies this season.


Nice article - it is certainly more difficult for drivers to get up to speed without any testing, but does that not highlight the quality of even the 'second tier' drivers that do make it to f1? I'm not sure that a laymen can ever really appreciate the difference between an 'average' F1 driver and a super star anyway - how much is car, and how much is the driver?

The very best will still be spotted and brought into f1 - Kimi had a pretty short CV when he started - even if only 1 out of every 10 potential stars make it. It has never really been a democratic sport - it has always taken money. there are probably thousands of potential WDC's out there who will never have the opportunity (or the inclination) to pursue a career as a racing driver.


Great article, almost vitriolic!

But are Di Resta, Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Perez really 'second tier' drivers, or are they the next big stars?

That would be three great young drivers for the top three big teams surely.


Fantastic article. I was just thinking about this exact issue over the singapore weekend. You can tell that a future champion driver has that certain "sparkle" when they first turn up into in F1 in their early twenties, but who in their early twenties have we seen that "sparkle" from on the current grid today? No-one is the answer. In 2001 we had Alonso seriously outperforming the Minardi, in 2007 we had Vettel scoring points in his first GP for BMW, we also had Hamilton giving Alonso a run for his money in his first GP - you had that feeling that these drivers were going to go far. Who since 2008 (when the economy went backwards and the manufacturers pulled out) have we seen this sparkle from? We need to bring back testing so that the magical one in a million driver can be found from the rubbish floating around. Possibly F1 also needs to entice the manufacturers back - people who can afford to go testing and who have dedicated young driver programmes and are not reliant on the pay driver. As you said James, testing is essentially a form of practice for the drivers, so testing days away from the pressure of a GP need to be brought back (Obviously not unlimited testing as in the past but with some sort of cap). The reality is that a driver cannot be thrown into a GP and expected to perform without testing. Finally fast forward not five but ten years and imagine Pic in a Ferrari racing Petrov in a McLaren racing Chilton in a Red Bull or equivalent, scary isn't it


Oui-oui, Renault had a YD programme but the only guy that went on to do something more or less acceptable is Kovalainen, who is largely regarded as a 2nd class driver. Montagny - gone, Sato (Honda's platinum kid) - busy smashing IndyCar machinery. Former Red Bull YDs - nowhere really.

No-one tells F1 teams, the FIA and FOM's bigwigs to take these dead-end routes: they're doing it all on their own. Reaching some kind of balance is doable with a bit of common sense. Also, lower formulae suck these days. F3 is dead, GP2/GP3 is a bit weird and WSR is now part of Carlos Ghosn's PR machine. US racing won't prepare YDs for F1 because tracks are all abnormal, not to mention ovals.

Bite ze bullet, baby. Reduce costs or be out.


Whether its tracks who can't afford the fees, teams who can't afford the new engines, drivers who only rise to the top because they have wealthy sponsors, the root of the F1 problem is the same.

No other sport on the planet has speculators, traders and private equity funds taking more than 50% of the revenue out of the sport.

The numbers are not transparent, but the best estimates are between $500-750m a year of F1 revenues goes to investment bankers.

And we shouldn't be deluded by the word "investment" because these people are not investing a penny back into F1, and never had.

They buy the F1 stock, take the dividends and then project its increase in value and sell it on for a capital gain.

CVC have made around 4-5 times the money they paid to own the commercial rights less than 7 years ago, and this year they've sold on over 50% of their stake to other profiteers who want to do the same.

Why can free to air TV no longer afford to pay the fees, Australia and Korea are agitating over the fees they pay. China, Belgium and Singapore have had reduced deals in the past 12 months.

Nurburgring is bust, Valencia and Barcelona have gone to a sharing arrangement because their regional governments refuse to subsidise F1 every year.

Canada is being told to invest in the facilities, but their fee escalates 7% a year.

When are the teams or the FIA going to reclaim their birthright?

F1 generates more than enough money for the teams to operate easily, TV to be free to air and for circuits to not be completely dependent on national and local government money.

F1 is not facing a funding crisis like the rest of the world, there is more than enough money to go around.

However, until either the teams or the FIA give the parasites their marching orders and the commercial rights contracts are cancelled, the merry go round of cash short participants goes on.

There is a glimmer on the horizon, the apparent imminent indictment of Mr. E by the Munich prosecutors for bribery charges may give the FIA the excuse it needs to claim the commercial rights have been traded illegally and bring them back in house.


James – like others I have submitted several posts over the past week, all have not registered. Usually when you post, it is still viewable to me and says “awaiting moderation”. What is happening is you press submit, and it completely disappears.

If I’ve contravened the site’s policies, I apologise, but it appears as though either my email address or IP address is being blocked. The email is thejudge13@hotmail.co.uk – please email me and tell me if I’ve infringed site rules.

I have posted under a different name to give this information.


Ok, if this doesn't post its the IP address that's stopping me post.


now trying to post not using the connect site to see if that's the problem.


Ok, James, I can't post through the connect site, but just managed to post from the http://www.jamesallenonf1.com site with the same IP and email and its doing the usual "awaiting moderation" hope that helps.


There's a long tradition in the UK of the rich getting the best seats everywhere in society; people who rose to power through family or acquired wealth dominated the world, so it's a bit surprising to read that rich or well-funded drivers "will never rise to the highest levels" of competence. Was not Hamilton heavily sponsored to get where he is?

If someone has proven talent and is smart and aggressive, he should be able to find funding, or else find a good manager who can do that.


+1 nobody sponsors "pay drivers" because they're slower than my mum. Sure they're not always the "fastest" but getting sponsorship has for nearly always been a requisite skill of any form of racing. Good luck to them.

To finish first, first you must finish. To finish, first you must start.

In the bad old days before sponsors came along, it was just the so-called "gentleman racers". Guys with more money than life expectancy. Were they the fastest? No and Yes, 'cos they were the ones with their butts in the driver's seat, and not in a Peruvian slum.


Teams having to take pay per driver drivers, circuits needing local or national government support because they can’t make a profit, free to air TV being priced out of the market – the root of these problems is the same for F1.

No sport on the planet that I’m aware of, is sacrificing over 50% of its revenue to traders, speculators and investment bankers (private equity firms) that hold the F1 commercial rights.

The numbers are not transparent, but it appears $500-750m a year is going out of F1. And let’s not be deceived by the word “investment”; these people are not putting a penny into F1, and never have.

CVC has multiplied its purchase price for the commercial rights around 4-4.5 times in less then 7 years. It has this year sold more than 50% of its holding to other parasites who hope to make the same 3,4,5 multiples on their cash.

This is why we have to take on more races per year, higher track fees (a 7% per annum escalator is built in to tracks contracts) and pay-per-view (or subscription TV). This is why at Barcelona, the stadium complex was nearly 50% empty this year as the prices the tracks are trying to charge gets outside the affordability of fans.

All to keep multiplying the capital value of F1 for the speculators.

When is F1 going to reclaim its birthright? This is not a deal where the agent gets 10% for increasing the wealth of the whole – which no one objects to. It’s a deal where the commercial rights holders get the majority of the entire revenues raised by F1 and never take a risk.

The only risk to these speculators is if the FIA and/or the teams say, “stuff this we’re off doing our own thing and calling ‘Intergalactic Universe Racing” as Ecclestone and the rest have bought the trademark rights to everything that resembles “F1” and anything to do with single seat racing.

The only glimmer of hope is a case about to be brought in Munich. The charges will be that the commercial rights were sold fraudulently and with the bribery of a German public official.

If proven this is the one chance the FIA will have to cancel the commercial right holders’ contract and if they don’t/can’t we are doomed for a very long period of time. If the contract is cancelled then a joint venture between the FIA and the teams needs to be set up to manage these revenues.

It’s not that hard – negotiate contracts with tracks and TV companies, and for the FIA and teams to split the rest. $500-750m extra a year? Then there’s no pay to drive problems, historic tracks can afford to host races and free to air TV is back in the game – which is far better for the team sponsors in terms of eyeballs on their adverts.

As an F1 fan of 30 years, my worry is no one has the balls to make it happen.


Teams having to take pay per driver drivers, circuits needing local or national government support because they can’t make a profit, free to air TV being priced out of the market – the root of these problems is the same for F1.

No sport on the planet that I’m aware of, is sacrificing over 50% of its revenue to traders, speculators and investment bankers (private equity firms) that hold the F1 commercial rights.

The numbers are not transparent, but it appears $500-750m a year is going out of F1. And let’s not be deceived by the word “investment”; these people are not putting a penny into F1, and never have.

CVC has multiplied its purchase price for the commercial rights around 4-4.5 times in less then 7 years. It has this year sold more than 50% of its holding to other parasites who hope to make the same 3,4,5 multiples on their cash.

This is why we have to take on more races per year, higher track fees (a 7% per annum escalator is built in to tracks contracts) and pay-per-view (or subscription TV). This is why at Barcelona, the stadium complex was nearly 50% empty this year as the prices the tracks are trying to charge gets outside the affordability of fans.

All to keep multiplying the capital value of F1 for the speculators.

When is F1 going to reclaim its birthright? This is not a deal where the agent gets 10% for increasing the wealth of the whole – which no one objects to. It’s a deal where the commercial rights holders get the majority of the entire revenues raised by F1 and never take a risk.

The only risk to these speculators is if the FIA and/or the teams say, “stuff this we’re off doing our own thing and calling ‘Intergalactic Universe Racing” as Ecclestone and the rest have bought the trademark rights to everything that resembles “F1” and anything to do with single seat racing.

The only glimmer of hope is a case about to be brought in Munich. The charges will be that the commercial rights were sold fraudulently and with the bribery of a German public official.

If proven this is the one chance the FIA will have to cancel the commercial right holders’ contract and if they don’t/can’t we are doomed for a very long period of time. If the contract is cancelled then a joint venture between the FIA and the teams needs to be set up to manage these revenues.

It’s not that hard – negotiate contracts with tracks and TV companies, and for the FIA and teams to split the rest. $500-750m extra a year? Then there’s no pay to drive problems, historic tracks can afford to host races and free to air TV is back in the game – which is far better for the team sponsors in terms of eyeballs on their adverts.

As an F1 fan of 30 years, my worry is no one has the balls to make it happen.


Always a reader, but rarely comment. Terrific article though, raising a number of very interesting points.

What is your view on the structure of the various junior formulae? Are so many categories these days that I find it hard to keep track and assess. Could that be improved?


I cannot really see your point.

What about the Michael Schumacher era? How many superb drivers were then along with Michael on the grid? 1 or 2 extra as they changed over the years? So vetted and Hamilton r 2. And why would Alonso quit at his 36? And you think that no one else from the other drivers will raise his level. I am almost sure at least 1. So there u go...


RE: Testing - why not adopt what Motogp do? ie.have a test day AFTER a race meeting, at the same venue...... virtually NO extra costs (well,obvously some)as teams are already there, and flying in a young driver for the day must be affordable. Cetainly cheaper than setting up it all up at a different test venue, at another time.



By the way the piece I just wrote above is by Andrew Jacobs, but I can't post under my name and email.


You should change your name to James Harrison, suits you!


By the way the stuff above from James Harrison is actually from Andrew Jacobs - but i couldn't post under my own name and email address.

Since posting under James Harrison (above) I now can't post again as he, so I'm now Billybobjohn.

I'm not posting this to take the mick, but hopefully to help the techies work out the problem.


Anyone who follows the sport knows that the Car is the real performance differentiator and drivers from worst to best there is perhaps 8/10ths of a second.

So if you can find a driver who brings you £20 Million a year and is only 2/10ths slower than Hamilton who costs you £20 Million a year, you need to work out if £40 Million will make your car 2/10ths faster.

Since HRT are operating on a TOTAL budget of £40 Million, you'd have to say that the money is better invested in the car.

Motorsport is and always has been about the car you drive.

Even down in the club formula where rules are strict on modifications (MX-5 Championship for example) you can expect the Season winner to have spent £25k on blueprinted engines, fresh tyres every race, control dampers rebuilt to be perfectly matched, and custom built cages to be lighter, yet stronger than off the shelf items.

Just so you know, you could get a car and race for about £5k for the year.

So there you have it - Technology costs money and with no real scope for innovation within F1 (only refinement) if you want a fast car you need to throw money at it.


James, do you think the amount of junior formulae

is responsible for diluting the talent pool? Initially GP2 served F1 well producing Rosberg, Kovalainen, Hamilton, Hulk etc.

GP2, F3, Renault 3.5, F2, GP3, Auto GP - too many.

As for British drivers, James Calado looks by a mile to be your best prospect. For me he has more raw pace than anyone in GP2 - just lacked a bit of experience and luck in 2012.



This is one of the most intelligent articles I have read about F1 in many years. (Not that I already wasn't a huge fan of your site ...)

I do want to bring up a couple of points no one else has, however. The first is that there is currently no pipeline, monetary or otherwise, for American drivers to come into F1. As an American, while I'm a die-hard F1 fan regardless (Senna RIP), I'm worried that Austin and New Jersey will be as doomed as Phoenix, Detroit, Las Vegas, Dallas, etc., etc. if at least some effort isn't made to help an American onto the grid, and if merited into the front ranks.

Because, as noted, even if Alex Rossi has the talent of the next Senna (and I have no idea if he's brilliant or rubbish), talent alone doesn't do it in today's economic climate. The fact that no American driver has been on the podium in 20 years, and none a World Champion in more than 30 (and their names were both Andretti, with a special focus on F1 anyway) is rather disturbing for this Yank.

The second, regarding driver development at a young age, needs some historical perspective. Senna didn't dance his Toleman through the wet streets of Monaco until he was 24, an age when Vettel and Hamilton had already won world championships. Mansell didn't even win his first race until his 30s, while, for one example, Jody Scheckter had crashed out the field at Silverstone, pioneered the Tyrrell six-wheeler, gone wheel to wheel with Gilles and already retired BY age 30.

So there's always a chance that, a la Mansell (or even Senna, who was always considered brilliant but got a late start in Europe), someone we see as a wanker now may develop into a star in his later years. (Or HER later years, but that's a whole other article.)

But you're right, James, the team owners, or Bernie or Jean Todt or some combination, have to figure out how to get someone with hidden talent (or fully obvious talent but no budget) that chance.


Thanks, some very good points


James - interesting article. A lot of people have suggested that the FOM distribute more money to the teams. However, I don't think this would change the situation regarding pay drivers. If you give a team more money, they will just find other place to spend it - be it engineering, salaries, or fancy headquarters. This then allows them to try to move up the grid. The problem is that everyone does this and the additional cash gets absorbed quickly.

I think there will always be a place for pay drivers. Yes in an ideal world, the best drivers will all compete in the F1 championship. However, perversely this allows for the trickle down of ex-/nearly- F1 drivers into other categories. A good example is Le Mans. This benefits the sport as a whole.


" If you give a team more money, they will just find other place to spend it –"

Not if they have Budgets as currently being discussed. This is why I see this time as the perfect opportunity to see FIA & teams revenue to be diverted to the future young drivers.


A few papers reporting that Hamilton to Mercedes is a done deal, and will be announced Friday.

I have no idea what to believe, or what to make of it. I did think he was leaning towards staying with McLaren in the last few days.


Story on Daily Mail that Mercedes will announce Lewis Hamilton has signed @ Friday morning UK time.


Any basis to this report James? Anyone?

I am an Aussie so have no idea whether the Daily Mail is creditable.


Don't worry folks.

I am on my way. Just hold on!


Frankly James, I think it's unfair to say Red Bull's junior programme has "largely failed" apart from Vettel. Ricciardo and JEV are in their first full time seasons of F1 - it's too early to call if they will succeed or not (but FWIW, I think they will). And Jaime Alguersuari only has 50 F1 races under his belt, to go with his track time with Pirelli this year, because he was picked up by the RB Junior Programme.


For the amount it's cost and the 60+ drivers who have been in it, you don't think that's largely a failure?


I don't think things are much different from any recent era in F1 - getting in, and getting to the top always demands money or connections. Hamilton wouldn't have made it without McLaren's support, ditto Vettel with Red Bull, Alonso with Briatore, Schumacher with Mercedes back in the day. That's not to say those driver don't deserve the support, but Grosjean is an example of how the system can work - he's a driver with little personal backing but by showing his potential (and professionalism in bouncing back from the first crack at F1), he's worked his way in thanks to Total supporting Lotus.

If we look at the 'tier two' drivers - Perez, Grosjean, di Resta, Hulkenberg - I see drivers with potential to become genuine stars. Sure they may not be the greatest ever, but will we know any different unless someone better comes along? On that topic, in my experience there are always 'promising' drivers but often it's someone slightly obscure who comes in and blows them away - as I suppose Schumacher did in 1991.

DanWilliams from Aust

After reading about the sustainability of F1, I come to the conclusion that there are many problems that need to be addressed, but the biggest prob I think is Bernie... Dare I say if he wasn't around, most of the other probs wouldn't be either...

BTW great article James, really makes us think about the future of F1 and hopefully some of the desicion makers of F1 are reading this and/or already thinking about it.


Sorry if covered already, but do teams value drivers of the tech of their cars? "Its the car stupid", as it were. The teams have more than enough money to find talented drivers, but prefer to spend it on hardware. So if they cant find driver and prefer pay drivers, its their own fault and, well, tough.


I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that we won't notice any difference. For a long, long time 'pay drivers 'have been a part of the sport. Whether that is through sponsorship or actually paying for a drive, this isn't a recent phenomenon.


Why not test on Mondays/Tuesdays after the GPs, everybody is there already!! Even if it only happens at the European GPs, it would make a huge impact at little extra cost.


Great article James. It seems to me that testing was banned to lower cost with the travel for most teams of travelling to and from a track for a few days. I totally agree that young drivers or the next gen of talent need experience in a formula 1 and with the start of the weekend given to support races and free practice would it not be better to have testing done after an F1 event on a Monday morning?

The teams and personal will be there just need to fly in some of their test drivers (the next gen drivers) and whatever parts they want to test, no need to travel to the track they are already there, the support races have been and gone and the teams will already have data on their cars going around the track to compare with when they bolt on a new wing for example. Naturally could only be done on a GP weekend with has a 2 or 3 week break to the next one therefore keeping some control to it making sure that top teams can pound round lap after lap at their private tracks. So what do you think? Show up on Thursday, do a race on Sunday and then stay Monday to Tuesday having a test?


James, cant the teams try and incorporate 1 day of testing with each grand prix (not when there are back to back racing weekends). That way, they don't need separate infrastructure and teams for testing. It will be like the young drivers program that is already running, but more regularly and not just once a year.


A new last session of the day on Friday, once all the support races have practiced and qualified. 1 hr of reserve or young driver testing. Spare engine only used for this session...


Great article. Glad you and Joe Saward are covering the stories that the rest aren't interested in.

I completely agree we need more testing. Perfect examples are De La Rosa getting back in to F1 after his Pirelli testing, Massa going from a crash happy wannabe to challenging for the WDC after a few years as a Ferrari tester (and back to crashing now there's no testing). Hopefully Jaime A will prove your theory right and come back as a stronger driver. Grosjean is a slightly better driver this time around than his first go at Renault so maybe the answer is more seasons in GP2 rather than just more testing?

As for the future, well I am biased but Josh Hill stands a good chance. He has some backing and if he wins the BRDC McLaren Autosport Award that gives him an F1 test but obviously he'll need some time in GP2 first. But as Bruno Senna is proving, the famous surname helps raise sponsorship funds.

But we are losing some good drivers who don't have the backing. Dan Wells is racing in China as he couldn't raise the funds for a FR2.0 seat (and then the series got cancelled). The smaller F1 teams should be bringing on future talent, like Alonso and Webber at Minardi, where money wasn't the primary reason they were signed. Marussia seem to have it half right with Glock but using Pic to pay for it, same with HRT. Toro Rosso are too extreme and swap drivers more often than I change my shoes without nuturing any potential. But without any control on money the teams will take it where they can get it.


James - do you think GP2 is useful enough in preparing drivers for F1 and enabling us to establish potential stars?

Personally I think Red Bull were wrong to put Ricciardo and Algersauri into F1 without going via GP2. I think they use Vettel as a benchmark when he was really a one off.

It was in GP2 that we seen the potential of Hamilton, Rosberg, Perez, Maldonado, Grosjean etc. I appreciate not every GP2 series winner/contender will develop to the very top of F1,(Kovalainen, Piquet, Petrov etc) but it gives you an insight into their potential.

Looking at the pool of talent there now I can see Gutierrez, Calado and Razia making it in F1, but I think we needed to see them in GP2 to evaluate that potential. I think the likes of Jaime was under pressure from day 1 in a team when he should have been demonstrating his talent in GP2.

And you are 100% correct about money over potential argument. I wouldn't let Rodolfo Gonzalez drive my car never mind an F1 car.

Whats your thoughts?


Racing and testing are two completely different things.

James, I thought you should know this by now when you shared a secret about Schumi via Eddie Irvine! 😉

Testing is just pounding around consistently and giving feedback at the end that confirms with data with engineers.

No amount of testing would have made a difference to Grosjean or Maldonado. Far too limited in scope to understand and improve racecraft. It is more complex: mind management and not just skill as well as experiencing racing with others.

Best example I can give is DJ'ing. Practising in your bedroom is completely different to playing live where you have to manipulate and understand the mood of the crowd.

Next time James, ask Jaime if this is a good analogy!


Excellent article James. A few very interesting points. You put into words what I had thought about a year ago and then some!

There should be a possibility for drivers to do testing within the racing calendar, even if it's in a 1 or 2 year old car to keep costs down. Although given the current regulations and the way that teams operate these days, I don't know how that would be possible.


Here's a practical suggestion then, to allow time in an F1 car for younger drivers, while benefitting the teams and keeping down costs like travel: why not run an extra practise session a race, for non-F1 drivers only? I don't know logistically how that would fit around the current practise format, but this provides young drivers (and indeed, drivers without a drive) a chance to gain that invaluable experience and knowledge of how to drive an F1 car and simply time on the track, while the teams can also benefit from extra sessions setting up the cars, testing new parts etc without gaining an unfair advantage. Maybe something like each team fielding 1 car, again with half an eye on keeping costs down too. Even only doing this at around half the races a season would have a significant impact on the rounded quality of driver coming through.


Just bring in proper in season tests and give the youngsters proper track time. too much pressure on young drivers to perform (see Jaime Alguersuari Buemi and in some respect Grosjean) Alguersuari is a driver that deserves to be in F1, and i hope next year he is back.


The reality, that is not covered here, is Bernie is taking too much money home and they are not spending for the good of sport, someone must change it!


I wonder if improvements in computerized simulations for both driver and car design could help mitigate this trend. Obviously an hour on the track is better than an hour in the simulator but what if a driver has the ability to spend many thousands of hours in a race simulator vs. many hundreds of hours on track? The simulator wouldn't be able to accurately provide the physical reality of being on the track but they are getting pretty good at everything else and they will be even better five years from now. The classic drivers of old never had the benefit of these tools and a case could be made that in some manner drivers today could actually get more practice time then ever.

Computer simulations for car design should also have more and more of an impact. If science today can model nuclear explosions accurately why not diffuser and wing designs? It would seem that an accurate computer modeling environment could be a more desireable and cost effective design platform compared to actual track testing. If this ever becomes the case then could track test limitations become a moot point because most of the design work would be done in the computer.

Would the use of these simulators and design tools enable all teams to compete at less cost or is this another area for a costly arms race between the various teams? Perhaps this might be a good topic for a future article here....


What about using older f1 cars as a feeder race, use lower rpms and some standardised parts (wings brakes no kers etc)to keep costs down.

I imagine there would be a lot of outdated cars at the end of next years championship.

In australia we do that with v8 supercars and some cars are up to 5 years old .

The cars are also weighted to limit the data farming for the main series.

The drivers of this series reguarly get promoted.

The races also get screened on opposing weekends thus increasing bernies revenue.


I don't know... Technically Michael Schumacher was a pay driver.

Doesn't the legend go that he landed the Jordan seat with Sauber/Mercedes money?

I can understand the fears of a number of people because it seems talent isn't the first determinant.

But isn't it also true that if one is very talented... The money and sponsors will come to support that talent?

To wit, Schumacher was supported by a carpet-maker at one point in his karting career.


What a lot of rot. F1 is what it is and it's entertainment. The idea that we need a particularly special elite set of drivers and that some second tier of performers won't be entertaining is utter nonsense.

With the visors closed they are just guys in sponsored overalls driving the cars. It may be better that we lose this current set of over-paid superstar former world champions who dominate the headlines and get in fresh characters.

We may not feel that we know them the same way we think we 'know' Hamilton et al but as long as they can race each other in the cars, that's just fine by me.


On the subject of testing, drivers should have an allocation of test laps per season, probably drivable at designated sessions.

The spectacle of a reserve driver getting in the car to qualify and race with effectively almost no mileage is dangerous and contributes nothing to the spectacle.


Well, i keep hearing about Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton. But truth is the onluy one of them that just sitted in an F1 car that was TOP of the grid and delivered was Hamilton, made some mistakes because of being young and or inexperienced and cost him his debut year title, yes. But the other 2 made their grounds into lesser teams for a couple of years before being promoted to bigger teams. I will like to Add Kimi to the list, who didn't have much racing experience at all in any category and only 1 year in Sauber before McLaren got it to the prime time of F1. Truth is F1 needs to look to drivers outside the GP2 more often, GP2 is the problem to me, a driver should be allowed to race only 2 years and if he can't make a mark then he's good enough, look at Maldonado took him 4 years to win there, and he's nothing special. The good ones make it in the first year, and the unlucky ones but still good take maybe one more. Moving the GP2 and promoting from GP3 will keep the drivers coming, and will make the companies really look for talent and not just bring guys that have support but not real talent.


Great article James and pretty much the same thing I sent to Autosport's editor's recently. I've been trying to get Autosport to do an article on the dreadful poor talent spotting in F1 for some time. How the likes of Adam Carroll fail to land a drive really shows both how poor and blinkered the F1 talent spotters are. This all should start with tightening the Super Licence. Can you imagine other sports following the way F1 teams sign divers? We'd see Man Utd hiring a Second division player with a rich benfactor rather than Wayne Rooney!!


do not underestiamte Niko rosberg .. this guy got talent , just the team and the car to move him to another level

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