Others counter by saying as long as the drivers are good, the sport will remain popular. However, some now believe F1 is increasingly beyond the reach of young drivers.
Derek Warwick, vice-president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, believes working-class youngsters are being priced out of the sport. In other words, if a significant subset of the population cannot access F1, the talent pool will decrease. It’s a sentiment that has recently been echoed by Lewis Hamilton.
It is worth pointing out that as a new F1 season approaches, fans are gearing up to bet on online casinos, where you can bet on F1 alongside other games like slots, NetBet roulette, and poker. In the future, would these markets that drive interest in the sport be harmed if driver quality decreases?
According to Warwick, the appeal of Formula One will be hampered if driver talent declines. He argues drivers with extreme talent are slipping through the cracks because they cannot afford to join motor racing.
“If we are not careful, we are not going to get the next Lewis Hamilton because he is not going to be able to afford it unless his father or mother is a multimillionaire,” he said.
Before continuing, there are a couple of things to consider. Firstly, the path to F1 starts in a lower race series, and Warwick’s argument lies here as he believes the monetary entry level for these lower levels is too high. Secondly, it has never been affordable to enter motorsport, but is the cost now escalating beyond the reach of most?
Well, to race in British F3, a driver must pay between £270,000 and £350,000. If you want to move into full F3, the costs rise to £750,000 to £1 million. For F2, it’s an eye-watering £1.5 million.
Bear in mind, no driver will be earning big money in those tiers.
Hamilton is the poster boy for the young driver from a working-class background. He’s from a council estate in Stevenage and has gone on to win six F1 World Championships. He started in karting when he was 13. Hamilton admits the cost to enter the sport was always prohibitive but argues it is now out of control.
“My dad spent something like £20,000 and remortgaged the house several times in the first years,” he said. “But today it’s just got so expensive. There are very few, if [any] working-class families on their way up. It’s all wealthy families.”
One hotshot talent from a working-class background is Jonathan Hoggard. The 19-year-old was the 2019 recipient of the Aston Martin young driver of the year award, which is given by the BRDC. Despite winning £200,000, Warwick says it’s not enough to push Hoggard on.
“Jonathan has no money behind him,” he said. “He is an extreme talent but whether he can make it into F1 I am not really sure. If you have a big budget behind you or a wealthy family, it makes it easier, but it is not impossible. It is possible but it is more luck or circumstances.”