Jacques Villeneuve, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, 2018

Villeneuve has yet another hot take – but this one’s worth listening to

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Jacques Villeneuve is a Formula 1 world champion, IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 winner.

Even when he was racing he was known for his trenchant views. Nowadays he does much less racing – aside from a spot of rallycross – and so it’s the opinions which stand out.

This is a driver who was once hauled before the FIA World Motor Sport Council for daring to criticise then-president Max Mosley’s plan to enforce narrower cars and grooved tyres. None of Mosley’s 1998 innovations have stood the test of time, so perhaps Villeneuve had a point then.

He has another point now. No surprises there. But it’s another good one.

The problem, now as then, is that while Villeneuve often articulates reasonable views in an articulate manner, this tends to be drowned out by his headline-grabbing forthrightness. Everyone remembers he got in trouble for calling the 1998 rules “shit”, few recall his more nuanced criticism of Mosley’s ill-conceived plan.

He also exaggerates. Last year he accused Lance Stroll of producing “one of the worst rookie performances in the history of Formula One”. On a grid populated by too many dull PR robots – even more so than in Villeneuve’s time – this kind of hyperbole stands out like peroxide hairdye (another Villeneuve trademark).

Is Villeneuve’s Stroll trolling motivated by anything besides a low regard for his countryman’s talent? A recent interview for the official F1 website indicated it might be. Villeneuve, who has four children, explained why he isn’t encouraging them to take an interest in following his – and his father’s – footsteps.

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“It’s not something I really push or emphasise to them because I don’t see it as a good career choice anymore, because you almost need to be in the ranks of Stroll to get into racing,” he said.

The cost of getting through the lower ranks of motor sport means F1 ends up with a diminished pool of drivers to choose from, Villeneuve believes.

Lance Stroll, Williams, Hockenheimring, 2018
Villeneuve vs Stroll: Is the champion’s criticism tough but fair?
“It’s not talent that drives the force of drivers getting into racing anymore. They are spending €200,000-300,000 just to go in go-karts to have a Formula 1 shot.

“And there the money makes more difference than the actual talent. So if already at 12, 13 years old the money will make the difference, the talent will never get through the ranks. So you’ll [only] get the best out of the Formula Two drivers, the best of the rich kids, you don’t get the best talent available on the planet.”

Villeneuve isn’t the only person sounding the alarm over the growing difficulties faced by aspiring F1 drivers who don’t have millionaire parents. Lewis Hamilton, who came from a much more modest background than most of his current rivals, drew attention to this recently.

Of course Villeneuve had the advantage of name recognition when he made his way into F1 22 years ago. But he argues that the economic circumstances were different then, making it easier for drivers without substantial backing to make it to the top.

“Back then you could still make it,” he said. “You still had tobacco sponsors that were helping. I don’t know if you remember all the racing schools in France, Winfield. Most French drivers – Prost and Panis – got into F1 through those schools. So you arrived there, get a little bit of money, and it was a challenge, all the way to the finals. If you won you got a seat in Formula Ford, Formula Three and if you kept winning then you kept being followed.

“That gave kids who had a lot of talent and passion, but not the means, even if it was a small chance, a chance. You don’t even have that today.

“You have to spend €300,000 for karting? Come on. It shouldn’t be Christmas every day. You should be able to live in a tent and figure out a way to be good enough and go through the ranks until the point where you have enough image that a sponsor or team will take a chance on you.”

Yes, Villeneuve is a walking factory of hot takes and headline-friendly opinions. That doesn’t mean they’re always wrong.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 64 comments on “Villeneuve has yet another hot take – but this one’s worth listening to”

    1. I have to agree with blondie, even if he does look like he’s on day leave from a psych ward

      1. I think this was one of the most interesting interviews I’ve ever heard from a former driver. Definitely my favourite podcast yet (Martin Brundle’s close second). Villeneuve is outrageous, but reliably so! It’s not like he’s trying to show off. He simply happens to have very inflammatory views on certain things, and when you dig in talking about some serious issues, he has very good insight.

    2. That picture of Stroll is priceless… LMAO. Almost looks like he’s reacting to Villenueve’s comments.

      His comments might be harsh on pay drivers, but true to a great extent. Unfortunately, the high cost of entering motor sports is now making it more of a billionaire son’s hobby than a sport which is supposed to field the best drivers in the world. Just starting off in karting is really expensive, so it adds a massive barrier to entry for talent at a grass root level. F1 also adds it’s own barrier with it’s ridiculous commercial agreements with the teams. Historic teams like Williams have to field pay drivers just for survival. Hence, losing out on talent that is more deserving to be in the sport.

      Hopefully, Carey and team can at least solve the problem of dependance on pay drivers in F1 in the future, but the barrier to enter carting is probably something a little more difficult to solve.

      1. The problem is that there is no easy fix. It isn’t like footbal where you need a pair of boots and there you go. It is difficult to be a self starter even in the most basic form of the sport. Try to have your kid enter races every month with rented go karts and that’s expensive already for an average person.

        Then there are schools, or at least programs, but those have to make a profit too, could F1 have an influence worldwide at this stage? Or teams junior programs? Even those will have only a driver that they will back for every age step.

        The problem is clear, the solution not so much

    3. I’m a bit confused as to why exactly the cost of entry is so high now at the lower carting levels.
      Is it because the technology / carts are prohibitively expensive to maintain or be competitive? I mean, there’s only so much money you can put into a cart given existing regulations. Why are people paying 300k at that level? Are they building their own cart windtunnels and carting simulators?

      I understand why F1 has enormous barriers to entry. But I’m a bit ignorant as to why the lower levels have those now too.

      1. Because in motor sports, money usually equates to success. A few years ago I was at a Rotax event (sealed engine to ensure equal power) and some kids were showing up with 10 – 15 chassis each tailored to a different type of track. And I remember thinking they sealed the engine to level the playing field between the haves and have nots but the rich just found another way to get an advantage. A lot of those kids also had expert mechanics that their parents hired. A kid without means will really have a difficult time competing with that even with a lot of talent.

        1. Thanks for that nugget of insight there @velocityboy.

        2. Another Rotax observation on “money will always find a way to find laptime”.

          Like he says, Rotax is a sealed motor class, which on paper limits cost. Well, the rich kids simply buy 10, 20, even 40 motors (often in cooperation with a kart track fleet or dealer), and pick the best cylinder, carb, and bottom, all in spec, and have it inspected and re-sealed.

          Then there is tires and track time. To tune well for national level events, you need to tune on high grip. That means fresh tires every few track outings. IOW, several sets of new tires per test day.

          And transport, support equipment, etc.

          Put another way, top Rotax drivers, 10 years ago, could EASILY spend 80-100k per year. Having said that though, at least in Rotax the diminishing returns on money was such that a Jordan Musser could still win Nationals on borrowed last minute old used TonyKart. That was a great moment for Rotax in the USA.

          That didn’t stop the 100k programs from spending 100k though.

      2. He is not talking about the entry.

        You can do National races for much less.
        To progress you need to take the big titles.
        This is where it the chains pops for most people.

        To get the most of it, you need new tires for each session.
        if You are on a budget you only have 2 karts and 6 engines that will last you a season.

        The thing is, Metal gets weak, there are no suspensions in a Kart, so the metal takes all the G-force into it.
        To be competitive you need to change chassis often. The Engines are pushed to their limits, they will need maintenance if not replacement often.

        To qualify for the championships you need to race, it works abit like the superlicens points.
        So you have to travel all over Europe and asia. This means you have to be home schooled.

        20 years ago The race weekend containing the European championship would have run me €30K alone. It has only gotten more expensive since then.

        On top of that, some of these kids have Private trainers, Racing coaches, Mental healths guides.

        Besides from that if you dont have the right association, you might not be able to buy the right gear.
        Factory teams get better gear.

        I could go on, but it was cheaper for me to buy a Touring car and race national series.

        1. @kelvin38
          That’s incredible! And what level did you get to spending this much money?

          1. A test drive in Formula Renault 2.0

            I did 2 seasons in Formula Zetec.

            The budget I needed to get for the FR 2.0 was devastating =/

            1. @kelvin38
              So do you think you could made it further if you had the funds? Or did you (or the family) decide it wasn’t worth the money?
              That’s a pretty high level of racing to go to, you must have been pretty fast!! Well played.

              Just goes to show……………

            2. @garns

              I like to think that I could have made something of it.

              On second day of testing I was 0,5 seconds of the lap record set at Pannoina ring in Hungary.
              At that point the record holder was Juan Pablo Montoya.

              We tried everything we could but I come from a working class family.
              I had the good fortune of a local realestate company funding my Karting and Formula Zetec.

              We pulled every string we could reach. There was just no way to get the entry funds and getting to race where it matters ie getting enougth seat time to actually be experienced enougth to race seemed impossible. So I was benched. I think many drivers have a similar story and thats Jaques point here. You will come to a wall where its impossible to climb over or go around.

              It often boggles my mind when I see the lower classes the amount of money that goes into it virtually noticed by the rest of the world.

        2. Thats just crazy! Great insight

          1. @kelvin38 – thanks for sharing mate, shows why so few make it!

      3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        16th August 2018, 14:34

        I can’t answer that one but I’m personally shocked at how expensive it is for my children to play sports especially at a young age. At least in high school you can at least play on the school team for free but then again you won’t be playing unless you’re good enough and played when you were young so it’s a catch-22.

        My son plays soccer and my daughter plays tennis at the local level in the US like almost any middle-class kid. My son’s soccer team costs $2,500/yr – once you factor all soccer related events, travel, equipment, you are looking at $4,000 easily. Tennis can be even more expensive unless you have access to a tennis court, either by living close to one, owning one or your community has a few.

        I can’t even imagine how expensive it would be for my daughter to become a professional tennis player or for my son to play soccer like Ronaldo, although I suspect the latter is probably a matter of talent and practice more than investment but practicing soccer isn’t really that easy around here.

        That’s apparently cheap compared to other kids that play hockey or do gymnastics and travel around the country. If you spend 20-30k for sports per year, that’s about the same money that Villeneuve mentioned for go-karting over 10 years.

        My point is that all sports are really expensive if you want to start early in life and compete even at the lowest levels and I would suspect karting which requires hauling equipment with a car to be even more expensive than a sport that requires you to haul a soccer ball or 2-3 tennis racquets.

        1. It’s called football. It’s played with your foot and it uses a ball.

          Your ‘murrican rules rugby with pads is.not.foot.ball.

          But yeah, the kids ice hockey so far 5years in the junior leagues, 5 sets of gear, icetime, club memberships and travel has cost us about 9-10.000€.

          1. @uneedafinn2win

            They could have better called their sport American rugby but as it stands it’s American hand egg, no foot, no ball.

            1. I believe it’s called football because it descends from the class of sports played on foot (rather than horseback). Just like association football, which goes by the portmanteau “soccer” in the US.

          2. Well, technically you brits called it “soccer” first… despite your foot + ball logic!

            1. Care to elaborate on that please? I really want to know

        2. Wow. I played football (or soccer, whatever you prefer) when I was younger and the only expense my parents had with me was the boots and the ride to the team’s pitch. The transportation for away games was responsibility of the team.

          I guess in the US it is a completely different ball
          game.

          Tennis would require a bit more money put into it, especially because there would be the need to pay for classes, coaches, etc in sports centers.

          Still surprise me those numbers if I’m honest

    4. Well how much money did Ocon, Verstappen or Leclerc have – for sure their talent made their rise possible more than money from themselves, sponsors or junior programs.

      It would be a fair point to make that maybe not even Ocon, Verstappen or Leclerc would have made it to F1 if they didn’t get interest from Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari junior programs – that said they created that interest because of their talent.

      1. LeClerc and Ocon sure didnt come with backing but Verstappen sure used his father’s name.

        1. And his mother’s. She was a pretty accomplished karter too.

          1. @geemac @Chaitanya I’d say its the other way around… Jos and his wife engineered Max’s career, being sure to sell the ‘stock’ he was born from.

            1. @jelle-van-der-meer
              “Well how much money did Ocon, Verstappen or Leclerc have”

              Ocon is the current day hero- he said if Toto didn’t give him backing he would be flipping burgers. No family money it seems.

              Leclerc says he is from a modest family but I hear they are quiet well off- but from a Monegasque that may mean he is worth only a few hundred million – who knows. LOL

              For Max- Jos drove over 100 races and while he had limited success in the 1990’s drivers wages were huge due mainly tobacco sponsorship and the “Boys club” for making coin was in full swing – most of those guys back then, if only having limited success made huge money.

            2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
              16th August 2018, 19:19

              @garns just curious, how much money would a driver like Jos have made back then?

              who would be a comparable driver to Jos today?

              100 races is a pretty high number so he was either tremendously talented as a driver or at deal making. Seeing what he has accomplished for Max, I’m leaning towards the latter. Not to mention that he was able to get a seat in the winning car as a rookie next to Michael Schumacher. And he had to convince Flavio to give him that seat.

              Saying this, I’m actually surprised that Jos didn’t succeed Bernie Ecclestone or replace Todt at the FIA.

        2. also, isn’t LEC from Monaco? not sure there are many people living in welfare there…

          1. @freelittlebirds – hard to say but when Jos was at Benneton probably $1-1.5m, maybe 2m. There are current drivers on less or the same now. Doesn’t sound much but that’s mid 90’s and they got sponsorship money that was probably easier to come by then. Inflate than to a current day driver? Maybe Nico Hulkenburg maybe.

            Yes certainly a deal maker- head of FIA would cause a stir, but may be fun :)

      2. @jelle-van-der-meer @garns If you haven’t already, then listen to the whole series of Beyond The Grid podcasts, Ocon especially came from a background of very little, it was moving to listen to his story and then think about the comparison with Verstappen and some of the other drivers, who had talent, money and backing from early in their careers vs just talent.

        1. The grid podcast is brilliant! Also Kubica story, how he was running in rosberg kart engines for hours and set his kart up, for rosberg to flight in just for the race. Or being the only non paying driver in lower series

        2. @ju88sy – no I haven’t but thanks, I will certainly give that a listen.

        3. Totally agree – amazing podcast. Can’t get enough of it.

    5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      16th August 2018, 13:38

      He’s definitely got a point – I’ve been very surprised by the number of drivers in F1 whose parents were also racers. Jacques himself, Damon Hill, Nico Rosberg, Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen to name a few. For him to say that it’s practically impossible or a bad career choice for his children to follow in his footsteps pretty much confirms that it’s impossible for anyone else at this point.

      I’m also nearly appalled by the number of billionaires’ sons who are trying to enter F1. I would be very upset to see Stroll succeed in F1 and I can’t see anyone other than his family cheering for him if he buys a championship.

      The situation for teams is becoming very dire as Stroll had literally 2 teams to choose from (Williams and Force India) – on the other hand, top drivers like Ricciardo and Alonso have almost no real choices over the past 2 years.

      1. @freelittlebirds

        …on the other hand, top drivers like Ricciardo and Alonso have almost no real choices over the past 2 years.

        In reality, were it not for contracts, Ricciardo & Alonso could quite happily have gone to every team under the sun.

      2. “I would be very upset to see Stroll succeed in F1 and I can’t see anyone other than his family cheering for him if he buys a championship.”

        Sure that you need rich daddy to move up the ranks of racing, but no amount of money could buy anyone a Championship. One can only win in a winning car, and at the moment these are only Mercedes and Ferrari. Teams at that level do not need drivers who bring substantial budget with them…they need/want the best drivers. The saying goes that if you have the best car, an average driver might win for you, but the best driver will surely win…and it still is true. Having said that, maybe Stroll will succeed in F1, who knows. He is fairly accomplished from lower categories, after all. And if he does, money would be big part of it, but not a determining factor.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          16th August 2018, 19:07

          @gpfacts
          if Stroll won the championship, what kind of message would that send for the sport?

          It was bad enough that the odds of a driver ending in F1 were much better if your dad was a racer (or relative like Bruno Senna).

          Now Jacques Villeneuve is saying that that is not enough any more and is a bad career choice and you have to bear in mind that JV’s children don’t have just a father who won the WDC (not just a racer) but they are also grandchildren of a legend like Giles Villeneuve.

          What JV said is very similar to an interview in a car magazine on the last page recently where they interview racers (either R&T or Automobile) – his father was a racer and he tried to compete in Europe but apparently the money was crazy.

          1. @freelittlebirds I have no idea what message would it send, all I am saying is that money (or name…can Mick Schumacher not eventually reach F1?!) is probably enough to get someone to Formula 1, but it cannot buy anybody a title, if they are not good enough. We don’t really know how good Stroll is or could be, do we? Not all greats are obvious from day 1. I don’t think that in 1978 anybody thought that a guy with some success in Formula Pacific, trailing at the back of the field in a Theodore or ATS would four years later be World Champion. Before his title winning year, he was good for one podium two years earlier. I am not saying that Stroll is going to win the title one day, but if he were, it would likely be deserved.

            1. Well, you picked right one of the worst champions in f1, who lucked into a title just like son, probably son’s title was more deserved even, considering he at least gave hamilton a run for his money.

            2. But he still is a World Champion, right? Sure he benefited from the circumstances (Reutemann, Villeneuve, Pironi) and was not as fast as Prost. But in the year when consistency was everything, he was the most consistent. Not unlike Hawthorn or Hulme before him…

        2. Mercedes could still have won both titles 2014-17 with two ‘pay’ drivers, so it’s entirely possible.

          Brawn took both titles in year one with a team bought for a dollar, & drivers who began the season earning nothing. A pay driver or two must have looked attractive to the team, and had there been any available at that late hour, we might have seen one of them benefit from the advantages of that car, so again … it’s entirely possible.

          At this level, in relatively equal machinery, a highly talented driver should theoretically win … but we haven’t had equal machinery for a while now.

    6. @todfod
      Yep I laughed at that too, he must stop listening to JV Podcasts LOL

      I was in Singapore in 2016 with my son, started talking to a random fellow Aussie and he asked if my lad raced karts, I said no but looking into it.
      Turns out that this guy was 3rd in Australian Junior Karts Champion back in the day- say 12 – 14 years ago based on his age. Said they were spending $100K AUD a year for him to race….WOW. I stopped looking then LOL

      He introduced he to two of his mates Dads- both sons had been Aussie Junior Champs, one was a Barrister or Lawyer and I think the other was Bill Gates…………… neither the lads now even race!!

      Its insane and not great for F1. I know Senna was from wealth but Daddy didn’t buy F1 teams those day, they do now, its a business. Nothing against Lawrence or Lance, in the same boat I would do the same, but even if Lance does make a name for himself it will always be blurred by his wealth.

      1. @garns, mind you, it could be pointed out that Jacques’s mates bought out Tyrrell with tobacco money in a deal where BAT gave them a huge budget, then kept bailing them out even as they massively overshot their budget – corporate wealth did plenty to smooth Jacques’s career for a good few years.

        1. @anon Not really the point of JV’s commentary though. He’s speaking of only rich kids getting into F1 which makes for potentially less than the best…we get the best of the rich but not necessarily the best of the best. Corporate money put into F1 teams, while they also glean marketing value for said investment, and is how racing exists, is not the point of the topic.

    7. I’ve never been a big Villeneuve fan but I listened to the whole interview yesterday and would thoroughly recommend it. Much of what he says make sense, and has some interesting comments on his career.

    8. There are many vocal detractors of Jacques, but I, for one, welcome his forthrightness. His blunt criticism of Stroll was (and still is spot on), and I’d rather have Jacques speaking his mind and ruffling a few feathers at such a tumultuous time for the sport than keeping shtum and letting its controversies wash over him.

    9. Yeah, he does have a good point to make in the interview

    10. JACQUES ATTAQUE

    11. JACQUES ATTAQUE

    12. But.. but… i am still waiting for the deep insight by Villeneuve somewhere in this article.
      The headline promises a lot but does not deliver.

    13. I don’t want to kick off a furious 500 comment thread by mentioning Hamilton, but he seems like the rule-proving exception that shows the way forward for developing drivers. When it seems that 90 percent of the really quick kids are quitting or getting beat by rich kids with expensive equipment, how much would it cost for teams to send scouts to competitive kart events and give a really quick 10 year old 100K on contract to run the next level for year and prove himself or herself? Compare it with how much Mercedes spends on catering for a couple races, or bespoke Puma sneakers for the team, etc.

      Hamilton had a combination of a really dedicated family who believed in him and sacrificed and Ron Dennis who invested in him from very early on. It seems like you could harvest a few more Hamiltons with some effort and at a cost that is a minor part of a corporate racing program budget. To me the story with Hamilton is not that Ron Dennis is a genius scout and Hamilton is a truly genius driver (he is obviously exceptionally good versus his peers); the story is that modest investments gave rise to the most successful UK driver of all time. It may well also be that his rise was aided by the fact that the best drivers were being denied seats by mediocre rich kids. Also I’m guessing that people like Hamilton don’t get past the third serious weekend unless they have serious talent; looking down the barrel of six figures in costs just to get to a single-seater test has to make all but the most promising kids just walk away and pick up a basketball or a racket.

      Thanks to the people who have tried to climb the ladder themselves telling their stories! Maybe the site should make this a feature.

      1. I agree, there are many drivers who are where they are because of family money, (Nico Rosberg being one) and connections, sponsorship or being mentored by a team as Lewis Hamilton & Sebastian Vettel were.

        Damon Hill made it because he clawed his way up the slippery slope on the back of his talent and success in motorcycle racing and lower categories after the “family money” disappeared when his dad died. Jacques Villeneuve similarly had the name, but not the money.

        Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikonnen, Jenson Button and others have succeeded because of determination and talent, not family money or an established name in the sport.

        Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz have family names and probably access to money that opened doors for them.

        1. Sainz Sr. and Jos were always known to be clever with their contracts. I have no doubt that their shrewdness and forward-thinking about their legacies has contributed in no small measure to the success of their children. Look at the North and South American racing families – Andretti and Fittipaldi. It all started with success of one generation, and it flowed into the other generations, although Marco Andretti might be the one to end the Andretti’s success, lol. Similarly, Rahal and Taylor, and half-a-dozen others I cannot recall, are building legacies with their family names. It is possible that this forward-thinking is only now slowly coming to the European motorsports-persons.

          Damon Hill made it because he clawed his way up the slippery slope on the back of his talent and success in motorcycle racing and lower categories after the “family money” disappeared when his dad died. Jacques Villeneuve similarly had the name, but not the money.

          A good example of the opposite is Pironi’s children. One of them is supposedly an engineer at Mercedes-AMG, and we have no idea what the other is doing. Only one of Surtees’ children got into racing, who, unfortunately, passed away. Although the latter example might be due to the fact that his other children were daughters and presumably, weren’t encouraged to go racing. Or maybe they weren’t interested.

      2. I agree with you and Hamilton is a good example of that. However part of the issue is that F1 is expensive and not many of the teams get enough money to compete. Having a driver that is willing to pay means that not only do you not have to pay their wages but they also contribute funds to the team. Until F1 sorts out its stupid financial rewards system (and stop giving teams like Ferrari money for simply existing) and until it goes back to free to air tv (so the sponsorship spaces on the cars are worth more) then this will still be the case going forward. Only the very top teams can afford to nurture talent.

    14. Did everyone forget it all started as a competition between gentlemen in expensive cars? It was never a sport for the poor in the first place.

    15. I think that the cost of motorsport is only part of the problem. Of course, things are too expensive, but that will not change until a market crash comes that will even surpass 2008-09. However, the influx of paydrivers – which also causes F1’s midfield to decay as drivers, who clearly have peaked and really should be on much thinner ice than they are (looking at you, Romain G.) – that will only get worse in coming years is in my opinion caused by something else: the superlicense points.

      Why, yes, the very system that is supposed to keep “paydriver scum” in check is the one that’ll end up promoting it. Hilarious, if it wasn’t so sad. The basic problem is that FIA Formula 2, despite its new fancy name, still has the same problem as GP2: it’s too expensive and has too little mass media appeal for that price. Therefore, for every one driver that has a chance at being decent in F1 (note the wording: not “great”, not “successful”, decent!), there are three mediocre drivers with no hopes of being relevant F1 drivers who are there to pay the bills. That means if you go down that route without a rich father or a major sponsor, you are inevitably at the risk of hitting a wall if you can’t find major money somewhere.

      Now, the obvious solution would be (and in the past often has) to try your luck elsewhere. Just to point out a few names that have been capable F1 drivers yet never saw the inside of a GP2/F3000 car, let alone race in that series: Paul Di Resta, Ralf Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen, Adrian Sutil and Daniel Ricciardo. Some pretty nice names in there, aren’t there? Well, nowadays you can’t go that route, because to get sufficient superlicense points, you need to virtually dominate most series (I’m talking two or three titles in a row) and some series simply don’t allow for that, even if you had the talent of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost fused into one. Unless your name is Bernd Schneider, you are not winning two DTM titles and score a top three finish in another year, so that route is closed for e.g. Mercedes juniors (I know, they are withdrawing at the end of 2018, but I’m trying to make a point here), so they have to pay for a F2 seat or hope their guy is gifted enough that a team takes a chance on them regardless of sponsorship. Obviously, many teams don’t want that kind of investment in their young driver program, so those tend to get limited as well: I mean, how many guys (outside of F1) are there still left in the Red Bull system? I think it was three or four last time I checked. Compare that to the late 00s, where they had like a dozen drivers spread virtually across the planet.

      I understand why the FIA wants to monopolise the feeder series, the general idea is a good one, promote the best talent in a coherent system, similar to Moto3 and Moto2, but unless the FIA can magically compress F2 costs to a sum which removes the need for major paydrivers, it is bound to fail and promote mostly trash. Alternatively, the FIA (or whomever’s job that is) needs to look into promoting F2 better, have it run like Moto2 and Moto3, which are both basically one program block for TV partners, so that companies will be ready to invest more. Abovementioned Ralf Schumacher brought £8,000,000 to his sponsor to Jordan as bonus for his F1 debut in 1997. If really gifted drivers could get ~50% of that for a F2 deal, then this issue could maybe solve itself.

    16. That Jacques pic has to be a candidate for the Caption contest

      1. What? No more outwash front wings?

    17. I generally agree with Jacques but there are examples to the contrary, notably Ocon and Kubica. They started out on shoe string budgets with their families making huge sacrifices and eventually both got contracts with international karting teams. Though they made it through I am sure there are many other families that lost on the gamble of mortgaging their homes for their kids’ karting careers. Lower income families should not need to take such high risks to potentially achieve success. On the plus side, as sim racing gets more realistic that may be a future avenue to motorsports (just as RC racing was for Hamilton).

    18. José Lopes da Silva
      17th August 2018, 10:31

      The fact that Stroll is considering a competitive move upwards is a sporting disgrace, as it is the fact that Wehrlein and Giovinazzi are kept out while Ericsson still keeps is seat.

      1. Not for long. I can’t see any team interested in Ericsson, and with Sauber’s financial state slightly better than last year, we can probably see Giovinazzi in Ericcson’s place.
        Wehrlein though… it’s a bit of a shame there isn’t place for him on the current grid.

    19. I am 19 now. Have driven/raced a lot since I started in karts at the age of 4.
      I paid for all my racing expenses( karts, engines, air fares, hotels, food) from 2007 on by selling certificates from my main sponsor door to door, 5 nights a week, every week, creating a Karting school and doing motivational speeches.
      With that money I raced many Rotax races like Florida Winter Tour, US Grand Nationals, Challenge of the Americas, Italian and Brazilian Karting Championships. I participated in multiple championships but NEVER had a real chance to win most of those races although I still had a Top10 in MiniMax at Grand Nationals in 2011 and Top15 in Rotax JR in 2014.
      Why was it so hard? Because my budget was 10% of my competitors which translated in:
      – 2 sets of tires/weekend
      – One chassis every two years
      – One engine and a borrowed spare.
      – No data, no mega team.
      My competitors, and I was in many championships with drivers that are now in F2 and F1 and whose parents are now buying F1 teams, had $300,000 a year budget for Junior Rotax, unlimited tires, 10 engines and 3 chassis per race.
      Still, with my work for years, i moved to a Formula Mazda and then A ProMazda and won the 2016 Formula Car Challenge in the US. While selling dinner certificates to a group that was visiting my home track, they invited me to race F4 in China.
      I went and won the 2016 FIA F4 Chinese Championship.
      In 2017 I was invited to race F3 in Japan, which I did and raced for a novice team but still placed a bunch on P6,s and P7’s in Fuji and Suzuka.
      The team unfortunately folded and I i was invited to drive for a great team this year but some of my sponsors decided to not continue.
      I am on the hunt for sponsors everyday and every night.
      2 weeks ago, I won the Utah Enduro 6 Hour driving a 620hp Lamborghini Super Trofeo, thanks to the team that hired me to drive for them.
      My future is very clouded but I am not giving up.
      So I really appreciate Villeneuve’s and Hamilton’s comments, because what is happening in Motorsports not only at the top but at the base of the sports is absurd.
      The solutions are not that difficult. Budget cap in Karting. If I could do it and race in so many races with $25,000 a year that I would raise myself, everyone should.
      In my whole career, I was able to afford 3 days of coaching to learn as much as I could from a pro karter.
      In the meantime, the “winning” kids were coached daily and Home schooled.
      While I would be going to school, fundraising, selling door to door under sun or snow, they would be learning, practicing, testing, doing data and developing their engines and tires.
      Then on the weekends, we would meet on these events, and we were supposed to compete on “equal” terms.
      But there’s a caviat: most of these “drivers” won multiple championships but when they had to face financial challenges when moving to cars, they were not emotionally equipped to go after the money and work hard for it and they quit.
      Unless they are on a completely different financial stratosphere like the usual suspects, they all quit.
      I have been blessed by luck, wonderful friends and by having the drive to go after the money all the tine and things have been happening to me.
      But I met tons of great kart racers that were suffocated by the overly expensive Karting world, that never had a chance to move beyond the junior classes because the unlimited budget of other drivers, confined them to not even being able to pass to the finals and would go home on Saturdays with a broke spirit.
      Thanks to my dad I persevered. In his words: “ -Karting is like kindergarten, high school. It is not the career, is where you learn about the career. Realize that Karting is not the goal and the goal is ProRacing”
      So whenever I would qualify at a P17 and not winning on a 45 Kart field, I would understand that it was due to many factors, not lack of talent. But that was a hard process for a then 12 year old kid, but my mind was beyond Karting.
      Changes are needed.

    20. Mercedes could still have won both titles 2014-17 with two ‘pay’ drivers, so it’s entirely possible.

      Brawn took both titles in year one with a team bought for a dollar, & drivers who began the season earning nothing. A pay driver or two must have looked attractive to the team, and had there been any available at that late hour, we might have seen one of them benefit from the advantages of that car, so again … it’s entirely possible.

      At this level, in relatively equal machinery, a highly talented driver should theoretically win … but we haven’t had equal machinery for a while now.

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