Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2019

Hamilton says F2, F3 and karting are unnecessarily expensive

2019 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton has said widening participation in motorsport is his top priority for the long-term and criticised how expensive junior championships have become.

The world champion said changes to the structure of junior categories has made it more expensive for young drivers seeking to reach F1.

Hamilton arrived in F1 through Formula Renault, Formula 3 and GP2, the latter in its second year after it replaced Formula 3000. Since then Formula 3 has changed and replaced the single-spec GP3 series, while GP2 has been rebranded as Formula 2. Multi-chassis competitions such as those Hamilton raced in have largely been replaced by single-spec series, and costs have risen.

In an interview last week Hamilton said he is concerned this places talented drivers who do not come from wealthy backgrounds at a disadvantage. He is trying to find ways to address the matter through F1.

“I think it’s important,” he said. “I’ve been really wracking my mind and having long discussions with people that I work with just trying to figure out what it is that I can actually do in this sport, and within this business.

“The business has a certain goal and they’re not generally aligned with mine. But that’s natural because it’s a business and I’m an individual.

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“I think where Formula 1 [and] where motorsport has gone now, if you look at Formula 3, it’s not the same as it used to be. Formula Renault, for example, isn’t the stepping stone that it used to be.

[icon2019autocoursempu]”It’s now GP3, GP2, [Formula 3, Formula 2] those things are continuously getting more and more expensive and they don’t need generally need to be. Karting’s getting more and more expensive when it doesn’t really need to be.

“But again it’s because the business heads are not aligned with my thought process. So I’m just trying to think of what I can do.”

Hamilton believes bringing down the cost of competing in junior categories will help broaden the sport’s appeal. “Diversity is a continuous issue and will continue to be an issue for a long time. And there’s only a certain amount that I can do.”

He wants to ensure whatever he does makes “an impactful difference” and isn’t “just a tick on their list of things to add ‘we also do’, which businesses often do.”

“So I’m still trying to understand that,” he said. “But it is at the top of my priorities in terms of what I want to do long-term.”

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14 comments on “Hamilton says F2, F3 and karting are unnecessarily expensive”

  1. I fully agree, costs have sprialed and alot of it is very unnecessary. In the long run it will lower the interest in the sport and lower the quality of drivers.

    1. @maisch, there is an argument that has come about because the FIA wanted to specify a specific route through junior motorsport series into F1, but was not allowed to because of competition laws in most countries.

      To some extent, they’ve now achieved that through the new superlicence points system, which encourages drivers to go through specific junior series by making them the most valuable way of getting points. Unfortunately, by doing so, and therefore rendering those other series less viable, it also significantly reduces the financial competition element.

      It creates a captive market for those who want to exploit the situation, especially since a number of those junior series also only allow limited numbers of parts suppliers – who can, as a result, charge what they want (one of the factors which many complained was behind the rapid increase in costs for GP2).

    2. As we all know the cost of everything has risen. the FIA streamlining a path that awards super-license points has actually leveled the playing field, although it will take many years until we realize the full impact. The main issue had been that gp2 & gp3 were designed for wealthy drivers & didn’t even bother developing a marketing profile that could be used to obtain sponsorship. this was known as wealthy parents had already begun to exploit the junior ranks which had over years evolved to the benefit of works teams and with somewhat of a marketing profile that sponsorship could be obtained. A less wealthy competitor could get a ride & with talent would impress a works team and/or do well enough to advance. Exploitation reduced these possibilities as parents funded works drives or bought teams outright.

      The FIA were fully aware of this as Gerhard Berger & Stefano Domenicali were a part of the single-seater commission and helped develop the current system, which included the re-branding of F3 & F2, along with more marketing profile.

      Now, Felipe Massa is head of the karting commission & further solutions are being developed and implemented. Yet with only the sporting element more under control (ie. costs vs. rewards), the advantage of wealth still exists, as it always has in motorsport which as outlined by Anon, it’s created a ‘captive’ market with a decrease in the competitive level. As well as made the idea of a career in karts, as had been possible & in fact lucratively desirable to drivers, now impossible.

      At this point, in such a complicated and competitive environment – a logical & simple remedy and my suggestion to the FIA to further equalize & streamline the single-seater path, would be to test the intellect of drivers much like an LSAT or SAT and partly base progression up the ranks on their scores. By encouraging parents to keep educating their kids a financial realism will return to the junior ranks and restore a more competitive balance — as it is a well-known fact, among aficionados & industry insiders alike, that every world-champion has been smarter than the average bear.

  2. Hamilton is talking sense. He’s coming across well in recent months.

    1. Yeah, I noticed that aswell, maybe he can run Mercedes some day.

    2. He sure is!

  3. It seems that pretty much any form of motorized sport that runs on wheels (2 or 4) is not going to be cheap or easy. That runs from Motocross, Karting, Rally and all higher forms. Even racing bicycles requires dedication and a surprising bankroll to succeed. The mantra is and has to be … do it because you enjoy it and are having fun at it.
    Hamilton can (and will) push to try and knock down some of the barriers, but the bottom line is that F2 and F1 are the best, of the best of the best.
    In 2020 there will be one (not two or three, just one) new driver on the F1 grid. It matters not what the resources come into play, be they technical, physical or financial, all of that background selection process will elevate only one to the top ranks.
    Reducing the cost of participation entry level racing will increase participation which is great. But don’t plan or anticipate that this will get more drivers into F1, because like in 2020, there is usually only room for a very small few and you won’t need all the fingers on one hand to show how many.
    If Hamilton retired, he could double the number.

    1. but the bottom line is that F2 and F1 are the best, of the best of the best.

      And that’s, well, false. At least for F2. The F2 driver field this year and next year is, to put it bluntly, pathetic. Not a single member of the 2019 or 2020 F2 grid has shown any reason to believe that they will be so much as a decent, let alone great, F1 driver.

      I do agree with your other points, though for different reasons. With only 20 slots, it will be hard to get new drivers into F1. But if the new ones can’t even get to a superlicense because the series where you can earn them are blocked by well-funded, but under-talented drivers, you could have 20 teams and there wouldn’t be any room for actual good talent.

  4. Besides money, location is strangling talent. I can’t imagine Lewis to succeed if he were born and lived somewhere else.

  5. It has always been shockingly expensive. I grew up in the 80s with parents that had more money than Hamilton’s and there was a track within striking distance. It was super expensive then as well. My parents would have had to make a noticeable sacrifice in time and money with no idea of whether I had talent or not. With other sports they would relatively cheaply know if I would be able to make a go of it. I don’t really see any way around this unless esports can actually be a path to racing. This is always going to be expensive and location is always going to matter. Schumacher having a track in his backyard is the perfect example. Who has that?

  6. Not a Lewis fan but if he actually does something I will become one!

    1. Don’t worry, he won’t.

  7. Like most motorsport insiders, Lewis offers no solution to the ‘problem’.

    Motorsport has always been a sport for those who can afford to compete, either with their own money or thot of sponsors/patrons.

    Motorsport’s real problem is that it’s been reduced to motor reality TV, with contrived close competition more important than which is the fastest car.

    The technical innovation that used to attract legions of revheads has been replaced by cookie cutter cars that are boring to watch, and rely on technologies that are irrelevant to road car R&D.

    The solution: ban ‘aero’, reduce tyre grip, untie the technical straightjackets, and make motorsport a contest to find the fastest car again.

  8. James McClellan
    30th October 2020, 23:29

    The Ultimate “Whole Point” to Formula 1 has been the Pinnacle of Technology in motorsports. Now, what has happened is F1 has gotten into an increasingly bad habit of trying to manufacture competition. They do this by changing rules to stifle innovation, so one team can’t dominate a season by having a technologically exclusive advantage. They will even change rules mid season to stifle a new innovation. As well they change rules yearly to further stifle a dominant team forcing them to reevaluate their team tech strategies. But it in effect causes all the other teams to do the same. And so in effect all the rules to even out competition actually drives up costs year to year because no team can actually settle on style group. The rules change year to year and so R&D costs increase to research to account for those rule changes causes extra costs instead of those financial resources being used for improving the platform and programs they already have. With works teams who have vast fortunes to play with, they will naturally dominate by outspending their contemporaries. Putting spending caps solves some problems, but limiting innovation by increasing platform regulations just adds even more costs. If they had any sense they’d just removed technological restraints, make NO platform changes, make no new rule changes other than removing restraints, but cap spending and you’d likely have teams who were at the bottom of the grid improve immensely.

    The real problem at this point is the works teams want to participate with an advantage, and so force their advantage by threatening to leave the sport unless they are given a price of cake that other teams don’t get at all. Like Ferrari being given 40 million just to remain participating and calling it a Legacy bonus.

    If they really wanted to increase competition, they’d give Winning teams their prize money each race as should be normal but allow the least successful teams a spending increase congruent with their placing. So if they so choose they can increase their spending even though they may not be profitable short term, unless of course they win a race or place higher increasing their prize money offsetting the cost of increased spending. This way, innovation increases, dominate teams can still be dominant, but less successful teams have an avenue to parity. Rule changes will decrease, so overall spending will decrease and with yearly off season spending caps, no one team can have an overly extreme advantage.

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