Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Hamilton should do more to help young racers if he’s concerned about costs – Rowland

2020 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton should show he’s serious about helping young drivers get into motor racing by getting involved himself, says Formula E racer and karting team boss Oliver Rowland.

Speaking to @HazelSouthwell in the new edition of the Inside Electric podcast, Rowland said he was “pissed off” to see prominent figures such as Hamilton criticise the cost of grassroots motorsport but not address the problem themselves.

Rowland, who tested for Williams’ F1 team in 2018 and now races for Nissan Edams in Formula E, also runs the Oliver Rowland Motorsport karting team. “I know first-hand how much it costs to run a karting team,” he said.

“People say you should get rid of teams because they bring out more costs. But then at the same time, as a team we provide a package for the driver to develop much quicker than if he was on his own. Especially in Britain we have really good grassroots karting and they tend to get really good really quickly. So it’s very difficult.

Last year Hamilton criticised the cost of karting and other championships, pointing out that richer racers are able to “leapfrog” less well-funded drivers and said he wants to help get a “working class” talent into F1.

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Rowland is already trying to help some young drivers progress through the sport. “I myself sponsor, or I’ve helped pay for, a couple of drivers, or I’ve helped in certain ways that I can,” he said.

Rowland: “I hear people complaining but they’re not doing much”
“I’m not on the same level as the top F1 guys, but I put my hand in my pocket to help people who I think deserve it and probably couldn’t go to the next level without that help. I notice that the people saying it in the press and things like that, maybe they could do the same.

“It pisses me off a little bit sometimes when I hear people complaining about it, but then actually they’re not really doing much themselves. For example Lewis said a couple of months ago that people need motorsport grass roots and all this sort of stuff.”

Hamilton could help young racers without spending any of his own money, said Rowland. “Even if he was to put his name against three or four drivers that were doing exceptionally well, that would help draw in sponsorship for them. And that wouldn’t actually cost him anything. But it would just be a way for them to then generate a bit of sponsorship for themselves.

“Just to have him backing somebody, he could go to sponsors, he could even go to meetings with them. He’d generate a hundred thousand karting budget very quickly. Whereas without him it’s really difficult for anybody to get anything.”

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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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25 comments on “Hamilton should do more to help young racers if he’s concerned about costs – Rowland”

  1. I don’t think criticizing the costs of starting a racing carreer should directly lead you to sponsoring a driver with your own money. Sure it’d make it look like you’re helping one, two, three kids… but that doesn’t attack the real problem which is the huge costs.

    Plus, think about the kart racers from overseas… people outside of Europe having to move, paying in another currency that makes it even more difficult, etc.

    Hamilton pouring money over wouldn’t help, in the grand scheme of things. Him putting his word out for FIA or whatever to try to change it is already a good gesture I feel.

    1. Insightfull post @fer-no65 – as you say, the problem isn’t actually adressed by others drawing in more money to get a bit wider top of a mountain, and thus might help a view extra drivers just below the threshold of being able to make it; instead it should be addressed by lped by trying to equalise the field so that, as you say, people from everywhere, including, but not just the UK, EU, and USA, can find their way into motorsport more affordably, with less of a barrier to entry. And indeed, working at that global level is where Hamilton might do the most good. I don’t know if/whether he’s actually doing that, but I also haven’t been checking (well, I guess right now, might be up to other things, given current priorities, but that’s a bit of an aside).

      1. There is also something of a sense of hypocrisy from Rowland given that, if I am not mistaken, he was employed by McLaren in their Young Driver Programme from 2007 to 2010 – meaning that his own karting career was probably paid for by McLaren, and therefore he himself seems to have enjoyed the sort of financial advantage that he is now complaining about.

        I would agree with you and Fer no.65 that, whilst sponsoring a handful of upcoming drivers might be good for those one or two drivers, it does nothing to address the criticism of the growing cost of competing in junior ranks. If anything, as you note, that system of patronage that Rowland is advocating for might even make the situation worse by pushing aspiring drivers to try and associate themselves with famous existing drivers, potentially squeezing out even more drivers who do not already have existing connections within the sport.

        It also does nothing to help with the increasing costs in the ranks above karting either (Rowland’s comments seem to be more narrowly focussed on that of the world of karting). Formula 3 has seen problems with cost inflation, and that problem has been made worse with a number of national series foundering or seeing their importance downgraded over time – the introduction of Formula 4 might have introduced a lower cost starting point into open wheeled series, but it doesn’t really solve the problems of rising costs in the ranks above.

        In some ways, you could perhaps argue that some of the policies of the FIA have actually worsened the problems. Their policies of increasingly proscribing a particular path into F1 through the junior ranks means that those series that they chose not to patronise have withered away – particularly the national Formula 3 series.

        By narrowing options and creating increased competition for a small number of places, the FIA has arguably helped cause the problem of cost inflation by enacting policies that push up costs and push drivers to have to bring even more sponsorship to buy their way into those limited number of seats.

        The intention seems to have been to force more competition between drivers to try and make sure only the best drivers got through, but it has had the detrimental downside of also increasing costs as well – making it the case that aspiring drivers either need significant financial resources of their own, or have to hope they get lucky and can work their way into a junior driver team run by a major team or manufacturer. Backing one particular driver might help them, but does nothing to reform the system or to try and bring costs back down – it just perpetuate that same problem.

    2. In fact a flush of money, uncorrelated with some sense of financial return, could do nothing to make the entry series cheaper. If there is always a rich guy to pay for a set of kart tires, why would the manufacturer sell them for less?

  2. Lewis backing a few drivers might help them, but it doesn’t address the underlying issue.

  3. Oliver Rowland – wasn’t good enough for F1 so he takes a pop at an easy target – nothing to see here.

    1. easy target? Judging by your comment, who is the easy target?

      1. yes, a easy target. he is just rolling with another people that think that Hamilton has been talking to many silly things and doing little.

      2. Criticizing Lewis Hamilton (for having money) is the easy target.

        I dunno who this nobody is, but he should stop worrying about what Lewis Hamilton is doing, and be the change he wants to be him damn self.

        No surprise this was on some no name formula E drivel nonsense podcast. I have no idea why Lewis Hamilton is to blame that racing is expensive? Surely it’s his fault that exotic lightweight racing components are expensive, right?

  4. As above, “sponsoring” a few kids only helps those kids, and does nothing for ones that don’t get noticed – just increasing the cost of competition for the majority (counterproductive in the end).

    Hamilton has a LOT of leverage in his words, as an ambassador for racing in general, so when he does criticise something, the people that CAN make fundamental changes are more likely to listen. I don’t know how karting works at that level, but from stories told by drivers that have rising through to F1, things like tyres seem to be a big expense that some families can’t keep up with, yet has a direct impact on performance – why not lobby a tyre manufacture to make a spec karting rubber that the whole paddack (and the organisers) pay a subscription for, so the cost is shared equally, and everyone gets the same amount of the same rubber per season?

    1. Racing is Inheirantly unfair, you can’t just socialize it, and expect those that have, to subsidize those that do.

      I can’t afford to go offroad racing here in America as I would like to, LIFE IS TOUGH SOMETIMES.

      Racing is optional, nobody has to go racing. That poor kid who can’t afford tires? So what. He also probably can’t afford a lot of other luxuries. Some people can’t afford to pay their rent, but we’re worried about semi rich families being able to send their kid racing because they aren’t rich enough?

      Spare me the crocodile tears…

  5. I find a little unrealistic, if not silly, the effort to make autoracing more open.
    It will always be a very restricted activity in terms of opportunity, maybe even compared to tennis or golf.
    It shouldnt demand a father to mortgage the family house to fund his son/daughter first steps, but what are we expecting: to generate a few hundred entrants every year?
    In a good year, there are 20-30 spots on F1, counting reserve/academy. Other series may have more good seats, but are we talking about what? 2000 drivers making a living from racing? Why would we divert resources to fund such a frivolous endeavor.
    From me the only solution is relatively cheap national/regional entry series. Every country holding a championship, just like every country has a football league. Only then we would know if going at 300kph centimeters from a wall in a thin metal fuel-loaded box is an activity the entire humankind is entice to engage with. And that is not a thing western europeans like to do.
    I say that last thing because even considering australian; south/north americans in F1, we have been seeing some kind of english, italian or german winning races for the last 60 years.

    1. That’s a good point, but I also remember Jacques Villeneuve (and bear with me… don’t go away just yet) saying it really used to be easier… you had a lot of sponsored programmes designed to give people a chance, if you were good enough, but didn’t have the money. He comments about it in the Beyond the Grid podcast, transcripted in part here: https://www.racefans.net/2018/08/16/jacques-villeneuve-yet-another-hot-take-f1-but-this-ones-worth-listening/

      1. not sure if it was villeneuve or someone else that mentioned it was partly easier because tobacco money was involved… if you think about it a big part of the grid had tobacco main sponsors

  6. However you try and make it work, as with F1, the rich will be more competitive than the not-so rich. Me and my dad used to kart and we’d turn up with the kart on a roof rack and a toolbox in the boot and be up against people who showed up with a big truck, 3 karts, 3 engines and so on. We could afford to go once a month – they were practising every weekend. We got new tyres every few races – they had two new sets every weekend. We had a kart that was bought second hand – they had a brand new one every year. The list goes on and on.

    Ultimately, karting costs a lot of money and even if there was a way to half the costs across the board, most wouldn’t be able to afford to do it to the level you need to in order to progress out of karts. In addition to that, you have to have a parent who is willing to work Monday – Friday and then spend Saturday and Sunday with you at the track.

    You can’t compare motorsports to other sports like football where you only need a ball and you can have a game at the park – it’s an expensive sport and the effects of better resources and equipment will always be far more pronounced than in most other sports. Put Messi in cheap boots and me in £500 boots and he’d run rings around me. Put Hamilton in a old, second-hand kart with old tyres and an engine that last tuned 6 months ago vs me in a brand new kart with a finely tuned engine and brand new tyres and I’d be competitive.

    1. @petebaldwin in your own experience, give that you’ve done it and seen how it is right now, what would you do to stop kids having 3 chassis per weekend and things like that? would a limit on components be something feasible?

      it’s impossible to make it so that every single kart driver has the same level of performace, as you say, some might turn with a new kart and some will show up with a second hand one, but maybe stopping people from using 10 engines per weekend would help?

      guess the manufacturers wouldn’t be too happy tho, since they’d sell a lot less componentes per race…

      1. Just adapt the Finnish system. Make everyone put everything they want to use in a single container each. Let them choose the size and the contents. Have a (nice, low) set price which they have to sell it for, if requested. Problem solved.

      2. @fer-no65 – I last did it around 15 years ago so things may have changed since then. There were rules like you could only use one set of tyres for the heats and final and you could only use one chassis and engine but there were no rules for practice on Saturday so people could run whatever they wanted to see what was working best. If you’re limited to the one engine and realise it’s not running well on Saturday, you’re stuck with what you have or spend most of the day trying to fix things.

        It’s not just that though, it’s also the tools and equipment you have to work with as well as the amount of people working on your kart and their experience/knowledge. Some were in teams with 3 or 4 vastly experienced people working on their karts. It was just me and my dad and we’d run over to them offering to get them a burger if they help us figure out why our kart won’t start! :D

        When I was racing, 99% of my age group raced Junior TKM so you raced against everyone. Once you got to 16 and could race in the senior classes, it split up a lot as there were loads more options – if you had money, you went to a better class, if you didn’t, you just just took the restrictor our of the kart you already had and carried on. I only ever did a couple of races as a senior but it was loads more competitive from there. Even then, it’s more competitive but it’s not cheap!

        Really, the cheapest option is something like Club 100 where you don’t have to own a kart as they are all supplied. Even then, it’s not cheap.

    2. So your family could afford a used kart, minimal tires, and a reasonable racing program.

      What about kids that can’t afford that? You are more privledged than some, just as the rich kids are, just not as much.

      Is that your fault that your family has some money? Should you be forced to help fund the racing programs of your less well off peers?

      Racing is optional. As much as people like to think if young Lance can’t get a go kart race seat, his life is forfeit and the world ends, it’s not. Racing is optional, and I have zero sympathy for those who can’t afford it, as that’s me! I can’t afford to go racing, and that’s ok!

      It’s almost as if these kart driver kids are in a bubble where they think racing is everything. It’s not. It’s a big world out there!

  7. There is a way new drivers can show how competitive they are without having to spend a fortune: Esports. Okay, you need the driving rig and an internet broadband system, oh and the cost of joining into the online game, but once that’s paid for then how good you are shouldn’t be related to how much you can spend, it relates to how much practice you can put in.

  8. Hamilton may well do something like this when he retires from racing, but now is not that time, not whilst his heads in the game and he’s actually competing. If he were to get involved, im sure he want to do more than just throw money at the problem.

    All this is before the legals, eg sponcering and being in some ways responcible for those drivers he encourages into the sport.

    Sometimes i wonder what people expect of drivers, where most just show up, drive and do press.

    1. Exactly, just look to what Jacques Villeneuve is doing with the FEED racing series.

  9. This was supposed t be an “Olympics Year”, but unfortunately not just yet.
    Along with the quadrennial festivities, there always seem to be the whining about funding, athletes and how if you want me to win, I need more money.
    The basic problem is clear and understood. What the selected few participants don’t seem to understand is that more funding will increase the number of participants in the ranks and if successful at bolstering the level of competition, those who championed the increased funding …. will be sitting at home watching the events on TV. Considering that there is a select number of “winners” that get to attend the Olympics (or F2, F1 etc.) only the best of the best of the best get invited.
    Same in F1. How many “rookies” were scheduled to be on the grid this year.? One. Out of how many vie-ing for the spot.?
    Make racing more affordable, competitive, inclusive or what-ever you like, there will never be more than a few, a happy few … that will ascend to the top. Hopefully the other 99.99% will have gained something that can contribute to a career somewhere somehow.

  10. I know there’s not much news but this is a pointless negative article about LH

  11. Anybody here follow MotoGP??? One day Valentino Rossi’s legasy will be less about him and more about what he built with his riders academy and junior teams. If Hamilton really cared about the sport which would benefit from seeing talent not money take you to the top he cod certainly do something similar. #VR46

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