Hitech’s high hopes: The billionaire-backed F2 team planning a leap up to F1

2026 F1 season

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Top junior single-seater outfit Hitech GP is the latest team to declare their intention to join the Formula 1 grid in 2026.

They doubled up yesterday’s announcement of their plans with news of major new investment in the team. But does that plus the team’s racing pedigree mark it out as being worthy of the coveted 11th slot on the grid?

Founded by Oliver Oakes in 2015, it at least the third team to use the name ‘Hitech’. The former racer obtained permission to use the name from David Hayle, who launched the original Hitech Racing team in 2003 to race in British Formula 3, and knew Oakes as a World Karting Championship-winning youngster. Another Hitech squad raced in Brazilian F3, but Oakes brought the name back to European competition when he was just 27.

Oakes’ entity was also launched with the intention of competing in F3, and made its first appearances in 2015 at the end of the European championship season.

Hitech run junior drivers from several F1 teams
Hitech have remained in F3 ever since, and expanded into Formula Regional in 2018, Formula 2 and GB3 in 2020 and Formula 4 last year. If their F1 entry bid is successful, and they continue their current programmes, then Hitech would be the only grand prix team in the world to also be present at every major tier of junior single-seater racing.

Right now Hitech run junior drivers from Red Bull, Alpine and Williams, and race in the F1 support paddock at 13 of this year’s events (14 before Imola’s cancellation) so Oakes and his team are already familiar to key FIA figures, permanent members of race control (although F2 and F3 have a different race director to F1) and can be seen by the whole paddock on the podium frequently.

Since joining F2, Hitech have won 10 races and picked up 21 other podium results in three-and-a-half seasons. In the FIA F3 Championship they have won 12 times and made the podium 15 further times. Mercedes F1 driver George Russell, IndyCar champion Alex Palou, Super Formula title contender Liam Lawson, rising IndyCar stars Marcus Armstrong and Rinus VeeKay, plus McLaren Formula E driver Jake Hughes and his NIO rival Dan Ticktum are among those to have passed through Hitech’s doors.

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Oakes helped Russell’s ascent to F1
Second place in the 2019 F3 teams’ standings is the team’s best end-of-year position from its time in the second and third tier of single-seaters, and it has racked up multiple titles on the rung below in FRegional.

Like fellow aspiring F1 entrants Andretti Autosport, it is the existing single-seater pedigree that Hitech want to point towards as to why they are ready for F1. But all of those wins and titles were in spec series, Hitech has not previously been involved in car design or manufacturing and that doesn’t come cheap. As Williams team principal James Vowles recently told RaceFans, even existing F1 outfits such as his face nine-figure bills to develop their infrastructure to the same standard as recent world champions.

However Oakes’ squad has set up the sister Hitech Technologies company, which is a step towards achieving manufacturing independence, and is scooping up expertise from elsewhere. A model many major junior single-seater teams use now, to varying degrees, is to set themselves up as consultancy firms where their team members go off to provide their services, picking up different but useful experience in other forms of motorsport and eventually bringing it back.

In Hitech’s case, the incoming knowledge is going towards ‘Hitech 26’, a group of people employed solely for the F1 entry project, several of whom who came to Hitech from Red Bull and have already been working in their current roles for 13 months. These include aerodynamicists, model designers and makers for wind tunnel work, CFD experts, design and stress engineers, and a head of research and development.

In the announcement of their planned F1 entry, Hitech confirmed the team was no longer full owned by Oakes following the sale of a minority stake to Kazakhstani billionaire Vladimir Kim, who made much of his wealth in his country’s mining industry.

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Red Bull backed Oakes before he turned to management
Publicising his arrival at the same time as the F1 plan indicates Hitech now have the money to afford the F1 entry (which rivals the capital costs with an anti-dilution fee of $200 million to be let in to F1), and buying shares is a greater commitment to a team than sponsorship. But the arrival of major new investors can prove disruptive for teams – no matter how established they are – if money talks over paddock experience in the decision-making process.

As always with financial arrangements that are not tied to a time limit or a guaranteed annual sum of money, there’s nothing to stop the scope of investment reducing year-by-year too if the returns do not look worthwhile. But Hitech is used to working with wealthy individuals through previous shareholding, as the father of Russian former F1 racer Nikita Mazepin had ownership in the team while his son raced there. His shareholding was reclaimed by Oakes early last year as Russia was hit by sanctions – although Oakes denies that factored in to his taking back full ownership of Hitech.

Hitech did not name a power unit partner in their announcement yesterday but Oakes has plenty of contacts in the F1 paddock and is particularly close with Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko. That relationship began when Oakes was a Red Bull junior himself in his first years racing cars in the late 2000s.

After two years across Formula BMW and Formula Renault 2.0, with only one win to show for it, he lost his Red Bull backing. He was still able to step up to GP3 (the predecessor to FIA F3) in 2010, but ended the year without a point.

Oakes therefore changed tack and followed the well-worn path of those who set aside their hopes of reaching F1 as drivers and instead went into team management. The likes of Christian Horner and Toto Wolff are just the two most recent successful examples of the type. Whether Oakes gets the opportunity to compete alongside them, and by doing so demonstrate it is possible for junior teams as well as drivers to graduate to F1, is up to the series and the FIA to decide.

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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6 comments on “Hitech’s high hopes: The billionaire-backed F2 team planning a leap up to F1”

  1. The Dolphins
    27th June 2023, 20:24

    Honestly having an F2 team join F1 is a lot more favourable to me than having Joe Billionaire enter as a vanity project.

    1. CheeseBucket
      27th June 2023, 21:04

      Yes, at least you know they are passionate and doing it for the right reasons!

  2. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    27th June 2023, 23:07

    Hoping Andretti and Hitech can get on the grid. Need more teams.

    1. Facts&Stats
      28th June 2023, 10:15

      I hope we can get two more serious teams as well.
      The close ties between Hitech and Marko/red Bull worries me a bit. It might be better for the sport if they buy into Alpha Tauri instead, or maybe a JV between the two teams.

  3. I don’t have anything against Hitech, but I want to see Andretti-Cadillac on the grid with either Josef Newgarden or Alexander Rossi in one of the seats.

    1. There’s room for both teams

Comments are closed.