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Formula One: A Sport for the Upper Class

Written by Aimee Palmer, Edited by Simran Kanthi

Photo Credits: Richard Saker/The Observer

We all know Formula One and other motorsport series revolve around one crucial factor, money and finances. The question is does this cause the sport to have limitations, because realistically, why should wealth even be a factor in entering this competitive industry; talent would have more benefits. To even get your foot in the door at the karting level costs families thousands. How can we expect to see the best talent the world has to offer if this sport is only an option for the upper class?

Don't get me wrong, we have seen drivers who came from more humble backgrounds but none of them have ever not been wealthy. It's a real shame to the motorsport world that money is a huge benefactor. As much as we understand the whole facade of Formula One has been based around business, surely more funding or easier accessibility to the industry should be an option. It will keep fans astounded by phenomenal driving and give drivers more competition. What's not to love?

Karting is the main pathway into any type of motorsport and with the UK and Ireland home to 160+ karting tracks, you would think access to this sport is easy. However, no one ever talks about the enormous cost of actually being able to take up the sport. Before even stepping onto the track, getting second-hand equipment will already have cost you £1000-£2500. There is no way anyone in their right mind would think an average working-class family would be able to afford this, even so, if it was affordable, second-hand equipment is not as competitive as buying brand new, automatically giving wealthier drivers a better chance in this industry.

Avid_Creative/Getty images

We also have to consider the extra costs that come if you were to enter and participate in karting events and competitions. There are often fees for entering, not to mention your travel costs, and if you're hiring gear or karts, it can all become really expensive, and we cannot forget about repairs to any kart problems, keep in mind an engine costs about £700. With these costs, it's next to impossible to achieve the ideal of having more diverse drivers on the F1 grid in the future.

With more drivers speaking out about how to create more diversity and improve equality within the industry, I think many fans of motorsport and sport, in general, would have expected to see more change than we have. Don't get me wrong, the drivers speaking out will always help, for example, Lewis Hamilton, seven-time World Champion, announced in 2020 the Hamilton Commission alongside The Royal Academy of Engineering to help black people into the industry to improve diversity. Additionally, drivers such as Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have also helped with projects of their own.

However, it's time more people took a stand. We should be encouraging people of all ages to enter this sport, and their background shouldn't even come close to being a barrier for them, however, in the real world this will take a long time. It shouldn't be fair that only affluent drivers get the chance to go to the top, at the end of the day talent does not mean anything anymore unless you have money behind you. With Hamilton growing up struggling to pay for himself and his father having to remortgage his home to pay for his karting career, imagine all the other kids like him, of whom we will never know even if they have talent equivalent to or better than Hamilton since they never had the chance.

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With F1 generating over £2 billion in revenue every year (pre and post-pandemic) and each race bringing in between £100-£140 million, you cannot help but wonder where this amount of money ends up. Of course, you have the prize pot, and they have to pay the 10 teams who compete, and also additional fees. However, their profit for 2021 was £92 million, which probably got shared between shareholders, stakeholders, investors, etc. However, just £1 million of that money could be used to get thousands of kids into karting for one year, by which point it gives them the opportunity to be recognised, build sponsors and find their love and passion for a sport without being disadvantaged. However, we all know this wouldn't happen because of how money-orientated this sport really is. Sometimes you can question if it's even a sport anymore or just a fun, competitive business. Funnily enough, if more people had the opportunity to step inside a racecar, there would be more competition and potentially more fans which will lead to better racing and more profit for the sport. Why will they not give more people a chance?

Now I know what I have written in this article can be viewed as a little far-fetched, however, the real deal is that Formula One and the motorsport industry require more diversity to grow as a sport. Financial aid needs to be talked about or at least considered to help get underprivileged children into this sport to break down barriers and stereotypes. There is a lot more the FIA, the drivers, and the fans can do to bring this to attention. We need to understand the importance of having a diverse grid. Many viewers and fans need to be able to realise they could do it too. We should not be closed off to having people with diverse backgrounds driving in the motorsport industry. The only harm it could do is create more competition for the drivers but isn't that fire to win and competitive energy that makes us watch this thrilling sport? Hopefully, one day we will see pure talent come from all backgrounds and enjoy everyone's passion and love for this incredible sport.


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