How much does it cost to get to Formula 1?

Only those with deep pockets can even get close to the pinnacle of motorsport nowadays

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The glitz and glamour of Formula 1 generates billions of pounds in revenue every season, but it is still extremely expensive to get anywhere near the sport as a driver.

With most kids starting their journeys in karting at five or six years old, parents are having to spend six or seven figures just to get into car racing at all, and that is where things really ramp up.

The numerous different championships that are all designed to provide a pathway to F1 all get increasingly more expensive the closer you get to the big time – much like how it gets hotter the closer you are to the sun.

Total-Motorsport.com investigate just how much it would cost now to make it to F1 from the very bottom of the ladder.

Karting

Everything begins in go-karts for any driver looking to make a career in the sport but even as a six-year-old, it will cost £2,500 per season in a karting academy. Drivers can stay in the academy until they are nine (four seasons) which already brings the price to five digits.

Out of an academy comes proper competition. Let’s say somebody does two years of national karting followed by two years of European or international karting.

As a minimum, it would cost £45,000 per season at a national level which then increases with shipping costs and travel to £105,000 per season.

Formula 4 & FRECA

Now the driver is 15 years of age, they are allowed to compete in car racing for the first time and that tends to mean Formula 4. There are different national championships worldwide but the Italian F4 Championship is the biggest of the bunch so we’ll be using that as the guide.

A season in Italian F4 is now thought to cost around £350,000 for a top seat so most drivers will look to do one season at this level before moving up to Formula Regional.

Again, the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine – or FRECA as we’ll be referring to it – is the one everyone has their eye on despite other series’ around the world.

Here, you’re going to be looking at £475,000 per season and many drivers will tend to take two years at this level with the exception of those who shine in their rookie campaigns.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli has been racing at F4 level and could be a future F1 superstar | Mercedes

Formula 3 & Formula 2

If you think it’s been expensive so far, buckle in because you haven’t seen anything yet.

Graduating from FRECA often leads to a season in Formula 3, alongside the F1 circus and that brings a whole new level of funds. One season in the third tier is thought to be around £870,000 although that could easily tip the seven-figure mark in some cases.

Let’s say two years at that level then sees them promoted to Formula 2 where the money rises again, this time to an eye-watering £1.7 million per season. Once more, it could be two seasons at this level before an F1 team decides to sign you and by that point, the wishing well is bone dry.

Overall cost

Let’s say we did four years in a karting academy, four years in competition karting, one year in Formula 4, one year in FRECA and then two apiece in F3 and F2.

That would bring the total cost up to an alarming £6,275,000 spent on the ladder up to F1. At least when you get to the big time you start to get paid some of that investment back, if you’re good enough.

Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis is a motorsport journalist with experience working in BTCC. He is the resident IndyCar correspondent for Total-Motorsport.com and a top class F1 writer.
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