That Raconteur F1 article and the cost of karting
In general it’s an informative article but Toto Wolff is not telling the whole story here:
“If somebody is talented, very talented, you probably need to spend €1 million in karting through junior, senior and international races”
Later in the article there is an infographic that clarifies that the figure is meant to represent the budget to race with a leading team.
It is certainly possible to spend €1m on karting and many drivers do, but it’s not required to be good enough to drive an F4 or Renault 2.0 car. To spend €1m that means doing KFJ then KF or being extremely profligate in Rotax or X30*.
I don’t think that the KFJ/KF route has the value that it used to for a prospective F1 driver. Those classes do not have the depth of talent that they did 10-15 years ago due to increasing budgets, and the professional kart drivers who are the benchmark for any young talent have mostly moved into gearbox karting, which most of the younger drivers stay away from. If Marco Ardigo was the equal of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg when they were all in international karting, then surely if you think you’ve got a chance in F1 racing against Ardigo and the other professionals is good preparation. But it’s difficult to do that these days as the structure doesn’t support it.
I suspect a lot of the driver development programmes would prefer KFJ/KF but they tend to cost money now not pay for your racing.
Karting is in flux at the moment, just like the rest of motorsport, and it’s hard to predict what the best path through the sport would be for a child who’s 8 now would be.
I think ambitious drivers should race as often as possible against the biggest and best quality fields they can find. At this precise moment I think in the UK that means Honda Cadet, IAME Cadet, X30 Junior, X30 Senior then European KZ2 at age 15-16. Not many Brits are brave enough to do Euro KZ2 but I think it would be very useful. If you want to race internationally before that, Rotax is perhaps a better choice with a stronger Euro scene, but that may change. You could fling money around and spend three-quarters of the figure above, or you could do a lot yourself and spend a small fraction. Remember €1m is the rough equivalent of £90k a year over eight years in karting or £120k a year if you go into F4 as soon as you’re old enough.
Above all make the most of the massive amount of track time, learn to race, learn to test and learn to get fast quickly. There’s always a small chance you’ll find a sponsor who can put in the money for car racing, while there’s no chance if you’re sitting on the sofa.
Although the brutal truth is that if you don’t have €1m to spend on karting it’s unlikely you’ve got the budget for single-seaters, I’m raising this point as I don’t want drivers and parents to think that karting has to cost the equivalent of €1m over 6-8 years.
- If you’re reading this article because it popped up in your feed and you think karting sounds quite interesting, a brief description of the structure of British karting is that after a few years of Cadet racing in small low powered karts, you race in Juniors where you can do Rotax, X30 or KFJ, plus some other smaller classes. Rotax and X30 are commercial classes with a single engine model, and KFJ is an open class that is only raced at international level. There are also Senior versions of these classes, for drivers aged 15 plus, with more power. Drivers can and do swap between these classes all the time.