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Anthony Hamilton fears costs will stifle rising talent

NEWS STORY
25/09/2016

Whether Lewis Hamilton does get it all together and take the 2016 title, the Briton has the consolation of knowing that he will be at the forefront in 2017 and beyond to add to his existing three titles.

Though driving for Mercedes, the Briton will be the first to acknowledge that McLaren played a huge role in making this all possible, the Woking team having taken the youngster under its wing following an encounter with Ron Dennis in 1995.

Lewis, then in karts, and still only 9, assured the veteran team boss that, having just won the British Championship, "one day I want to be racing your car".

With the support of McLaren and Mercedes-Benz the youngster rose through the ranks and did indeed get to drive one of the Woking outfit's cars, taking his first title with it.

Acknowledging that without McLaren's backing his son might never have reached such heights, Anthony Hamilton fears that increasing costs and the lack of a clear promotional structure could see the sport return to the days when it was for the privileged few, those youngsters with mega-rich parents or connections giving them access to substantial backing.

"There are so many junior series that young drivers don't really know which is the best path to take," he told The Independent. "Junior motorsport is still fragmented and expensive and that alone doesn't encourage those with a dream of F1 to enter the sport, or for the genuine cream to rise to the top.

"In our day we just worked hard with what we had," he continued, "and were blessed to have been spotted by Ron Dennis and Mercedes but that isn't enough any more. If costs continue to escalate at the junior level, and junior series remain financially unregulated, then I think Lewis will be the last of his generation."

The newspaper estimates that financing a youngster from his first karting event through to, for example, GP2, could cost around £10m.

"Getting to the top shouldn't be about those who can afford it," says Hamilton, "but about those who work hard and are the best. At junior level there are many drivers who win championships but don't have the funds or backing to move up to F1. It is about time that a career path structure was put in place to make sure that drivers who are proven winners are rewarded with a guaranteed route into F1."

Of course, there are now a number of schemes that offer promising youngster support, most notably those of Red Bull and Mercedes.

While Hamilton fears that those drivers promoted by teams and sponsors will lack character and drive, afraid of speaking out or making mistakes for fear of losing the lifeblood of financial support, he also believes that, as it stands, the sport is in danger of missing out on some hugely talented drivers.

"F1 could end up with the majority of drivers paying for their drives, rather than earning them through being a junior champion. This could be prevented by introducing a driver draft and selection process that only allows the best through on merit alone. If a driver failed to meet performance targets after two years he could be replaced with another to ensure that the racing stays unpredictable.

"You could also limit the drivers' contracts with a team to three years so that the leaders would have to trade with their rivals below them. It would give others an opportunity to get the best drivers and to win races and ultimately championships."

He concludes with what must be seen as a nod in the direction of his son and his team, and maybe even Liberty Media.

"The dominance of one team and driver for several years has had its day," he says. Drivers managing tyres, engines, and not being allowed to race the pants off the race car is not real seat of the pants motor racing like it used to be. Mixing it up would be great for the sport and the public who want to see the best racing drivers, real competition and exciting racing."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Willie, 26/09/2016 4:44

"Perusal of Mark Weber's new book makes one wonder how ANYONE without a fortune or a Daddy already in the business would ever again be able to get into Formula One.
(A great book!)"

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2. Posted by Hector, 25/09/2016 14:50

"Mmmm. Now Lewis is a pay driver?"

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3. Posted by You Started It!!, 25/09/2016 12:30

""Anthony Hamilton fears costs will stifle rising talent".
Your average parent can not afford to put a child through school to f1. It ain't happening!!"

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4. Posted by F One, 25/09/2016 12:14

"What on earth is he on about? It always has been and it always will be."

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