In what may well be a first, it has been announced today that Formula 1 United States chairman Tavo Hellmund has teamed up with Formula One Management (FOM) to offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to three American drivers aspiring to enter F1. The drivers will get a rare behind-the-scenes experience during the weekend of the United States Grand Prix in Texas where they will meet team owners, current F1 drivers, team engineers, mechanics and international journalists.
CVs may be submitted in January and criteria for selection and the judging process are being finalised. So far the only condition is that the drivers must be between 14 to 20 years of age on January 1, 2012. They will be selected from a pool reflecting talent across all forms of racing including karting, stock cars and open wheel. It will give a huge shot in the arm to grass roots interest in F1 in the US and it is yet another impressive initiative from Hellmund who himself raced in Formula Ford, Formula Vauxhall Junior and Formula Three.
So why might it be a first? Well Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt could not think of another race promoter which has entered into this kind of agreement with FOM. It is testimony to what can only be described as a special relationship between Hellmund and FOM's boss Bernie Ecclestone.
The relationship with Ecclestone started through Hellmund's father, Gustavo Hellmund-Rosas, who was president of Mexico's Grand Prix organising committee when the race was held in the late 1980s. Hellmund also worked for Ecclestone's Brabham F1 team in the 1980s and has stayed in close contact with him since then.
"Bernie is a big advocate for America growing our talent pool for Formula 1. This opportunity aligns with his goals and mine to build an active presence with home-grown talent," said Hellmund. He added "most young drivers only dream of having firsthand access to experience what the world's top teams and drivers go through during a typical Grand Prix weekend. Until now, this kind of opportunity has only been available to young drivers who have either already worked their way up the racing ladder or are in a team/driver development program."
Ecclestone said "I think this will be a good opportunity for young American drivers to see what one day they may get to experience. Hopefully one of them will progress and perhaps someday join us in Formula 1." Time will tell but there is no doubt that the US GP will go a long way to bringing it one step closer.