Tips For Drivers

The following tips aim to give young drivers a deeper insight into some of the vital aspects of their sport and which will hopefully contribute towards their personal development as a professional racing driver.

Understanding the financial context of motorsport

Professional motorsport is expensive – a fact which is impossible to ignore. The annual cost of single-seater racing can stretch well over $1,000,000 USD and front-running teams will usually demand the highest premiums. With these costs in mind, drivers must understand that the financial dynamic of their sport is predominantly reliant upon a backbone of corporate investment from auto manufacturers, auto suppliers, media broadcasters and other major stakeholders.

Professional motorsport is a business and the smartest drivers appreciate that they are just one part of the bigger picture. With a lot of investment at stake, the individuals and organisations controlling these funds understandably want to be part of a winning formula on a personal and commercial level. Therefore, while drivers should always focus on improving track performance, they should equally take into consideration that their on-going success is also dependent upon being a marketable asset for companies and racing teams on and off the track.

Identifying your USPs

Your competition is fierce so you must identify what makes you unique. Your USPs (unique selling points) might not be immediately obvious to you, so you should list all of the things which you believe make you different to other drivers. Eg. nationality, age, results, experience, driving style, fitness level, commercial partners, online presence, interests and involvement in other sports and activities. Speak with a professional from the motorsport industry after you have made your list and discuss your attributes. This person should help you in understanding the importance of your USPs and their possible benefits to your career.

How to benefit from your USPs

Once you have identified your USPs, you should fully embrace these attributes in a way that they become an everyday part of your PR and branding. For example, if your nationality is unique and you have a particularly smooth driving style, these are characteristics you should be talking about! People need to know what is special about you quickly and efficiently. Therefore, you need to build a strong presence in and outside of the paddock and make an effort to convey your USPs amongst the media and key individuals. Once someone can identify what is special about you, they are more likely to show an interest in you and want to engage with you.

Knowing when you need management

Once you have identified your USPs, you should fully embrace these attributes in a way that they become an everyday part of your PR and branding. For example, if your nationality is unique and you have a particularly smooth driving style, these are characteristics you should be talking about! People need to know what is special about you quickly and efficiently. Therefore, you need to build a strong presence in and outside of the paddock and make an effort to convey your USPs amongst the media and key individuals. Once someone can identify what is special about you, they are more likely to show an interest in you and want to engage with you.

At DCM, we believe drivers should seek external management during their first season of single-seater racing and once they are sure to commit to a long-term career in motorsport.

How to apply to a racing academy / driver program

Whether you have management or not, it’s a smart idea for you to familiarise yourself with the who is responsible for managing racing academies (such as the Red Bull Junior Team). These individuals can be difficult to pinpoint, but with some research you should find them and contact them. Introduce yourself and explain why you believe you have the credentials to be a future driver of the academy. These decisions are not made quickly, so you should accept that making a personal connection is the first step to be made. Thereafter, you should focus on winning races and keep your contact informed about your results and commercial deals. Try to meet with your contact in person from time to time so that you can continue to build a personal relationship. As a race weekend is always busy for everyone involved, it’s best for you to meet your contacts away from the track so don’t be put off by having to make a dedicated trip in order to make this happen. If we had to give 3 pieces of advice, they would be: keep in touch, achieve excellent results and be humble and polite at all times.

How to promote yourself online

You’re not a marketing guru, so what should you be doing online to promote yourself? Firstly, make sure you have a professional website. If you already have a website, but it looks like it was designed 10 years ago, you need a new one. Your online presence is your biggest and most cost-effective PR opportunity so there is no excuse not to have one. It is likely to be the first place that key individuals go searching to find out more about you. When your career is the topic in question, first impressions are always important and this includes your online presence. Once you are pleased with your website, remember that it needs to be updated regularly with your news, results, press releases and images.

You’re not a marketing guru, so what should you be doing online to promote yourself? Firstly, make sure you have a professional website. If you already have a website, but it looks like it was designed 10 years ago, you need a new one. Your online presence is your biggest and most cost-effective PR opportunity so there is no excuse not to have one. It is likely to be the first place that key individuals go searching to find out more about you. When your career is the topic in question, first impressions are always important and this includes your online presence. Once you are pleased with your website, remember that it needs to be updated regularly with your news, results, press releases and images.

Become a champion

We all recognise that winning is the aim of the game in motorsport, but let’s stress how important results are. There is no hiding from your results – good or bad – so help yourself to become a champion by racing in the championships in which you stand the best chance of winning. For example, if you are unlikely to win the GP2 Series title, then perhaps you should consider aiming for the GP3 Series title instead. This applies to drivers of any level.

Becoming a champion demonstrates that you have the skill, consistency and confidence to be the best performing driver on the grid and this earns a great amount of interest and respect for your name. In addition to entering the right series for you, it is essential to race for a team that is capable of winning races. If you choose to race for a mediocre team, then you are immediately reducing your chances of becoming a champion. Do not let budget influence a poor decision that could affect your results for an entire season – beware!

Get a major brand behind you

In consideration of the importance surrounding corporate funding in motorsport, your attitude and public image matters to your team and investors. Therefore, take the initiative to demonstrate your understanding about the corporate world around you by partnering with an internationally recognised brand. You might not yet be a world-famous racing driver, but you will certainly gain positive attention and kudos by associating yourself with a major brand.

To secure partnerships, think of someone in your network who might be able to help promote your commercial proposition. This person should ideally have business experience and an understanding about your USPs and your future ambitions. The best partnerships are those that offer the best ROI (return on investment) for your partners. Therefore, corporate funding in motorsport requires creativity and business experience in order to be successful. If you are under management, you might prefer for your manager to approach some of your contacts regarding partnership opportunities.

Plan, observe and react to your season

Before committing to a new team, series, or season, you should plan ahead and set yourself objectives. This includes deciding what kind of result you wish to achieve by the end of the season (eg. Champion / Top 5 / Top 10). Setting this target will help you to shortlist the teams that could be suitable for you. Once you have signed with your team, remember that your results will be in constant evolution throughout the year. The very best drivers are able to actively observe and react to their performance during the course of the season. Mistakes can occur during a race weekend, but a driver’s ability – or lack thereof – to react to a negative situation is often where championships can be won or lost. Do your best to identify problems or weaknesses and find solutions for them – this process begins by studying as much data as possible. Finally, always remember to factor in the possibility of reliability issues when setting your objectives for the season.

Managing relationships and expectations

There is a lot of pressure on drivers to succeed, so managing relationships and expectations is not easy. Before signing with a new team, speak with the team manager and enquire about which drivers will race with the team next season. This enquiry will help you to understand the priorities and expectations of the team surrounding you and your teammates. You need to feel confident that you will be important to the team and that your teammates will not be given preferential treatment over you.

Once you have started testing with a new team, make it your priority to build a close relationship with your race engineer and mechanics. If you do not have a good feeling about the team, then consider that another team might be more suitable for you and your objectives for the season.