The following tips aim to give junior drivers a deeper insight into some of the vital aspects of their sport and contribute towards their personal understanding and development as a professional racing driver.
Understanding the financial context of motorsport
Competing at a professional level in motorsport is expensive – a fact that is impossible to ignore at any time. In today's environment, preparing a junior driver for Formula 1 will cost in the region of €7m EUR. A typical budget for a season of Formula 2 – the FIA's feeder series for F1 – is currently in the region of €1.8m for a season. However, for world-class drivers who make it into Tier 1 series in single-seater / LMP / GT categories such as F1, Formula E, WEC, NASCAR, IndyCar, Super Formula and Super GT, driver annual salaries can range anywhere between €100k - €25m EUR (excluding ancillary commercial deals).
To be successful in motorsport, drivers must quickly understand that the motorsport industry is primarily funded by strategic investments from a range of different entities: national governments, auto manufacturers, auto suppliers, other large corporates (in the form of sponsorship) and television companies. Drivers and their supporters should devise long-term strategies to attract, collaborate and benefit from motorsport's largest financiers. By doing so, not only will drivers reduce their overall development costs, but they are also likely to gain added kudos, recognition and momentum from these influential partners that can open a lot of doors for a driver's future in the sport.
Motorsport is a business and the smartest drivers appreciate that they are just one part of the bigger picture and that winning races doesn't mean the opportunities will fall into your hands. In such an expensive sport, the largest investors understandably want to be part of a winning formula on a sporting and commercial level. Therefore, while drivers should always focus on improving their skills on the racetrack, they should equally take into consideration that continued success up the motorsport ladder is also dependent on being a marketable asset. This is achieved by consistently expanding personal networks and investing into driver branding, PR and communications.
Identifying your USPs
Your competitors are often fierce and diverse individuals so it is essential for you to identify what makes you unique. Your USPs (unique selling points) might not be immediately obvious to you, so take the time to make a list of all the things that you feel make you different to other drivers. Examples: your nationality, age, results, experience, driving style, network, education, fitness level, commercial partners, online presence, interests, media coverage and involvement in other sports and activities.
Speak with a marketing / branding expert after you have made your list and discuss your USPs together. This person should use his/her experience to identify your USPs and explain the possible ways for you to benefit from your USPs. You should review your USPs on an annual basis to ensure you are making the most of new and existing USPs in the current motorsport environment.
How to benefit from your USPs
Once you have identified all of your USPs, you should fully embrace these attributes in a way that they become a constant part of your branding and PR. People need to know what is special about you quickly and efficiently (with as little language barrier as possible). 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
We firmly believe that junior drivers should seek external management as soon as they are sure to commit to a long-term career in motorsport. In today's motorsport environment, junior drivers are progressing up the motorsport ladder much faster than 5-10 years ago and many drivers.