Formula 1 is gearing up for the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend with an amazing line-up of drivers, but none of them are from the US, and McLaren CEO Zach Brown has a theory.
“The talent is there, the resources are there. It really depends on when and where they start and get into F1,” Brown told CNBC’s John Patrick Ong.
As usual, this year F1 drivers are mainly from European countries such as Italy, Spain, France, UK.
“The traditional route – you start with a cart in Europe and work your way up the European junior formulas, and we don’t have enough American riders.”
F1 has a number of young driver development programs based in Europe such as the Ferrari Driver Academy in Italy and the Sauber Academy.
“Due to testing restrictions, it is now difficult to get a rider out of America who may not have been on these tracks,” said McLaren CEO Zach Brown.
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There are several programs in the United Kingdom alone, such as the Mercedes Junior Team, the McLaren Driver Development Program and the Williams Driver Academy.
Brown added that testing restrictions are another hurdle for American drivers.
“Due to testing restrictions, it is now difficult to get a driver out of America who may not have been on these tracks,” Brown said. “We only have three days of pre-season testing, so you need a driver who knows the track, who knows the team.”
The CEO said F1 really needs more American drivers in junior formulas moving up the ranks.
“But for sure one day we will have an American world champion rider.”
When asked about the lack of female drivers in Formula One, Brown compared the situation to that faced by American drivers.
“It’s about getting more girls racing karts… at seven, eight years old and having enough of them to get the best ones to the top.”
“But I believe we will see a female driver and I hope she will drive a McLaren.”
McLaren recently announced that it will replace eight-time Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo with 21-year-old Oscar Piastri.
Asked if McLaren is considering a long-term strategic shift towards younger drivers, given that fellow McLaren driver Lando Norris is only a year older than Piastri, Brown replied: “No, you always need a mix of experience.”
McLaren recently announced that it will replace eight-time Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo with 21-year-old Oscar Piastri (above).
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“I am very happy because all of our major competitors have a young driver and an experienced [older] driver,” Brown said.
“We’re lucky that we got Lando at such a young age that now he’s experienced, but also young at the same time.”
Norris joined the McLaren F1 racing team in 2019 at the age of 19. Prior to his F1 debut, he was a test and reserve driver for McLaren.
F1 lowers cost cap to $140 million at the beginning of the year in the face of soaring inflation, and this has affected the way McLaren manages business. The cost cap limits how much each team is allowed to spend during a season. Next year, this amount will decrease by another $5 million.
But while the tighter budget has made it harder to allocate resources, it has balanced the F1 playing field because contractors now “can’t just spend more,” Brown said.
“Formula 1 has historically been a sport where you can find a way out of a problem. Now you can’t do that because we all have a ceiling on how much we can spend.”