Checklist: 5 things you must do when switching to single seaters

I was recently talking to a team owner from the FIA Formula 2 championship and he was telling me how one of the biggest problems are the drivers who never get over their karting success and continue to fantasise about it even when they get close to Formula 1, wondering where it all went wrong. “How could I have been so good in karting and now I’m miles off?”. That’s the main question they ask themselves behind the scenes. Two factors influence this: preparation and correct progress through the single seater ladder. We will talk about the latter in a future blog entry, but right now let’s focus on how you get ready for the switch to single seaters.

You need to approach the transition from karting to single seaters correctly, or else it will scar you forever. The drivers are very young when this happens and every track experience leaves an impression on them. As they grow, they will always revert to their first sessions in a race car and that is why it is important that you work on getting them ready before you actually take the step.

 Take advice from the right people

Everyone talks to everyone in motorsport and they all “know best”. That’s a given and you have to filter through the subjective information. Only take advice from the right people. There are several management agencies out there and some of them are really good at this. Try to find some with a proven track record but try to avoid the largest ones. You don’t want to be yet another “ATM” for them. This will mean doing some research and maybe interviewing several people before you make a choice but remember: you only do this once and it is vital who you trust!

 Prepare the transition correctly

Once you have a team around the driver, you should discuss strategy. Make sure you prepare the transition correctly: you can’t just jump in any Formula 4 car and pretend you will be the quickest person ever to have driven it. Go to a professional simulator first and get an assessment done. They will give you a report on strong and weak points. Also, see a motorsport fitness specialist. They will tell you if the driver is ready to jump in a race car or not. Don’t take this lightly as I have seen drivers who were fit for karting but not able to do more than 3 laps in a single seater because they were just not expecting the forces which are at play.

 People, not money

Going for the cheapest offer you receive early on is false economy as you most likely get what you pay for. Only accept a fair offer from a team who will put the work in to help develop the driver. Remember, it’s all about who you work with and how much they can teach the driver. It’s about the people, not the money. The race engineers you work with initially need to be like teachers who know how to get their point across and give you a base knowledge. Your first question should be “who will be running the driver?” rather than “how much does it cost per day?”. That’s a different discussion all together, which we will address in a future blog entry.

 Focus on learning

Once you have chosen a team and have set a testing program, you should not get carried away chasing the lap time but focus on learning instead. Don’t get caught in the comparison game as you never know what factors might make the car slower or faster than others. You are at a stage where the driver needs to learn. If he does this well and if he focuses on hitting all the key points correctly, he will be fast in comparison with others also, when it will matter!

 See the bigger picture

Whatever your endgame is, for sure it is not going to be Formula 4 so make sure you don’t put too much pressure on the young driver before he is ready. Of course he needs to always do his best but everyone develops at different speeds. Remember this is all new to them so make sure you see the bigger picture and don’t just focus on qualifying results and race wins in this initial step.

This may sound like a cliché but all people are different and each situation is individual so the above is not meant to be the golden book of single seater success. It does instead come from our experience and should of course be tailored to each individual. You can add a driver coach in the mix, or you can test with different teams in different cars, but those are all variations which need to be addressed by the management. If you need any help with any of these bits or would just like to discuss what is right for you, feel free to get in touch with the Sportline Management team.