How to become an F1 driver? From karts to professional driving simulator

13 December 2023
How to become an f1 driver

Formula 1 is universally recognized as the highest level of motor racing, an extremely fascinating and seductive universe. This motorsport combines speed, advanced technology and extraordinary driver talent in a mix capable of capturing the imagination of millions of fans around the world.

However, it is also an extremely competitive and complex environment, which is why in this article we have analyzed with Marco Zipoli, a professional driver dedicated to driver-training at the Wave Professional Training Center in Verona, the steps needed to become a Formula 1 driver and the importance of simulator training to prepare young talent for world-class competition.

Becoming a Formula 1 driver, after all, is a dream shared by many, but the road to achieving the goal is a real challenge. The path involves three key stages, each of which requires dedication, skill and perseverance.

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1. Starting young 

From Senna to Verstappen, there is one passion shared by Formula 1 champions and that is karting. 

Driving a go-kart is the first step for those who dream of becoming drivers, an experience that can begin as early as age 6. 

As Marco Zipoli explains, the go-kart track becomes a kind of gymnasium, a place where fundamental driving skills are honed. The karts – small, agile and responsive cars – teach control of turns, precise use of acceleration and brakes.

But reducing everything to a focus on driving skills would be simplistic. Kart racing are a testing ground for learning strategy and tactics: how to plan overtaking and make instant decisions in competition. This initial experience, only apparently simple, prepares drivers to handle the pressure of competition. It also creates a deep bond between the driver and the race car, a crucial element in anticipating and making the most of performance on the track.

Despite the relative simplicity, Karting is a comprehensive and challenging sport with specific rules and international competition. It is also the springboard to a high-level career. In short, karting is the school where future Formula 1 champions are trained.

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2. Gaining access to junior categories

Access to junior and propaedeutic categories – such as Formula 4, Formula Regional, Formula 3 and Formula 2 – is essential for young drivers who aspire to reach Formula 1. These areas provide a highly competitive proving ground where emerging talent can test their skills.

Competitions in these categories are extremely challenging as young drivers compete against highly competitive opponents, each determined to emerge and advance to Formula 1. The races present an intense challenge, where every split second and every decision can make the difference between victory and failure.

However, it is not just a matter of driving skill. Taking part in such races can cost millions. Significant funding, often from sponsors, is required to get a chance to show off.  The junior categories provide a unique opportunity to capture the attention of Formula 1 teams. In the stands and pits, Formula 1 observers look for emerging talent. Achieving outstanding and consistent performance on the track is the ticket to the prestigious world of elite motor racing. 

The alternative are “Academies,” dedicated programs for young drivers run by the official teams themselves, where the skills and resilience under pressure of potential talent are assessed. It is through these paths that champions such as Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and especially Lewis Hamilton have reached the top.

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3. Train with a professional driving simulator (and rely on a Professional Training Center)

In the climb to Formula 1, training is crucial. Aspiring drivers, as they advance in their careers, look for opportunities to hone their skills. Advanced courses and professional training centers become critical to gaining an in-depth understanding of sophisticated driving techniques and the physics that govern the control of a race car.

A key element of this advanced training, explains Marco Zipoli, is the use of professional driving simulators that provide a realistic environment for training sessions, accurately replicating the behavior of race cars on a variety of tracks. This fidelity to reality offers drivers-in-training the opportunity to immerse themselves in highly realistic driving sessions while avoiding the costs and risks associated with on-track testing.

Simulator training allows drivers to gain a deep understanding of the car’s reactions, which is essential for improving driving skills, learning how to manage the vehicle’s power in corners and perfecting braking feel. It is a safe training ground where drivers can explore the limits of high-performance driving, developing valuable insight into the car’s behavior in extreme situations.

However, simulator use goes beyond the technical aspect. It is also fertile ground for the development of mental strength and increased responsiveness of the senses. Formula 1 is an environment where psychological pressure is highest, with drivers required to make instant decisions while traveling at dizzying speeds. The ability to stay calm under stress is crucial. Simulator training allows drivers to test and get used to “high pressure” situations, developing the mental stamina needed for success.

In addition, the use of simulators promotes closer collaboration between pilot and team. Drivers can work directly with engineers to test new car configurations, develop technical solutions, and refine race strategies. This close collaboration is a key element for success in Formula 1.

High-performance professional driving simulators: Ghepard Maranello and Phoenix Pro from Wave Italy 

The path to becoming a Formula 1 driver is a fascinating journey, but it also represents a formidable challenge that requires total commitment and uncompromising dedication. Simulator training has proven to be an essential element in preparing young talents to compete in this extraordinary world at a high level. In particular, Wave Italy recommends two simulator models for professional drivers: Ghepard Maranello and Phoenix Pro.

The essence of Sim Racing is always competition, where performance and lap time are essential criteria. That’s why Wave Italy has always been dedicated to offering professional peripherals and simulators, derived directly from real racing cars, capable of providing top-level sensations and performance to meet the highest demands. 

Ghepard Maranello blends these aspects with a unique aesthetic, inspired by the agility and grit of a cheetah in motion, recalling power, speed and elegance.

For the Ghepard, the innovative solution provides a front location for all dynamic components, incorporating a sophisticated lever system and an ultra-compact structure that integrates perfectly with the overall design. This innovative approach is covered by an international patent and gives even more realistic sensations, especially in GT driving, as load transfers are more noticeable on the longitudinal axis.

On the other hand, Phoenix Pro is the most popular simulator among drivers and is also available at the Wave Training Center in Verona, where it is possible to conduct training sessions right under Marco’s watchful and expert gaze. 

Phoenix Pro faithfully reproduces the cockpit of a Formula 1 single-seater, equipped with a feature-rich professional steering wheel and tachisensitive steering, a real brake capable of withstanding pressures of more than 100 kg, a highly responsive and precise throttle, an innovative active seatbelt and backrest system to simulate G-forces under braking and acceleration, and a sophisticated motion system that faithfully reproduces the vibrations and reactions of a race car on the track, greatly intensifying the driver’s sensations.

In conclusion, driving simulators such as Ghepard Maranello and Phoenix Pro offer young promising drivers-but also those who already compete at high levels-a chance to hone their skills and immerse themselves in a realistic driving experience.

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