With the retirement of Sebastian Vettel at the end of 2022 it looked as though for the first time in living memory the F1 grid was set to have no German interest next year. Of course when Haas ditched Mick Schumacher they replaced the young German with his senior countryman Nico Rosberg so for now the F1 tradition of a German driver continues.
At the recent United States GP, Norbet Vettel told German TV that the cost of starting children in motorsport was now too prohibitive and the German pipeline of potential single seaters racing drivers was almost bare.
Vettel’s father says karting too expensive
“There are maybe 10, 15 people or children. Maybe there is someone who now says: ‘OK, I just want to start karting with my child.’ When they hear the first numbers, they’re already gone,”
Norbert reflected on how he started racing with his son Sebastian who went on to become a four times F1 champion
“We started karting with 5,000 marks,” he revealed.
“And I’m convinced that there are definitely parents or fathers who would say: ‘OK, now I’ll give up my holidays and start with Junior Kart and do it with mine.’ But they don’t have a chance today.
Young drivers need German sponsors
“If someone was there and would look after the young children, or look and say: ‘Now we have someone who has a talent and now we support him or try to find sponsors for him.’ But the chances are gone,” Norbert Vettel reflects.
Sebastian’s father believes the money is now more focused on the teams than potential young drivers, so it is only the uber rich who have a hope of climbing the single seat racing car ladder.
Until recently the F1 grid was heavy with German drivers and despite the presence of global auto giant Mercedes and soon to be VAG group via Audi, the sponsorship of young German drivers is at an all time low.
No new German F1 driver in next 10 years
“It would be a shame if we didn’t have a German driver next year or in the near future,” Norbert concludes.
“Because, at the moment, I don’t see anyone coming up from Germany in the next 10 years.”
Ex-Mercedes F1 boss Norbert Haug now wades into the debate claiming there has been a complete loss of interest in Formula One in Germany.
“In Germany, Formula 1 has turned into a tragedy that every motorsport enthusiast can only be ashamed of,” Hang told RND.
12 out of 22 F1 titles won by German drivers
“Between 1994 and 2016, there were German world champions like an assembly line, seven titles from Michael Schumacher, four in a row from Sebastian Vettel, and finally the last one to date from Nico Rosberg in 2016.
“Mercedes, with its partner teams McLaren and Brawn GP with Mika Hakkinen, Lewis Hamilton, and Jenson Button, won four Drivers’ World Championships between 1998 and 2009, the Mercedes factory team was Constructors’ World Champion eight times in a row from 2014 to 2021, winning six World titles with Hamilton and one with Rosberg.
“For a dozen years, in the late 1990s and 2000s, there were two Formula 1 races a year in Germany, in front of full ranks and over 100,000 spectators. On RTL, 12 million people watched, instead of three million today.”
German Grand Prix falls by the wayside
Haug remembers in the not too distant past there were 7 German Formula One drivers who competed during the 2010 season and now there is just one race seat for a German driver in 2023.
“Today, Nico Hulkenberg still has one in what is, at best, a second-rate team, and Mick Schumacher is a promising substitute driver – but at least in the right team. There hasn’t been a German Grand Prix for a long time.
“A zealous green auto objector could not have developed a less ambitious and less successful German Formula 1 strategy. This specifically excludes the Mercedes works team, which – correctly – operates out of England and has two great English drivers.”
“Audi – we have a problem, that’s all I can say,” Haug claims. He calls on the German automotive institutions to rectify the problem.
German auto institutions need to step up
“Mercedes, the ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club), the AvD (Automobilclub von Deutschland), German sponsors, and all so-called stakeholders should spit in their hands, work with young people and work together.
They need to ensure that the car nation Germany does not finally fall prey to car haters who disregard the fact that the country’s prosperity was largely generated thanks to the automobile and its export successes and that it continues to be generated despite all the attempts by those who reject automobiles to torpedo it.”
As Formula One has grown in over the past two decades, it seems the only route to the grid for young drivers without family money is via a team sponsored junior driver programme. Though as Norbert Vettel argues, kids like his son can no longer even afford to get on the first rung of the ladder and go karting.
READ MORE: Vettel denies speculated new F1 role
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