Wolff says racing must be more affordable after Hamilton ‘billionaire boys’ comment

Toto Wolff believes motorsport needs to be made “much more affordable” for youngsters after Lewis Hamilton said Formula 1 has become a “billionaire boys’ club”.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes and Toto Wolff, Executive Director (Business), Mercedes AMG

Hamilton was raised on a council estate in Stevenage, with his father holding down multiple jobs to fund his early karting career that helped pave the way for his success in F1.

The seven-time F1 world champion said in an interview with Spanish publication AS that F1 “has become a billionaire boys’ club”, adding: “If I were to start over from a working-class family, it would be impossible for me to be here today because the other boys would have a lot more money.

“We have to work to change that and make this an accessible sport, for the rich and for people with more humble origins.”

Three drivers on the F1 grid - Lance Stroll, Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin - are the sons of billionaires, while the majority of active racers have required support from manufacturers or sponsors to make it to the top level due to the costs involved.

Mercedes F1 chief Wolff said that while every driver had their own story, he agreed with Hamilton that more had to be done to reduce costs in grassroots racing.

Matteo Nannini, HWA Racelab

Matteo Nannini, HWA Racelab

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“What makes the sport so attractive is that it provides narrative for good soap [opera] outside of the racing too,” Wolff said.

“Drivers have always come from different backgrounds, and I think there is not always, everyone has his story, and things to cope.

“I doubt that kids from a more privileged background have it easy all the time. They are fighting their own demons.

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“What I think we can do is make sure that grassroots racing becomes more affordable, so kids that haven’t got any financial background can actually be successful in the junior formulas.

“All the big Formula 1 teams [need to be] able to identify those kids, rather than making it so expensive that a good go-karting season costs 250,000, an F4 season 500,000, and an F3 season 1 million.

“That is totally absurd, [and] needs to stop, because we want to have access. I think we need to give access to kids that are interested in go-karting, the opportunity to race for much more affordable budgets.”

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