For some Formula One stars, claiming a place on the grid takes more than just speed and driving ability, it takes deep pockets too.
A top level karting career, just to get things started, can cost upwards of £100,000-a-year – not the sort of money most people have lying down the back of the sofa.
Lewis Hamilton’s dad Antony worked three jobs to be able to fund his son’s F1 dreams, while Michael Schumacher used discarded tyres from wealthy competitors in his early days go-karting.
Hamilton and Schumacher, both seven-time world champions revered the world over, made it to the top the hard way. Silver Screen Beat Sport take a look at four drivers who had a slightly cushier path to F1.
Perhaps the most obvious example of a pay driver in the paddock, Lance Stroll is the son of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.
Stroll senior is worth over £2billion, and according to Forbes, collects vintage Ferraris, one of which he bought for a record-breaking £20million in 2013.
Stroll junior is unlikely to ever drive for the prancing horse, but he’s carved out a pretty decent career for himself in F1 ever since he leapfrogged past F2 or the GP3 series to join the Williams in 2017.
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In 2018, Stroll Snr. led a consortium which took over Force India and turned them into Racing Point, and Stroll Jnr. was soon recruited to drive for them.
Lawrence then led another consortium which invested £182million into Aston Martin in return for 16.7% stake in the company, with Racing Point rebranded as Aston Martin F1 for the 2021 season.
Son Lance has impressed for the team in the last couple of seasons, and came within a whisker of claiming his first grand prix win at Monza in 2020, only to finish second behind Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly.
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Away from the high pressure world of Formula One, Stroll enjoys mountain biking, skiing, surfing and playing golf. He’s also a huge fan of the New York Giants.
There’s a lot to like about 26-year-old Canadian Nicholas Latifi. He’s quiet, unassuming and despite the largely rotten performance of Williams over the last couple of seasons, he’s driven pretty well.
Following the team’s brief upturn in results during the middle of the 2021 season, Latifi was even able to pick up his first Formula One points, scoring in both Hungary and Belgium.
However, whether he would be on the grid at all without the influence of his billionaire father Michael, is open to question.
Michael Latifi is a billionaire businessman who supplied a loan to Williams in order to keep them afloat amid a reduction in revenue through the Covid-19 pandemic and back-to-back 10th-placed constructors’ finishes.
His father made his money in Canada through Sofina Food, the company which is also the primary sponsor of Williams and adorns the car’s iconic livery.
In spite of his rich background, Latifii has proven himself to be a solid and capable driver over the last couple of seasons and will line-up again for the British-based team next season.
Nikita Mazepin’s first season in F1 has been nothing short of disastrous. The Russian has developed a reputation for spinning his car, with fans jokingly calling him ‘Mazespin’, and has failed to score a single point so far.
On top of all of that, his off track actions prior to his grand prix debut left a lot to be desired. Haas was forced to release a statement condemning his “abhorrent” actions that were filmed in the back of a taxi.
Mazepin uploaded a video on his social media while in Bahrain, where he appeared to grope a woman. The video was quickly deleted.
From the get go, a #SayNoToMazepin hashtag regularly started to appear on social media, as fans rallied against his introduction into the sport.
But in F1, money talks, and with a rumoured $20million investment into Haas for each of the next two years from his father, Dimitry, who is worth over £5billion, Mazepin has remained a part of the F1 paddock.
He will remain with the team for the 2022 season where he will continue to partner Mick Schumacher, son of Michael.
It’s time to say hello to F1’s newest pay driver – Guanyu Zhou. Zhou pipped British ace Callum Ilott to a place on the starting grid in 2022 after being signed up by Alfa Romeo, where he will become the sport’s first Chinese driver.
Zhou, 22, is a pretty decent racer in his own right and still holds every chance of winning this season’s Formula 2 Championship, but money has undeniably played a part in his rapid rise to the top.
Very little is known about the youngster’s parents, however, it is believed their wealth is not a million miles away from that of fellow pay driver, Mazepin.
Indeed, former F1 driver Christian Danner mentioned Zhou’s name alongside the Russian’s when he was talking about drivers who are helped by rich parents.
Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur even conceded in an interview with BBC Sport that money played a part in signing the Chinese driver over Ilott.
“In the end, our sponsors also want to be happy and develop their commitment to the future, and the financial side can’t be hidden,” Vasseur said.
Antonio Giovinazza, the man he will replace at Alfa, was not so kind in his assessment. Upon learning of the news, he posted on social media: “Formula 1 is talent, cars, risk, speed. But when money rules, it can be ruthless.”