The Driver

The driver is the most recognizable position on a team.  The driver must be fast in a car and effective on the team.  The driver is the one risking his life on the track, and is the one who gets the credit, or the blame, for the race results. 

The engineers, designers, and mechanics work to put together a product and formula that the Driver is expected to use to win the race. As the Driver relies on the team to provide a reliable, competitive car – the team relies on the Driver to succeed.

Driving may look easy, but it isn’t, even with heaps of talent. A driver has to work very hard, often spending 15 hours a day at the racetrack and then spending their nights thinking about how to do it even better. Racing isn’t a job for clock-watchers.  Professional race car driving is very competitive and requires hard work, training, and money. 


There are no education requirements for becoming a racecar driver, but most drivers begin driving school and training in their early teens, and many start even earlier racing karts.  One path to driving is through the mechanic side of the business. 

A good driver understands everything about the car and spends extensive hours reading books, manuals and case studies, and watching videos about cars, drivers, tracks, and teams.  Some drivers do anything to get around the track, including volunteering and serving as an intern.

Most drivers don’t have sponsors initially, so they must pay fees for track time, cars, the crew, and the race.

The Attributes of Successful Drivers:
  • Educated

  • Understand technical aspects of car

  • Team player

  • Fast

  • Knows how to win races

  • Passion

  • Commitment

  • Marketable

  • Control of emotions 

  • “Good drivers don’t get good overnight” Roger Penske – become good drivers after they have the experience.

  • Getting a ride requires perseverance; consistently knock on the doors, try to figure out how to make themselves known on and off racetrack – are the ones that get noticed.

  • How they handle themselves off track is just as important as on-track skill.

  • Can start from the technical side – can start as a mechanic (Kurt and Kyle Busch – NASCAR drivers)

Case Study

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is a Formula 1 professional racing driver, and one of the most globally recognized drivers in the world, with multiple championship titles and world records held. Hamilton will go into the record books as one of the greatest Formula One drivers in history.


Hamilton grew up in England to a middle class family. His passion for cars and racing began when he raced remote controlled cars at a young age. He then began go-karting at the age of 6, when he received is first go-kart as a Christmas present from his father. His father told him as long as he kept good grades in school, he would support his go-kart racing. In order to support his sons racing hobby and passion, Hamilton’s father had to work 3 jobs at a time.


Hamilton became very successful in his karting, and at the age of 10, he told McLaren Formula One team boss Ron Dennis “one day I want to be racing your cars”, and sure enough, Hamilton reached his goal. In 1998, Hamilton was signed onto McLaren’s “young driver support program” at the age of 13.


In 2007, at the age of 22, and countless years of junior series racing wins and accomplishments, Hamilton was signed on to drive for McLaren’s Formula One racing team as one of their drivers, along-side a multiple world champion in their second car.


Since then, Hamilton has won the 2008, 2014 and 2015 Formula One Driver’s Championship, set a world record for All-Time Most Career Points in Formula One and a world record for Most Wins at Different Tracks in Formula One. He is now ranked #10 on Forbes' highest paid athletes in the world. 

  • So why was Lewis Hamilton so successful? What attributes made him a great driver and successful in life?

    • His passion – From a young age, Hamilton had a passion for driving, starting with remote controlled cars and then go-karts

    • His ambition and confidence – he had a goal, to drive in F1, and did whatever he needed to do to get there

    • Support from his friends and family – he would not be where he is today if his family was not making sacrifices for him to succeed

    • His skill – his natural talent and abilities to drive fast and consistently, managing all of the stresses of a race