How do you get an F1 super-licence?
Williams confirms it will hire Logan Sargeant for 2023… as long as he gets an F1 super-licence. So, er, how does one acquire one?
Prior to the US Grand Prix at the weekend, Williams announced that it would hire F2 driver Logan Sargeant as its replacement for Nicholas Latifi in 2023, provided that the 21-year-old qualifies for an F1 super-licence at the end of the year.
Which left us wondering… why would anyone want to drive for Williams? Just kidding. Williams may well have the slowest car on the grid at the moment, but the main question we were left asking ourselves was of course ‘how do you get an F1 super-licence, exactly?’
The super-licence, should you need reminding, is the special licence that’s granted to drivers who are eligible to compete in F1. It’s there to prevent any old schmuck from turning up and just having a go (at what is, after all, a very dangerous sport) without first having demonstrated the skills necessary to be there. Only the worthy, etcetera.
So, the criteria are as follows: you must be 18 years of age before you can compete in a grand prix, a recent addition that means Max Verstappen’s record debut aged 17 years and 166 days in Australia in 2015 will never be broken.
You also need to hold a Grade A competition licence, a valid driving licence (again, Max didn’t get his until he was well into his first season), and pass an FIA theory test that covers F1’s sporting codes and regulations. And with the paperwork done, you must also complete 300km in a representative F1 car over no more than two days.
Then come the points: you need to have amassed 40 super-licence points over the previous three years, which are awarded by competing in qualifying series as outlined in an FIA table.
This includes finishing in the top 10 in the Formula 2 championship (40, 40, 40, 30, 20, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3), IndyCar (40, 30, 20, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1), Formula 3 (30, 25, 20, 15, 12, 9, 7, 5, 3, 2) and Formula E (30, 25, 20, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1).
Other series in which super-licence points can be won include the World Endurance Championship, the Formula Regional European Championship, plus Asian, Americas, Japanese and Eurocup series, Super Formula, the GT500 class of Super GT, Indy Lights, W Series, Euroformula Open and Formula 4. You can also nab five points for winning the annual Macau Grand Prix.
And as well as amassing 40 points from any combination of those, you also have to complete 80 per cent of two seasons in a single-seater championship. Complicated, right?
By our reckoning, Logan Sargeant got 20 points for finishing third in F3 in 2020 and a further seven for finishing seventh in the same category in 2021. He also picked up an extra point for appearing for Williams in the first free practice session at COTA (having racked up more than 100km in that outing), and has two more scheduled FP1 sessions to come before the end of 2022.
Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter. Look out for your regular round-up of news, reviews and offers in your inbox.
Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.
And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s also on course to pick up two super-licence bonus points for completing the F2 season without collecting any penalty points. Yep, he gets points in one system for not getting points in another.
The upshot is that Sargent could need anywhere between eight and 12 more points depending on where he finishes in F2 next month. He’s currently third, and as long as he doesn’t slip to eighth, he and Williams should be fine.
And breathe. Anything else to add on super-licences? Turns out they’re quite easy to hang on to: if you’ve had a super-licence at any point in the previous three years, you can simply apply for a new one. And then prove you can still do 300km at race speeds, again in a representative F1 car. It’s how Fernando Alonso had a two-year break from F1, then came back.
Drivers also have to pay an annual fee to keep their super-licences: it’s not quite clear what the formula is these days, but it’s thought to involve a set fee plus a levy for every championship point earned. And we’re talking thousands of euros per point here, so it’s a good job Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are on such big salaries…