A JUDGE’S REFLECTIONS ON THE AWARD
It’s a salutary thought that the last five winners of the Award had not been born when I was first asked to be one of the judges, back in 1995. This was the year after the British Racing Drivers’ Club, at the instigation of the then-club secretary John Fitzpatrick, had joined Mclaren and Autosport as the Award’s stakeholders. Already by then, just six years after its launch, the Award had established itself as an important goal to which every young British driver aspired.
The involvement of the BRDC had one immediate financial benefit in that the cash prize doubled to £50,000. Back then, this was a very worthwhile contribution to the budget required for the next step up the ladder. Until recently the prize increased to £100,000 but has since been replaced by benefits in kind.
The BRDC involvement also meant that the on-track assessment days could find a home on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit where they have remained ever since, apart from a four-year exile at Snetterton from 2005 to ’08 when Jonathan Palmer took on the management of the Award. Motorsport Vision’s managing director has been a major supporter of the Award from the outset, most notably since ’10 by making available the required number of MSV Formula 2 cars, all prepared to MSV’S exacting standards. In the earliest days the test cars were a couple of Formula Vauxhall Lotus and later F3 cars, which had to be shared around. Now, each finalist has his own car with more power than they will have experienced to that point.
The stated aim of the Award has always been to find the next British F1 driver, so the principal focus has been on a driver’s performance in the single-seater. However, the other cars play an important role in showing versatility and, as has happened in several cases, catching the eye of the likes of Mclaren or Mercedes. For many years one of the top British Touring Car teams (WSR, Dynamics, Nissan) provided a car or two complete with one of its regular drivers. This produced one of the legendary performances of the Award in 1998 when Jenson Button started lapping a Nissan Primera as quickly as its regular driver, the late David Leslie, on a saturated track, their times five seconds faster than any other finalist’s.
At the moment the UK appears to be on the crest of a wave, with both George Russell and Lando Norris about to make the move into F1, while Dan Ticktum is knocking on the door.
“THE AWARD ESTABLISHED ITSELF AS A GOAL DRIVERS ASPIRED TO”