The young racing driver brimming with talent, Jake Hughes has Formula 1 in his sights, but it’s complicated
A late starter in racing terms, Jake Hughes has been playing catch-up for the past seven years. Now aged 23 with his sights firmly set on Formula 1, he’s rocking the European Formula 3 championship as part of the Hitech GP team after dominated Formula 4. A member of the British Racing Drivers Club Superstars programme and Motor Sports Association elite Team UK driver programme, Jake’s talent is not in question – but getting into the top flight is frustratingly as much about money as ability.
Jake got into motorsport by chance after having a go at karting at a friend’s 15th birthday party in Oldbury. The owner of the track thought Jake looked like he knew what he was doing and suggested he took it further. He went to Andy Cox Racing in Bromsgrove, took part in a practice day in the Cotswolds and loved it. Clocking Jake’s talent, Andy Cox said to his father: “I’m so sorry. I have some bad news. Your son is about to cost you a lot of money.” He wasn’t wrong. Jake had always been football mad and his dad used to moan about the cost of soccer boots so racing was a shock to the system!
LATE TO THE PARTY
Drivers usually get into karting from eight to 16 before progressing to cars between 16 and 20 – so at aged 16 Jake was pretty late to the party. A lot of hard work teamed with natural talent and determination got him on a par with the best. “There’s no grass roots funding like there is with other sports which means you have to stand out,” explained Jake. “You need to make an impression and attract sponsors which forces you to keep winning.” It also matures you pronto as Jake found out. He’s gone from being fairly shy to travelling round Europe, meeting new people and dealing with the media regularly.
The intense physical side of racing is sometimes overlooked as Formula 1 can appear easy from a viewer perspective, but Jake explains it’s anything but. From a cardiovascular point of view, a two-hour grand prix is on a par with a marathon. Add into the mix the 3G and 4G pressure on drivers and it doesn’t sound so easy. He says: “The training is similar to boxing. You need to be incredibly fit and strong and above all be able to concentrate in tough circumstances for prolonged periods – in temperatures of 50 degrees wearing a fire-proof suit with 4Gs putting the neck under immense strain. Drivers can lose 4kg in one race.”
Jake’s been double training in the few days before we caught up which means cycling, interval sessions and strength work, particularly for the upper body and neck. “Neck strength is most important. It hurts.” Speaking of getting hurt, clearly there are safer sports than racing and Jake’s mum struggles with it.
He remembers: “The family travelled out to Macau in China for the Formula 3 world championships which is a 12-hour flight and my mum didn’t even watch the racing! She looked the other way.” Jake’s favourite quote from ex-Formula 1 world champion Mario Andretti probably doesn’t help… ‘If everything seems under control you’re not going fast enough.’
With Formula 1 winking, Jake explains why it’s harder than just being a talented driver. “The four top teams can afford to pay drivers but the midfield and back marker teams just about break even and don’t tend to pay much, if at all.” With a season costing £15million it’s tough, but Jake’s determined to get there. More than 20 titles in Formula 1 have been won by drivers who did it via Formula 3 such as Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher among other greats. So, watch this space…