Central to the FIA Foundation’s support of motor sport safety is education. The Foundation has introduced the Young Driver Safety Programme to help facilitate the development of young drivers across the world.
With help from the Motor Sport Safety Development Fund, 112 young driver training programmes have been launched in 54 countries worldwide since 2009. Between them, these programmes have provided training and education to over 9,000 drivers, not just making them quicker but also safer as they pursue their motor racing careers.
The Fund has awarded over €7 million in grants to National Sporting Authorities (ASNs) to run these programmes. This has been supported by Regional Training Providers for young driver safety that can work with developing ASNs to improve training.
The young driver safety programmes have ranged from elite-level race academies in developed motor sport markets to entry-level driver education and training courses in developing countries. This has reflected the varying needs of each country to ensure drivers receive bespoke support that most benefit their situation.
Since 2010, the Netherlands, a country with a proud motor sport tradition, has focused on providing an elite development programme for 21 young karting drivers. Its primary aim is to nurture and support young talent through coaching on technical and tactical areas whilst improving both mental and physical attributes.
Called the Talent First programme, the scheme has been split into four development stages to help drivers at different levels. Supported by the Dutch Olympic Association, the programme has expanded since its inception to incorporate circuit and rally competitors.
At the other end of the development spectrum, Nepal established entry-level motor sport safety training for young drivers in 2014. The primary goal of the project is to improve competency levels and safety awareness of young drivers, developing competitors on track and enabling them to become road safety ambassadors.
Programmes such as this are just as critical as elite projects in young driver development. Many of the projects that have received grants aim to raise the basic competency levels of young drivers, which in turn helps to raise safety and driving standards worldwide.
Other ASNs, such as Costa Rica, have developed both entry level and elite programmes to help advance as many drivers as possible within their country. Stimulating and nurturing participation in motor sport has been a key theme. Many programmes then focus on helping drivers fulfill their potential and reach the upper echelons of international motor sport.
The backbone of the Young Driver Safety Programme is the Young Driver Excellence Academy, which is by the FIA Institute. An annual elite-level programme, the Academy participants are drivers nominated by their ASNs, who have demonstrated excellence in national competition thus far in their careers. It features numerous workshops that all contain clear safety messages and lessons. This includes the development of safety attitudes, training and awareness.
These lessons are not only taught to drivers in terms of racing safety but road safety too. Throughout the course of the Academy, they receive lectures and practical tutorials on how to develop specific safety skills. This includes the promotion of fairness and responsibility both on and off the track. Assessed continuously by Academy Performance Managers Alex Wurz and Robert Reid, drivers receive training that encourages them to become road safety instructors, enabling them to educate the public and help spread road safety messages.
Notable Alumni included Volkswagen World Rally Championship driver Andreas Mikkelsen and Formula One Test Drivers Alexander Rossi and Stoffel Vandoorne. They have been able to promote the road safety message at the very highest levels of international motor sport and to national audiences through their standing as top-level professional racing drivers.