GULF WEEKLY: Organisers of the ‘F1 in Schools’ competition say the Netflix Drive to Survive effect is reaching the classroom with a record number of teams entered in this year’s finals in Singapore in September.
The global not-for-profit programme, which aims to encourage students into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, offers university scholarships and future work opportunities with F1 teams.
“Drive to Survive has definitely helped the whole sport,” the programme’s founder Andrew Denford told Reuters, referencing the docu-series credited with a rapid rise in the sport’s popularity.
“At the primary final I asked the kids who likes Formula One and all their hands went up when four, five, six years ago maybe only half of them (did).”
The school teams must raise sponsorship, draw up a business plan, design and make tiny model cars and hold presentations before going racing.
The finals held in the run-up to the Singapore Grand Prix weekend will have 68 entries from 60 countries compared to a previous best of 55 teams.
“There’s 68 per cent girls in Saudi doing it and three (Saudi) teams coming with a majority of girls,” said Denford.
All will get garage and paddock tours and meet the drivers, with every Formula One team and tyre supplier Pirelli providing a trophy of sorts.
The programme launched in Britain in 2000 with eight schools in Wakefield and now has more than 28,000 educational institutions involved worldwide.
At the youngest level, children start at the age of nine with paper cars powered by bicycle pumps. In the top 11-19 age bracket the cars are carved from a block of balsa wood and powered by a gas canister.
“We’ve got townships in Soweto... favela schools in Brazil. There’s no level of entry,” said Denford of the programme’s reach.