Anthony Hamilton says his GP Prep scheme is a must for the future of Formula 1 and for drivers willing to get into the sport.
GP Prep, launched by the father of McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton at the start of the year, is an initiative aimed at giving young drivers experience with Formula 1 machinery. The academy has received the official approval from F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management for the use of the Formula 1 name.
Hamilton Sr. is convinced the scheme is vital for future drivers now that in-season testing is banned.
"I've written to FOTA several times to assure the F1 teams that GP Prep is about helping young drivers – and not F1 teams gain any technical advantage," Hamilton said at Silverstone. "McLaren trusts me, which is why I have been fortunate enough to get its cars. Force India trusts me, which is why it has offered me its cars.
"I am trying to say to the rest of FOTA, trust me. I am a father who has brought a kid up from nowhere and if it wasn't for an F1 team believing in us then we would never have made it. All I am asking you guys to do is believe in me, that I am going to take these cars, give these young drivers an opportunity and who knows – you might find that one of these guys could be a star in one of your cars.
"All the results from GP Prep would go to FOTA anyway – as every time someone is in the car then FOTA will get the results. For me it seems like the way forward for the drivers because otherwise we have young talented people in GP2, World Series, F3 and others who are never going to get an opportunity in F1. For me, something like GP Prep is a must for the future of F1 and for young drivers with a dream."
Hamilton is confident the scheme will kick off soon.
"Totally. We've got everything ready to go, but unfortunately our time schedules are slipping now," he said. "I had planned to be on track in August, but I can't move without FOTA being happy as I wouldn't want to cause any F1 team issues.
"GP Prep really is from the heart, a great opportunity for young drivers. And while it is expensive - it is at least an opportunity that doesn't currently exist. And maybe if FOTA likes the success and the products that come through GP Prep, maybe they will want to take GP Prep over and run it themselves. One thing is for sure: we need to look after the future of young drivers."
The Briton, who has the backing of some F1 teams, said he has already booked 30 days of testing.
"I am really excited and passionate about that, like a lot of other people. I have managed to get some great sponsors involved, a list of drivers who are interested and I've got reserves on 30 days now of F1 test time with a handful of drivers. McLaren and Force India have been extremely supportive, and I've got their cars and their team when I am ready. I also have a great relationship with Mercedes-Benz and their High Performance Engines division. I have the circuits reserved and all I need now is final FOTA support.
"I believe that it is important to have the full support for young drivers and the GP Prep academy from FOTA. I'd like for F1 to embrace GP Prep as a steppingstone for young guys who, without GP Prep, would never get an opportunity to get into an F1 car.
"This is all part of my experience of coming up through the ranks with Lewis. Without McLaren Lewis may never have made it to F1 – and OK, Lewis may have got picked up by somebody else, but I do remember many, many, many days when we would sit at home and think, 'How on earth are we going to get to F1?' Like today, many cannot afford to buy a seat, and you can't buy a test. So for me, GP Prep is really about the young guys who are coming up through the ranks, and all praying that an F1 team is going to see them somewhere – which they will in GP Prep if I can enlist FOTA support and approval.
"The driver might be in a middle order team at the back of the field, they might have crashed a few times and it might not be their fault, but put them in an F1 car and they might be a star. You only have to look at some of the current and past F1 drivers who, if they had not got an opportunity to test an F1 car, would probably never have been found."