Aviation and Formula One have had a strong relationship since the beginning. Several key figures in the sport have shared their love for aircraft over the decades. As drivers gear up for the French Grand Prix later this month, we thought we’d look at some of the private jets they fly in.
A history together
A familiar Formula One name in aviation is Andreas Nikolaus ‘Niki’ Lauda. The former racing driver and entrepreneur was an influential force across the board before his passing two years ago. Along with the founding of various aviation enterprises, he was a fan of private jets. An aircraft that the legend acquired was the first Bombardier Global 7500 delivered to Europe. Other jets that he owned and flew included a Global 6000, Global 5000, and Challenger 300.
Nonetheless, Lauda wasn’t alone in his affection for private jets. Drivers across Formula One have tried their hand at holding their own units even up until recent times.
Before selling his private jet in favor of a more sustainable approach, Lewis Hamilton flew a Bombardier CL-600-2B16 Challenger 605. This plane was registered as G-LCDH, standing for Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton, when flying with the seven-time world champion.
It was well-publicized in 2017 that Hamilton was given a £3.3 million (~$4.65 million) VAT refund on the £15.5 million (~$21.85 million) jet when the plane was imported into the Isle of Man in 2013. This move was revealed part of the infamous Paradise Papers documents.
The jet is registered to TAG Aviation has been sold to LaudaMotion Executive, which is now going by the name of SPARFELL.
Across the industry
At the end of last year, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen purchased a Dassault Falcon-900EX. M-VGAL was bought from none other than Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and the flights are now conducted by Dutch private jet company Exxaero. According to GlobalAir.com, this trijet has a maximum range of 4,725 NM and a maximum speed of 482 kts (893 kph).
Even if drivers don’t have their own fleet of jets, their racing teams often take care of things. For instance, Scuderia Ferrari partners with global business aviation powerhouse VistaJet to transport racers on their missions.
“In an industry where speed and efficiency are fundamental, VistaJet is supporting the team with travel between races throughout the 2021 Formula 1 season. This will allow the Scuderia Ferrari team to further utilize time off track and arrive in optimum condition,” VistaJet states.
“With often only days between Grands Prix, the team faces challenging timelines. VistaJet places the utmost importance on service and operational excellence. On its owned fleet of over 70 aircraft, VistaJet has completed over 190,300 flights globally, safely flying over 472,000 passengers to more than 1,900 airports worldwide.”
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From top to bottom
Even the bosses themselves get involved. According to Air Charter Service, Daniel Ricciardo shared that his most exciting air journey was when businessman Dietrich Mateschitz flew him back from a Grand Prix in a Cessna Citation Bravo aircraft. Mateschitz piloted the aircraft himself while Ricciardo enjoyed the luxuries on board!
Speaking of bosses, former Formula One Group chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is also the owner of private jet aircraft. He holds a Dassault Falcon 7X private jet with registration N-999BE. This trijet was first delivered in 2008 and can serve up to 16 passengers to a range of up to 5,950 NM.
Notably, the price of one of these jets is approximately $40 million. According to Superyacht Fan, the likes of Prince Albert of Monaco and Microsoft’s Charles Simonyi have owned the type.
Billionaires across different industries naturally opt to hold their own private jets. For example, Chelsea Football Club Owner and oil magnate Roman Abramovich flies around in his own Boeing 767 mansion.
Aviation’s broader role
Nonetheless, not all drivers opt to fly privately. Several have been spotted flying on business and first class seats on commercial aircraft. For long-haul trips to the likes of Shangai, Singapore, and Tokyo, this approach is often the most viable option.
Jets also play a crucial part in this ground sport in a wider sense. DHL has been teaming with Formula One for approximately four decades to ensure cars and parts are smoothly delivered across the continents. The shipping specialist uses its planes based in Munich and London to fly materials to the race locations. Per season, 800 tons of freight, which includes team, broadcasting, and media equipment are moved by air, sea, and road by the company.
Altogether, with such busy schedules and now, travel restrictions, it won’t be a surprise to see F1 drivers continue to hit the skies in their own private jets in the near future. However, with sustainability at the forefront of industries this decade, more racers may follow the likes of Hamilton. Overall, there could be more drivers flying charters or commercially down the track.
What are your thoughts about the private jets of Formula One drivers? Are there any other jets that racers have driven over the decades that you have been a fan of? Also, how do you feel the habits will shift over the next few years? Let us know what you think of the planes and their services in the comment section.