Formula One’s Netflix effect filtering down to schools

Organizers 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 program, which aims to encourage students into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, offers university scholarships and future work opportunities with F1 teams.

“‘Drive to Survive’ has definitely helped the whole sport,” the program’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% 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 tire supplier Pirelli providing a trophy of sorts.

The program 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, kids 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 program’s reach.

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