Jake Hughes turned 28 years old at the end of May, and with it came a gentle reminder of his closing window of opportunity to progress in motorsport. In the modern era, drivers entering top motorsport series are younger than ever, yet Hughes is an outlier. Though he is the oldest on the Formula 2 grid this year, his career only seems to be improving.
By Tyler Foster
F1 Feeder Series had the opportunity to speak to Hughes in a two-part interview. In this second part, we discuss his realistic future in motorsport and where he sees himself after Formula 2. If you missed out on part one, where we discussed his Formula 2 campaign, it is available here.
Aiming for Formula E
When speaking about his present and future prospects, Hughes – a native of Birmingham, England – is calm and realistic. He explained that the main reason for his not succeeding in motorsport at a younger age was that he only started karting competitively at 16 years old.
Regardless, Hughes is aware that his window to graduate to a bigger series than Formula 2 may not extend beyond this season. Being the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team’s full-time reserve and development driver, he has a big connection to the electric series. We asked him what opportunities he hoped would emerge from his rookie F2 campaign.
“My target is to race in [Formula E] for a manufacturer team. Formula 1 is a goal of mine also, but realistically Formula E has been my goal for the past year.”
I want to win in big championships for big teams and put myself against the best, and I think that Formula E can tick all the boxes.Jake Hughes (Van Amersfoort Racing)
It is an unfortunate reality that many talented young drivers from Formula 2 have to wait their turn for a Formula 1 seat. But when it comes to his future, Hughes, who is much older than his current colleagues, has a slightly easier decision to make.
“Formula 1 is every driver’s goal, but at the end of the day, I’m a racing driver. I want to win in big championships for big teams and put myself against the best, and I think that Formula E can tick all the boxes. It’s a growing championship as well. I would absolutely choose that rather than sitting on the sidelines in F1 hoping that I’d get a seat. I feel like winning races, if not championships, in Formula E is only going to help you get closer to F1 than going to the races and being in the debriefs. I need to be racing.”
A cog in the Mercedes-EQ machine
Hughes is no stranger to juggling multiple series in one season. In both 2020 and 2021, the British driver competed in at least one round of both Formula 3 and Formula 2. For 2022, he has been both working with Mercedes and their Formula E team at Brackley and competing in Formula 2 with Van Amersfoort Racing.
Being with a factory team as big as Mercedes is an almost unparalleled experience, and for Hughes, there is a sizeable contrast between his role at Mercedes in Formula E and that with Van Amersfoort in Formula 2. We asked him how the experiences compared and whether being with Mercedes has increased his knowledge of motorsport.
“It’s very different. It is amazing how detailed they are with all the talent they have in the engineering department. I’ve learnt so much about what it takes to be a race winner and a championship-winning driver at this level. It’s a different mindset in many ways. It’s been invaluable, and I’m still learning all the time. I think even race drivers in Formula E are forever learning, so you have to leave your ego at home a little bit.”
Hughes has come a long way since making his début in single-seaters in 2012 at the age of 18. He has slowly made his way up the ladder, competing in a myriad of series before arriving at his current seat in the pinnacle of the feeder series world in Formula 2.
For Hughes, joining Mercedes was a “big confidence boost”, but he denies that it has changed his belief of himself. Instead, he says, it gave him the opportunity to evaluate himself against other top drivers, which has only motivated him further.
“To be signed by such a prestigious brand as their official reserve driver [takes] a lot of trust. If that situation happens where I need to race the car, I need to be ready. At the same time, I’m not really someone who ever needs a confidence boost because I believe in my own ability. I know that I’m good enough to race in those seats.
“Some people might say, ‘How can I have that opinion?’, but I’ve had these little reference points over the years, with teammates I’ve had and cars that I’ve won in, that I know if given the opportunity to have a car to do what these drivers do, I would do the same. I only see it as a big plus and a privilege.”
I’ve had these little reference points over the years, with teammates I’ve had and cars that I’ve won in, that I know if given the opportunity to have a car to do what these drivers do, I would do the same.Jake Hughes
Behind the microphone
A lot of the top motorsport broadcasters who were once racing drivers have one thing in common: experience. The likes of Martin Brundle, Karun Chandhok and Dario Franchitti have all competed in multiple series over several years and therefore have far more motorsport knowledge than most.
In addition to his impressively deep catalogue of racing experiences, Hughes has also co-hosted The H.Y.M Podcast with fellow racers Nick Yelloly and Alex Murley. We asked him whether he saw himself working within broadcasting after his driving career finishes.
“It’s not something I’ve ever thought about to be honest. Potentially. You can’t even think about what’s going to happen next week in motorsport, let alone a few years. I quite enjoyed the podcasting, to be honest, and we’re still going to probably do it at some point, but the problem is that we get so busy these days. Even a lot of the guys we had on the podcast, I’m racing against this year, and it was interesting having them chat in that sort of environment where they’d speak a bit more truthfully than if they were at a racetrack.”
Favourite feeder series
Hughes has competed in 13 different feeder series to date, so we couldn’t help but ask him which one was his favourite. He certainly gave us an interesting answer.
“I would say the FIA Formula 3 European Championship in 2017. I look at Formula 1 weekends and there’s many plus points to it, but I just loved that series, one because the cars were so good. It was just this little thing that you could throw around with tyres that you could push on. Every single qualifying you could go out and do ten push laps in a row. There was still a lot of attention on the series because of DTM. People used to call the car a mini Formula 1 car.”
Despite its continuing growth, the feeder series world, like the rest of motorsport, is not exempt from the need for improvement. There are few better drivers to ask about the current state of feeder series racing than Hughes, whose response focused on the current lack of track time for junior drivers.
“The one thing that I would change about racing on a Formula 1 weekend is to put more time on track for Formula 3 and Formula 2. While I didn’t like the format last year, I liked having three races. The only way to do that would be to have two qualifyings.”
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