Jazeman Jaafar is a name that has made the headlines countless times in the last decade or so in Malaysia for his many achievements in motor racing. Now, why would I say ‘many achievements’ and not just racing in general? Because Jazeman has been racing in quite a few different racing disciplines. In fact, a lot.
Beginning with karting, Jazeman progressed to single seater Formula racing and on to GT Sprints to and Endurance. This 25-year-old KL-lite has done it all, and done it relatively well. But despite his consistency in showing local motorsports enthusiasts that he is more than capable of holding his own on the track, one coveted seat remains elusive; Formula One.
Yes, that which is seen as the pinnacle of motorcar racing. That league, with only as few as 10 teams with 20 cars on the grid at any one time, is seen by many as the ultimate goal for any driver, never mind the actual preference of each individual driver.
There’s big money there. The best drivers can earn up to US$30 million annually and this is not even taking into consideration additional revenue streams such as sponsorships and endorsements. It costs a lot too to be in the sport. Teams typically spend anything north of €80 million to half a billion Euros per season. To say that Formula One is a rich man’s sport is an understatement.
But where does talent fit in here? If it’s just about which team will spend the most to get the most out of their strategies and tech, then what’s left for the actual capabilities of the driver? But the machine can only be as good as the man wielding its power and this is where the lust and passion is for drivers, this synergy. And Jazeman has been closely aligned to this dream since we first heard of him when he was but 6 years old.
The question of ‘who could and should pay’ for a country’s racing driver career and the potential return on investment that comes along with it, remains thick in the air
Followers would note that he has done everything right. He aced at karting locally and internationally. He then graduated to his first proper cockpit in Formula Renault, then Formula BMW, Formula 3 and finally Formula Renault 3.5. All this done over the span of 16 years that was dotted with many successes. He was even part of the Petronas Talent Development Programme which got him within arm’s length of one of the most powerful Formula One team in recent history, the Mercedes AMG Petronas, which saw him sliding into the driver’s seat of the W02 Formula One car in 2014.
So what went wrong?
Ironically, money. And this is what we discuss in this In Person interview.
Not wanting to sit idle, Jazeman continues to explore his immense racing talents. By moving on to other parts of racing, most recently doing the Endurance run at the Asian Le Mans Series with Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA, the question of ‘who could and should pay’ for a country’s racing driver career and the potential return on investment that comes along with it, remains thick in the air. We also got further views from two other young drivers who has have shown huge potential but is plagued with similar issues; Weiron Tan and Daniel Woodroof. Watch what they have to say below.
This is an ongoing discussion, surely. As the sport constantly evolves, so too will the business side of it. Companies are not looking at ROI (Return on Investment) solely now but also ROO (Return on Objectives). Beyond using Formula One as a marketing platform, it is now also a tool to fulfill a business requirement.
And people like Jazeman, Weiron and Daniel - in their capacities both as drivers as well as brand ambassadors - will need to show sponsors, or in racing lingo ‘partners’, that they are a golden investment.
That means funds MUST flow to young drivers to ensure the longevity of the sport in Malaysia.