Saad Ali, a 28-year-old guy from Pakistan is soon to become first Pakistani Formula 1 driver, something quite impossible for being from a country where there are no racing tracks and sponsorship only comes in for major sports – cricket, etc. He was a college dropout who kept stuck to his dream of racing, he is now facing hurdles to become one of 22 elite drivers at this sport.
He was always passionate about cars since childhood but not in racing as it was not even aired on television; however he competed in Formula Gulf 1000 series in 2014 and stood at 3rd position twice in the same weekend in Abu Dhabi.
Coming 3rd in the race made him realize that he had natural talent and he could pursue his future in this. Now in order to hit the road to Formula 1, he needs to conquer Formula 3, GP3 and GP2 classes first.
Achieving all that is hard, very tough and expensive according to him.
His source of funding for the sport is his hard earned money from a job in information technology company Swiftclick and his documentary-film work. Last year he was only able to compete in go-karting’s 2F2F Endurance Grand Prix in Pakistan due to the high expenses. He has been taking the Pakistani flag on circuits, all on his own without any support or funding.
There are more races in 2016 and he needs around $2 million in sponsorship in the course of 3 or 4 next years to be able to reach his goal of becoming like Sebastien Vettel or Lewis Hamilton.
Saad says that motorsports require proper architectural setup with expertise, mechanics, infrastructure and all the facilities to actually produce results.
Right now, he practices on a simulator at his home making the odds of international successes stand against him.
The absence of any sort of official motor racing in Pakistan beyond go-karting means he is unlikely to find the deep wallets he needs there.
The absence of official motor racing in Pakistan is one reason for him being unable to find the sponsors. He said there is a dire need to build tracks in Pakistan, it would not only boost economy but will also save lives and feed the starving young blood with the hunger of their need for speed that they do underground.
A 22-year-old racer told that despite accidents and police chase, races still take place in major cities of Pakistan and sometimes people even die in the accidents but young people still enjoy this and are willing to risk their lives for this. He said that proper tracks could minimize the life risks and accidents and people could make their careers in the sport by grooming.
An editor of motoring blog on Pakwheels.com, Baber Kaleem Khan says that motorsports can boost economy and generate huge capitals. Engineering development that goes on in the car, the training of the driver, the staff and students, the product and the commercial development can have impact on local business.
In 2006, Ali dropped out from college in Islamabad and went to Formula BMW Racing Center (FBRC) Bahrain, a learning centre for aspiring drivers.
The three day training at the school was the changing point of his life where he decided to join the racing school’s championship.
Sitting in the racing car for the first time was very different he told. The belts were so tight that they left a 3 inch deep mark on his shoulder, wearing the helmet made him suffocate and he could only fill half of his lungs and breathe, it was claustrophobic.
However, he pushed through and ever since has been racing in the Formula BMW and Formula Renault circuits.
He does realize the reality of the dream of racing in Formula 1, it means racing against 22 of the best drivers in the world.
But according to Saad Ali, he only needs a chance, he has the passion, hunger, desire, he has everything for that.