British F3 driver Luke Browning on his Formula 1 goal31 August 2023
Motorsport has been part of British driver Luke Browning’s life for as long as he can remember, but it wasn’t until he began karting at an early age that he really found his passion for racing. Luke has an array of racing experience to his name so far, from Ginetta Juniors to British F4, but 2022 was one of his most successful years yet.
Winning the GB3 Championship and the prestigious Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award catapulted Luke onto the worldwide racing ladder for 2023. Now a member of the Williams Driver Academy, Luke is competing in FIA Formula 3 with Hitech Pulse-Eight.
Although now racing on four wheels, Luke was originally into racing on two wheels as an avid motocross fan. Despite racing on bikes at a local motocross track, Luke’s bike was sold after it was determined too dangerous by his mum.
“My dad bought me the cross bike and he said, ‘I’m going to take you to the field and we’re going to practice but when your mum comes, just take it really cautious’,” Luke says. “But what did I do? I went flat out and fell off 10 metres down the road.
“The bike was gone in a week.”
A year down the line, Luke was looking for something else to do and he attended a local car show where a cadet kart was for sale. It didn’t take long for Luke to decide it would be fun to try the kart, and from there, the rest is history.
Motorsport is known to be an expensive sport and usually to break onto the racing scene, drivers need to have quite an affluent background. Luke, however, highlights that he is from a normal family who aren’t from a motorsport background at all.
“I’m lucky to get to this point,” he says. “It’s been pretty crazy. It’s been mainly driven by me but I have very passionate parents behind me.
“In the future, I’d like to open up more opportunities for people that have been in my position; honestly, I’m one in a million that’s got extremely lucky.”
Since 2016, Luke has raced in a multitude of racing series. From Junior Saloons to Ginetta Junior, he finished his 2018 season in the latter category in third. In 2019, he competed in British F4 with Richardson Racing and the following year, he moved to Fortec Motorsport and ultimately came out on top as 2020 British F4 Champion. In 2021, Luke raced in ADAC F4, Italian F4 and GB3.
Not only did 2022 see Luke enter the UAE F4 Championship with Hitech, as well as the GB3 Championship with the same team, but this was the year his dreams – so far – came true.
The Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award seeks to boost upcoming British racing talent and find the next Formula 1 star. A range of big racing names have won the award in the past, including current F1 drivers George Russell (2014) and Lando Norris (2016).
At the 2022 Autosport Awards in December, Luke was announced as the BRDC Young Driver of the Year. His prize included £200,000, a test in an Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 Team car in 2023 at Silverstone, full BRDC membership and an Arai helmet.
“It’s changed my life,” Luke says, about winning the Award. “Completely. After I won British F3, I had a lot of people wanting me to get into Formula 3 and take the step up to the European level.
“Realistically, would it have happened if I hadn’t won the award? I don’t think so. Ultimately, it gave me the initial funding to get into the seat.”
The huge financial stress that comes hand in hand with climbing the motorsport ladder is something Luke and his family were no stranger to. As a family, they were looking at the best ways to travel across the globe, including funding flights and hotels on the most expensive weekend of the year in so many locations, as well as funding Luke’s actual race seat. The prize money awarded to Luke as Young Driver of the Year took those worries off his shoulders instantly.
Not only that, but one of the huge parts of winning the award for Luke was having such amazing names vouch for him, including BRDC vice-president Derek Warwick and the entire judging panel.
“Hearing Dario Franchitti speak about me, it brought tears to my eyes because you work so hard towards this goal for so long in your life,” Luke says. “To have people that you really respect the opinion of respect you as a driver is an incredible feeling.
“Not only that but the recognition of being one of the drivers to win the award… you’ve only got to look at what it did for previous winners; I instantly saw the access it gave me as soon as I won it.”
This award is one that Luke has been watching closely since his early racing days. He remembers looking at it and imagining what it would be like to be one of the top four drivers in the country and coming out on top.
“I watched it every year,” he says. “I remember thinking ‘I’d die for that’ and when I won, I felt complete elation. I didn’t come off this balloon of a high for weeks.
“I’ve never felt elation like it in my life before and I’m not sure if I ever will again. You could not wipe the smile off my face for weeks and weeks afterwards.”
In April 2023, Luke was announced as the newest member of the Williams Driver Academy.
As part of the award process, prior to being announced as the winner, Luke visited Mercedes for the simulator assessment where he had a successful day.
“I had a phone call from James asking if I wanted to do some work with Mercedes,” he says. “Of course, I snapped his hand off and the rest was history. When James got the knock from Williams to take the step over and take charge of his own ship, he brought me with him.
“Having people vouch for you really makes a big difference and it’s all about having connections in motorsport and being involved.”
The 2023 season sees Luke racing on the European motorsport ladder for the first time. He is currently competing in FIA Formula 3 with British team Hitech Pulse-Eight.
Coming into his rookie season, Luke didn’t know what to expect in F3, but him and the team have had great pace on multiple occasions, even seeing top three race pace in multiple race weekends.
“This year for me is just about learning,” he says. “The learning process is crucial. I want to be the best driver and to do that, you need to make mistakes and where better to make them than in the junior categories?”
To become an even better racer, Luke knows that revisiting the circuits on this year’s F3 calendar is so important, especially after turning up to them for the first time in 2023. He wants to be as prepared as possible for whenever he takes the next step on the ladder and heads to Formula 2.
“I want to come and show what we can really do,” he says. “This all came together so late that I’m also playing catch up a little bit.
“I think we’ve caught up to this point in the season but I’d really like to rock up next year and smash it.”
A huge part of any racing driver’s life is fear. However, Luke doesn’t see fear when he climbs into the car. In fact, it’s something that has never really crept into his mind.
“We do put our lives on the line but I don’t think about my safety really,” Luke says. “I think about what my parents would think if something were to go not great, but the moment you see fear, I think that’s often when people get out of the sport.
“You’ve got to accept the risk and it’s a risk that both my family and I have accepted. Ultimately, why would I want to sit on the sofa at home when I have this opportunity? For me, the risk is completely worth taking because this is my dream.”
Racing at Silverstone is something Luke has done many times in the past, but it was just as special going out in F3 Free Practice at this year’s British Grand Prix in front of a home crowd. Topping the timesheet in FP was even more special in front of his home crowd.
As well as racing, Luke visits the circuit for BRDC meetings and has an abundance of great memories at Silverstone.
“I’ve always been avid lover of motorsport although my family weren’t from that background,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed fast cars and things that went quickly.
“Silverstone is one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar so confidence here is crucial and I know this place like the back of my hand. It’s lovely to come back.”
Luke’s ultimate goal?
“To be an F1 World Champion,” he says. “Having this goal as a little kid to be in Formula 1, this is the dream that I want to come true.”
As part of the Williams team now, Luke wants to reach Formula 1 with them and drive them to the top of the Championship. There’s nothing he wants more than to win a World Championship with Williams Racing one day.
And although his priority is climbing the motorsport ladder and reaching F1 someday soon, there are other racing avenues that he finds interesting and would love to adventure into one day.
“I love watching Le Mans and GT3,” Luke says. “IndyCar is cool too, but ultimately, my number one goal and my number one focus is reaching Formula 1.”