Jack Aitken Bids Farewell to F1 Dreams with No Regrets

Former Grand Prix driver Jack Aitken has definitively ended his pursuit of a Formula 1 career, embracing his one-off Grand Prix experience.


By Ben Bush
Updated on February 7, 2024

Jack Aitken F2 Williams Racing Driver Academy

Former Grand Prix driver Jack Aitken has mentally ended his Formula 1 aspirations, expressing no regret and cherishing his single F1 experience as a treasured memory for life.

Despite a promising start in the lower tiers of motorsports, Aitken’s journey to Formula 1 was hindered by numerous challenges and unmet expectations.

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His motorsport career was significantly boosted in 2015 when he joined the Renault driver academy and progressed to GP3 the following year. Finishing second in GP3 behind George Russell highlighted Aitken’s potential, leading to his advancement to the FIA Formula 2 Championship and a Formula 1 test role with Renault in 2018.

This progression seemed promising, yet it also brought Aitken face-to-face with the tough realities of Formula 1, particularly the limited opportunities available to reserve drivers.

Aitken’s sole Formula 1 appearance was at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix with Williams, filling in for George Russell, who temporarily replaced Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes after Hamilton tested positive for COVID.

The race began well for Aitken, but a spin on the pit straight and damage to his front wing, which brought out the Safety Car, marred his performance. This incident indirectly affected Russell’s race, leading to a pit stop mix-up at Mercedes, where Russell received teammate Valtteri Bottas‘s tires. Despite these challenges, Aitken finished 16th place, marking his only and best result in Formula 1.

“At the time I was massively frustrated with my experience because it looked like I might get a second Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, because Lewis was still not sure if he’d be recovered in time,” Aitken told The Race.

“I didn’t get that, the one race I did [have], I had the accident and that really frustrated me as a driver.

“With the benefit of time and hindsight, I look back and I was like: ‘Actually, all the other stuff that I did, whether it was in practice, in qualifying, the rest of the race, I did as good a job as I could have done’.

“That memory of being part of the 20 drivers in the world that get to do that, even if it’s just once, that’s something I can take to… take to my grave, basically, and be happy that I did that.”

In 2022, Aitken distanced himself from Formula 1, concluding his association with Williams, and subsequently pivoted his career focus to sports car racing and endurance events.

Reflecting, Aitken, who was focused on getting into F1, now believes that dedicating all his efforts solely to Formula 1 might have been a misjudgment.

“So I was in the Renault academy for four years – I would say for the first three years of that there was never any thought of taking my career in another direction,” he recounted.

“Possibly a mistake. When I talk to younger drivers now I’m like ‘you really should consider that stuff [outside of F1], at least just open doors elsewhere… Because statistically speaking it’s more likely, bro’.

“I mean, I think I can speak frankly about it – not because I had a bad time, I really enjoyed my time with Williams and with Renault before that. But it is a boring job.

“You’re a spare part. You come to a weekend- okay, yeah, you can sit in on the meetings, maybe you can do some basic jobs here and there, but really there’s nothing for you to do except wait for someone to fall down the stairs – and that’s a terrible life to live!

“So, yeah, most people hate it.”

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About The Author

Chief Editor

Ben Bush

Ben is our chief editor specialising in F1 from the 1990s to the modern era. Ben has been following Formula 1 since 1986 and is an avid researcher who loves understanding the technology that makes it one of the most exciting motorsport on the planet. He listens to podcasts about F1 on a daily basis, and enjoys reading books from the inspirational Adrian Newey to former F1 drivers.

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