A teenage Formula One hopeful from Gloucestershire has launched a new business club as part of a major sponsorship drive to support his dream of reaching the pinnacle of motorsport.
Zak O’Sullivan, from Withington, near Cheltenham, is part of the iconic Williams F1 team’s driver academy and after an impressive 2023 Formula 3 season, he was chosen to drive Alex Albon’s car in the first practice session at the F1 season finale at Abu Dhabi.
His appearance for Williams at Abu Dhabi was the first time an F3 driver had taken part in an F1 practice session since current Mercedes F1 driver George Russell in 2017.
The F1 outing followed a hugely successful season for the 18-year-old, who finished as vice-champion in F3 and is stepping up to Formula 2 – one rung below F1 in the motorsport ladder – in 2024.
Zak will make his Formula 2 debut with ART Grand Prix, the junior team which took Lewis Hamilton to the GP2 title – F2’s forerunner – in 2006.
He now faces his biggest challenge yet to raise the “eye-watering” sums needed to compete in F2.
To help, Zak has launched the 500:500 Business Club and is looking for 500 local companies willing to get onboard and help him get one step nearer to his F1 goal. Companies will have access to Zak’s growing platform to network and promote their firms, as well as playing their part in helping him progress his career.
Fifty individuals and companies have already pledged their support, and all will be invited to an exclusive networking event at the historic Williams Racing Experience Centre, which houses the team’s collection of Grand Prix racecars.
Zak said: “The business club was my godfather Mark’s idea and was his way of helping me progress my career. It’s going to play a huge part in easing the financial pressures which moving to F2 inevitably brings.
“We are doing all we can to make it happen and we are so close. The support of friends, family and sponsors has all been wonderful and any extra support we can get now will make a massive difference.
“If there are any Gloucestershire businesses who want to be a part of my journey towards Formula One, I would love to hear from you.”
Zak’s mum Ali added: “It is an eye-wateringly expensive step to graduate to Formula 2 and there is no safety net. Years of hard work and raw talent have brought us to this point, but your future in motorsport is decided as much on what you do off-track as it is what you do on it.
“Zak has been doing this since he was seven years old and he is so close to the pinnacle – if we were able to get him across the finishing line it would be truly extraordinary.”
Speaking before Zak’s appearance at Abu Dhabi, James Vowles, team principle of Williams Racing, said: “If you look at Zak’s season and how he is as an individual, he’s a very intelligent driver who knows how to extract the most out of machinery.
“I think he’s an incredibly capable driver, and deserving of the opportunity in Abu Dhabi.”
The 500:500 club costs £500 per business or individual, for which they will have their business featured on Zak’s website, private members mailing list and social media platforms.
As well as the event at Williams, all partners will be entered into a prize draw to win two BRDC VIP hospitality passes to the 2024 F1 British Grand Prix and the 2024 Moto GP British Grand Prix, as Zak’s guests.