Unnecessary conflict with 24 Hours of Le Mans creates one big problem

Elizabeth Blackstock
Ferrari drivers ride to victory circle after the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans

Ferrari took victory at the 2024 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans

The 2025 schedules for Formula 1, IndyCar, and the World Endurance Championship have all been announced, but there’s just one problem: plenty of motorsport series seem to think their events should outshine the ability to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Next season, the weekend of the 14-15 June will boast the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an IndyCar event at Gateway in St. Louis, and Formula 1’s Canadian Grand Prix.

While drivers of countless disciplines opted to race at Le Mans this year, the commitments of full-time talents like Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, and even young Nolan Siegel will preclude their participation as one-off drivers in the iconic event at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Speaking to Road & Track reporter Fred Smith over the weekend, both Dixon and Palou referred to the overlap as being a terrible idea, with Palou adding that he thinks it’s “a joke that we overlap with one of the biggest races in the world, especially when we can avoid it.” 

While no active F1 drivers contested the 2024 running of the race, talents like Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon appeared in the garages, and in the past, Nico Hulkenberg was able to pair a full-season ride with Force India and also take victory at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans in a truly stunning feat.

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Unfortunately, no IndyCar or F1 driver will be able to attempt that feat in 2025, simply due to the poor arrangement of the various international schedules.

In the past, racing drivers often needed to compete in more than one discipline in order to actually make a living; Graham Hill, for example, needed to race outside of Formula 1 to truly pay his bills, even as a World Champion. Despite that, fans could also find him racing at the Indy 500 (which he won) and at endurance races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans (which he also won). 

As we’ve approached the modern era, those kinds of driver overlaps have fallen away – and for several reasons.

First and foremost, motorsport seasons have grown longer and longer. Let me return to Graham Hill: As a Formula 1 driver, Hill spent most of his career racing anywhere between 11 and 15 Grands Prix per season in pursuit of a World Drivers’ Championship title. That left him plenty of time to pack other forms of motorsport into an F1 season: endurance racing, Indy car racing, Tasman Series racing, saloon car racing, and more.

Now, racing schedules have grown longer and longer, which means drivers who primarily compete in F1 or IndyCar will have fewer spare weekends to take part in different forms of racing.

Of course, racing drivers are also better paid in 2024 than they were back in the 1960s, so those drivers wouldn’t necessarily have to compete for financial purposes. The accolades of being named one of the best and most diverse drivers in the world, though, can result in all-around better pay and more lucrative sponsorship deals that can support a driver throughout any aspect of their career.

Longer race schedules — and stricter contracts — have also resulted in more specialized drivers. If a race team is spending hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to employ a driver for a year, then it makes sense that those teams would prefer that driver avoid doing anything that could compromise their primary race season.

Contracts could include clauses forbidding the driver competing in a different race, as there’s always the possibility of getting hurt; it could also include clauses that forbid the driver to take part in activities like skydiving for the same reason.

And many of those contracts have tightened, as drivers for certain teams often serve as brand representatives for certain companies or automakers. It used to be possible for Graham Hill to race a BRM and a Lotus in the same year; that’s much harder to achieve now. Plus, many companies or automakers have committed to the costs of fielding cars in one specific series; it can be too expensive for a team to field equally impressive teams in everything from endurance racing to IndyCar.

Still, at the very least, some opportunities for cross-series competition have remained thanks to considerate schedule planning.

This year, for example, the 24 Hours of Le Mans faced no major event conflicts outside of NASCAR. As a result, a broad range of talented drivers had the ability to compete.

In 2025, it’s likely that the field for the 24 Hours of Le Mans will only feature endurance or sports car drivers, which would deny competitors from any other discipline the opportunity to prove their skills in different machinery.

Scheduling event conflicts with races like 24 Hours of Le Mans are not only unnecessary; they can also feel insulting to the storied history of motorsport as a whole.

Racing is at its best when drivers have the ability to push themselves to their limits in any and every car — and especially at events like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which are imbued with so much history that they stand outside of any single championship structure. 

F1 and IndyCar shouldn’t be denying their drivers the opportunity to push themselves at an event like Le Mans. Even in a world of longer race schedules and increased specialization, there needs to be room for cross-pollination. That’s when racing is at its best.

Read more: Motorsport Triple Crown explained: Its prestigious races, history and only winner