There's a claim I've heard used quite often that greatly frustrates me: that the 22 drivers on a grand prix grid are the best in the world.
It's a nice line, but it's rubbish. Yes, grand prix drivers - even the ones who pay to get onto the back of the grid - are supremely talented. They have to be to drive an F1 car. But breaking into F1 requires money, support, timing and a little bit of luck. It's not a strict meritocracy, and there are many drivers with the talent to star in F1 who have built enviable careers elsewhere.
Dario Franchitti, who was recently forced to retire due to injury, is one of the most successful British racing drivers of his generation and the closest he got to Formula One was a contentious test with the short-lived Jaguar Racing squad. It doesn't matter.
Franchitti started out on the traditional path to F1, in Britain’s junior single-seater ranks. By 1995 he had been picked up by Mercedes and placed in the DTM German touring car series, before the manufacturer helped him move over to America to race in the CART World Series for 1997. The following season he switched to Team Green, winning three races and finishing third in the championship.
A key difference between European and American single-seater racing is the high-speed banked ovals that are used in the USA. Many European drivers struggle to adjust to the art of oval racing, but Franchitti mastered it and became a true all-rounder.