The 1964 F1 world champion, who also won four titles in 500cc grand prix motorcycle races, believes that personal backing now plays too big a role in a driver's rise through the ranks.
Speaking at AUTOSPORT International on Thursday, Surtees said that a scholarship system, such as the one used by IndyCar in the USA, should be employed to take the best youngsters all the way to grand prix racing.
"What we need is a structure whereby you have success rewarded by the advancement of career," Surtees said.
"Where else other than in motorsport can you win one series and then be rewarded by a team at the next level telling you 'that will be £550,000 for a season please'? It's terrifying."
"We need a specified number of formulas laid down and recognised internationally so that if you win one, you get a scholarship to move into the next category, and keep that going all the way to Formula 1."
While Surtees agreed that costs have become increasingly out-of-control since his careers as a racing driver and team boss came to an end over 30 years ago, he believes things can still change.
"When I ran my team, I was frustrated by having to take pay-drivers, but I always tried to make sure I paired them with a driver I really believed in," he added.
"But back when I raced, the stopwatch was far more important. When I made the transition from bikes to cars, I did races all over the world on each, and it didn't cost me a penny because people offered me drives an rides that were already paid for.
"Even when I started my team I put our car on the grid for the British Grand Prix at a cost of £23,000. That included £7500 for the Cosworth engine - a very competitive engine at the time, and £500 for the gearbox.
"It's a very different technological age now."