From karting to F1

Every driver on the F1 grid has one thing in common: they all came from karting. Here we feature the drivers from Marussia, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull. Get well soon, Jules.

MARUSSIA
MAX CHILTON
Max got the taste for motorsport after watching his elder brother Tom racing in national karting and decided he was next. So in 2001, ten-year-old Max began competing in the Super One National Cadet Championship with varied success. It was at Buckmore Park that Max really learnt how to hone his racecraft in the Club championships, and he raced in the Super One Cadets category for just a solitary season before stepping up to Junior TKM. For 2004 he raced again in Junior TKM and simultaneously raced in the National JICA Championship, but then the tide turned as Max decided to turn his attention to car racing at the age of just 14. At the Champions Cup in Rome, he grabbed a win in the first final and second in the next, demonstrating to the European karting scene his true potential.

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Dovetailing his 2005 karting campaign which would ultimately be his last with a season in the shortlived T-Cars series, he switched to cars fulltime in 2006 as the T-Cars vice champion. He became the youngest driver ever to compete in British F3 in 2007, graduated to GP2 in 2010 and after 2 wins in 2012 was signed by Marussia for F1 in 2013.

JULES BIANCHI

After getting the taste for motorsport watching Michael Schumacher in Formula One, Jules made his competitive debut in the French ICA Junior category in France as recently as 2003. In his first full season a year later he was French Junior champion and vice champion in the European ICA Junior series. He then followed that up with the Asia Pacific Formula A title and the ICA Copa Campeones Trophy in 2005 and the WSK ICC crown in 2006. He is another of the new generation of racers who has not spent a huge quantity of time in the karting scene but his immediate success has been a true indication of his genius behind the wheel.

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He finished off his karting career as French champion and runner-up in the Formula A World Cup and the South Garda Winter Series in 2006 and went on to pursue his car racing career. However he does regularly compete in high profile charity karting events including the International Challenge of the Stars race held annually in Brazil, winning the race in 2012. He became French Formula Renault champion at his first attempt, before Formula 3 and GP2 title assaults before Marussia gave him the Formula One call-up in 2013.

McLAREN
KEVIN MAGNUSSEN
As the son of Jan Magnussen, it was almost a given that Kevin would get the racing bug and in his native Denmark he began the journey to Formula One in ICA Junior in 2005. He was 4th overall in his first season in the Danish national championship and grabbed a brilliant 4th overall in his first trip to the Monaco Cup a year later before repeating the feat in the same season at the Goteborgs Stora Pris. Championships and race wins followed in 2006 as he claimed the Peugeot Super Kart and NEZ Championship trophies, before finally switching to KF3 in 2007. He spent a year in the category clinching 4th overall in the CIK-FIA Viking Trophy, as well as some strong performances across Denmark, Italy and the European scene.

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With such a wealth of experience and exceptional talent, surely Europe beckoned for Denmark’s brightest new talent in European motorsport. Interestingly he completed and won a season of Formula Ford in his homeland before moving on to Formula Renault in the Eurocup and NEC series and Formula 3 in the British and European championships before winning last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship and taking a seat at McLaren for 2014.

JENSON BUTTON

In 1991, a youngster from Frome burst onto the scene to win all 34 races in the Super 1 National Cadet Championship and of course the title, two seasons after winning the British Super Prix at just 9 years old. He went onto add the 1992 Junior TKM Championship crown and three British O Plate crowns to his CV and from there, Jenson’s rise through karting across Europe is now the stuff of legend. Success in Italy followed in 100 Junior and ICA, before he became vice champion in the Formula A World Championship at 15. In the World Cup in 1996 he finished 3rd before moving on to Super A in 1997 with Italian, European and World campaigns. In that final season of karting, he won the Ayrton Senna Memorial Cup at Suzuka and also won the European Super A Championship, the youngest racer ever to win the title. With numerous titles and race wins under his belt, he moved on to cars as one of the greatest British kart racers of all time. Winning the Formula Ford Festival and British Championship in 1998 sent him to British Formula 3, where a single season netted him third overall and an amazing ticket to a Williams F1 drive in 2000.

MERCEDES
LEWIS HAMILTON
After starting his career at Rye House, he went from club Cadets champion to Super 1 National champion in 1995. He signed to race for the Zip Young Guns squad and from there he progressed to win the Kartmasters British Grand Prix trophy for Cadets in 1996 before the Super 1 Formula Yamaha crown followed in 1997. After finishing runner-up to Fraser Sheader in JICA a year later, he became a McLaren Young Driver and a star in Europe beginning as runner-up in Intercontinental A in 1999. He romped to the World Cup title and the Formula A championship in 2000 scoring maximum points in the series.

55Here and in Super A in 2001, he raced as team-mate to Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button won all 34 races in the Super 1 National Cadets in ‘91 Lewis Hamilton started at Rye House even raced against world champion Michael Schumacher in the World Championship event at Kerpen where he finished just 4 places behind him. As one of the most prolific karters in British history, he made the transition to cars in British Formula Renault in late 2001.

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He became the British Formula Renault champion in 2003 before moving to Formula 3 where he won the Masters and European titles in 2005, before being crowned GP2 champion in 2006 and signing for McLaren to race in Formula 1 in 2007.

RED BULL RACING
SEBASTIAN VETTEL
Before he was even four years old, Sebastian Vettel started racing in club events and by 8 he was ready to take on German championships. He was a winning machine in Bambini and Cadet classes in German national karting and won three Bambini B titles at 10 years old and a year later he won two Bambini A titles. He went on to win the German Junior Kart Championship in 2000 and 2001, having switched to ICA Junior to win the European Championship and the 2001 Monaco Kart Cup along the way.

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His final season of karts saw him as the latest member of the Red Bull Junior outfit at just 14 years of age and he would spend a dual campaign in his native German Kart Championship alongside the European Intercontinental A series, before Red Bull decided he was ready to move away from karts and in to single-seaters. Two seasons in German Formula BMW resulted in the 2004 title, before heading to Formula 3. He was runner-up in the Euro Series in 2006 and was on the verge of winning the Renault World Series before he was handed his F1 debut with BMW Sauber and then a full-time drive for Toro Rosso in 2007.

DANIEL RICCIARDO
From 9 years old, Daniel was a proud member of the Tiger Kart Club and immediately stood out as one of Western Australia’s brightest hopes for the future. Having been a fan of Formula 1 and NASCAR as a child and after an initial passion for motorcycles being replaced for karts, he then found success of his own in the Wanneroo TKC midget division in 2000 which kickstarted his road to glory. By 2002 he had moved up to national level and became the youngest racer to compete in the CIK Stars of Karting Series, Australia’s top national karting championships. His talent was evident right from the start and after four tough seasons where Daniel showed his country what he could do he took the Intercontinental A championship title in 2005.

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A season in Australian Formula Ford followed his karting career before his family decided that Europe should be his new focus. Formula BMW in Asia and the UK was the next step for Ricciardo, continuing on in Formula Renault. By 2008 he was a Red Bull Junior and won the British F3 crown in 2009, eventually making his F1 debut with Hispania in 2010 during what would have been his World Series by Renault title-winning campaign.