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From karting to F1

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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.

From Karting To F1

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Karting has been the accepted starting point for youngsters in motorsport for the last 30 years of motorsport. But just how much of an influence has karting had on the top drivers in world motorsport?Scottish racing legends like Allan McNish, Dario Franchitti, Paul di Resta and David Coulthard all began their careers at Larkhall in Scotland, whilst Anthony Davidson, Gary Paffett and Johnny Herbert were all stars in the junior karting world. The modern relevance of karting to top-level motorsport can never be underestimated, so let’s take a look at the current Formula One grid.

CATERHAM

MARCUS ERICSSON

When Marcus strolled into Frederik Ekblom’s kart circuit in his native Sweden and nearly broke the lap record aged 9, it was enough to convince him to back this talented youngster through the national championships. Ekblom managed to persuade his father to invest in a kart, and so for the next four seasons he ba­ led through the national leagues of karting and was instantly a success as Rookie of the Year in Swedish Formula Micro in 2000. He went on to become Swedish Formula Mini champion in 2003 and ICA Junior champion in both the Swedish and Nordic championships in 2005, and a year later he was spo­ ed at a race in Gothenburg by none other than Kenny Brack who convinced Fortec’s Richard Du­ on to put him in the team’s Formula BMW line-up for 2007, and the rest as they say is history.His karting career took him to the British Formula BMW championship in 2007, followed by Formula Three in the UK and Japan where he won the title. Following a test with champions Brawn GP at the end of the season, he then spent four seasons in GP2 with Super Nova, iSport and DAMS before sealing his drive with Caterham for 2014.

KAMUI KOBAYASHI

His fi rst full season was also at 9 years old, fi nishing 3rd in the SL Takarazuka Tournament Cadet class, and this set him on a charge to four Japanese karting titles. He won the next two seasons of Cadets he competed in (SL All Japan in 1997 and JAF Cup West in 1998) which spurred him on to take the D Class title in the S Stock category of the SL All Japan Tournament in 1999. He then clinched back-to-back titles in the Suzuka Kart Championship and the All-Japan ICA Championship in

consecutive years, with a dual campaign to fi nish runner-up in the Asia-Pacifi c ICA championship. The Esso Formula Toyota Racing School took him on as a scholarship racer and convinced him that a European karting campaign would be the perfect sign-off to an incredible karting career.The Formula Toyota Series beckoned and after a single season he set up shop in Europe graduating through Formula Renault in Italy and then the Eurocup, before heading onto Formula Three and finally sealing the GP2 Asia Series crown alongside a Toyota F1 reserve driver role in 2009. He shortly got promoted to a race driver role and signed up with Sauber for 2010 as a full-time Formula 1 driver.

FERRARI

FERNANDO ALONSO

When Fernando’s father failed to tempt his 8-year-old daughter Lorena into karting, 3-year-old Fernando was next in line and he was hooked. Things got really serious for young Alonso once he turned 12, and four straight Spanish junior titles followed between 1993 and 1996 which a­ racted enough a­ ention for this li­ le lad-and-dad operation to continue on the national stage. It wasn’t long before they moved on to the Junior World Cup which he duly won at the end of 1996. He moved up to Inter-A for 1997 and won the Spanish and Italian titles in the same season, and in 1998 he took the Spanish Inter-A title again alongside a European Championship campaign in which he was the runner-up. His decision to stay on in karting until the age of 17 paid dividends.After his maiden season in cars in the 1999 Euro Open Movistar by Nissan Series in which he won the championship, a test with Minardi’s F1 team beckoned in which he lapped quicker than either of the two race drivers! A single F3000 campaign in 2000 which included a win at Spa was the final step to signing for Minardi in F1 in 2001 as the third youngest F1 racer in history at that time.

KIMI RAIKKONEN

Kimi’s karting career was almost as flamboyant and gutsy as his Formula One career, and from the age of ten was making a name for himself in the Finnish and Nordic ICA championships, but on his maiden karting voyage abroad to Monaco, he proved from the start that he was something very special. He raced valiantly until the end despite his steering wheel breaking, alerting his mechanic to the situation by waving it in the air on the home straight! At the same race a year later, his kart got knocked over the barrier and he continued on racing after lifting his kart on to the road again and incredibly recovered to finish in 3rd place! He went on to win the Finnish Formula A and Nordic ICA Championships in 1998 and then a solid campaign in the European Formula Super A championship gave him the runner-up spot and sent him on his way to an incredibly short spell in cars.After winning the British Formula Renault Winter Series in late 1999, he went on to repeat the feat in the full championship a year later before being sensationally snapped up by Sauber’s Formula 1 team after just 23 car races. He became world champion for Ferrari in 2007.

FORCE INDIA

SERGIO PEREZ

‘Checo’ started his career as runner-up in his national junior category at just 6 years old in 1996 and a year later made the giant leap to the Youth Class. As the youngest man in the field, he finished fourth in the championship with a win and five podiums. He then won the Junior title in 1998 as the youngest man ever to do so, and participated in both Shifter 125cc and Master Kadets which led to a move to 80cc Shifters in 1999 needing to obtain special permission to do so from the Karting Federation of Mexico. He spent two years in the category with three wins in his maiden season before a switch to the 125cc Shifter Regional series in 2001 and was once again the youngest ever to compete. The Escuderia Telmex outfit offered him support and two more seasons in the Shifter 125cc category earned him more victories. But having won the Easy Kart 125 Shootout and claiming runner-up spot in the Mexico Cup and third in the Telmex Challenge, it was time to move to cars.From Skip Barber he went on to Formula BMW, Mexico’s A1GP team, Formula 3 in Britain and GP2 before arriving in F1 with Sauber in 2011.

NICO HULKENBERG

In 1997, ten-year-old Nico set off on his quest for Formula One. After multiple victories as a Cadet he tasted his first major success outside his native Germany. A successful European Cadets campaign gave him vice-champion status, whilst in Italy he became back-to-back Italian Open Masters ICA Junior champion in 2001 and 2002 when he was also crowned the German Junior karting champion. It was at this time he was taken under the wing of Michael Schumacher’s long-time manager Willi Weber who saw in him a talent that reminded him of a young Michael. It was he who christened Nico with the nickname ‘The Hulk’ due to his total change in personality behind the wheel. More honours followed over the next two seasons, finishing 8th in the European Championship in 2002 and 5th in the Italian series a year later. After claiming another German title in 2003, followed by the runner-up spot in 2004, he moved on to Formula BMW ADAC. Championship after championship followed including for his country in A1GP in 2007. Formula 3 and GP2 Series titles followed before signing for Williams in 2010.

LOTUS

ROMAIN GROSJEAN

Romain Grosjean started late in karts and as a result didn’t spend as much time in the discipline as some of his contemporaries, but what he lost in years he more than made up for in results. As a 14-year-old he was eligible for racing in ICA where he spent three seasons of racing with multiple victories, and the French ICA championship in 2001. He dovetailed ICA with Formula A in 2002 which gave him even more knowledge and experience of set-up and racecraft. His final karting season was only his fourth, as in 2003 he decided it was time to start looking at cars. Formula ICA was his last full-time campaign and whilst he struggled to set the world alight in karts, his analytical approach and intellect steered him in good stead for the future and off to Formula Lista he went with confidence. Formula Renault in France beckoned and after winning the title in 2005, he moved on to Formula 3 in which he won the European title in 2007. Race wins in GP2 followed before getting a call-up to race in Formula 1 with Renault alongside Fernando Alonso. But his karting roots are not forgotten as he even raced in the 2011 ERDF Masters Kart Stars event.

PASTOR MALDONADO

The Venezualan was a young star from the age of 7 in national competitions. He claimed four regional and national titles by the time he was 14 years of age, so his talent was clear to see. After several seasons of racing at home, he and his family took the decision that a switch to Europe would increase the potential for a longer racing career. So the family moved to Italy and the results came flooding in. From 1999, Pastor was racing consistently in the European ICA Junior championships, but a brief spell back home in the Renault Winter Series in South America made Maldonado realise that he wasn’t done with karting just yet. Formula A was his next port of call where he raced to varied success with the bronze award in the 2002 Formula A Andrea Margutti Trophy. After tasting success in the Italian, European and World Championships he continued on until 2003 when the moment was ripe to switch to car racing.It would be a long 9 years moving through the ranks of Italian Formula Renault, and after joining the Renault Development Driver Program, World Series by Renault and GP2 followed before getting his chance with Williams in 2011.Grab next month’s issue of Karting magazine for the next installment of our feature ‘From Karting to F1’.

 

 

 

 

An interview with Fairuz Fauzy – Karter turned Lotus F1 driver

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At the beginning of this year’s Formula One season yet another former karter’s name featured on the entry list. Nothing extraordinary about that you might say. But for Lotus, and Fairuz Fauzy, it was very significant indeed.

BY ADAM JONES

After 16 years away, the iconic Lotus name was back in F1 – and for Fauzy it marked his return to the premier category after briefly figuring in 2007, as Spyker’s reserve driver. Today’s Lotus Racing may be tipping a reverential nod to Colin Chapman’s traditional 1green and yellow colour scheme of the Sixties – it is even based in Norfolk – but Tony Fernandes’ version of ‘the British Ferrari’ is a very different outfit altogether.

Full of respect for the heritage they may be, but Mike Gascoyne and his technical team’s thinking behind theT127 is far from Chapman-esque. It is conservative rather ground-breaking, solid rather than spectacular. Although, like many of Chapman’s cars, the 2010 Lotus did experience a few teething problems on it’s first run. Furthermore, after he famously introduced sponsorship into the sport and changed his cars’ traditional colours to the red and gold of Gold Leaf, the wily genius signalled that racing teams could only prosper with outside investment, and in that respect the marque remains true to its founder’s inspired thinking. Proton now owns the road car brand, and with a global marketing opportunity other Malaysian companies have been keen to invest – and a talented, home-grown driver has only made the proposition all the more attractive.

Not that Fairuz Fauzy would completely agree that he is Lotus’ third driver simply by virtue of hailing from Kuala Lumpur. He asserts that he is in F1 on merit and genuinely believes that he has the ability to be world champion. After spending a couple of enjoyable hours in his company, what strikes you is his passion for karting and how hard he worked to achieve his chance with Lotus. Most impressive of all though, was the fact that despite being an F1 driver with the world’s media following him around, he wanted to hang out at his Mofaz Racing team HQ in Wellingborough and talk to Karting Magazine – even if lunch turned out to be nothing more than a bottle of water.

Like many youngsters, Fairuz started his karting career at a young age, but it wasn’t in Cadets, rather and quite remarkably, it was in a Formula A kart. “There were no categories (in Malaysia at the time). I was just eight or nine years old and we had to put somewhere between 40 to 50 kilos of lead ballast on the kart. I was the only one (of a similar age),” he explained. “There was no proper structure. I was up against 27 plus drivers and in my first heat I finished 5th but in the final I DNF’d – my chain came off but I’d shown my potential. From there, I won 5 times in a row.”

By the time he was 12, he had begun competing outside Malaysia, in international events and often against adults. He claimed a famous first victory in 1995, competing in a round of the British Super 1 TKM championship at Buckmore Park. Back in Asia, a string of consecutive ASEAN titles followed, prompting his decision to graduate to cars. After sitting down with his father – who designed the kart circuits at Sepang and Langkawi and had a dealership selling Tony Kart, CRG and Formula Rotax products amongst other things – it was decided that Fairuz would move to England in order to race in the 2000 Formula Ford Zetec championship. His karting career was not completely over however and he went back to successfully defend his ASEAN title – a feat he repeated a year later, having made a successful move into Formula Renault.

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On track for practice at his home GP

At this point it is worth noting that he and his family had already made several sacrifices to get that far. Not only had Fairuz uprooted himself from his homeland and his family to carve out a new life and career in Britain, but his father had had to sell the family home to finance it. Moreover, he’d done something almost unthinkable today – he’d said ‘no’ to Michael Schumacher’s manager, Willi Weber who had approached him after the 1998 season. “I missed my chance,” he shrugs before reminding me that at the time, Asia’s tiger economy had just collapsed. “Doing Formula Ford cost me a lot more money because I wasn’t a Red Bull driver,” he adds with a wry smile.

What he may have lacked in finances, he more than made up for with strong results. Two years in Formula 3 lead to a berth in GP2, first with DAMS followed by a season with David Sears’ Super Nova equipe. A stint with Malaysia’s A1GP team convinced the bosses at Spyker to take him on as their test and reserve driver. The ill-starred project saw him free to move into the World Series by Renault championship, where he really made his mark. High-profile podiums underlined his burgeoning reputation and opened the door for a crack at GP2 Asia, again with Super Nova, with whom he took victory in Indonesia and podium finishes at Sentul, Dubai and Sepang. He dove-tailed these outings with further A1GP events before returning to WSbR and finishing 2nd overall, prompting a call from Tony Fernandes’ nascent Lotus Racing F1 project.

Even though he is now firmly placed at the pinnacle of the sport, Fairuz maintains a passionate interest in karting and is a big fan of Rotax because it is a “a cheaper option than Formula A,” as he keeps referring to Super KF as if to underline his old skool credentials, adding “it has helped a lot to promote karting.” Consequently karting is now very popular in Malaysia, and his success has created further interest.

“I am an inspiration for younger kids and there are two or three talented Malaysian karters coming through right now,” he says, but acknowledges that the process has been slow despite the initial excitement created by Alex Yoong’s spell at Minardi. “F1 has come to Malaysia, but we still lack the ‘software’ – people coming through. I was considered a prototype and have the Mofaz team to put something back.” He tells me to look out for fellow Malaysian prospects Nabil Jeffri and Aaron Lim.

As his karting career took off, Fairuz proudly recalls CRG backing him and being run by Dino Chiesa, who at the time was masterminding Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s great success in European karting, “he was one of the best,” Fauzy affirms with a big smile.

Despite his F1 and Mofaz AKA Lotus Junior Team commitments, karting still plays a big part in Fairuz’s life and he still gets back into a kart whenever he’s back home in Malaysia – “I do it for fun. In Kuala Lumpur, I practice in a DD2 – which is good value. Karting is too much money now. That’s why I think Rotax is good for the sport. It’s proven that it has created a ladder to single seaters. Rotax has created a great opportunity.”

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Racing on a CRG in Malaysia

At this point, he voices an intriguing theory. “I think the current Senior category should become the Junior class and DD2 become Senior. I think that will be good. The DD2 is like Formula Renault – because it now has a paddle-shift gearbox. You need to replicate what happens in FRenault.”

Fairuz also wants to reduce costs and is clearly aware of the difficulties facing drivers with smaller budgets. He suggests “the next generation of karting will move to the Far East because Europe is so expensive” and he highlights former KF1 star Richard Bradley’s decision to compete in the Formula BMW Asia series rather than its European counterpart as a refreshing example of a driver willing to buck the trend. He also looks a little pained that more UK-based drivers haven’t opted to race in Asia and the Far East in light of that part of the world’s willingness to buy and sell our products. He proudly points out that his family also sold Fullerton and Wright karts.

When asked if any of the skills he learnt in karting have been transferable to F1, Fairuz says “I enjoyed my karting days because you train your senses. It’s good for basic skills – smoothness and control. Skills from karts to F1? You need to be smooth and aggressive…when you need to be.”

Karting also conditions and prepares the body, especially when racing on sticky tyres. “With high grip levels – you can feel it in your neck.” There is a slight pause before he confides, “Karting is more tiring (than F1). There’s more vibration – you’ll see all the bruises. It teaches racecraft as well. Last year I could follow a car really well. It was like a go-kart only with aero and downforce.”

Fairuz says that in cars, it is easy to spot the ex kart racers. “If they’re not quick in quali’ they’re quick in the race. They know when to push. Kart racing teaches you to plan when to attack and tyre management.”

Given that his family had dealings with legends like Terry Fullerton and he himself became a successful driver, I wondered if Fairuz would admit to having his own personal heroes. His eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, “I looked up to Alessandro Manetti and Danilo Rossi.”

He succumbs to the temptation and picks up an issue of Karting Magazine and flicks through it. “Asia needs a Karting Magazine. Motorsport is shifting to Asia. The British are more passionate than the rest of Europe. F1 is run by the British, that’s why I’m here!” he says in a rapid-fire series of statements.

Inevitably and with the British Grand Prix looming in the calendar, the conversation turns to his role at Lotus.

“I’m their Reserve and Test driver. Last year, Tony (Fernandes) came to me and said he wanted to set up an F1 team. I thought he was joking. He and Nino (Judge, the Team Principal) had a good package. They got their slot quite late and I said ‘no way can you build a car in six months’ but they did. To get the people and put the infrastructure in place (for an F1 effort) is not easy. It took Stewart GP seven races to get a car to the finish and we did it (first time??). I think we’re doing really good.”

Much as the team has been successful at the back of the field in its battle with fellow newcomers Virgin and Hispania, Fairuz says the aim is now beat the midfield and finish in the points. “We just need a bit more pace, to have a car you can attack with,” he says with candour.

Apart from Sepang, Silverstone will be his home race. Literally. “I’m really looking for to it and the new track. I live 200 metres from it. Honestly, the Rally School goes right past my front door!” he says with genuine delight.

After a difficult start to the season, which had at the time of writing, yet to yield any points for the team, Fairuz won’t be drawn on whether or not he will be given a race seat chance ahead of schedule, preferring to state his aspirations based around his current role, whilst supporting his colleagues. “Nowadays there’s no test team, so I hope to get every Friday. Heikki is doing a good job and Jarno is just having bad luck. They’re both very friendly. You know, I started with Heikki (in Formula Renault) – although he was just a little quicker getting to F1,” he acknowledges with his customary honesty.

There is a steeliness when he adds, “I’ve got the personality to be in that circle (F1). Any opportunity I have to present and deliver, I’ll take it. I don’t want just to be an F1 driver – I want to be the best.”

It reappears albeit without any hint of irritation when it’s suggested that perhaps the latest incarnation of Lotus is in name only. Fairuz sees himself as part of a new chapter of the same legacy that the likes of Moss, Clark, Hill, Rindt, Fittipaldi, Senna and Mansell will be forever associated with. “It’s a Malaysian team and I’m a Malaysian. To me, I’ve always wanted to be in F1 and with a great name. The first time I drove the Lotus, I created history. It is a heritage team and to drive for a team that featured Senna is an honour. Of course, I see myself as part of that heritage. I want to be successful, I don’t want to be a failure. There are thousands of drivers who want to be in F1 – it’s a dream. It is very important for me to achieve. There’s been a lot of sacrifice for me and my family.”

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On the podium after winning the ASEAN Kart GP at Langkawi in 2000

It is that last statement that prompts him to offer some advice to young drivers hoping to enjoy a career in motorsport. “Sometimes when you lose it’s a challenge. Life is not easy. Make losing an aim for success. Create a long-term aim. I always plan myself.”

Referencing one of the key ingredients the top teams look for, Fairuz notes that family support is also important, as is education although he is realistic. “It is important but it’s not easy to do both (academic studies and racing). But you can do part-time education. (If it’s your long-term goal) You need to dedicate yourself to motorsport. You can study after you retire but then, if you can do both, then do both.”

At 27, Fairuz is one of the drivers bucking the current trend some teams have favoured in recent years by going for younger drivers, but he believes he is better for taking his time. “I had the opportunity at 16 to come to Europe, but it took longer for me to arrive – but I’m a complete driver. To win in every category I’ve run in is important. Whatever you do in life, think about yourself first. It’s very easy to think you’ve failed when you haven’t got the budget but you just have to do your best. With the budget caps (in F1) smaller teams are coming through and success is more than just money. Money can’t buy you everything. At my age there were a lot of sacrifices. I didn’t party and I don’t drink. I listened to my dad. He said ‘If you want to do it, you do it properly’. At 17, I chose to go to the next step. For me it’s not about the glamour. I want to write my name in the history books. For guys, girls can be a distraction but to be successful you’ve got to stay focused and on track. I got married early (at 23) and by doing that, I could forget girls.”

Girls yes, but karting? No. Talk returns to karting and Fairuz explains that he is keen to get his 3-year old son into karting. “He can steer the (family) car. He knows, he’s interested in cars. I’m looking for a Puffo (Bambino) kart.”

Because his World Series by Renault team is based in a leafy industrial estate outside Wellingborough, Fairuz has the opportunity to occasionally test at Whilton Mill and PFi. “Whilton’s very bumpy. It’s good fun and PFi’s first corner is really fast.”

Although he is a big fan of Rotax, he is reveals that he is something of a purist. “I miss air-cooled engines. The sound is incredible… I miss them.” That said, he is also a realist and pragmatist and counters his own wistfulness. “I have a feeling that karts will be four-stroke with a catalytic converter. Green issues will mean that there’ll be no noise and of course, soon fuel will be too expensive. We may even get electric engines coming in. Of course, I’d prefer old skool but looking at climate change…” His voice trails off.

Fairuz’s comprehensive experience of karts also saw him attempt to race a 150cc Kawasaki-engined machine at Shah Alam. “That was faster than a Formula Campus round there. I was just 12 or 13-years old. I only practiced because they (the organisers) wouldn’t give me a licence to race. I couldn’t feed the gears in. In one session I spun but carried on. Eventually, my times were 2.5 seconds faster than the older drivers.”

The experience does not appear to have put him off gearbox karts, which he says are his favourite machinery alongside F1. “There’s so much to do in a shifter and they teach you good skills.”

His F1 colleagues Alonso, Kubica and Hamilton have their own chassis ranges – indeed his team-mate Trulli, until recently had his own successful brand – and Fairuz says he would ultimately like to create his own series, “Not yet but in the future. I’d like to work with a manufacturer to create the Fauzy Trophy.”

With the interview complete, Fairuz gives me a guided tour of the Junior Lotus Racing team’s factory, where in the workshop Nelson Panciatici is having a seat fitting. It is extremely rare for a driver still looking for his first chance to race in F1 to have a front-running lower formulae team, but then Fauzy is perhaps rarer still. He is clearly now not short of money, but is aware of the sacrifices that have created the opportunities he now has. He argues convincingly that drivers should at least consider staying within the ‘Renault family’ and enjoy top-class racing without slavishly following the norm of F3 and GP2. He deserves listening to because he’s done it and therefore has direct, personal experience. He thinks Rotax should be considered as a serious and cost-effective alternative to the KF classes, with the unloved DD2 kart given a fresh new perspective as to its merits and wants to create a karts-to-cars ladder for kids who are every bit as talented but less financially fortunate than himself.

Thoughtful, direct, aware of how fortunate he is and yet unsentimental about the past. He has already achieved more than many ever will with their careers but remains unfulfilled with regard to his ultimate ambition. Fairuz deserves his F1 break just as karting deserves him too.

Karting To F1

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Every driver in the Formula One pit lane has one thing in common: they’ve come through the ranks and graduated from their early karting roots. Here we feature the drivers from Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams.

SAUBER

ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ

In the last three events of the 2004 Mexican Rotax Max Challenge, a new face emerged to take on the national karting scene making his karting debut at national level. Gutierrez continued in the class for 2005 and successfully competed in the Grand Nationals across the border into the United States. Finishing third there gave him a place at the World Finals in Malaysia. The confidence gained from this served him well back home in the Camkart Challenge in 2006 where he won every race in the series, as well as racing once more in the Mexican Rotax Max Challenge in the Junior championship, which he eventually won. The Mexican Grand Nationals saw him finish 4th position in what would be his final season of karting before moving to an incredible single-seater career, although he did return to compete in various Rotax Max Challenge events in his native Mexico, racing as recently as 2009 during his spell in Formula 3.

He became the youngest ever international series winner at 17, in Formula BMW after two seasons, before moving to Formula 3 in the Euroseries and winning the GP3 Series in 2010. Two seasons in GP2 followed, before his F1 debut with Sauber in 2013.

ADRIAN SUTIL

In 1997, 14-year-old Sutil decided against following in his family’s musical footsteps and started his karting career in his native Germany, initially at club level before moving onto just a solitary season of major European competition. Having begun in the various regional karting series, he went on to finish 3rd in the German ICA Karting Championship in 2000. He moved on from national karting as many talented youngsters do to the Italian karting scene, racing in both the Andrea Margutti Trophy for Intercontinental A, and the Formula A Italian Open  Masters. Whilst it’s true he never set the world on fire in karting, he certainly seemed to have the determination to move on to cars and the success he found there would probably have never occurred had it not been for his karting roots. Winning every single race in the 2002 Swiss Formula Ford championship was the perfect way to move from karts to car racing, and prove his true worth.

From there he moved to Formula BMW and then the Formula 3 Euroseries. He went onto race for Team Germany in A1GP and to clinch the Japanese Formula 3 crown in 2006 before getting his big break with Spyker in 2007.

TORO ROSSO

DANIIL KVYAT

Russia’s new F1 star started kart racing in his native, but it wasn’t long before he and his family realised that if he wanted to race in international competition he would have to start young. The family moved to Italy and set up shop in Rome to give Daniil his best chance of progressing, beginning in Italian KF3 and 100 Junior Championships in 2007. He raced sporadically the following season either for Chiesa Corse or Morsciani Racing taking multiple victories including three KF3 trophy races, and eventually finishing 3rd in the CIK-FIA European KF3 Championships and 2nd in the CIK-FIA Asian Pacific KF3 Championship, all in 2008. Two more KF3 Cup wins, another third overall in Euro KF3 and taking 2nd in the WSK International KF3 Series in 2009 was more than enough to convince Red Bull to offer him a scholarship and send him into cars at just 15 years old.

Formula BMW Europe was first up with two wins in the Pacific Series in the same season. A year later, he was in the top 3 in NEC and Eurocup Formula Renault before winning the 2012 ALPS Series. He then became champion in GP3 shortly after being announced as a Toro Rosso F1 driver for 2014.

JEAN-ERIC VERGNE

Vergne was well placed to get started in motorsport as his dad owned a kart circuit near Paris. At 4 years old, he tried it and wanted more. In 2000 he was a first-time competitor and went on to become the French “Minimes” champion in 2001. It wasn’t too long before he was rising through the ranks, winning the French Rotax Max title in 2004 and a year later he fought with British racer James Colado for the European ICA Championship. In his final season of competitive karting, he was runner-up in the French Elite Championship, he ran competitively in European Formula A and he finished in the top ten of the KF1 World Championship in Angerville near his home in Paris. He made the switch to cars at 16 with a wealth of knowledge and experience to guide him forward.

It was in 2007 that he became a member of the Red Bull Junior Team and he spent three seasons in Formula Renault in various regions with titles in both the Campus and French national series, before winning the British Formula 3 Championship in 2010 and he was beaten to the 2011 World Series by Renault title by Robert Wickens before signing for Toro Rosso F1 in 2012.

WILLIAMS

FELIPE MASSA

Brazil’s national karting scene has garnered many major talents to international motorsport and young Felipe Massa began a seven-year journey through karting at the age of eight. Ironically, most of Felipe’s major successes in karting have come after his junior career (not much of which is actually recorded) but at just 16 years old he claimed the first of his three wins at the 500 Milhas de Granja Viana kart race in 1997. Five years later as an F1 driver he won it again with his third success coming in 2009 before his near-fatal crash at Hungary. Massa’s contribution to Brazilian karting has been exemplary in other areas, as he has been running the International Challenge of the Stars race for the last ten years mostly run at Florianapolis. The event has been won by some of motorsport’s greatest racers including Felipe himself, as well as Rubens Barrichello and twice by Michael Schumacher himself.

After switching to cars at 17 and winning the Brazilian Formula Chevrolet title in 1999, he moved to Europe and became Italian and European Formula Renault champion before heading to the Euro Formula 3000 series which he blitzed on his way to joining Sauber for 2002.

VALTTERI BOTTAS

Bottas started racing karts at 6 years old, and over the next decade would amass a collection of championships and trophies to put him on course to be the new ‘Flying Finn’ of Formula 1. His ability even earned him a seven-year spot on the national karting squad of Finland. He started gaining major attention with the 2004 Finnish ICA Junior title, moving on to the senior category a year later where ended the season in third overall following a win in the Viking ICA Trophy. During his formative years he was also in the top ten of the Karting World Cup, where he raced for PDB Racing. His magical karting career had a perfect ending with three major titles in 2006. Two of them were in his native Finland in Formula A and Intercontinental A, but the third was the WSK Formula A International championship which became the ultimate starting point for spring boarding him to superstardom. It was time to take the next step, and into Formula Renault he went.

The NEC and Eurocup titles followed in 2008, and after moving to Formula 3 he won the Masters back-to-back in 2009 and 2010, before claiming the GP3 Series title in 2011 and signing for Williams F1 in 2012.

As you can see, every single racer in the 2014 championship owes a lot to the world of karting. In fact ahead of this season, we got an insight into the personalities of the F1 grid and how their karting lives have remained part of their motorsport DNA.

When drivers were permitted to pick the racing number of their choice, a vast number of drivers, namely Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez, Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa, all picked numbers they raced with during their karting years. So in that sense and in many others, it would appear an F1 driver never truly leaves karting behind.

 

Max Verstappen profile: From karting to F1

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JUST a week after joining Red Bull’s Driver Development Programme, 16-year-old Max Verstappen was announced as Jean Eric Vergne’s replacement at Toro Rosso.

He will be the youngest ever driver to reach F1, a record previously held by Jamie Alguersuari and it’s all happening for him less than 12 months after leaving karts for F3 single-seater car racing. The news has raised many eyebrows within F1 ranks, but Fernando Alonso argued that “age is just a number on your passport”.

Many would say that Max was born to be a motor racing driver. His Belgian mother, Sophie Kumpen, was already a top flight karting star when she married the Dutch F1 driver Jos Verstappen. As a member of the CRG/Rotax team, Sophie finished 17th in the 1994 world championships for Formula Super A, finishing well ahead of Giancarlo Fisichelli who had already signed as a test driver for Minardi. In 1995 she shocked her opponents by winning the prestigious Margutti trophy at Parma, beating many of karting’s top stars at that time including Jarno Trulli, Michael Simpson, Bobby Game and Davide Fore.

Jos, too, had been pretty effective in karting, claiming the 1989 European Championships for 100cc karts. Following the 1990 World Championships at Jesolo, he embarked upon a career in cars. He was chosen by Bennetton as Michael Schumacher’s team-mate for the 1994 season, claiming two podium finishes that year. He subsequently competed in over 100 F1 events. Jos split with Sophie in 2008 but continued to oversee the karting career of their only son.

Max had first started racing karts at the age of seven although his initial involvement dated back several years earlier. He won numerous national championships in Belgium before stepping out onto the international stage with CRG’s factory team four years ago. In the 2010 World Cup for KF3 he took 2nd place behind Britain’s Alexander Albon before claiming the WSK European and World Series crowns. He switched to Intrepid for 2012, racing in the senior KF2 category. Amongst his successes that year were WSK and Garda Winter Cup wins that marked him out as a driver with exceptional talent. In his final season of karting, back with CRG, he became the 2013 world KZ champion, adding two European crowns to his impressive tally. As a FIA European Formula 3 driver in 2014 he has notched up eight impressive victories from 27 starts.

By accumulating more top level wins than Hamilton, Alonso, Button, Vettel or Schumacher ever managed, Max has served a very impressive apprenticeship in karts. My one reservation is that, at just 16 years of age, he has lowered a bar that was already perilously close to ground level. Parents who once believed that they had to get their kids into cars before the age of 16 could now be in an even greater hurry. It’s all adding to more pressure on the shoulders of young drivers who should be taking time to enjoy their childhood. I hope that Max Verstappen’s entry into F1 will be seen as an exceptional development rather than setting down a new target for others.

What do you think? Is Max Verstappen’s move to F1 good or bad for karting? Share your views by emailing news@kartingmagazine.com and we’ll print your comments in the next issue.

Newey Wants Your Kids in School

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Stock-GridF1-guru Adrian Newey lampooned parents who sideline their children’s education in favour of motorsport. Speaking at an F1 press conference, Newey said:

“I think what is a much more concerning question personally is the effect on education that happens for these drivers to get [to F1] at that age. A lot of the drivers in karting and in junior formulas frankly just aren’t going to school. They don’t go to school at all. The parents then hide behind that by saying that they have private tutors but I think in many cases – not all, I’m sure, but in many cases – that’s actually a complete sham.

“I think if you asked a lot of those kids to sit their baccalaureate or GCSEs or whatever it might be that the results would tell a fairly depressing story which means that the few kids that do get through, fantastic,” he continued. “Being at a motor race and so forth, the kids do learn in a different way – not an academic way but they learn in other ways – but I think for many of those children that don’t quite make the grade, they have spent all that time not going to school, not having a proper tuition and then what happens to them afterwards is altogether another question. It’s something which motor racing as an industry urgently needs to look at, because personally I think we’re being irresponsible allowing that.” Newey’s son, Harrison, races for Mach 1 Motorsport and will race in BRDC F4 next season.

 

Is this mad, Max?

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Just a week after joining Red Bull’s Driver Development Programme, 16-year-old Max Verstappen was announced as Jean Eric Vergne’s replacement at Toro Rosso.

He will be the youngest ever driver to reach F1, a record previously held by Jamie Alguersuari and it’s all happening for him less than 12 months after leaving karts for F3 single-seater car racing. The news has raised many eyebrows within F1 ranks, but Fernando Alonso argued that “age is just a number on your passport”.

Many would say that Max was born to be a motor racing driver. His Belgian mother, Sophie Kumpen, was already a top flight karting star when she married the Dutch F1 driver Jos Verstappen. As a member of the CRG/Rotax team, Sophie finished 17th in the 1994 world championships for Formula Super A, finishing well ahead of Giancarlo Fisichelli who had already signed as a test driver for Minardi. In 1995 she shocked her opponents by winning the prestigious Margutti trophy at Parma, beating many of karting’s top stars at that time including Jarno Trulli, Michael Simpson, Bobby Game and Davide Fore.

Jos, too, had been pretty effective in karting, claiming the 1989 European Championships for 100cc karts. Following the 1990 World Championships at Jesolo, he embarked upon a career in cars. He was chosen by Bennetton as Michael Schumacher’s team-mate for the 1994 season, claiming two podium finishes that year. He subsequently competed in over 100 F1 events. Jos split with Sophie in 2008 but continued to oversee the karting career of their only son.

Max had first started racing karts at the age of seven although his initial involvement dated back several years earlier. He won numerous national championships in Belgium before stepping out onto the international stage with CRG’s factory team four years ago. In the 2010 World Cup for KF3 he took 2nd place behind Britain’s Alexander Albon before claiming the WSK European and World Series crowns. He switched to Intrepid for 2012, racing in the senior KF2 category. Amongst his successes that year were WSK and Garda Winter Cup wins that marked him out as a driver with exceptional talent. In his final season of karting, back with CRG, he became the 2013 world KZ champion, adding two European crowns to his impressive tally. As a FIA European Formula 3 driver in 2014 he has notched up eight impressive victories from 27 starts.

By accumulating more top level wins than Hamilton, Alonso, Button, Vettel or Schumacher ever managed, Max has served a very impressive apprenticeship in karts. My one reservation is that, at just 16 years of age, he has lowered a bar that was already perilously close to ground level. Parents who once believed that they had to get their kids into cars before the age of 16 could now be in an even greater hurry. It’s all adding to more pressure on the shoulders of young drivers who should be taking time to enjoy their childhood. I hope that Max Verstappen’s entry into F1 will be seen as an exceptional development rather than setting down a new target for others.

What do you think? Is Max Verstappen’s move to F1 good or bad for karting? Share your views by emailing news@kartingmagazine.com and we’ll print your comments in the next issue.