What does it take to get behind the wheel of a Formula One car?
“All your anxieties about my fecklessness are over. I’m going to be a racing driver. And I shall be world champion,” announced, an 18 year old James Hunt to his parents on the eve of his 18th birthday.
At that time, Sue and Wallis Hunt must have thought their son had gone absolutely bonkers and had completely lost it. But you can’t really blame them! Because every boy (and in my case, girl) wants to race in the pinnacle of motorsport – Formula One.
To be successful in any sport, it takes enormous amount of dedication and commitment, and in case of Formula One, or any motorsport for that matter, it needs colossal financial backing. And considering the competitiveness in F1 today, you’ve got to be at the top of your game, and a step ahead of the others. Most of all, patience is a key factor while working your way up the ‘racing ladder’.
Where is the start? All drivers on the grid today have started from the very basics and well known base of motorsport; karting. It is the purest form of motorsport, which will allow me to say – all is fair in love, war and Karting. All racers get the same equipment and it depends all on one’s innate skill to win championships.
Take for instance Lewis Hamilton’s racing ladder.
Hamilton started Karting at the age of 8 at Rye House Kart Circuit, and found absolutely no struggle to win the cadet class races and championships. Hamilton drove for Martin Hines’ Zip Young Guns Karting Team. Starting from the Cadet ranks, he advanced through to Junior Yamaha. Lewis also triumphed in the additional super one series, which made Ron Dennis sign him to the McLaren driver development program – which took care all of Hamilton’s financial necessities in the future. Following his karting successes, the British Racing Drivers’ Club made him a “Rising Star” Member in 2000.
Here’s a sample of Lewis’ skills and generally an idea of what and how a kart race will be.
His car racing career started in the 2001 British Formula Renault Winter Series. A third position in the Formula Renault UK championship saw Hamilton move up to Formula Three with Manor Motorsport. Having dominated the season with 15 wins from 20 races, he was launched to GP2 series, just one step away from F1.
He was partnered with Nico Rosberg at the ART Racing team for the 2006 GP2 season. And cheers to his flair, he won the GP2 championship at his very first attempt. In November, he was announced as McLaren’s second driver in Formula One, joining reigning world champion Fernando Alonso in 2007.
Working your way up to Formula One is a tedious journey and a very tough one. Some racers like Mark Webber and Paul Di Resta entered F1 after completing FIA GT series and DTM respectively – which is way out of the single seater route to this sport. It is said that 16 different series cover the 22 drivers on the grid.
Unlike the times of James Hunt, when he never competed in Karting, instead just broke a few parts and built his own Racing Mini to compete in series, youngsters today have to accomplish well in the different lower series’ – international and national to be spotted by potential big names. But it isn’t all that impossible; it just needs skill, talent and the right people to get the job done.
The really important thing, whatever you’re doing- whether its karting, Formula 1, whatever, even playing cards is to be the world champion because that means you are the best in the world. Even in karting it is a great, great achievement. – Ayrton Senna
And that’s what it takes to be in Formula One.