Five famous drivers who started with karting
The benefits of karting are vast, it is an exhilarating sport which helps with your concentration, keeps your brain sharp, is fantastic for team building and bonding as well as helping you to keep active, fit and healthy. Karting could also be the stepping stone to an amazing career as most drivers at the top level in motorsport began their careers in karting.
Three times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton had his first go kart at the age of six, which was given to him by his father, Anthony.
“Dad would always stand on the inside of the circuit at the hairpin” Hamilton said in his 2007 autobiography, My Story. His father was there to watch where the other drivers were braking for the turn, and he instructed Lewis to use him as the braking point. According to the book, his father moved surreptitiously closer to the corner with every lap, so Lewis picked up the first rudiments of the late-braking technique that is such a hallmark of his driving style today.
Lewis began competitive karting aged eight and has retained more of the karting influence in his driving style than any of his rivals.
Here are five big names who hit the karting tracks as children and went on to be Formula One superstars!
Michael Schumacher’s father built him his first kart at the age of four and by the age of 14, Schumacher obtained his German license, winning the 1984 and 1985 German Junior Kart Championship.
He made his debut in the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix of 1991 and today, Schumacher is the only driver in history to win seven Formula One World Championships, five of which he won consecutively. The most successful driver in the history of the sport, Schumacher holds the record for the most World Championship titles, the most Grand Prix wins, the most fastest laps and the most races won in a single season, and according to the official Formula One website, Schumacher was “statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen” at the time of his retirement from the sport.
Mark Webber is an Australian former professional racing driver, who last competed in the FIA World Endurance Championship as a Porsche works driver in LMP1.
Starting out racing motorcycles, Webber took up karting at age 14. He won the New South Wales state championship in 1993, and moved straight to the Australian Formula Ford Championship after his father bought him an ex-Craig Lowndes Van Diemen FF1600. Webber made his Formula One debut in 2002 and after his first season, Jaguar took him on as lead driver. His first F1 win was with Red Bull at the 2009 German Grand Prix, which followed second places at the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix, 2009 Turkish Grand Prix and 2009 British Grand Prix. By the end of 2009, Webber had scored eight podiums, including another victory in Brazil. His eight podiums in 2009 compares with only two podiums in the first seven years of his career. He added ten more podiums in 2010, including victories in Spain, Monaco, Britain and Hungary. Webber finished the 2010 season in third place having led for a long period, losing out to teammate Sebastian Vettel in the final race of the season.
Although we can’t allow toddlers on the track like some of the greats were, at Absolutely Karting we do encourage young starters (from the age of 8) and 90% of the fastest children to race at Absolutely Karting have learned their skills through our Race Academy, which provides a fantastic course of instruction from trained and experienced staff.
Vettel is a German racing driver currently driving in Formula One for Scuderia Ferrari. He started amateur karting at the young age of three and began racing in karts series in 1995, at the age of eight. Having shown early talent, he was accepted into the Red Bull Junior Team at age 11 in 1998, and kept on winning various titles, such as the Junior Monaco Kart Cup in 2001. Now, he is a four-time Formula One World Champion, having won the championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 with Red Bull Racing.
Max Verstappen is a Dutch racing driver who competes in Formula One with Red Bull Racing. He became the youngest driver to compete in Formula 1 at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix for Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2017. He is also the youngest driver to lead a lap during a Formula One Grand Prix, youngest driver to set the fastest lap during a Formula One Grand Prix, youngest driver to score points, youngest driver to secure a podium and the youngest Formula One Grand Prix winner in history.
Verstappen began karting at the age of 4, competing in the Mini Junior championship of his home province of Limburg, Belgium. In 2006, Verstappen graduated to the Rotax Max Minimax class and won the Belgian championship. He continued competing and winning the cadet championships until 2010 when he stepped up to international karting. At the age of 15, Verstappen won the 2013 World KZ championship at Varennes-sur-Allier, France, in KZ1, the highest karting category.
Karting is a great family and team sport and something really worthwhile getting your kids into. Why not give it a try this half term? Find out more here.