Randomly select any of the current Formula 1 drivers on the grid in 2019 and you can be sure they started in karting. It’s no secret that most Formula 1 drivers started in karting, but did you know that most current Formula 1 drivers still practice and compete in karts on a regular basis? With the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix just around the corner, we unravel just how much overlap there is between karting and Formula 1. At K1 Speed, we know that karting is fun and filled with adrenaline, but it’s also extremely relevant to Formula 1 and other forms of racing and here is why.
1. The Purest Form Of Motorsport
Ayrton Senna, one of the most famous names in motorsports and arguably the best racing driver in the history of the sport, would call karting “the purest driving experience.” He’s also not the only professional driver that would frequent his local kart track. Renowned drivers like Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, and Max Verstappen, have all been highly successful in the karting ranks. Karting provided a springboard to their Formula 1 stardom and remains one of their primary sources to stay sharp, fit, and race-ready during the offseason or long breaks.
2. The Great Equalizer
Many professional drivers practice karting as it acts as a great equalizer. In other forms of racing, equipment makes such a massive difference, that only a portion of race results are related to the talent of the driver. In Formula 1, the top teams like Ferrari or Mercedes have massive advantages against smaller teams due to budget differences and access to resources. At K1 Speed, it is up to the driver to make the most of their equipment and make it to the top of the podium, as every driver is on the same kart, same tires, and same engines. This even playing field allows the driver to focus solely on their driving skills and focus on the minor details to improve their performance. The equal opportunity that every driver gets in karting also makes for some of the most exciting races.
3. Ten Thousand Hours
As renowned author Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book Outliers, Gladwell explains that reaching the 10,000-Hour Rule, which he considers the key to success in any field, “is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.” In the modern era of Formula 1, testing limitations and budgets limit driving opportunities. Pros turn to karting to keep their driving skills sharp when not in competition. Although it may not be the first impression, karting is a physically and mentally demanding activity. A fast driver has to be able to maintain inch-perfect precision at every corner while having the spacial awareness to navigate through other karts in order to link together a fast lap. Aside from the physical demands of karting, professional drivers are also able to work on what is known as “racecraft” in a kart. This means that drivers practice all possible scenarios in a race including setting up for a pass, defending, managing the karts energy, and getting the right amount of heat in the tires before going for the fastest lap.
No matter how you slice it up, motorsport is an intensely expensive sport at the higher ranks. With Formula 1 racing budgets ranging in the $450 million bracket, testing is limited, forcing drivers to seek alternative methods to gain seat time. What attracts professional drivers the most to karting is its incredible value for the cost. Most karting venues like K1 Speed offer “arrive and drive” programs, where drivers are able to just show up anytime, and the venue provides the kart and safety equipment. This makes it an accessible experience without the time commitment of other forms of racing, and gives drivers a chance to get behind the wheel any day of the week. In other forms of motorsports, race cars require very high levels of preparation, travel to and from tracks, and a staff of highly skilled team members making it an expensive and time-consuming option.
Around the time of the Canadian Grand Prix, it’s fairly common to see professional drivers walk through our doors to turn some laps! If you have been waiting to give K1 Speed a try, our arrive and drive programs are available until 10 p.m. during weekdays, and even later on weekends. Make sure to keep your eyes open for our special events like Drift Night if you’re looking for a fun challenge!