Capital Karts know that karting is not only an exciting sport in its own right, but is also the ultimate springboard for any Formula One star of the future to learn their craft. Some of the most famous and successful Formula One drivers in the world started out in karting. Read on to find out which top drivers started out with a passion for karts:
1. The late Ayrton Senna, considered by many experts to be the best racing driver ever, described karting as the “purest driving experience” and always took it very seriously. The F1 three-times world champion, from Brazil, still raced karts regularly up until his death in 1994. Senna said he enjoyed some of his best racing in go karts.
2. Seven times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher started his racing career in karting. His father built him his first kart at the age of four. In 1983, aged 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.
3. Three times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton had his first go kart at the age of six, beginning competitive karting aged eight, in 1993, at the Rye House Kart Circuit. He entered Formula One racing in 2007, missing out on the world championship by only one point in his debut season.
4. Sebestian Vettel started karting at the very young age of three, competing by the age of eight in 1995. He joined the Red Bull Junior Team at age 11 in 1998, winning the Junior Monaco Kart Cup in 2001. In 2006, he became BMW Sauber’s third driver at the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix. He joined the Ferrari team for the 2015 season.
5. The late Jules Bianchi, whose tragic death at the age of 25 in 2015 shocked the world, first drove a kart at age three, racing by the age of five. Moving to cars in 2007, he won the French Formula Renault 2.0 series. He was named as Ferrari’s Formula One test and reserve driver for the 2011 season. In 2013, he was taken on by Marussia and was consistently impressive.
6. Danish racing driver Jan Magnussen started out kart racing in the 1980s, winning the 1989 Junior World Championship and the 1990 Senior World Championship. He drove in the F1 Grand Prix for McLaren in 1995. He took part in Indy Car racing in 1996 and then returned to F1 for Stewart in 1997 and ’98.
7. Australian Formula One driver Mark Webber started out karting as a boy, growing up competing in different tournaments and tracks around the country. He credits karting with introducing him to the professional side of motorsport, generating sponsorship deals to maintain his kart and compete. Like many F1 drivers, he still enjoys racing karts today.
8. Max Verstappen started karting at age four. In 2007, he won the Dutch Minimax, going on to win many more karting championships before starting car racing in 2013. In 2014, he finished third in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship for Van Amersfoort Racing. In 2015, he made his Grand Prix début at the Australian Grand Prix at the age of 17 years, 166 days.
9. As a motorsport-mad 11-year-old, Kimi Raikkonen took up karting in his home-town of Espoo in Finland. In 2000, ten years later, he made the switch to cars in the UK Formula Renault series, taking the championship. He joined the Swiss F1 team, Sauber, for the 2001 season, marking the start of a long Formula One career.
10. Born in Russia in 1994, Daniil Kvyat sat in his first go kart at age eight. He began racing karts competitively, with his family relocating to Rome so he could compete in the Italian kart championships. The Italian-based Toro Rosso F1 team signed him for a race drive in 2014. He finished ninth at the Australian Grand Prix, making him the youngest points scorer in Formula One history.