In order to make it to the top of the ladder these days, a certain amount of go-karting is necessary. It’s where drivers learn a good deal of car control, sharpen their reflexes, learn to run in close quarters with other drivers, and refine their racecraft. They often get laughed at because of their size, but karts are one of the best ways to learn to drive, especially since they’re reasonably priced and even a kid can fit in one. It’s the latter factor which is the real appeal, since F1 drivers are, on average, far younger than they’ve ever been, and to get their foot in the door at an appropriate age, they have to start early.
Predictably, all the maestros shown in this lighthearted clip all had their starts in single-speed go-karts. Many of them were highly successful, too — traveling far and wide to compete with drivers of different nationalities. Mika Hakkinen had over 300 kart starts, and his former teammate, David Coulthard, was in a kart at the wee age of seven. Being the geriatrics in the group, these two were up against some stiff competition.
Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso both started climbing through the ranks behind the wheel of a kart, and in the case of the Spaniard, it seems the thrill has never quite left. In addition to building his own line of karts, Alonso has established a prestigious karting school in his home town of Oveido.
His school, which shares a museum chronicling his racing career, offers youngsters the chance to drive alongside a two-time World Champion. Their course grooms future talent for a professional career, with English lessons and technical rundowns as well — grooming future talent for a racing career. Coming from Alonso, the consummate professional, the comprehensive package should be worth the rather steep tuition costs.
It’s on Alonso’s kart track that the aforementioned four and Stoffel Vandoorne face off. Mika Hakkinen, despite his age and weight, shows the young, ambitious racers how to do it. Furthermore, Hakkinen’s humor steals the spotlight, and brings back memories of why he’s such an amusing character.
Alonso studies Hakkinen, who runs off while driving cleanly and carefully, unlike Vandoorne, who hustles his kart over the curbs, gouging the underbody. Those engine mounts aren’t cheap! For a moment, it seems as if Alonso is going to lose on his home track, but biding his time wisely, he knows he’ll only have one shot at overtaking Hakkinen. When drivers of this caliber join together in identical equipment with lots of grip, it takes a clever head and some gutsy driving to pull off any sort of move. Fortunately for us, Alonso doesn’t disappoint.