A couple of years back, Ferrari selected an 11 year old Canadian karter to join their driver academy. The program, which was set up at the end of 2009, was devised by the Italian team to find and support talented young drivers from around the world, with the eventual aim of helping them into Formula One racing. Since he was only 11, I think Alonso has to look over his shoulder just yet, but you can see where all this is heading!
Another youngster who got picked up very early in his motorsport career was Lewis Hamilton. With McLaren backing him (and paying much of the bills) Hamilton burst upon the F1 scene, frightening Alonso who thought that this rookie team mate was just an upstart and was eventually beaten by the youngster. Hamilton missed the world championship in his rookie year by one point, and then went on to claim it on his second season.
How did all this happen? At the age of ten, Hamilton approached McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at the Autosport Awards ceremony in December 1995 and told him, “I want to race for you one day…I want to race for McLaren.” Less than three years later, he was signed by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz to their Young Driver Support Program.
After winning the British Formula Renault, Formula Three Euroseries, and GP2 championships on his way up the racing career ladder, he became a McLaren F1 driver for 2007, making his Formula 1 debut 12 years after his initial encounter with Dennis. He has stated he wants to stay with the McLaren team for the rest of his F1 career. I would imagine McLaren has a vice-like grip on his tender bits, as well as a watertight contract!
BMW have also involved with nurturing young talent through the Formula BMW series. This was a junior racing formula for single seater cars. It is positioned at the bottom of the motorsport career ladder alongside the longer established Formula Ford category. Like Formula Ford, it is intended to function as the young kart racing graduate’s first experience of car racing.
The new formula was created by BMW Motorsport in 2001, with the first of its championships being inaugurated in Germany in 2002. Selected competitors from each series meet in the World Final at the end of each season, with the promise of a Formula One test for the winner.
One notable winner was Nico Rosberg, now driving alongside Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes GP F1 team.
In Thailand there is a young Thai/Norwegian Sandy Nicholas Stuvik, now 16 years of age and rapidly becoming too old if he cannot get sufficient help soon. Like Hamilton, he has been a winner in karts and won the Formula Renault Asia, but the costs, even in these lower formulae are very high. He is a proven winner and now needs someone to pick him up. Ferrari already have their youngster. Who will take on this young talent? I sincerely hope Thailand will look after its own. Go to www.sandystuvik.com and meet this talented young lad.