February 26, 2009

Nipping at Hamilton's heels: Karts to run F1 support races.

Organizers of the British Formula Kart Stars (FKS) say they have Bernie Ecclestone's nod to run support races on the European portion of the 2010 Formula 1 season. Ecclestone is even said to be providing "special prizes" (a paddock access may be the most valuable prize Uncle Bernie could provide these youngsters).

The program is a reincarnation of the Stars of Tomorrow Karting Championship which, sponsored by Mclaren-Mercedes provided healthy returns with alumni you may have heard of, guys like Gary Paffet, Paul DiResta and one Lewis Hamilton who has become the series official patron.

A similar program was started in the USA by Bryan Herta and now owned by Bobby Rahal. It's called the "Snap-on Stars of Karting Presented by the Indycar Series" and with a sponsor like Snap-on you would think they might have come up with a... snappier name!

But I digress, what's interesting here is that the Rahal racing organization which now runs Formula BMW-Americas and BMW's ALMS's program, has created for the first time in America, an almost complete road racing development path for young drivers, from karts to F1.

I said almost because if the aim is Formula 1, there is still no getting around the step of racing in Europe, in the US there is no equivalent to a British Formula 3 or a Formula Renault at the moment. That may change if the USF1 team actually materializes.

Certainly with all teams now scouting drivers from their early teens and, following Mclaren's lead, taking a long term approach to the careers of the most promising, it is in these series where the next Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso or Lewis Hamilton will get their start, the right way.

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