Two years ago, PaddockScout took a look at the world of karting and selected ten young drivers that we fancied might be worth keeping an eye on. Nine of those are now racing single-seaters and doing very well, having all already won races in major championships (see below).
It’s now time for us to pick a another ten potential future stars, ahead of the this weekend’s world championships at Essay in France. Who knows, maybe one of them might even secure a Formula 1 seat within two years.
10. Alexander Vartanyan
Born: 20 July 2000 (age 14)
The introduction of Russian talents backed by the SMP Racing scheme into junior single-seaters has been common in the last couple of years, and Vartanyan could be next in the line as their current star in international karting. After success in Russian championships and also winning the respectable Viking Trophy in the 60 Mini class, he entered the CIK-FIA scene last year, at the age of 12.
Having provided some good results in his debut year including 11th in the CIK-FIA KFJ World Championship and 15th in WSK Euro Series, he has stayed in the KFJ category for a second season in 2014 and became a regular frontrunner. In a really strong field he took second in the Trofeo Andrea Margutti and finished sixth and seventh in WSK Super Masters and CIK-FIA European Championship respectively.
Vartanyan will turn 15 in May, suggesting he will definitely start another season in karting, and maybe join a single-seater championship for the second part of the year. Considering his SMP connections and the fact that his current Swedish team Ward Racing has seen some of their drivers graduate to North European single-seaters, Vartanyan could well end up in the Northern European F4 series, which is set to kick off in 2015 and will be organized by SMP and Koiranen GP.
9. Logan Sargeant
Born: 31 December 2000 (age 13)
A selection of young American drivers continue to try their hand at the European karting scene with a view to a future in Formula 1, and Logan Sargeant is one of the hottest prospects to have moved across the Atlantic. That switch came after much success in his homeland, including winning the Rotax Grand Nationals and Florida Winter Tour in the Micro Max class in 2009, and then two years later victory in the TaG Cadet SuperNationals and glory against the rest of the world in the Mini ROK International Cup.
In 2012, Sargeant won the Trofeo Andrea Margutti in the 60 Mini class and then stepped up to KFJ for 2013, scoring top-15 finishes in the WSK Super Master Series, Euro Series and Final Cup, as well as the CIK-FIA European Championship. Making a step forward in 2014, he was ninth in the Super Master Series and then sixth in the European Championship.
Titles at the very highest level are yet to come for Sargeant, but at 13 he still has time on his side and can be expected to do a championship assault in KFJ next year. He is looked after by British firm Infinity Sports Management, who have taken former karting stars Dennis Olsen and George Russell onto winning starts in single-seaters.
8. Nicklas Nielsen
Born: 6 February 1997 (age 17)
Nielsen is something as a veteran, coming to the end of his fifth year at major international level. In 2010 and 2011, he participated in KF3 (now KFJ) events and won the WSK Master Series in his first year and the Final Cup in his second. He also won the CIK-FIA Asia-Pacific title in 2011. When he moved up to the KF level in 2012, he again won the Asia-Pacific crown, and finished fifth and ninth in the CIK-FIA European and World Cup respectively.
The following year saw Nielsen achieving even more success as he was second in both WSK Euro Series and the CIK-FIA International Super Cup, third in the WSK Final Cup and fifth in the CIK-FIA World Championship. Staying in karting for another season in 2014, he has proved to be one of the top performers again, finishing second in the European Championship and taking fourth and seventh positions in the WSK Super Masters and Champions Cup respectively.
Nielsen sampled a Formula Renault 2.0 car with Fortec Motorsports at the end of last year, and although he has since continued in karting, hopefully he will have the funding to make that step up at the age of 18 for 2015 and join some of his current and former rivals in single-seaters.
7. Daniel Ticktum
Born: 8 June 1999 (age 15)
Beginning to kart on a national level in 2008, Ticktum’s first major success came in 2011 when he won a so-called ‘grand slam’ of British titles at cadet level – Formula Kart Stars, Super One, British Open and British Grand Prix. He stepped up to KFJ and the international scene for 2012, with highlights of eighth in the WSK Euro Series and tenth in the CIK-FIA European Championship.
In 2013 he won the Andrea Margutti Trophy, was second in the European Championship (missing out to Lando Norris in a three-way tie on points) and second in the British championship. For 2014 he remained in KFJ for a third campaign. A major title has continued to elude him so far, but he’s come close, being forced to settle for second in the WSK Super Master Series, third in the WSK Champions Cup and fourth in the European Championship.
This year, Ticktum has been racing for a team newly-backed by expanding car racing squad Strakka, giving him obvious links to their new Formula Renault 2.0 setup. He is another driver working with Infinity Sports Management, giving him another string to his bow. One year at senior KF level seems a likely next step, but has the potential to star when he gets to cars.
6. Jehan Daruvala
Born: 1 October 1998 (age 15)
Daruvala is a product of Force India’s karting talent search ‘One From A Billion’. He was the third finalist in that competition, behind Arjun Maini and Tarun Reddy, but while they have since gone their own ways and enjoyed early success in single-seaters in the UK this year, Daruvala remains under the guidance of the F1 team and of karting guru Terry Fullerton.
In his first year of Force India support in 2012, Daruvala won the CIK-FIA Asia-Pacific title in KF3. In 2013, he beat the best of British talent to win the national championship, and also finished second in the International Super Cup and eighth in the European championship. Stepping up to senior KF level for 2014, he’s come sixth in the WSK Super Master Series, 14th in the European Championship, and currently leads the German championship with a round to go.
Nearly 16, Daruvala could well join his former stablemates and step up to single-seaters next year, but Force India indicated that his time in KF would likely be a two-year programming, with the aim of challenging on international titles at KF level in 2015. Either way, he’s proven to be quite a find, and that he warrants nurturing into Force India’s first home-grown F1 driver.
5. Mick Betsch
Born: 25 March 1999 (age 15)
The driver who has probably the greatest racing heritage of any of today’s karting stars has now started to deliver great results at the top level. Often racing under his mother’s maiden name of Betsch and more recently using ‘Junior’ as a surname in order to keep a low profile on the karting circuit, Mick is the son of seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher.
His first strong results came in 2011, when he finished third in the Euro Wintercup in KF3 and he repeated it in the next year, also adding another third place in DMV Karting Championship and seventh in ADAC Kart Masters to his tally. 2013 saw his introduction to CIK-FIA competitions, finishing third in the International Super Cup and also taking third in the German Championship. This season, he is currently leading the German series with one more round to go. He also took second in the European Championship, fourth in the WSK Champions Cup and tenth in WSK Super Masters.
Mick is destined to star in single-seaters, but not just because of his famous father – his recent form is deserving of merit alone, particularly in such difficult circumstances. At least one more season in karting would make sense, considering he will only turn 16 in March and can still test himself at KF level.
4. Enaam Ahmed
Born: 4 February 2000 (age 14)
Starting karting in 2009, Ahmed claimed his first title three years later in the cadet class, winning the Super One series and coming second in Formula Kart Stars. Moving up to KFJ and international competitions for 2013, he finished fourth in the WSK Final Cup, fifth in the WSK Euro Series, fifth in the CIK-FIA World Championship and seventh in the European Championship.
Ahmed’s second season at KFJ level in 2014 has been phenomenal. Early in the year, he won the Winter Cup, the WSK Champions Cup and the WSK Super Master Series. He’s since added the CIK-FIA European Championship to his trophy cabinet, meaning he’s won four of the main five international KFJ events run so far this year. It would be unwise to bet against him for the World Championship this weekend.
Ahmed’s father made money as a fashion tycoon and, although he later lost his personal fortune, no doubt has the entrepreneurial nous and contacts to bring in the sponsors. Not 15 until February, a step up to KF level would seem most likely rather than stepping straight up to cars, but his results this year already suggest that he could well be successful when that times comes.
3. Lando Norris
Born: 13 November 1999 (age 14)
In 2013, Norris took the karting world by storm as a 13-year-old, dominating the KFJ category in his first year. He won the CIK-FIA European Championship, the WSK Euro Series and the CIK-FIA International Super Cup. He was also second in the WSK Master Series, and fourth in the World Championship.
Making an early step up to the senior KF category, 2014 has been a quieter year for Norris in terms of silverware, but has still finished third in the European Championship. He’s also been busy making his first steps in car racing already, competing in the Ginetta Junior series in Britain. Up against older and more experienced drivers, he got his first win at round five in June, and added two further wins at the following rounds, putting him third in the standings.
Norris has the speed and results alone to mark him out, but he also has the added benefit of resources behind him, with a father whose worth has been estimated at nine figures. Next year he may look to combine title assaults on Ginettas and KF competitions, but would also be old enough to contest certain single-seater series – although BRDC F4 (a common destination for top Ginetta graduates and where his HHC team are frontrunners) won’t reduce its minimum age to 15 until 2016.
2. Callum Ilott
Born: 11 November 1998 (age 15)
In 2011, winning Formula Kart Stars in KF3 and finishing third in the German Junior Championship put Ilott on the map, and he has been there ever since. A year later, at the age of 13, he won both WSK Masters Series and the WSK Final Cup and finished second in the Euro Series, making him the WSK Driver of the Year. In addition, he also took second in the CIK-FIA World Cup.
2013 saw Ilott graduate to the senior KF level, where he needed a year to get his hands a trophy, but he won the WSK Final Cup at the end of the season. This year he joined the newly-established Zanardi Strakka Racing squad and he was on the pace from the beginning. Ilott won the WSK Super Master Series and finished third in the Champions Cup, while last month he celebrated his fifth major international title in three years by winning the CIK-FIA European Championship.
Ilott has already tested a Formula Renault 2.0 car, and with the Zanardi Strakka team having been formed to make it easier for karting talents to move to single-seaters and the British outfit having now created a team at FR2.0 level, it seems that we will probably see Ilott in a junior single-seater championship in 2015. He won’t have any issues with age restrictions, as he turns 16 in November.
1. Alessio Lorandi
Born: 8 September 1998 (age 16)
In the previous two years, Lorandi was one of the most successful karters at KFJ level, and this year he carried his great form into the KF championships, too. Since 2012, he has finished every WSK series he has entered in the top three. This includes victory in the Super Master series in 2013, five runner-up spots (including this year’s Super Master and Champions Cup) and two third-places from eight championships.
In additon, in 2012 he finished sixth in the CIK-FIA KF3 World Championship, before winning it the following year. This year, he finished the European championship in sixth and also won the two major early-season races – the Winter Cup and the Andrea Margutti Trophy.
Lorandi is one of the biggest karting superstars and, already 16, he is ready to make the move to a junior single-seater series. Moving to Italian F4 seems like an obvious choice, but with his talent he might well aim for a more ambitious plan. Indeed, in May he was linked with a step up straight into F3.
Compiled and written by Peter Allen and Gruz David.
Our 2012 picks revisited
Here’s a look at the ten karters we picked in 2012, and what they are up to now.
1. Charles Leclerc: Stepping up to single-seaters with a campaign in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps with Fortec, the Monaco ace is poised to finish a strong second in the standings, only behind third-year driver Nyck de Vries. With a double win under his belt in that series at Monza, he has also finished the last three Eurocup races in second-place as a guest entrant.
2. Max Verstappen: Winning six major titles in KF karting in 2013 across KF and KZ classes, the Dutch teenager took two wins in the Florida Winter Series early this year and stepped all the way up to European F3 championship, where he sits second in the standings after a stunning season. Also has the small matter of a 2015 F1 race deal in his pocket with Toro Rosso.
3. George Russell: The Double European KF3 champion has contested a dual campaign of BRDC F4 and Formula Renault 2.0 Alps this year. He’s led the former series since the opening round, and took four wins in the opening four rounds, even if the last couple of events have been tougher going. He’s running a comfortable fourth in Alps with Koiranen, despite missing a round.
4. Dorian Boccolacci: A double WSK KF champion in 2013 and International Super Cup winner on his KZ debut, the Lotus F1 team junior has moved up to single-seaters in the French F4 Championship this year. He’s been a title contender, with a double victory on the streets of Pau while his stable-mate Esteban Ocon starred in the F3 Grand Prix, and currently sits third.
5. Ben Barnicoat: A winner of the Protyre Formula Renault Autumn Cup on his debut weekend in cars last November, the Racing Steps Foundation-backed, McLaren-linked Briton has moved onto Formula Renault 2.0 NEC. Having taken two wins against experienced competition, he takes a 12-point championship lead into this weekend’s Nurburgring finale.
6. Santino Ferrucci: American driver took some early first car racing steps in his home nation in F2000 last year. He then set his sights on European F3 after some impressive testing performances, but had to wait until he was 16 in May before making his debut. Took two top-five finishes in just his second weekend at the Norisring, and two wins in a British F3 one-off.
7. Lance Stroll: Signed by Ferrari at 11, the Canadian racer stepped up to single-seaters this year, first in the Florida Winter Series and then the new Italian F4 Championship. He dominated the title race, taking just three months to wrap up the crown with two rounds to go, while still only 15. Just one week earlier, his billionaire father was linked to buying into F1 team Sauber.
8. Dennis Olsen: Moving into single-seaters a few months after our 2012 feature, the Norwegian had a consistent run to third in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC in 2013. Stepping up to the Eurocup this year, he has won twice and been the one to take the fight to the vastly more experienced de Vries. Linked to Red Bull since his karting days, a full Junior Team berth cannot be far away.
9. Antonio Fuoco: Italian driver joined Olsen in graduating to cars in 2013, after Ferrari confirmed their interest and recruited him to their Academy. In Formula Renault 2.0 Alps with a Prema team that was dominant, he defeated two more experienced team-mates to take the title. Has been overshadowed by Ocon and Verstappen since stepping up to F3, but has won twice and sits fifth.
10. Luca Corberi: The only one of our ten to have not stepped up to single-seaters within two years, Corberi had a good first year at KF level last year and has now moved into KZ gearbox karts. Still only 17, there is still plenty of time to move into single-seaters, or he may do as many Italians do and make a career out of karting.