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How to get American drivers into F1?
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Richard Thoms



Joined: 11 Aug 2009
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Location: United States, Alabama, Huntsville

PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seems for better or worse the route to F1 starts with karting in Europe, and the entry point is <16 years old. Would be neat to see a premier US karting org award a "scholarship" to such an up and coming kid.

As for becoming "elite" in F1 - I think beyond talent/money there is quite a bit of luck. Luck to get hooked up with the right team at the right time. Who watched Alonso in Mindardi and really knew then where he would go (you want to claim that of one of the Marussia guys today?). Who watched Vettel fill in for Kubica at USGP and knew he was future 3time WC.
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TJ Koyen



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Richard Thoms wrote:
Seems for better or worse the route to F1 starts with karting in Europe, and the entry point is <16 years old. Would be neat to see a premier US karting org award a "scholarship" to such an up and coming kid.

As for becoming "elite" in F1 - I think beyond talent/money there is quite a bit of luck. Luck to get hooked up with the right team at the right time. Who watched Alonso in Mindardi and really knew then where he would go (you want to claim that of one of the Marussia guys today?). Who watched Vettel fill in for Kubica at USGP and knew he was future 3time WC.


I'd say Bianchi's got a pretty damn good chance to do some big things in F1.

His performances in karting establish him as a pretty elite young driver in my mind. Maybe he'll replace Massa next year and we can see if that opinion is true or not.
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Rob Kozakowski



Joined: 05 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. The ladder concept shouldn't be over-promoted because all it does is it makes kart racing an elitist sport.

2. While the KF/KZ concept is at the top of the heap in Europe, there's not loads and loads of guys running those karts at the lower levels of Euro karting. Most of the Euro club racing is really not all that unlike North American club racing. KF does not have the participation at the lower levels that the old JICA/ICA/FA/FSA days had. Most of the people who've been around kart racing in these areas for a long time realize that the model we have is the one that works. It doesn't mean it's everyone's version of "ideal", but if it didn't work, we'd have changed things a long time ago. In other words, stop trying to compare kart racing to motorbike racing. Or if you make the comparison, remember that there's only 3 factory teams (if you want to count Ducatti's current embarrassing factory effort), and about 25 bikes, give or take, in MotoGP. That's not too unlike KF kart racing.

3. The US has as many F1 drivers today as China and India, which are the 2 mostly highly populated countries in the world. In fact, only 1 of the 10 most populated countries in the world (Brazil) has an F1 driver right now. It's not just the US that has a relative lack of F1 drivers.

4. If someone wants to throw money at it, any country can have an F1 driver. Scott Speed. Narain Karthikayen. Vitaly Petrov. All drivers with a lot more talent than anybody reading this, but still all drivers who only got to F1 because somebody threw a lot of money to get a countryman into F1 (no disrespect meant to any of them, but that's the plain truth for 80% of the guys who make it to F1). The trouble is, none of these guys have the elite talent of an Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Button, etc. So when that direct backing leaves them, they disappear from F1 because they aren't at the elite level of the few who have the teams throwing big money to the drivers to have them race for them.

5. I agree with Whitmarsh that the North American karting system makes it harder for an elite driver to emerge and progress to F1 based purely on talent. That said, the more we care about changing that, the more elitist kart racing becomes, and the fewer opportunities there will be for a kid with boat loads of talent to shine on a shoe-string budget.

Bottom line, North American karting is fine the way it is and it should be enjoyed the way it is.
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Rob Kozakowski



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TJ Koyen wrote:


I'd say Bianchi's got a pretty damn good chance to do some big things in F1.

His performances in karting establish him as a pretty elite young driver in my mind. Maybe he'll replace Massa next year and we can see if that opinion is true or not.


This is where Whitmarsh has a point...

A guy like Bianchi will probably be given a bit longer leash than others because of his reputation in karts. Whether that will allow him to become a big name in F1 remains unknown, but the successes on the European and World levels in karts give him a lot of credibility.

If you compare Bianchi to Chilton, it's completely different. Chilton never competed at the elite levels of karts, and is arguably in F1 mostly because of his rich dad who also happens to be involved with Carlin Motorsports, where Chilton ran for a season of F3 and GP2.

If Chilton's dad stops paying, Chilton's F1 career is over. That's not necessarily the case for Bianchi.

Look also at a guy like Giorgio Pantano. Arguably one of the greatest ever in a kart. Look how long it took him to get to F1 - again, like Bianchi, he was given a long leash to try to prove himself because of what he did in karts. Ultimately, he didn't last more than a season in F1, but he got there mostly because of his reputation in karts.
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Andy Seesemann
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Richard Thoms wrote:
Seems for better or worse the route to F1 starts with karting in Europe, and the entry point is <16 years old. Would be neat to see a premier US karting org award a "scholarship" to such an up and coming kid.



They have.

Now, we all know that you need a few hundred grand to get your foot in the door of the bottom of the ladder car series, and we also know that a karting series doesn't have that sort of money to throw around, so any scholarship they can afford to give will be a drop in the bucket compared to what is really needed.

A few years back, the STARS of Karting here in the US had a pretty good series, mostly based on the Euro format. At the end of the year, they gave a $25000 scholarship to a driver to help advance their racing career.

The first driver they gave it to took the money, thanked the right people and then.....

Bought a truck with the money.

The next year, they gave it to another driver who displayed the talent and dedication to succeed at the next level. He just didn't have the money. So, he took the $25000 and realized what little he could actually do with it in the car racing world.

So,

He bought a boat.

Just some interesting anecdotes to continue this lively discussion.

A
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Richard Thoms



Joined: 11 Aug 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rob Kozakowski wrote:
1. The ladder concept shouldn't be over-promoted because all it does is it makes kart racing an elitist sport.

Polo is an elitist sport. I don't ever see karting getting there!! Smile
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Alan Dove



Joined: 10 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Richard Thoms wrote:
Seems for better or worse the route to F1 starts with karting in Europe, and the entry point is <16 years old. Would be neat to see a premier US karting org award a "scholarship" to such an up and coming kid.


I can't think of any other sport in the world that actively encourages people to leave it.

I can imagine a few raised eyebrows if all of the motocross scene started ignoring your Ryan Villapotos and James Stewarts and instead started to promote Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies.

"Win junior motocross nationals and win a scholarship in road racing"

"Welcome to karting, we hope your stay isn't too long and expensive" is my impression of the modern marketing model for karting.

It's what we've done in karting for the last 20 years, and while it's great to reminisce about old drivers who gone on and done other things I won't lie - I'd rather see Hamilton Vs Senna in a pair of Formula Super As than ANY other vehicle.
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Richard Thoms



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 10:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alan Dove wrote:
I can't think of any other sport in the world that actively encourages people to leave it.


I'm not quite sure I get that statement?? I guess I see the sport as "motorsports" and not just "karting". In that sense it is the same as stick-and-ball. We hope to see kids leave little league to get on their High School team, then College, then the Major Leagues. There is nothing wrong with karting and 95% of the participants are happy and content with the club/regional/national scene. But there is nothing wrong with trying to help the 5% make it to their next level. I certainly don't think the karting scene will "dry-up" because everyone has moved on.
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Keith Bridgeman



Joined: 24 Aug 2001
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It will be interesting to see that road ahead for Max Verstappen. The kid has dominated karting at the highest level. Stayed in it long enough to move throught the karting classes. I'm guessing he moves on next year to cars. How many levels does it take for him to get to F1.

You can't compare the ladder of Motorcross and Karting. If your a National Champion minibike rider you just conitnue to move up classes until you start earning a paycheck if your at the top. Karting has no paycheck, thats why the talent leaves.
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Rob Kozakowski



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Richard Thoms wrote:
Alan Dove wrote:
I can't think of any other sport in the world that actively encourages people to leave it.


I'm not quite sure I get that statement?? I guess I see the sport as "motorsports" and not just "karting". In that sense it is the same as stick-and-ball. We hope to see kids leave little league to get on their High School team, then College, then the Major Leagues. There is nothing wrong with karting and 95% of the participants are happy and content with the club/regional/national scene. But there is nothing wrong with trying to help the 5% make it to their next level. I certainly don't think the karting scene will "dry-up" because everyone has moved on.


One problem is in most cases, you first lose those kids to cars, they then spend lots of money on cars, and with the exception of those with extreme talent or real deep pockets hit the proverbial wall in cars, and then they leave motorsports altogether. These guys won't go into SCCA club or regional racing in cars. A very small number might come back to kart racing, but that's very rare. For the most part, it's big-time or bust - mostly bust. If they left the money these guys take to cars within the karting community, they'd have enough money to stay in karts for... ever.

How far would $100,000 go being spent on kart racing, compared to the car ladder system? That would be more than enough money to support at least 10 seasons (most people could stretch that out a lot further) of high-level club racing in karts (or depending on the travel component of your costs, several seasons of regional / national racing) or it would get you 1/5 of a season in Pro Formula Mazda.

If we talk growing motorsports as a whole, we'd add significantly to the numbers by giving young kart racers scholarships to KEEP THEM IN KARTS when they finish high school and start moving out of their parents' houses and have to start paying for things on their own, and realize there's nothing in their budgets for racing - guys in the 18-25 year range. If we re-directed the scholarship money to put them back into karts that instead gets spent on trucks and boats, we'd have more racers.

If you can keep them in karts at that age, there's a chance they'll be lifers. Most people who leave the sport never come back.
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Alan Dove



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What do you mean by 'next level'? This is the kind of comment that infiltrates the whole of the karting scene and makes it feel weak and defeatist. We have professional level competition with some of the finest driving talent in the world (bas Lammers anyone?) yet going to race a bunch of 16 year old kids in quite slow cars is 'next level'.

no other sport does this. No one says to James Stewart "when are you moving to the next level to road racing"....

I don't see motorsports under one umbrella as I don't see motorbike racing under one umbrella.

This subservience to car racing is a relatively new thing for karting, and for we should do as much to irradiate as possible because it won't be long before that's ALL karting has to rely on and something like sim racing will come along and snatch that market from under our feet.
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Richard Thoms



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keith Bridgeman wrote:
...you just continue to move up classes until you start earning a paycheck if your at the top. Karting has no paycheck, thats why the talent leaves.

Excellent observation! Those that are hard core into the sport will find a way to make the paycheck (tuners/team managers/kart shop owners). Otherwise it is by definition a hobby and at best break even endeavor.

I guess that is what I mean by "next level". For sure it is not the talent or the racing action. There is plenty of talent in kart racing and the action is second to none. It is the next level of a livelihood for these racers to be able to "live the dream" i.e., doing something you love for a living. I don't know about the European professional karting scene. Can somebody make a living as a professional kart racer (driver)? For how long?
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Keith Bridgeman



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe a lot of the KZ1 drivers in Europe are paid drivers. Of course they also work for the main factory's on a daily basis so its a bit different.
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Larry Andrews



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rob Kozakowski wrote:
How far would $100,000 go being spent on kart racing, compared to the car ladder system?


Apologies in advance for being contrary - I respect and support 99% of what Rob posts...

Danilo Rossi recently allowed that a six figures (in Euros) budget is reasonable for a season of KF karting, and the 2-3x that quote that is frequently proffered isn't entirely mandatory.

http://kartlink.com/news/danilo-rossi-says-kf-costs-are-under-control

The editor of Vroom (Italia) suggests that costs are out of control and producing small fields.

http://www.vroomkart.com/news/14585/vroom-n146-incandescent-european

I'm not going to get involved in a discussion about how to get American drivers into F1 - my views on this are widely known. (heck, I ran Scott Speed's #21 for years...and I am a true fan)

I do believe that until we can improve the kart counts at local races, we're wasting our time talking about how to get our drivers into F1. We keep seeing the clearest path to that goal as stable rules and low overall costs. Getting the people that work to put on the events to put aside politics isn't easy, but it's in their best interest to do what it takes to increase participation. Everyone else's too.

Over and out. -la
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Roger Ruthhart



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Get more drivers competing at the local level ... the better ones will rise to the top. More drivers, more opportunity to find talent. Eventually some will make it to F1, etc., but I would just as soon see us find a way for them to have a "career" in karting. Wishful thinking, I know.
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