F1 Drivers that Started on Go Kart

Picture this: A Formula One racing legend takes to the track. He curves cooly around the corner, leaving all opponents far in his rearview. The champion and his vehicle are one, and the vehicle is… a go-kart? 

Okay, I know go-karts don’t have the pizazz or horsepower of a Formula One racecar- but they do have something in common- many famous faces who sat behind their wheels. 

It may surprise you to learn that almost all of Formula One’s biggest names and greatest icons started their careers in go-karts- and many still enjoy a bit of karting between seasons. 

Karting is a gateway to car racing for many people- not just the ones that make it to the top of the food chain. Almost all the biggest names on the track in recent years started this way. Here are five notable Formula One stars who began their racing journeys on the karting track. 

Michael Schumacher

You can’t talk or think about Formula One without the name Michael Schumacher coming to mind. He dominated the sport for most of his career- establishing record after record that remained largely unbeaten until very recently.

Schumacher went from a four-year-old karting in Kerpen to a national karting champion at 15, then to a seven-time Formula One world champion whose name is as iconic as the red Ferrari he drove. 

Lewis Hamilton

A few years ago, it was a valid question to wonder if anyone other than Lewis Hamilton would win a Formula One championship again. He is the only other person in history to match Schumacher’s seven titles- and he helped break a few other records, too. 

Lewis started karting at eight years old at the Rye House Kart Circuit in Hertfordshire, England- a little later than most of the champs who had their start go-karting. 

He made up for it by moving quickly. It only took him five years to get signed by a Formula One Team through McLaren’s development program, then less than a decade to make his championship debut- which he lost by just one point. 

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel is one of the all-time greats of Formula One racing- one of only four drivers in history to win four championships in a row. He is also one of the sport’s greatest go-karting advocates, having started at the tender age of three. 

The German superstar raced go-karts competitively for years before switching to automobiles. He was only eight years old in his first competitive go-kart race, then won many karting titles during his career on the Red Bull Junior Team. 

That early go-karting debut could be the reason Seb holds the record for the youngest driver ever to win an F1 championship.

Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna is one of Formula One’s most iconic legends. The three-time champion is still considered one of the most artful drivers the sport has ever seen. He held the record for the most pole positions for 17 years (only Schumacher and Hamilton sit higher on the list- even now, almost 30 years after his death. 

His father built his him first go-kart when he was four years old. Senna enjoyed a 20-year go-karting career- and maintained that he liked it more than Formula One. He called it the purest driving experience. 

The Brazilian icon’s death rattled the sport in 1994, but the safety improvements that stemmed from the tragedy have kept Formula One drivers safe ever since.

Max Verstappen 

Even the current world champion (who has held the title since 2021 and has been unstoppable since) first got behind the wheel of a go-kart. Max Verstappen started go-karting at the age of four, won the Dutch Minimax around the age of 10, switched to Formula Three car racing at 16, and then Formula One two years later.

A controversial driver, yes- but there is no doubt about the man’s talent. I reckon he picked up those skills on the karting track. 

Final Thoughts

It looks like the formula for championship success is to start go-karting around four years old and be great at it. Easy, right? I will be waiting by the GoKart36 phone for my call from Red Bull Racing- maybe a champion of the future is in our midst!

If you have any more questions that you’d like me to answer, be sure to contact me or leave a comment below.

Picture of Dor from GoKart36
Dor from GoKart36

Hi, I'm Dor and since my first lap on a go-kart in Italy, karting became my favorite hobby. I check tracks in many places around the world and am happy to share from my experience.
In my daily job, I am a programmer, and during the season, I race in my local league in the senior category.

More About Me
Phuket Go Kart 390cc 4T

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