Rise to Formula One

The Sport Space’s F1 writer, Kyle Archer, looks at the path Formula One’s rookies took in the search of their dreams.

Whether you dominated from the off, paid your way in or scrapped your way through the tiers, everyone has their stories of how they got to where they are. Today we look at how Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Jr., and Felipe Nasr made it to the top of the motor racing pyramid.

Max Verstappen’s career in motorsport is far shorter than the other two’s given the Dutchman is just 17. But in that time he has caught the attention of the world, and in particular Red Bull who brought him in to the team’s young driver programme ahead of confirming his Toro Rosso race seat for 2015.

But for Max it all began at just four-and-a-half years old when he competed in a junior karting championship in his home province of Limburg, Netherlands. After a few years, and still not even 10-years-old, he moved on and began to rack up the trophies in the junior karting championships Belgium and Netherlands have to offer.

It would be another few seasons of trophies for Verstappen before another graduation, but in 2010 he launched his career on the international stage when he was signed by the CRG factory team to compete in both world and European championships. With the CRG kart under him Max gave the World an early taste of his talent, coming second in his first KF3 World Cup to Alexander Albon. But it was Verstappen who got the better of the other in order to win when it came to the WSK Euro Series. A trophy Max picked up along with the WSK World Series.

2011 saw Max defend his WSK Euro Series trophy before moving on once again, this time for the KF2 and KZ2 classes which saw more trophies making their way into his ever growing collection. Then in 2013 his karting days were over after picking up victories in the KZ1 series, which is the highest karting category despite Max only being 15.

With victories and trophies in a range of karting categories, his next step forward saw him landing various test drives with Formula Renault and Formula 3 cars. These tests provided Verstappen with a chance to show what he could do behind the wheel of a car and he did so by posting faster lap times than the experienced drivers around him. These times then set him up for his first race seat in a car, which was given to him for the Florida Winter Series where he won two of the twelve races.

Nevertheless Verstappen landed on his feet come the end of the tournament, securing a race seat for the Van Amersfoort Racing team in European Formula Three for 2014. Across the year and in his first season of car racing, Max picked up numerous wins and ended the season in third. In fact he won 10 races, ended the season 67-points behind Ocon and secured a Formula One race seat with Toro Rosso following Kyvat’s promotion to Red Bull.

Now with his debut Formula One season in full swing after the first test at Jerez, his Race Engineer at Toro Rosso, Xevi Pujolar, has stated in an interview with GP Update that Max could be one of the best. Pujolar also said: “Some guys might be 10 or 15 years in motorsport, or even in F1, and their level of professionalism will never be as good as Max’s is at the moment. He wants to be the best and he works 100% for that.”

Carlos Sainz Jr. - HD - credit- Joseph Wright/racingexposure.com

Joining Verstappen at Toro Rosso is another youngster from Red Bull’s development programme and although Carlos Sainz Junior may be a few years older than young Verstappen, he makes up for it with a lot of experience across a range of car racing categories.

He was born in Madrid, Spain back in 1994 to the former World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz, and like Verstappen started his career in karting. But Carlos’ career in Karting saw a little less trophies than Max, however in 2009 he took home the prestigious Junior Monaco Kart Cup and ended the European KF3 Championship as runner-up.

From there on in his karting days were behind him and he found himself applying his trade on the Formula BMW grid as part of the EuroInternational team. To begin with, he featured as a guest driver on the Formula BMW Pacific series where he took a fourth place, a second place, one retirement, along with a win. These results caught the eye of Doctor Helmut Marko,  who recognised the strong start to his car racing career.

Moving on from his guest drives on the Pacific series, Carlos saw a mixed start to his full career after picking up 3 pole positions, 2 wins in his first 9 races which also featured a few poor results. As his time in Formula BMW continued, the mixed results continued to come home. Despite this he managed to finish the season strongly and secured 4th place in the championship with 227 points.

Now his career was developing nicely and with that a change of scenery came as he moved to Formula Three in 2012, competing in both the British and European series.

Whilst competing in the British Championship, he managed to rack up a total of five victories along with nine podium finishes, resulting in sixth place in the championship. Compare this to his Euroseries results, and he did far better in Britain with just two podiums and two pole positions across Europe leaving him ninth in the championship.

In the end Carlos spent just one year in Formula Three before moving on again to apply his trade in GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5 in 2013. At the start, GP3 was the focus for Sainz Jr. but after a mixed first half of the season, he began competing more in the Formula Renault championship and stayed there for another season, all be it with a different team. Nevertheless, in the first race weekend of 2014 Carlos picked up the win and bettered his previous season’s points total.

Come the end of the season, Carlos Sainz, Jr. followed in the footsteps of Robert Kubica, Giedo van der Garde and Kevin Magnussen to take the championship after recording a total of seven victories from 17 races. Carlos also recorded 227 points and seven pole positions before being named Verstappen’s partner at Toro Rosso following Jean-Eric Vergne’s departure.

Given that the two rookies are young and fairly inexperienced, it would be assumed that it would come back to bite the team. However Toro Rosso’s technical director, James Key, believes the pair already have shown their age will not prevent them and in an interview with ESPN, Key said: “I don’t envisage any problems, actually … I think the level of maturity we’ve seen from Max and Carlos has been well beyond what the paper might say with their age on it. They’ve both grown up in an environment of motor sport so they know it very well and their technical feedback they’ve given from the simulator runs we’ve done and the little bit of car running we’ve done has been absolutely spot on.”

Felipe Nasr - Bahrain 2014 - Credit sportsrant.comAnd finally we come to Sauber’s F1 rookie, Felipe Nasr.

Felipe was born in Brasília, the capital of Brazil, back in August 1992 making him the oldest of the three rookies on 2015’s F1 grid. But in his lifetime he has found experience in a range of racing categories, including endurance racing after competing in the 24 Hours of Daytona back in 2012 where he finished third.

Yet it all started when he was seven-years-old and in karting. A time that was very successful for the Brazilian, racking up several championships during the eight year period he competed in Brazil.

From there Felipe stepped up into the Formula BMW Americas championship in 2008 and made his debut at Interlagos. This race also supported the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton won his first Formula One World Drivers Championship. However the race also marked the end of the Formula BMW Americas series for the year.

With that championship over, Nasr moved to Europe and competed in the Formula BMW EuroInternational championship during 2009. A phenomenal first season left the young Brazilian going home with the title after winning 6 of the 16 races, finishing 14 of them and claiming the title by a whopping 104 points from his team-mate Daniel Juncadella.

With that title under his belt, another move for Nasr was on the cards, this time for British Formula Three where he ended the season in fifth place.  However the following season was far better and with a new team, Carlin Motorsport, Nasr picked up the title 123 points ahead of his team-mate and former McLaren F1 driver, Kevin Magnussen.

With yet another commanding title victory to the Nasr name, GP2 was the next location in his career after joining DAMS.  The team would go on to win the drivers championship with Davide Valsecchi, however Nasr’s 10th place in the drivers championship also meant the team would rack up the GP2 teams’ championship.

But despite DAMS winning both 2012 titles, Nasr moved to Carlin’s GP2 team for 2013 alongside Jolyon Palmer. Here he would go on to finish the season in fourth place, improving on the previous year before choosing to stay at the team for another year. 2014 was also a significant year in Nasr’s F1 plans after securing the reserve driver role at Williams.

But in GP2 he would be partnering the Colombian Julián Leal, and by round 2, Nasr secured his first GP2 victory after finishing first in the sprint race in Barcelona. He would then go on to pick up a further three victories and end the season in third place.

Now with the 2014 GP2 season over, Nasr again looked for a Formula One drive and unlike Verstappen and Sainz Jr. who were selected from Red Bulls junior driver programme to join Red Bull’s sister team, Nasr used his sponsorship from Banco do Brasil to help his way into a struggling Sauber team who needed cash injected quickly.

With that, the career’s of Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Jr., and Felipe Nasr have been covered. All three boast CV’s packed with victories, titles and success from early days and all three should be a pleasure to watch in Formula One 2015.

Kyle Archer

The Sport Space

The Sport Space’s F1 writer, Kyle Archer, looks at the path Formula One’s rookies took in the search of their dreams.

Whether you dominated from the off, paid your way in or scrapped your way through the tiers, everyone has their stories of how they got to where they are. Today we look at how Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Jr., and Felipe Nasr made it to the top of the motor racing pyramid. 

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