In the footsteps of Daniel Ricciardo
Whether European or global, the FIA Karting events bring together drivers from all over the world. In 2019, an Australian driver was the revelation in the form of James Wharton, who celebrated his 13th birthday this summer. Taking advantage of the sage advice of six-time World Champion Mike Wilson, he was consistently prominent in OK-Junior.
Before coming to Europe to race, did you drive a lot in Australia?
Yes, as I started at the age of two! In Australia, I live next door to a kart track and I’ve always wanted to try. I loved it straight away. Of course, at first it was just for fun and I had to wait until I was seven years old to start competing in the Mini. Over the years, I have won races and championships. Then I had the opportunity to come to Europe, as I qualified for the Rotax World Finals in 2016 in Italy and 2017 in Portugal, as well as for the Rok Cup International Final. It made me want to continue on this continent, in order to reach an even higher level. In 2018, I started with a few races in OK-Junior, which also exists in Australia. 2019 is my first full season in this category.
What are the circuits in Australia like?
I come from Melbourne, where the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix is held. We are lucky to have three or four outstanding circuits nearby. The competitions are interesting and competitive. When I was racing there, I was facing a dozen very talented drivers. Our National Championship remains attractive, even if it sometimes requires long journeys to get to certain circuits. I am more than 700 km from Adelaide and 900 km from Sydney.
Have you had any difficulties getting used to European competitions?
No, I quickly found my confidence. I’ve been lucky to have the same mechanic for seven years. Whether I am in my own team, as last year or in a structured team, I adapt and do everything to improve in order to get the best possible results. I had an interesting experience with the RFM team before I joined Parolin. I’m also being supported by Mike Wilson. His advice is valuable, I have learned a lot from him.
In your opinion, what is the most difficult aspect to manage in an FIA Karting meeting?
Everything is difficult! You have to constantly try to be better than the others, on the track, but also with your team to improve the equipment. Describing how it feels as precisely as possible is important. I think it is useful to have one or more fast team members, it allows you to compare data acquisition and analyse where you need to improve. A driver who finds himself alone, with no benchmark, will have to work even harder. On the other hand, it’s interesting.
Timed Qualifying has become even more important than in the past. Is this a moment you enjoy?
It’s very exciting, because we only have a few laps to complete the perfect lap. A race will be much easier if you start on the front few rows. Starting in the middle of the pack, or even further back, requires taking risks and this can lead to clashes and penalties.
In Europe, competitions follow one another rapidly. How do you manage it?
For most of the season, I am based in Croatia. It’s not very far from Italy and it allows me to continue my education between races. I had to wait until after the World Championship in Finland to return to Australia. I was looking forward to returning to my country, my little sister, my family and my friends.
Who is your favourite driver in Formula 1?
Charles Leclerc. He is a very talented young driver. I also support my compatriot Daniel Ricciardo.
What is your goal for the future?
I would like to follow the path of the two drivers I just mentioned and one day reach F1! In any case, I hope to go as far as possible in motor sport. For the moment, I plan to continue in OK in 2020, so I will try to prepare myself for this new challenge in the best conditions.
Info FIA Karting / © Photo KSP