The 2023 Monaco Grand Prix has just rewarded three excellent drivers. Max Verstappen – Red Bull beat Fernando Alonso – Aston Martin, while Esteban Ocon took a fantastic 3rd place with Alpine. As a Frenchman, we were extremely pleased to see Ocon on the podium, especially as we knew him well from his karting days, and we join in the chorus of cheers for him.
It is widely accepted that the Monaco street circuit is a track where the talent of the drivers is showcased more than anywhere else. In the Principality, you have to be fast and confident, as the slightest mistake can have serious consequences. As early as Qualifying, the 2022 winner Sergio Perez – Red Bull saw all his hopes dashed when he made violent contact with the safety barriers in Q1 at Sainte Dévote. Lando Norris – McLaren destroyed the front end of his car in Q2 at the swimming pool. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari was penalised three places for obstructing Norris under the tunnel in Q3, due to an information deficit on the part of his team. During the race, other mistakes were punished, particularly in the rain: at Mirabeau alone, small mistakes cost George Russell – Mercedes dearly, as he destroyed his advantage, Carlos Sainz – Ferrari lost his chance of a podium finish and Lance Stroll – Aston Martin retired. With a car that is not yet one of the best, Esteban Ocon showed the extent of his talent by staying on the pace in all conditions, his faultless run earning him a place on the Monaco podium and the congratulations of his peers. With Pierre Gasly in 7th place, Alpine showed no signs of amateurism.
After this long F1 interlude, let’s attempt to draw a parallel with karting. Among the youngest drivers, the ability to avoid making mistakes is associated with great maturity. It is less valued than a driver’s speed, yet its importance is just as great over the course of a career. This infallibility, appreciated by all the teams, is the result of continual concentration, great racing intelligence and strong determination. Just like speed behind the wheel, these skills can and must be worked on by aspiring champions. We recently spoke in these columns of the virtues of adaptability, and now we are adding other qualities to the long list of boxes to be ticked by ambitious drivers. It’s worth repeating that becoming a champion is a long-term process that requires a great deal of effort.
The third round of the French Junior Championship run by the FFSA Academy, which has just taken place at Varennes, may well illustrate our point this week. This competition, inspired by the FIA Karting Academy Trophy, pits drivers aged 12 to 15 against each other on identical karts. The fairness of these two competitions is a matter of course, despite the fact that some will argue that there is no such thing as fairness. The Vortex engines, whose performance is already very close to identical, are swapped several times during each meeting. As a result, individual potential is much clearer than in other categories. Two drivers went head to head in the Junior FFSA at Varennes: Walter Schulz and Pacôme Weisenburger. They were separated by 67 thousandths of a second in the Prefinal and 78 thousandths in the Final. Needless to say, no mistakes were made on their way to the Final. Still leader in the Championship standings, Lisa Billard crashed out in the first Qualifying Heat. Thanks to her determination, she was able to minimise the negative effects of her crash and climb back up to 3rd place in the Final. But who can predict the consequences of this minor incident? The top three in the provisional rankings, Lisa, Walter and Pacôme, are now separated by just 10 points, with two events left to run and each of them capable of earning 45 points. Even more than in real life, in motor racing any mistake is paid for dearly, and that’s the beauty of the sport.
Info Kartcom Selection / © Photo KSP – Guillaume Veuve