After winning a prized position in the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA), Australian teenager James Wharton has been enjoying life with the famous motorsport team.
Wharton beat competitors from around the globe during the Scouting World Finals late last year to earn contract with the FDA, which will see him compete in a European Formula 4 Championship in 2022.
Due to his young age, he was entered into a specific training program for this year where he spends time training for next season and almost every weekend karting in different championships and classes.
Unfortunately, results haven't been going entirely his way, however the 14-year-old is still getting plenty out of his first year.
Since joining the academy, he has been living with Arthur Leclerc, the brother of F1 star Charles, and Swedish driver Dino Beganovic, where he has been learning about how to improve off the circuit.
“Joining the FDA is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. The FDA is very supportive of me and what I am doing," Wharton said.
“I am there two to three times a week doing activities for next year and a lot of it is sim work for next year. I am also focusing a lot on the car for next year as they want me prepared.
“Living with Dino and Arthur is also going well, and I am learning a lot from them like how they prepare, how they live week to week, how they eat, how they help themselves or what they do during the weekend and it’s really good to get this insight from people who are further down the line seeing as I am three years younger.
“Overall, this year hasn’t gone to plan in terms of results but knowing that it’s the last year of karting, our main focus is next year and the FDA understands that which is really good.”
Wharton is currently racing in both the CIK-FIA OK class, which hosts some of the best karters around the world and the KZ2 class which are fastest machines in the world, giving competitors a chance to really understand gear shifting and standing starts.
Unfortunately the Victorian isn’t having the same impact as last year in the OK class, the class he had predicted a good season in, but instead, he has been exceeding expectations in KZ2.
Despite the tough first year, the FDA have been impressed with Wharton’s raw ability and his way of getting the best out of a kart that is far weaker than the rest in the field.
"It’s been a tough second year in the OK class and we have actually gone a little bit backwards,” Wharton explained.
“The challenge is that I am taller and weigh more than all the other competitors, so my centre of gravity is too high and I lose a lot of performance in the chassis.
“However when it comes to the KZ class, I am actually going really well, having only ever driven one of these karts twice in my life before this year.
“We’re eighth in the championship because It’s not about height or weight, it’s just about the driver and other fundamentals of driving, which is why I am doing well.
“The FDA understands all this and they don’t care about any of the results. They want me to embrace the hard times and get the maximum out of the kart every week and that’s something that I have been doing.
“I am learning a lot, I am really grateful that I have this opportunity and I can’t wait to compete in an F4 car next year.”