Friday, January 22, 2010

Does too young exist?

Yesterday, McLaren signed a 14 year old kart racer named Nyck de Vries for it's young driver development program. He will be managed by the father of another young driving project turned World Champion, Anthony Hamilton; who is Lewis's father.

We all remember the story of Lewis and how at the age 10, he approached then McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at an awards ceremony and told him, "I want to race for you one day" and was signed up less than three years later to their Young Driver Support Program. Clearly all that mentoring, development and talent has reaped huge benefits for Hamilton and we often see the success stories of young teen drivers that make it to the top...Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Jamie Alguersuari and Nico Rosberg..who was one of the youngest drivers to test a F1 car at age 17 back in 2002. It is a credit to these young people that they take on a big responsibility and succeed.

However, in the back of my mind when I hear statements like the parents are fantastically supportive, I can not help to feel that is code for the parents are living vicariously through the child. I think of the Todd Marinovich types of the world that had talent, big support, but were miserable professional failures and ended up with several personal problems.

In looking at F1 and the ten youngest drivers ever to participate in a race, four of them are currently active and hold three F1 championships...Alonso, Vettel, Alguersuari and Jenson Button. The other six: Mike Thackwell participated in 5 races; Ricardo Rodriguez, the talent-rich younger brother of Pedro, died in race practice; Esteban Tuero completed in 16 races before a neck injury ended his career; Chris Amon was generally credited with being a pretty good driver and had a long career but was winless; Eddie Cheever had a long winless F1 career, but was a very successful racing driver in different series across the world and a team owner; Tarso Marques had 26 races but never had a full season in F1.

I wonder if any of those 6 drivers had more time to develop or had access to full professional development programs like today what would their legacy be.

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