Lotus Racing Formula 1 drivers Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli, and Fairuz Fauzy were at the Speedway PLUS Karting Circuit today. Some of Malaysia’s young karters were at the track to meet the drivers and ask questions about the Lotus Racing drivers’ road to F1. Kovalainen, Fauzy, and AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes all took to the track in karts for a bit of fun.
After fielding some questions from Malaysian karters Kovalainen was quick to jump in the karts for a bit of fun. At first Heikki was ready for a push-start but then realised that the Yamaha karts were equipped with an electric start. It took him a lap or two to sort out the carburetor but once he got going he had a lot of fun on the damp track hitting puddles and doing 360s. Eventually Fauzy and Fernandes joined in on the fun and they all had a bit of a battle!
Fernandes wasn’t satisfied with one session so as the track dried out he was back in the kart again racing with and receiving karting tips from Malaysian Junior Rotax Champion and Formula BMW driver Nabil Jeffri as well as Alex Yoong. If it wasn’t for a busy schedule it looked like Fernandes would’ve liked to spend the entire evening in a kart!
Heikki said of Fernandes “I was actually quite surprised with his driving – his driving lines were very good! He does have a weight disadvantage though so it was difficult for him to keep up.” In reality Fernandes had a tough time keeping the kart on the track! When told that Heikki was impressed with his driving Fernandes replied with “I pay his salary he has to say that!”
For some reason Jarno Trulli wasn’t in the mood to drive the karts (perhaps to give Fernandes more seat time?!), but he did give some advice to local karters, signed some autographs, and talked about his enthusiasm for karting.
Fauzy talked about his difficult start in kart racing, because when he started in Malaysia the cadet categories were non-existent so he had to drive powerful karts with massive amounts of ballast to get to the minimum weight. Luckily for Malaysian karters the cadet categories are very popular at the moment!
Kovalainen’s enthusiasm for karting shined through as he answered a lot of questions very thoroughly. On several occasions he brought out the importance of getting an education alongside your efforts at a career in racing. He also emphasized that dedication is incredibly important if you want to succeed. Working harder than everyone else will get you there. “It is incredibly satisfying when you are looking for that 1 tenth in karting and you work very hard with your mechanic or your father or mother and you find that something that the others didn’t! One or two tenths can be 10 or more positions in qualifying in karts which makes every tenth critical”
One of the more interesting questions Kovalainen answered was how he approaches learning a new track. “Every time we go to a track, even to tracks that we have been at before we always walk the track on Thursday with the team. We have our engineers with us to also go over the track. At new tracks I also like to draw the track after walking it. This helps me memorise the track so that when I go out for my first session I won’t have learn which way the track goes – instead I can focus on learning my braking points and fine-tuning my line. I also look at on-board videos on the internet of other drivers to see if I can pick up on anything. Sometimes you can learn something that you might’ve not realised, and sometimes you will notice some mistakes that the other drivers are making.”
He also had some advice on managing your social life and friends. “Your real friends will understand if for example you can’t go out because you have to do your fitness training. You can still have a great social life but you have to realise that sometimes you have to make small sacrifices to reach your goal.”
What are the F1 drivers’ favorite kart tracks?
Heikki Kovalainen said that he has a few favorites in Italy such as South Garda, and in Finland his favorite track is the Alaharma Powepark/Mika Salo Karting Circuit. Jarno Trulli was quick to name Jesolo as his favorite track because “it is special!” Fairuz Fauzy said that the old clockwise layout of the Langkawi track was his favorite because it proved a real challenge to drive and setup for.
Pictures by Mikko Nassi