McLaren, Williams, link with teen stars

Thu, 17 May 2007, 12:52

McLaren has set the wheels in motion to possibly recreate in the future the making of formula one sensation Lewis Hamilton.

It was announced on Thursday that the Woking based team led by Ron Dennis had signed up a 14-year-old British karting star — Oliver Rowland, who has been described as the world’s best junior kart driver.

“We are pleased to confirm that Oliver Rowland is part of the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Programme,” a statement issued by said.

F1’s youngest ever championship leader, Hamilton, was famously signed by McLaren as a junior karter in the mid 90s, and is credited as being arguably the best-ever prepared formula one rookie.

Nick Heidfeld and Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta were also groomed throughout their junior careers by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz.

Meanwhile, Williams gave another rising 14-year-old star his first taste of grand prix power this week — at the wheel of the Oxfordshire-based team’s high-tech driving simulator.

Malaysia’s Jazeman Firhan Jaafar, who is backed by Williams’ new sponsor AirAsia, clocked a virtual lap of the Sepang circuit that was within two seconds of Nico Rosberg’s real thing, according to local reports.

Jaafar, who met Sir Frank Williams whilst touring the Grove factory, currently leads the Formula BMW Asia series.

He said: “This was not about securing any deals. It was just an invitation to try out the simulator. What’s important is that we started a relationship.”

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