Ferrari Driver Academy signs Australia’s James Wharton

A 14-year-old Australian has become the newest member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, following in the footsteps of Charles Leclerc and Mick Schumacher.

Victorian karter James Wharton won the FDA’s Scouting World Finals against five other finalists at the famous Maranello headquarters in Italy.

A drive in Formula Four is on offer, but Wharton will need to wait until 2022, because he doesn’t turn 15, the minimum age for the category, until July next year.

“He has considerable natural speed and he combines this with the ability to listen and put into practice the advice he is given,” said Academy head Marco Matassa.

“His level-headed and positive attitude, his ability as a team player and his cheerful nature make him particularly suitable for motor sport, which requires a driver to perform on track but also to be able to communicate with the team, so as to help them with their work.”

Wharton, who names fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo as his favourite driver, is a three-time Australian karting champion.

“It feels really good. The experience was one of the best things ever,” Wharton said.

“It was a really tough week. The whole week was really competitive with the other people that were there and mentally, it was very tough getting up early in the morning and getting back into the hotel late at night.

“I worked very hard the whole week and obviously it has paid off.

“Having the Ferrari name on my race suit and helmet will be a big confidence booster in 2021 as well as having people behind me will certainly help me push through.

“If I keep doing my job properly, there is a good pathway to Formula 1.”

Along with Leclerc and Schumacher, Formula One drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez are also former members of the academy.

Wharton will likely have the chance to follow the same path as Melbourne’s Oscar Piastri. The 19-year-old will drive in F2 in 2021, having won the F3 championship this year, and recently tested a Renault F1 car for the first time.

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