In the era of the simulator, we are led to believe that drivers who reached the top of motorsport no longer use tracks as a training method. In reality, those who intensely experienced karting for years (i.e. all F1 drivers) try, as soon as they can, to get back behind the wheel of the vehicle with which they began their career. Even if it means doing it in the winter, given the commitments that don’t give them much choice.
To confirm this, ask George Russell, the Mercedes driver with the F1 ROKiT Williams Racing team, who decided he wanted to enjoy a full immersion in karting at South Garda Karting on a cold day in mid-January. The Englishman turned up when the paddock was almost deserted and many teams had not yet unloaded the material from the trucks, although many drivers were expected to arrive for the classic early season tests. Russell, however, was already operational: with his overalls, gloves and chest protectors at hand, but above all, a look that betrayed his impatience to get on the track. Impatience that became even more palpable when he saw the vehicle waiting for him: a Birel ART RY30 S11 with a TM KZ-R1 Red Titan Edition engine, in the identical victorious configuration as that of the 2019 FIA Karting World Championship with Marijn Kremers. The only detail that set it apart was the number 63 on the table, the same that Russell wore on his helmet. The kart was ready and he immediately started to warm up the engine on the trolley, because George didn’t want to miss even one of the available rounds. The first few laps were to get used to the chassis and the track, even if the latter was actually well-known to those who have raced here many times in the past and won the 2012 Winter Cup in KF3. This time, however, Russell had a vehicle to which he was not very accustomed: a KZ kart, which requires an appropriate driving technique to master.
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