What do F1 drivers do in the off-season?

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Four F1 drivers are expected to contest the 2009 Race of Champions
Four F1 drivers are expected to contest the 2009 Race of Champions

Chaz sent in this question via Skribit:

What do drivers do to keep up their race craft when season ends until it begins again five months later?

With poor Mark Webber breaking his leg during an off-season activity this weekend F1 drivers may find their winter fun even more tightly restricted in the future. Here’s what they’re getting up to this year:


A firm favourite off-season activity of mine, but inevitably the F1 drivers’ karting pursuits are a bit more hardcore than half an hour down the local arrive & drive.

Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello and Nelson Piquet Jnr contested the 500 Milhas de Kart Granja Viana 2008 last week. Barrichello scored his eighth win in the 500-mile race.

Most F1 drivers started their careers in karting including Lewis Hamilton (more videos of him karting here). In October Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica took each other on in a mano-a-mano kart race in Shanghai.

This weekend more F1 stars will be racing karts in Brazil in the International Challenge of Go-kart Champs in Brazil. The annual event organised by Felipe Massa has grown in stature since it was first held in 2006 and has had television coverage in Europe thanks to the presence of Michael Schumacher.

Massa and Schumacher are expected to be joined by Vitantonio Liuzzi this year for the race in Florianopolis. There had been rumours Robert Kubica, Sebastien Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais might attend as well. NASCAR star Jeff Gordon wil lbe among the other top international racing drivers competing. Ex-F1 racers joining in include Antonio Pizzonia, Ricardo Zonta, Luciano Burti and Tarso Marques.

Eurosport’s website says the channel will be showing ‘live karting’ this Sunday, but my Sky TV box doesn’t agree with it. If anyone finds out where it is being shown in Britain or anywhere else, please post details in the comments!

Race of Champions

Mark Webber (right) was originally intending to do the Race of Champions
Mark Webber (right) was originally intending to do the Race of Champions

Another annual event that has become very popular in recent years, the Race of Champions is being held at Wembley in 2008.

This pits racing drivers from a host of different disciplines against each other in a range of machinery. This year the competition machinery includes the 2008 Ford Focus WRC rally car, KTM X-Bow (above), and the classic RoC car, plus others.

This year’s elite roster includes Schumacher (anyone else think he’s missing racing?), Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and David Coulthard from the world of F1, plus Sebastien Loeb, Tom Kristensen, Andy Priaulx, Mattias Ekstrom, Travis Pastrana and more.

Lewis Hamilton will be attending the event but his participation will be limited to an exhibition race in a Mercedes sports car against Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Chris Hoy. Both are in contention for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award and will be leaving the stadium after the event, which is a disappointment for those of us who wanted to see Hamilton up against the likes of Schumacher. Maybe next year.

Mark Webber was also supposed to be racing this year but unfortunately…

The Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge

This might be off the itinerary for F1 drivers next year. Which is a great shame because as well as being a charity endeavour, Mark Webber’s gruelling tour through Tasmania is a serious challenge of fitness.

I hope he still plans and is able to do it again next year. After all he didn’t break his leg falling down a mountain, he was hit by a car.

Snowmobile racing

Kimi Raikkonen infamously preceded his first race appearance for Ferrari in 2007 by contesting a snowmobile race. He entered it using the pseudonym ‘James Hunt’ – an homage to the 1976 world champion known for his cavalier antics, who surely would have endorsed Raikkonen’s ‘don’t-give-a-damn’ attitude.

Raikkonen won, of course. No idea if he’s doing something similar this year, but keep an eye out for any further appearances of ‘James Hunt’.

Any more?

Do you know of any other F1 drivers going racing this winter?

Robert Kubica likes to dabble in rallying but, unlike Moto GP champion Valentino Rossi, there seems to be no chance of him appearing in the Rally of Great Britain.

What about you – how are you coping with the off-season? Check out out 40 ways to cope with no F1 for four months here:

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 13 comments on “What do F1 drivers do in the off-season?”

    1. Oooh, I wonder if that live karting is the Asia-Pacific Championship? It’s in Macau though, not sure if it’s the right time for it to be that. Otherwise it could be the Rotax Max World Finals in Italy. Neither have anyone famous racing but are worth watching – the Asia-Pacific is professionals and F1 wannabes and the Rotax Max is ordinary people.

      But you’re right about the Sky programme guide, it’s showing F1: The Factory for me. Suck it and see I guess. I looked on both their websites but no joy, can’t think of any other events that it might be.

    2. Thanks for this Keith.

      I find it interesting that some drivers are allowed to do these other racing events. I was under the impression their contracts did not allow it. And with the recent Webber incident can we expect teams to tighten this ‘loop hole’.

      I’m still left amazed that this relatively little off season recreational racing – furthermore considering it is in many cases a totally different type of racing category, and happens relatively infrequently – is enough to keep their skills fine tuned to F1. Even with off season testing, which has been further reduced, I guess we gotta give it to the driver… they are damn talented.

      Then again there is the simulator. Question – But do we really know how valuable and realistic and beneficial this is to the drivers? That is, I know the simulators are good, but just how good?

    3. I was really looking forward to seeing Mark at Race of Champions this year and was so sorry to hear of his accident. I’m glad he’s on the mend

      Strange though how the ROC promoters have not updated their website to say he won’t be there and/or who will be replacing him for Team Australia.

      Surely they’re not still expecting him to go?!?!?

    4. Kimi entered a powerboat race with his mates, dressed in gorilla suits, as James Hunt aswell.

      Chaz, there’s a great video of Nico Rosberg learning the Singapore track on the Williams simulator. You can find it on the official attwilliams site. Looks pretty cool to me! I’ve read somewhere that they’re good for learning the circuit layouts, but not that realistic – but surely they’d be improving all the time.

    5. Mary-Ann – I’m getting F1 withdrawal already so I’ll probably watch even if it’s a cadet kart race from Buckmore Park!

      Toby – that video’s here: F1 video: Onboard lap of Singapore with Nico Rosberg on the Williams F1 simulator

    6. About the international Challenge of Go-kart Champs in Brazil, here in Brazil Globo TV will broadcast it live, Globo has an international channel, but i don’t know which providers actually have the channel…if you look up on google you might find some websites with live streamings from Globo or SporTV (brazillian sports channel) to watch…

      and just to name other famous drivers that will be taking part of the event: Barrichello, Da Matta (former Toyota), Luca Badoer, Lucas di Grassi, Tony Kanaan nad Vitor Meira (IRL), Alex Barros (MotoGP), Roberto Pupo Moreno (from the late 80’s until mid 90’s F1, raced for teams like Andrea Moda and Forti Corsi).

    7. Also about the Go-Kart Challenge, there’s an unfortunate coincidence surrounding the race: an unprecedent storm killed 99 people in Santa Catarina last week, where Florianopolis is located, many cities are still under water (such as Itajai, where looting afected even the Firefighters General Quarter) and some bloggers (such as Fabio Seixas) even suggested cancelling the race as a reasonable measure…

      Rubens Barrichello gave an interview in a brazilian TV Station (Rede Record) sustaining the race is confirmed, and that he will donate his helmet and overalls to raise funds to help more than one million people affected by the floods, and that he would talk to Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher to do the same…

    8. This one?

      Live Karting

      World Championship :The World Championship. Coverage of the prestigious event from Brazil, featuring some of the finest young drivers…
      Sunday 30th November at 3:00pm on Eurosport 2

    9. i was really hoping to see Australia win the race of champions :P

      i reckon they may get Marcos Ambrose or some sought of V8 driver to replace Webber. Maybe even Will Power or Ryan Briscoe.

    10. Jacques Villeneuve and Berger among otheres did skiing!

    11. Daniel – I talked to one of the RoC guys yesterday, Briscoe was the first name that came up.

    12. This is what Kimi does in the off season:


      Who said he doesn’t have any personality?

    13. If you want to follow live timing for the International Challenge of Kart Champs you can find it here:


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