Giovanni Minardi, son of former Formula 1 team owner Giancarlo Minardi, was hugely impressed by the UAE’s Rashid Al Dhaheri, known in local karting circles as ‘Little Alonso’, when the six-year-old made his Italian debut.
Al Dhaheri became the first non-European youngster to be accepted into the EasyTraining programme conducted by EasyKart in Italy, and was the youngest of 22 ‘little league’ drivers who were in action for the third round of the Italian National Series at the International Circuit in Viterbo last weekend.
Making the trip to Viterbo specially to see Al Dhaheri, Giovanni said: “Sincere congratulations to Rashid. It was his first experience in wet conditions and despite his young age he has shown great talent.
“He is proving his ability to handle difficult situations. He has a bright future ahead of him.”
Adding to the challenge for Al Dhaheri was the fact that he was driving at Viterbo for the first time.
During free practice, Al Dhaheri was consistently among the top three and set the fastest time in the second free practice session.
In the first race, on a dry track, Al Dhaheri finished third despite experiencing his first-ever rolling start in a race.
With rain lashing down in the second race, Al Dhaheri was caught out by the unfamiliar conditions and spun on the formation lap and fell to the back of the grid.
Dubai-based British driver Ed Jones is confident of challenging for the top positions when round two of the FIA Formula 3 Championship gets under way at Hockenheim in Germany this weekend, from May 2-4.
Jones had a mixed weekend at Silverstone on the weekend of April 18-19, finishing among the top 10 in all three qualifying races and picking up points in Races 1 and 2 before being pushed down the order in Race 3 after the car behind him clipped the rear right wheel of his Dallara F312.
However, despite spinning off following the collision, Jones managed to finish 15th and eventually ended round one in ninth overall in the standings.
The 19-year-old Brit is coming off a strong 2013 season which saw him win the European F3 Open Championship title, place third in the national class of the British F3 Championship and finish just outside the top 10 in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup.
The Carlin driver is now looking to challenge for the top positions in his first full European F3 campaign, and told Sport360° ahead of the weekend races: “After the strong showing in Silverstone I am looking forward to Hockenheim this weekend.
“I have done a lot of preparation work with the team to ensure that from first free practice we are up to speed and able to challenge for the top positions.
“I am confident that the team and I have made progress with the car after Silverstone.”
Having worked on the car since Silverstone, the Carlin driver is keen to see how the Volkswagen engine on his Dallara performs this weekend.
“It will be interesting to see how our Volkswagen engine performs compared to the other manufacturers at Hockenheim as the characteristics of the track are very different to Silverstone.
“In addition, the weekend may be quite mixed up as the forecast looks like there could be some rain coming.
“Nevertheless, I am really looking forward to the weekend and am prepared for every situation,” added Jones.
Jones will face some stiff competition from not just the established drivers but rookies like Esteban Ocon and Antonio Fuoco, who were on the podium in round one.
While Ocon and Fuoco have got some car-racing experience under their belts, Max Verstappen, who was classified second overall at Silverstone in Race 3, is racing a single-seater for the very first time.
The 16-year-old Dutchman advanced to the Formula 3 European Championship as Kart World Champion and is also a two-time Kart European Champion.
Sport 360° sit down with touring car and endurance driver, Spencer Vanderpal to discuss his many achievements in the sport and find out about his passions off the track.
Name: Spencer Vanderpal
Born: Great Yarmouth, England
Motorsport: Touring car and endurance racing
Motorsport Sponsor: My wife. We have had great difficulties in obtaining sponsorship in Dubai even with the high international profile that SVDP-Racing has.
Years with the sport: 20-plus
Titles/podiums: Middle East touring car champ, 1st place in class at the 2013 Dubai 24H plus podiums in Barcelona, Yas, Dubai and Silverstone.
Favourite childhood memory of sport: Canoeing a Marathon at the age of 10.
Favourite driver/rider growing up: Sir Sterling Moss.
Best driver: Matt Neale, BTCC.
Other sports you have played and to what standard: Boxing, national level; Basketball, national level.
Greatest achievement in any sport? Winning the Dubai 24H in class D1 in 2013 and a Norwegian cycle race of 106 miles cross country in 4hrs 55mins.
If you could be a pro in any sport: Football.
Favourite meal: My wife’s Sunday lunch.
Favourite place in the UAE: The beach.