What do F1 drivers do in the off-season?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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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