James Wharton, 14, has taken a step toward the heights of Formula 1 by winning the Ferrari Driver Academy Scouting World Finals and a place in the junior programme.
The likes of Charles Leclerc, Lance Stroll, Sergio Perez, and the late Jules Bianchi all went through the academy on their way to Formula 1.
Wharton was one of two young drivers from Australia selected by Motorsport Australia to participate in the world finals.
The teenager will spend the duration of 2021 on a training programme with the Ferrari Driver Academy before graduating to a Formula 4 championship in Europe come 2022.
The achievement was made all the more special given the fact Wharton had been vying for the prize with a broken arm, which he suffered in a non-motorsport related incident.
Wharton also had to undergo hotel quarantines whilst commuting between Australia and Italy during the selection process.
“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.”
Ferrari Driver Academy, Marco Matassa praised Wharton for his efforts in the finals.
“James Wharton impressed us in many ways. He has considerable natural speed and he combines this with the ability to listen and put into practice the advice he is given,” Matassa said.
“We saw that at Fiorano from the way he drove in both dry and wet conditions. His level headed and positive attitude, his ability as a team player and his cheerful nature make him particularly suitable for motorsport, 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.
“Being able to express the feeling from the car into words is no easy matter and James proved adept at it.
“He is also well educated, respectful and humble; values which fit well with those of the FDA.
“James’ selection also shows that the FDA’s scouting system, which it expanded this year, works well and I’d like to thank Motorsport Australia for identifying James’ talent for us.”
Motorsport Australia President Andrew Papadopoulos congratulated Wharton on the achievement.
Wharton is the first driver from Australia to earn a place in the Ferrari Driver Academy
“James should be immensely proud of being selected to join the Ferrari Driver Academy – an elite pathway program that has already proven to produce some amazing talents,” Papadopoulos said.
“To emerge as the selected candidate through such a rigorous testing procedure is testament to his skill and potential. He has clearly shown that Australian motorsport has a very strong future.
“The FDA team have told me just how impressed they were with James’ abilities and skill and like us, are very excited for his future prospects.
“To follow in the footsteps of other world class drivers who have gone before him should also fill James with confidence about what lies ahead for his motorsport career.
“This is the first year in a very exciting partnership with the FDA and we are excited to once again bring this program to Asia Pacific in 2021 to find yet more future stars who can be part of the selection process, just as James did.”