- The Inside Line
The heartening tale of 'Little Alonso'Kate Walker January 19, 2015
This week The New York Times ran a feature on a potential racing star of the future, a six-year-old called Rashid al-Dhaheri.
Rashid first decided he wanted to be a racing driver at the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his first experience of motorsport. According to his father, the then-toddler spent all three days staring transfixed at the Ferrari garage. Ever since, he has been making - quite literal - baby steps into the world of racing, working with a race coach and travelling to Italy to begin the ladder of karting progress a single-seater career demands.
It goes without saying that Rashid is an incredibly privileged young boy in that he has the financial support to make these first steps possible. At six his racing overalls - in Ferrari red - feature around half-a-dozen sponsors, and there is vested interest from the Middle East in promoting home-grown racing talent.
But what I found to be the most heartening aspect of Rashid's story was the larger tale it tells about Formula One's impact in the Gulf. He may be but one very young boy whose future is far from set in stone, but the simple fact that there is a young boy out there who fell in love with the sight and sound of the cars and made it his goal to drive them is exactly why there are positives to F1's continued spread around the globe.
For all that we like to moan about the lack of fan support in non-traditional territories, when we do our jobs correctly we create first-generation fans like Rashid in countries new. How many of those famous F1 drivers of the past 60 years first fell in love with the sport when they encountered it as small children? How many of those people working in motorsport are doing so because they were inspired as kids?
We may not be taking Formula One around the world with the altruistic goal of spreading our passion across the seven seas, but there has to be some feel-good silver lining in all that accumulated wealth. For me, right now that silver lining is a small boy in a go-kart going by the nickname "Little Alonso".