Driving fast has been a single goal for Australian racing driver Calan Williams since his father, Greg, took him to a V8 Supercars event at Barbagallo Raceway when he was just six years old.
The sound and the speed of Australia’s premier touring cars racing around Western Australia’s premier race track had him hooked.
Soon he found his fix: Formula 1. In 2007, a certain driver called Lewis Hamilton was making his Grand Prix debut, having rocketed through the junior ranks. The McLaren driver became his idol. In turn, he began to dream of how he could follow in Hamilton’s footsteps.
His parents supported his first forays into karting, and over the next few years the youngster dominated events at the local Tiger Kart Club. In 2015 he stepped up to open-wheel racing against experienced drivers when he made his debut in the Western Australian Formula Ford Championship. Under the watchful gaze of Brett Lupton, who worked with Daniel Ricciardo during his rise through the ranks, Calan qualified on the front row and won his first race.
In his sophomore season, he was the championship runner-up. He graduated to the Australian Formula 3 Premier Series and won the title at the age of sixteen.
If he was to realise his shot at making it all the way to Formula 1, the next step would be to find success in Europe. He impressed in a test outing with Fortec Motorsport and was signed to compete in the EuroFormula Open Championship.
In 2020, he will graduate to the FIA Formula 3 Championship with the Jenzer Motorsport squad, putting him on the same stage as his Formula 1 idols.
Will Calan make it all the way to Formula 1? Our own Charlie Bullis spoke exclusively with Australia’s next hot prospect…
|Calan Williams||Australian||30 June 2000, Perth|
|2015||Western Australian Formula Ford Championship, 9 races, 3 podiums, 10th overall|
|2016||Western Australian Formula Ford Championship, Fastlane Racing, 21 races, 5 wins, 12 podiums, 2nd overall|
|2017||Australian Formula 3 Premier Series, Gilmour Racing, 17 races, 11 wins, 16 podiums, 1st overall
New South Wales Formula Race Car Championship, Gilmour Racing, 6 races, 2 wins, 6 podiums
Queensland Sports & Racing Car Championship, Gilmour Racing, 5 races, 4 wins
|2018||EuroFormula Open, Fortec Motorsport, 12 races, 11th overall|
|2019||Toyota Racing Series, MTEC Motorsport, 15 races, 8th overall
EuroFormula Open, Fortec Motorsports, 18 races, 14th overall
At the age of 6 you discovered motorsport and saved to buy your first helmet then got your own kart at 7 years old. Tell us about the first time you saw Formula 1 and what it felt like to get in your own kart.
I remember I started following Formula One in the break between the 2006 and 2007 seasons and I was initially a fan of Lewis Hamilton because he was the rookie in F1 and that was what I wanted to be! I remember my first time in a kart I was terribly slow and timid, but over time it grew on me and I became a lot more confident.
You won your debut round in the Western Australian Formula Ford Championship in 2015 and in 2016 secured pole position at seven out of ten meetings (including the last six in a row). You won three meetings, secured two other podiums, smashed the lap record at Collie, and set the fastest lap in more than four years at Barbagallo Raceway, all at 15 years old. How much did your driving develop over the year and what were the biggest lessons you learned?
I spent quite a long time practicing in the Formula Ford before I competed in a race. My first drive in one was in December 2014 and my first race was in August 2015, I think this helped a lot in building the foundations for car racing as I was able to learn at my own pace without any pressure.
Qualifying has typically been a strong point for me, I think because it’s more about driving fast – compared to a race where racecraft has to be developed over time. A big lesson I learned in Formula Ford were that you need to be fast, but also understand how to position the car due to how close the racing is.
One example: the last corner at Barbagallo was surprisingly good for outside overtaking, as you could really squeeze your competitor on the inside of the corner (due to the large apex kerb) and force them to take a super tight line. This meant that if you were side-by-side and I was on the outside, I’d know that I could hold the outside as opposed to backing out.
In 2017 you stepped into Australian Formula 3 and won the championship in your debut season as well as claimed all six pole positions and claimed the fastest lap in 13 of the 17 races even though a lot of the tracks you had never driven on before. How did you adapt so quickly?
I think a big help is having your first couple of tests in a new car on a quiet circuit. This means there’s no pressure and you can focus on learning at your own pace. When adapting to a big change this is especially helpful.
Once I was comfortable in the car and understood how it would react to my inputs, it was much easier to look at a circuit and know how I would need to drive a particular corner without having to practice it beforehand.
Truly developing an understanding, and without a doubt, an instinct, for the car you are driving is much more important than a lot of people seem to realise. Trying to learn a new car and a new circuit at the same time makes it a lot more difficult so keeping things the same where possible while learning will make it much more efficient.
You signed with Fortec Motorsport for the 2019 Formula European Masters and it’s your second year with them in the EuroFormula Open F3 Championship, how has the relationship with Fortec helped you develop?
Having a close bond with a team is crucial, as it allows you and the team to understand each other much better. This makes it so much easier to communicate and get the changes I want from the car, and the changes they would like to see in my driving. It accelerates the improvements during a weekend which is such an advantage.
You just tested with Jenzer Motorsport for three days at Valencia for the FIA Formula 3 Championship with the Jenzer Motorsport team. What was that experience like?
It was a great experience, albeit very busy! Thirty cars on track meant it was hard to piece a lap together at times, but learning the car and bonding with the team was the main aim which we certainly achieved! It was a great experience, with more downforce there’s certainly more pressure physically – and mentally as it all happens much quicker.
The Formula 3 Championship has the extra challenge of DRS and Pirelli tyres designed to degrade, how are you feeling about that and how can you prepare yourself?
The tyres will come with experience in testing so I don’t feel too worried about coming to terms with that. DRS is pretty straight forward to use, and you can really feel the difference in drag when it is activated/deactivated which is incredible! It will certainly make the racing tougher which I look forward to.
There are two other young Aussie drivers hoping to get a seat in Formula 1, Jack Doohan and Oscar Piastri who were testing for Formula 3 at the same time as you. Is it nice to have some fellow Aussie drivers in the pack?
It’s nice to see that my home country is doing so well in motorsport to be able to have three drivers in such a high level series. However, having said that, when you’re in a race everyone is a competitor so, in the nicest way possible, I certainly won’t give them any extra room on track!
Your goal has been to get to Formula 1 since you were six years old, how does it feel to keep getting closer to that goal and how do you keep yourself motivated?
It’s always a great feeling to be moving forward in anything, but it is so much more special knowing how proud six year old me would be! I never thought I would get this far, but with the effort of myself and everyone else around me it has become possible, and I hope to keep opening doors in the future.
What advice can you give to young drivers in karting who want to take the leap into open wheelers?
Have a clear goal and be as specific as possible. When I first drove a go kart, and a Formula Ford, I was miles off, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t initially perform as well as you wanted.
Make a note of where you want to be, and record your progress towards that goal. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll make headline news straight away, and I can guarantee that whichever driver you look up to has been beaten in more races than they wish to admit!
However, if you work hard, you’ll continue to improve; and no matter what happens, you’ll always have a chance if you don’t give up. Treat any loss as a way to highlight where you need to improve, and work on that area until it’s a strength!
Images supplied by Calan Williams Racing
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