Williams sign Ukranian karting star Bondarev to young driver academy

Formula 1

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Williams have expanded their young driver development programme to six members with the addition of karter Oleksandr ‘Sasha’ Bondarev.

The 14-year-old is the reigning European champion in OK-Junior karts, a title he claimed this July, and he will be aiming for success in the CIK-FIA World championship later this year.

Bondarev had a breakthrough season in 2022. He went from racing as a privateer to joining one of karting’s top teams, Ricky Flynn Motorsport, and he won Italy’s WSK Super Master Series and was one of the drivers to beat in the pan-European Champions of the Future series.

However he suffered a horror crash in a round of the European Championship. Bondarev’s leg was run over by a rival and broken, and it was only saved thanks to surgery. But by November last year he was back karting and impressed enough to become a factory driver for the Kart Republic manufacturer in 2023.

Bondarev started this year by finishing seventh in the WSK Champions Cup. He was then eighth in WSK SMS and had redemption in the European championship by winning it. With a round remaining, he is also third in Champions of the Future.

“I am so excited to join the Williams Racing Driver Academy,” said Bondarev. “Williams Racing is one of the most iconic teams in motorsport, having had some of the best drivers in the sport race for them and it is an honour to have the chance to be part of that history.”

He thanked Williams’ team principal James Vowles and Williams’ sporting director Sven Smeets for giving him his opportunity.

“Since I was five years old, when I began karting, I dreamt about F1. I have a long way to go, of course, but this is a huge step for me. I always knew that becoming part of an F1 young driver programme was crucial and I will work hard to repay the confidence and belief which James and Sven have placed in me.”

Smeets described Bondarev as “a highly-regarded young talent that we’ve monitored for some time.”

“At just 14 years old, he already has several impressive achievements to his name, including the 2023 European OK-J championship,” he continued. “Oleksandr has shown a lot of potential at an early age and we look forward to supporting his development as he continues his journey in karting.”

Williams’ junior ranks already include Indy Nxt racer Jamie Chadwick and four drivers who raced in FIA Formula 3 this year: Luke Browning, Franco Colapinto, Oliver Gray and Zak O’Sullivan.

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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5 comments on “Williams sign Ukranian karting star Bondarev to young driver academy”

  1. This is great news. Hopefully, he is ready for the challenge. It only gets harder from this moment.

  2. This is just more NATO encroachment on seats that rightfully belong to stars like Mazespin!

  3. BTW, my god, does that up-and-comer’s photo make me feel old. So old…

    1. I remember when Kvyat debuted in F1 nine years ago and how it made me feel that an F1 driver was younger than me.

      Now half of the F1 grid is younger than me. At least thanks to Hamilton and Alonso probably racing till the end of time I hope there will always be some people older than me haha.

      1. @wsrgo When Hamilton, but especially Alonso leave, I think I might be done with F1, unless the cars and balance of competition improves remarkably.

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