Marko Asmer was born in the Eastern European state of Estonia in 1984 when it was still under Soviet control. His father Toivo was a racing driver before becoming Estonia’s minister of regional affairs from 1999-2003. His son became the first Estonian to test for a Formula 1 team when he drove a Williams-BMW in 2003.
Asmer won the Estonian, Baltic, Finnish and Scandinavian kart championships, and claimed the World Kart Championship title before pursuing a racing career in Britain. In 2003 he won the British Southern and Northern Formula Ford Championship, did a couple of Formula Renault V6 races and was second in the prestigious Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. He got his first F1 test that year for Williams despite his relative lack of experience in race cars.
Asmer began the first of what would be four years in Formula Three in 2004. The first two were in the British championship with Hitech Racing, for whom he delivered two fastest laps and tenth overall in 2004, then six podiums and two pole positions (but no wins) en route to fourth in the championship the next year. Asmer was also the highest-placed British F3 driver in the annual F3 Masters and Zandvoort (seventh overall).
For 2006 he tried his hand at the Japanese series and scored a single win. He planned a dual assault on the British and Japanese championships for 2007, but quickly elected to focus his energies on the British series. He dominated it, winning 11 of the 22 races and beating Maro Engel by 85 points. He also made his fourth appearance in the Macau F3 Grand Prix, finished a best-ever fourth, and scored fastest lap.
That winter he was confirmed as BMW’s second test driver alongside Christian Klien. BMW picked Asmer over GP2 race-winner Javier Villa. Asmer said:
I always hoped for an opportunity to get into Formula One. Naturally I did everything I could to avoid any mistakes and to do a good job. I learnt a lot while driving in the tests at Jerez and Valencia, but also as a spectator and observer.
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