World karting champions Nyck De Vries and Matthew Graham were guests at the FIA Gala on Friday 9 December.
Having held its inaugural Grand Prix in October, India served as the setting for the FIA's champions in karts and cars to receive their awards. The gala was hosted by Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi instead of Monte Carlo.
De Vries won the CIK KF1 World Championship for the consecutive time in 2011 after duelling for the title with Red Bull supported British driver Alexander Albon.
“Winning two back-to-back Karting World Championships is obviously awesome, more especially as these two titles gave me different sensations,” the Dutchman said. “The 2010 World Championship was held over a single-event, so landing it was emotionally very strong. In 2011, the format has been extended to five events and a total of 20 races. The title is therefore the outcome of a whole season. It all started beautifully, with four wins out of four races in Germany; then it got more complicated because of a few mechanical issues and a change to the starting procedure regulations which caused us some problems of adaptation.
"However, in spite of this, we showed that we were in a position to prevail at each event. I achieved one or several lap records and claimed at least one of the four races scheduled each weekend. After the title I took in 2010 maybe I had more to lose than gain by going for another season in karting, but at the end of the day I grabbed the crown, won nine out of the 20 Championship races and stored up experience, mainly mentally, which will be helpful for my maiden season in single-seaters.”
Graham emulated his friend Jake Dennis and won the U18 World Championship. After racing in KF3 and winning the Asia Pacific Championship, Graham signed to drive for Msport Karting.
“It was a great series to do and the U18 World Championship is very enjoyable,” he said. “At the time to step up in this World Championship we were looking for good finishes, not necessarily for the title. Only after round 1 in Italy, at Ortona, where I won, we thought winning it would be achievable. In France, I came third and going into the last round at Sarno I had a good chance to win. Weather conditions were awful, nearly stormy, and I finished the final race third.
"When crossing the line, I was not sure whether I took the title, as I could not see my main rival, Finland's Ovaska. But I realised I did it when I saw my parents hanging over the grandstand railing and waving and cheering!”
As well as the karting championships and Zanardi karts, both drivers are indirectly connected to Mclaren's Lewis Hamilton. De Vries is managed by Hamilton's father Anthony and Graham's team Msport Karting is run by Hamilton's former mechanic Keiran Crawley.
In regards to the duo's future plans, De Vries said at the final round of the championship in Suzuka Japan that he had competed at his last kart race. He tested a Formula Renault at the Catalunya circuit in Spain for Josef Kaufmann Racing in October. Graham has tested a Formula BMW in the past but is likely to stay in karts.