Born and bred in the USA Jak Crawford is a young racing prodigy striving for greatness. But not in IndyCar or NASCAR. No, he wants to prove the odds wrong and become the next sensation in Formula 1.

Seeing his dad racing and being at several NASCAR shops at a very young age Jak soon started to develop a passion for motorsport himself. Nowadays the young American is inspired by Max Verstappen’s aggression and determination to win and hopes to follow in his footsteps.

I got to talk to Jak about the very beginnings of his career, the differences between racing in America and Europe as well as his successful 2020 campaign and his future ambitions.


Karting; it’s where it usually starts for every racing driver. And it wasn’t much different for Jak. But the decision of which part he wanted it to play in his future was rather easy to make.

Jak: My dad had bought me a Go-Kart when I was 4. I had driven in parking lots for a couple of years. Once I turned 6, he let me race and it went up from there.I had decided myself at quite an early age I wanted to be a professional driver. Then it was deciding which series I would aim for.


After some very successful and defining years in karts, Jak moved on to participate in legend car races and in the North and Central American Formula 4 Championship (NACAM). Once again he would excel and prove to be one of the most exciting youngsters out there. To have had the chance to drive all types of cars, in the end, was something that Jak would always do again.

Jak: I have driven a lot of different cars on many different kinds of tracks. I would say all my experience in different machinery and conditions helps. I feel I am better to adapt to conditions and to cars and tracks faster than most.

After finishing 2nd in the 2019 NACAM F4 season Red Bull Racing took an interest in the back then 14 year old. They took Jak to Europe and secured him a seat with Van Amersfoort Racing in the German and Italian F4. But with Covid-19 suddenly taking over the world everything changed even more than expected.

Jak: It wasn’t difficult really. I became at home quite quickly with the team so it was good to have that relationship. For me, it was definitely different. All the sim work, testing, and training was all quite a big step for me. Luckily I had a sim in the house I was staying in. Covid-19 did not affect me too bad as my days were passed by with sim racing. I was certainly eager to get back on track. It was a big change and I adjusted well.

Due to the pandemic, it was very long uncertain when he would go back to racing, but eventually, he did. Jak spent this time preparing for the first race, but it wasn’t all that simple and easy. He was without his parents on another continent without knowing how the future would look.

Jak: I wouldn’t say I was really scared. I was more anxious than anything. I think especially with the Covid break I was eager to get on the track. It is a big move and being away from my parents for 6 months was a first for me. I couldn’t thank my parents enough for all they did during the season to work around the corona virus.

But while the world came to a standstill Van Amersfoort Racing put 100% focus on preparing all their drivers to be ready at the season opener. It was not only about getting the car perfect but also the mental state of everyone. In the end, the first moments on track weren’t perfect as Jak had a rather humorous incident.

Jak: We had prepared at the teams’ workshop for most of the time while still following covid guidelines. Doing sim at the shop, going over previous years races, and also testing. I was very excited going into the first race maybe a bit too excited. I had embarrassedly went off track twice in the first fp1 of the year. After that, it was only racing and driving from there.


In 2020 Jak showed some very promising and impressive performances in German F4. He scored a total of five victories and five pole positions to finish 2nd in the championship just 2 points behind fellow Red Bull Junior Jonny Edgar.

Jak: It was obviously quite exciting to get a win. At the point I had won I was falling quite far behind in the championship. After a not so good start, it was good to build momentum and start gaining points back.

All in all, this may sound like a very consistent season but in the end, it was a big rollercoaster. He experienced everything from victory to retirement with the championship slipping away in the end.

Jak: I still think it was a good result and a good season. I had expected going into the year to be at the front and was setting my goal to win the championship. After the race, I felt sort of bitter, as there were many instances where I lost points out of no fault of my own. But I guess that is racing and it happens. Anyways I rather win in F3 than F4 so now focus on that.

 

Racing is always different in each country. Jak got to do NACAM F4 and German /Italian F4; two different continents and definitely two completely different worlds for him.

Jak: It is quite a different atmosphere that is honestly hard to describe and pick out any little things. I think the teams and the quality and working of the teams (in Europe) is a huge difference. The preparation and work put into one single race weekend is a lot more than in America.


After proving his talent in Formula 4 it’s time for Jak to move up to Formula 3 in 2021. He already completed two post-season tests at Catalunya and Jerez in 2020 with Hitech GP, the team he is about to join in 2021. It will be a new car with new characteristics as he already found out. Nevertheless, he is very much looking forward to the new format, new tracks and to compete against new opponents.

Jak: It was quite a big step. I think I adjusted well by the end. It was very challenging, the braking, the downforce, the tires, were all new to me and something new to learn. For me, it was the most fun and exciting thing I have done yet. The FIA F3 car is by far my favourite car. The downforce and braking force is more than anything I’ve driven yet and I love it.

There will be new tracks awaiting the young American to race on including a home race at COTA. Driving in front of your home crowd is something every driver loves and it’s the same for Jak.

Jak: It is nice that I get to be near home for the final race of the season. I am looking forwards to having many sponsors, friends, and family at the event cheering me on. It will be a fun race on a fun track.

Going from F4 to F3 is the usual way through the ranks that you take to get attention from big teams. That doesn’t imply that you’ll end up in F1 but maybe even FE or WEC. Jak has his goal set and it feels like no one will be able to get in his way; especially with him being in Red Bull Racings junior program. He has expectations for himself but there isn’t any pressure that influences him negatively.

Jak: For me, I have expectations always and usually it is to do my best in the next race and ultimately win. But for me, there is no pressure. I know what I have to do every time I go out to be the quickest, I can be. It is a matter of just going out and applying what I have learned and practised. My goal is Formula 1, a couple of years ago I was uncertain of the path I would take and what opportunities would come up. Luckily for me, Red Bull signed me to the junior team and I am making that my single goal and focus.


Furthermore, Jak isn’t just invested to do his best on track but also to help change things off track. He founded Fast Friends Speed School which is a charity that helps disabled, seriously ill, and under-privileged children to have some great experiences. In this way, Jak tries to share his dream with those who aren’t as lucky as him.

Jak: My mother and I both had the idea to start a charity for kids who would not get the chance to drive. So we bought a go-kart and I drove kids around in a two-seater kart for a couple of hours.

‘It means a lot to give back especially to people who would not get to experience these types of things.’


Something we shouldn’t forget when we look at all of this is that Jak is only 15… You heard me right, that guy is still a teenager. To see what he accomplished while still having to deal with growing up is amazing. He is still a teenager and travels around the world while attending school being far away from his parents.

Jak: I do online school. I am able to work at my own pace. So basically, on off days I focus on school and get a lot of work done. Then so when I get to the race weekend I don’t have to worry about school. Currently, during the off season, I am getting ahead and hope to finish sometime next year so I won’t have to worry about it again. It obviously isn’t easy ( to be alone ). This year I will most likely be living out of a suitcase. Hopefully, I will be able to come home this year, unlike last year. I miss just being at home in my own bed and not having to be in a new place every week, even though I love travelling and racing.

After talking so much about the past I really wanted to know what Jak wants his future to look like and I think this was surprisingly easy to answer for him. There are no doubts that he wants racing to still be his main focus. Being in a competitive team in F1 and scoring podiums and wins on a regular basis is where he wants to be in 10 years. A very realistic goal. Jak is a great driver with a kind personality and his future is looking very bright indeed.

‘In 10 years from now, I would like to be in Formula 1. I would like to be in a top seat fighting for wins and podiums.’


A huge thank you goes to Jak Crawford for being so nice and taking the time to answer all of my questions!

I’m really thankful for this opportunity and cant wait to follow his career in the future.

Picture credits: @jakcrawfordracing on Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

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