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Ukrainian karting star Sasha Bondarev becomes Williams F1 junior

by Ida Wood

Photo: Williams Racing

Williams has announced that it has added Ukrainian karting star Oleksandr ‘Sasha’ Bondarev to its Formula 1 junior team.

The 14-year-old has had quite a roller-coaster of a career so far, particularly in light of what has happened to his home country since last year, and back in 2021 he was actually competing as a privateer.

For 2022 he was signed by the crack Ricky Flynn Motorsport team to compete in OK-Junior karts, and made the most of it prior to injury. He won the WSK Super Master Series, and was on course for a high position in the Champions of the Future series before having his left leg broken in a violent crash during a round of the CIK-FIA European championship in May.

He was back karting by November, and despite missing events he still came ninth in the CotF standings and 24th in the European points table. At the end of the year he joined the WH Sports management stable that guides the careers of Ferrari protege Ollie Bearman and existing Williams junior Ollie Gray.

Bondarev became a factory Kart Republic driver for 2023, and started the year by coming seventh in the WSK Champions Cup. He followed that up with eighth in WSK SMS and then becoming European champion. With one round to go, Bondarev is also third in the CotF standings and is now driving for Kart Republic’s customer team Prema in that series.

“I am so excited to join the Williams Racing Driver Academy. 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,” said Bondarev.

“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.”

Once he turns 15 next April, Bondarev will be able to race in entry-level single-seaters across the globe. His karting schedule for the rest of this year includes the CotF finale and the CIK-FIA World championship.

“We’re delighted to announce that Oleksandr has joined the Williams Racing Driver Academy,” said Sven Smeets, Williams’ sporting director.

“He’s 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. 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.”