Imagine getting a contract with a major F1 team before you're even out of high school. That's what Lewis Hamilton got with McLaren when he was young(er), and what karting protégé Will Stevens has achieved with the Honda Racing F1 Team, reflecting a growing trend in motorsport recruitment. While team leaders have always kept an eye on feeder series like Formula 3 and, more recently, GP2, to scout up-and-coming talent, the rising level of competition has driven the teams to start earlier and earlier with their recruitment programs.

At 16 years old, Stevens has the FIA-CIK KF2 European and Asia-Pacific, International Open Masters KF2, WSK Junior ICA and MSA British Junior titles to his name, along with five national championships. He met over the weekend with Honda's Ross Brawn and Nick Fry to sign a long-term driver support agreement that will help him develop and advance through the ranks until he's ready to race in Formula One, giving David Coulthard a heads-up on the next little pischer to complain about. Details are in the press release after the jump.

[Source: Honda F1]

PRESS RELEASE:

Honda Racing F1 Team signs Will Stevens
Karting star to benefit from Honda support through the junior ranks.

The Honda Racing F1 Team is delighted to announce that it has signed 16 year old British karting star Will Stevens under a long-term driver support agreement.

Will is firmly established as one of the leading young kart racers in the world. For the 2008 season he is racing with the prestigious TonyKart Racing Team in the KF1 class competing in all the major European races, alongside participation in the WSK International Series and the World Cup in Japan.

In 2007, Will won the FIA-CIK KF2 European and Asia-Pacific Championships, along with the International Open Masters KF2 title. He was the 2006 WSK Junior ICA Champion and the 2005 MSA British Junior Champion, in addition to winning five previous national titles.

As Will seeks to progress through the junior motorsport ranks, Honda will assist him in developing to the level of performance that is required to potentially become part of Honda's Formula One programme in the future.
Will visited the Honda Racing F1 Team's headquarters in Brackley today to meet Team Principal Ross Brawn and Chief Executive Officer Nick Fry, and tour the impressive facilities of the team's UK operational base.

Ron Meadows, Sporting Director for the Honda Racing F1 Team with responsibility for Honda's Young Driver Programme, commented, "We are delighted to welcome Will to the Honda Racing F1 Team. Will has had a very promising career in karting to date and we very much look forward to assisting his advancement through the ranks of the junior formulae towards achieving his ultimate ambition to race in Formula One. Honda considers the development of emerging motorsport talent to be a key part of our strategy and our commitment to Formula One. We look forward to seeing how Will progresses with our support over the course of the next few years."

Commenting on today's announcement, Will Stevens said, "I am extremely proud to be joining the Honda Racing F1 Team and this provides me with a great opportunity to progress my career towards my goal of reaching Formula One. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me so far in my career and especially Honda for their commitment and support of my future. I intend to do my very best to ensure that their belief in me is rewarded."