Mercedes F1 protege Powell uses good and bad to rev up driving career
POWELL...last year was one of my most successful seasons, not just in terms of results, but also my consistent improvement throughout the year.

Setting goals is one thing, but having the will to pursue them, especially under difficult circumstances, is another matter.

Jamaica's young karting sensation Alex Powell can attest to that.

Powell will readily tell you that the energy it takes to achieve something doesn't come from merely making it a goal. Instead, it is the emotional band you tie to the goal that makes each effort at it even more worthwhile.

This has long been the driving force that fuels the American-born Powell since he first made headlines four years ago, when he became the first Jamaican and Caribbean driver to join an F1 junior team, at only 11 years old.

So though there have been bumps, as well as physical and mental bruises along the way in the Micro, Mini 60, Ok-Junior, X30 Junior and now the OK (original karting) competitions, Powell continues to rise above challenges and advances towards his goal of becoming a Formula 1 driver, with unflinching determination.

In fact, at the backend of last year, the 15-year-old consistently served notice that his passion for driving and desire to improve was significantly intensified and he continually demonstrated a great deal of focus and seriousness about his craft.

He contested more than 20 races throughout the year — won two races in the ultra-competitive four-race FIA Karting European Championships, placed third in another and later drove his heart out to place fourth in the FIA Karting World Championships — with days in between competition used for practice and school.

"Last year was one of my most successful seasons, not just in terms of result, but also my consistent improvement throughout the year. I improved from race to race, which I think is probably most important because you always want to do better than you did the race before and even when you feel like you are on top, there is always room for improvement and there will always be times when you need to just buckle down and push yourself forward," Powell told the Jamaica Observer from his base in Italy.

Those times Powell refers to were the series of misfortunes that thwarted his early season progress and, at one point, left him trapped in his own mind, much like an explorer lost in a dark cave.

"It was a very difficult period, especially on the mental side. When things aren't going your way, it is always easy to start doubting yourself and your ability. I found myself in that space and made mistakes that I shouldn't have made and that was hard to accept," he explained.

Still, Powell dug deep to muster the strength and encouragement from within by virtue of looking towards his goal at the finish. His determination rekindled the hunger to accomplish his Formula 1 dream and so what he lacked in knowledge, he made up in discipline to succeed.

"So, I had to change a few things. That's the thing with sports, you have to know how to deal with both the highs and lows, especially the lows. Though you don't want to be in that situation, that is the time when you learn the most and so I had to also improve both as a driver and a person to be mentally strong and to be able to deal with that defeat and come back even stronger," Powell, whose father John is a former rally driver, shared.

"That period reminded me that I am more than capable of rising above circumstances because things are not always my fault and I won't be able to control everything.

"So I told myself that the low periods will come but you have to be able to bounce back. If you fall five times, you have to get up six and keep going and I decided to put in the extra work away from the track which made the difference on race days," he added.

To be recruited by one of the largest, most influential Formula 1 teams in the world is a challenge in and of itself and many don't get that opportunity at all, so for Powell, who was named as one of only a few drivers in the Mercedes class of 2023, the feat is simply remarkable.

"It's a great privilege for me, I feel very humbled to be a part of such an amazing team with so much rich history and I just want to continue honing my skills and learn as much as I can. Obviously my goal is to hopefully drive one of those F1 cars in the near future, that's the vision and my motivation as I go forward, as I aim to be the best driver that I can be and I believe team Mercedes can help me with that," he declared.

That said, Powell, is bracing for what should be another intriguing 2023 season in which he will contest mostly KZ (stick shift/gear karts) and OK races in the FIA events.

And with this possibly being his final season in karting, the Jamaican sensation is aiming to go out with a bang by topping the four-round European Championships and World Championships to once again etching his name in the annals of karting history.

"So far this season has been tough because this new KZ category is the best of the best, so I am just trying to absorb as much as possible from the big guys. Those are drivers who have been racing for a while so they have a lot of experience, but as long as I am learning as much as possible from them, I think that hopefully later on in the year I can start to challenge to win races," said Powell.

BY SHERDON COWAN Staff reporter

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