Abu Dhabi: At the tender age of five, kids are normally busy memorising their rhymes, watching their favourite cartoon shows or busy trying out their new games in the PlayStation. But five-year-old Rashid Al Dhaheri is a child prodigy nurturing different pursuits. Most of the time, he is found at the racing tracks training hard in pursuit of becoming a champion Formula One driver.
It may sound like a far-fetched dream right now, but Rashid’s passion for speed so early in life does give first glimpses of where he is headed to. He is already a popular figure in his school and has given presentations on Formula One cars that have even amazed his school teachers.
“He is very focused about what he wants. He understands Formula One and knows almost all the F1 drivers. We are happy he is already chasing a dream at this age,” said his father Ali Al Dhaheri.
Rashid has already taken the first steps towards his dream, creating waves in the junior category in the UAE. In his debut season, the Emirati kid has already notched up nine podiums and four successive wins despite being the youngest in the circuit.
Rashid is preparing to take a big leap as soon as he turns six next month. He will be travelling to Italy to participate in the Italian Championships (Easy Kart category). “He will miss the first race since he would not have turned six. But from April he will participate in all the races which run till October.
“It will be a great experience for him as he will be up against some of the best racers in his category. It should give him good exposure,” his father said, adding: “Last summer, he undertook intensive training sessions in Italy and returned to begin his racing career starting at the UAE Rotax Max Challenge Series in Al Ain.”
It was in 2011 when Rashid, just three then, made his first visit to the Ferrari paddock during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Rashid was smitten by the activities inside the paddock as he stood hours watching and that fuelled his passion for Formula One.
He’s a big fan of Ferrari and an even bigger fan of Fernando Alonso and sports the same helmet and racing suit for his races. That has got him the nickname ‘Little Alonso’. He had his best moment when he got to meet Alonso along with Felipe Massa during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year.
“He has received support from his school and also Abu Dhabi Racing. We have also been approached by a few overseas Formula One teams to manage his career but we turned them down since we thought it’s too premature,” Ali said.
Rashid’s coach Paul Chatenay is amazed by the kid’s unbridled enthusiasm. “What makes Rashid special is how he listens to what you teach him, and then without hesitation implements what he has been taught immediately on the track. This is remarkable considering his age,” he said.