Amid the high-tech glamour of the Ferrari garage at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on Sunday, a 13-year-old boy stood with a headset pressed to his ears and listened to the voice of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso crackling over the radio. "It's crazy to hear the drivers," he said. "I know exactly what they're saying." Young Lance Stroll is no casual fan. He's not racing in F1 just yet, but the Montreal native represents the coming generation—and an ambitious experiment for the sport's oldest team. He was just 11 when he signed on with Ferrari after dominating the Canadian go-kart circuit. "A huge jump in the dark," says Luca Baldisserri, head of the Ferrari Driver Academy in Maranello, Italy. Yet for Ferrari, the math is clear: Hiring top drivers costs tens of millions of dollars; kids are low-risk, potentially high-reward investments.
Lance now races karts full time in Europe, making monthly visits to Maranello for strategy sessions, reflex drills and breathing exercises. In 10 races this year he has three podium finishes, including a win. At 15 he'll make the jump to cars. For now, though, listening to Alonso's voice through the headphones, Lance hears one sound: "Myself in 10 years," he says, "on that grid."