There is a point in a young driver’s career where he/she makes the jump to cars. The timing of this jump is crucial to the development of the driver. One might think that making this transition is quite easy as, well, cars have four wheels and karts have four wheels, one is just smaller than the other. You are correct in this assumption, but how the two different vehicles are driven is somewhat different.
Typically, aspiring race car drivers start out in karting when they are as young as 8 or even 5 years old! These young whippersnappers are to then develop their race craft and car control. Ultimately karting is a stepping stone into cars and is proven to be a key role in many drivers’ careers. The greats in this world like Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, and Fernando Alonso all started in karts. It goes to show just how important karts are to a driver’s career.
Timing the transition into cars is tricky and if done too early can have an effect on how quickly he/she develops their ability in and out of the car. There are a lot of technical aspects to cars and not being able to understand those can play a role in whether you make it to the top or not. But if you jump into cars when you have matured enough to understand all the things that are involved with becoming a professional then you may have a shot. Some kids are ready at 18, others may be as young as 14 or 15. Karting is all about driving and cars are much more than just driving; with more expense there is the need for more partners/sponsors. Being mature enough to understand that it isn’t just about how fast you are but also about how you act off the track is when it is time to switch to cars.
On a technical level, karts are completely different compared to cars. Yes, they both have four wheels and an engine, but a go kart has no suspension and is very light. You drive these two machines similarly, but for different reasons. A kart uses its frame as suspension; it flexes and twists to get the kart around a corner. Since the kart has a solid rear axle, in order for it to turn, the inside rear tire has to come off the ground or else the kart will either slide or push. Driving a kart requires you to brake in a straight line and come off the brake pedal to turn in, then get to power halfway through the corner. That coasting faze lets the kart flex and allows the kart to turn. However, cars depend a bit more on the brakes, its used as a tool to aid the car on turn in. In a car you brake in a straight line, then release pressure and drag some brake into the corner to put weight on the nose in order to turn. Without going too in depth, a kart relies on letting the kart flex to turn and the car is depending on weight transfer to get the car to turn. The two are similar to drive, but bad habits can carry over from one to the other. One habit karters have when they jump into cars are that they have horrible brake pressure modulation and have very fast hands. There is no finesse with the brake pedal and the aggressive hand movements in karts can be okay in some situations. This transition can be easy for some and hard for others, and the time this transition occurs can help determine that.
To summarize, transition to karts when you are mature enough to understand the other factors involved. Having guidance from experienced people in this sport can help determine if you are ready. The timing is very important!