Zak OSullivan on track at Silverstone

Zak O’Sullivan on his achievements so far and his Formula 1 goal

With a passion for cars from a young age, it’s no surprise that 18-year-old British driver Zak O’Sullivan has climbed through the motorsport ranks, collecting a variety of accolades on his way. From receiving his first kart for his eighth birthday, Zak raced across Europe and the UK. He graduated to cars with the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2019. He joined the British F4 grid in 2020, then headed to GB3 in 2021; in the same year, he won the BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award and joined the Williams Driver Academy before making his debut on the global racing stage in FIA F3 in 2022. 


Silverstone caught up with Zak ahead of his 2024 season, when he joins Formula 2 as a rookie with ART Grand Prix.

Raised in a family of petrol heads, Zak always had an interest in cars during his early years. Although there was no real motorsport connection or intention to race, Zak always liked Formula 1 and found himself watching it on the television each weekend. It wasn’t until he went to the Autosport Show at the NEC Birmingham when he was seven,  that he realised how cool the thought of karting really was after seeing a bambino kart for sale.

“After a year of pleading, and probably very much to my dad’s regret now, he got me a kart for my eighth birthday and it went from there,” Zak says. “There was no real intention for it to be anything serious, it was just a bit of fun to start with."

“There was a derelict tennis court nearby to where I lived and I used to drive my kart around there. It was all gravel and I used to do circles of that, and that’s how it really started. That is the first memory I have of racing full stop.”


Zak spent a few years in go karts, and in 2019, at the age of 14, he made his debut in closed wheel racing, in the Ginetta Junior Championship. He remembers his year in Ginetta as being the most fun he’s had in a year of racing from a pure racing aspect, but it was also a year he learnt a lot.

“It was my first year in cars and I really enjoyed it,” Zak says. “It was really close racing, bumper to bumper, and you never really knew who was going to win every race. That was awesome and it’s something I’ve never really had since then.”


After a year in closed wheel racing in Ginetta Juniors, Zak took another step up the ladder and moved to British F4 in 2020.

“It was a super competitive year with Luke Browning and nearly every race, it was just us two fighting for wins,” he remembers. “It was a season under high pressure which is very important to experience.”

A year of on-track battles with fellow young British driver Luke saw Zak finish P2 in the British F4 Championship, trailing his compatriot by only four points at the end of the season. His successful year in British F4 led him to the GB3 Championship for 2021, which turned out to be an even better year of racing. Zak left his 2021 season with the GB3 Championship title to his name, and as a finalist for the BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award.


In February 2022, Zak was announced as a member of the Williams Driver Academy, in a role that saw him working predominantly on the simulator behind the scenes and simply getting to know as many people as he could, all while gaining an even better understanding of how an F1 team really works. 

“It meant a lot,” Zak says, about the honour of joining such a prestigious name in motorsport. “I don’t tend to get too emotional about things, but it was nice. It was an honour to be involved with an historic British team, and as a British driver, it means quite a lot.”

Only three days after the news of his signing with Williams was shared with the world, Zak was announced as the winner of the Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award at the delayed 2021 Autosport Awards. The ceremony was hosted on his 17th birthday.

“Happy would be an understatement,” Zak says about winning the iconic and prestigious award, which saw him join a list of some of F1’s top talents. “It was a good birthday.”


Photo by James Gasperotti


As part of his prize for winning the award, Zak got his first real taste of F1 machinery in a test with Aston Martin at Silverstone. Coming from Formula 3, Zak had never driven anything faster than an F3 car, so the main focus for him was getting used to the speed of an F1 car. All the while, he was hoping that his laps around Silverstone would be helpful for another F1 outing in the future.

“I was 17 at the time of the test so to get experience in a modern F1 car that young is super invaluable,” Zak says. “It’s an annual tradition, so to win it was massive for me. 

“The test itself was my first proper experience of F1 machinery and a day I’ll never forget. Around Silverstone too, probably the perfect track, especially for that generation of F1 car, very fast and flowing, you really get the full day to push the limits of the car."


Silverstone is a circuit that Zak holds close to his heart, having created some special memories in his career so far at the home of British motorsport. 

“One special memory would be 2022, my first year of F3 and we’d had a difficult start to the year as a team at Carlin,” he says. “We were off the pace, but coming into our home race, I had quite good circuit knowledge having done GB3.

“The stars aligned and I ended up getting pole position, which was amazing, especially for the team because we’d been nowhere really all year and suddenly, at my home race, and the team’s home race, we were on pole. My first British Grand Prix as well, so it was quite a cool moment starting the feature race on pole.”

Although he couldn’t quite convert the pole to a win, Zak’s first British Grand Prix was a breakthrough weekend for both him and the team, and what a place for him to do it. 


In his first year with Williams, Zak formed part of a closed group with the other few young drivers in the Academy and he focused on behind the scenes simulator work. In his second year, which was also his second season in F3, Zak did more simulator work as well as some race support. 

“At the end of 2023, I was lucky enough to do FP1 for Williams in Abu Dhabi and the rookie test afterwards,” Zak says. “It was a really cool experience and one I’ll remember for a very long time.”


When Zak was first told he would be making his F1 debut in Abu Dhabi, he saw it as a wake-up call to start training his neck. From receiving the news to setting foot in the car, the entire period in between was focused on ensuring he was physically prepared. After two years of simulator experience, Zak knew the car and the systems well enough to make his F1 debut. However, he spent some time on the simulator around the iconic Yas Marina Circuit, having never been to the Abu Dhabi track before. 

“I tried to put the whole aspect of it being an F1 session out of my mind,” he says. “For me, it was a normal session in a normal car.

“In the end it wasn’t too overwhelming and it didn’t seem like a massive step even coming from F3. As soon as I got into the car and then around the track, I felt comfortable and confident from the outset.”


Throughout his second season in F3, this time with PREMA, Zak finished second in the championship after a very close battle towards the end of the season. 

“We had some very high highs and some very low lows across the year,” Zak says. “I think of it as a year of what could’ve been, but I enjoyed it and learnt a lot, which is the main thing for me.”

Getting to Formula 2 was the main target for Zak, and for 2024, he will be making the step up the racing ladder with current Teams’ champion, ART Grand Prix, who also took French driver Théo Pourchaire to the title in 2023. 


With a new challenge for every driver on the grid – with the introduction of a new car for 2024 – Zak is looking forward to making the step up to F2. 

“As a rookie, it’s only a positive because maybe some of the experience second year drivers would have is now void,” he says. “It’s a new challenge for both driver and team, and it’s quite nice going into the unknown for a year.

“I can’t predict anything going into the season but I quite like being in that position so it’s going to be an interesting year.”


With ART’s strong performance last year, Zak is ready to work hard and see how his season unfolds with the team.

“For me, it’s about maximising everything I can control, everything that’s in my grasp and putting everything small together,” he says. “If I work with everything I can control, hopefully the results will follow.

“You never really know, but all the pressure I have is from myself so it’s about delivering with that.”


Always hoping for more F1 outings to gain as much modern F1 car experience, Zak’s number one career goal is to make it to the pinnacle of global motorsport one day, despite it being a long road through the junior categories. 

“It would be an amazing achievement,” Zak says. “It’s something I can see myself doing if I achieve everything I need.

“I don’t set any massive goals and I take it as it comes, and work on the small things that hopefully lead to bigger outcomes.”

See Zak in action during the F2 race at the Formula 1 British Grand Prix. 


Header photo by David Lord Photography