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GP Week : Issue 120
The Canadian Renault World Series driver is running second in the championship and has just been announced as third driver for Marussia Virgin Racing. He speaks to Stuart Morrison. 5 Minutes with ... Robert Wickens GPWEEK: What does it mean to you to be nominated as a reserve driver for the Marussia Virgin Racing team? ROBERT WICKENS: Well it’s a big step forward for me and my race career. I’m grateful for the opportunity and especially for the support of Marussia Motors and in particular Nikolay Fomenko and Andrey Cheglakov. It’s a privilege to be able to play any role within a Formula One team. For me though it’s another step on the road to hopefully realizing my goal of becoming a Formula One race driver.” It’s been a long time since Canada’s had an F1 prospect on the horizon. What’s been the reception here to the news of your appointment? It’s been fantastic. If I’m honest it’s also been a little humbling. I wasn’t expecting the response it got. I was hoping to maybe get a little bit of attention but the response has definitely surpassed what I was expecting. Presumably you’re enjoying being here in the paddock with Marussia Virgin Racing? Absolutely! It’s fun to be back and actually have an official role in the paddock rather than simply stopping by to say hi to a few people! I’ve been kept pretty busy with media requests and by the team with briefings and appearances. It’s been great to enjoy my first race in this capacity at my home Grand Prix. Canada enjoys a reputation as one of the best races of the Formula One season. As a Canadian, what is it that makes the event at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve so special for everyone? I think it’s mainly down to the passion and enthusiasm shown by the fans here in Canada! It’s really the only Grand Prix I’ve ever been to where the whole town pretty much shuts down and becomes one big event with Formula One. Maybe I’m biased but I just think there’s always a great vibe for the Canadian Grand Prix, throughout the country but especially here in Montreal. I know from speaking to various people in the paddock that it’s a universally popular race weekend and hopefully it’ll continue to build on that reputation!” Your first race victory in single-seaters came here at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Formula BMW USA back in 2006 supporting the Canadian Grand Prix. Did you ever think then that you’d be returning one day having an official association with an F1 team? Well when I graduated from karting in 2005 I gave myself the goal of landing an F1 role within five years. Unfortunately I’m a year late but it’s still remarkable to think how far I’ve come since then. How important was it for you to build your career in Europe having first raced there in 2008 and continued to impress with victories in Formula Renault 3.5, F3 Euro Series, F2 and the GP3 Series? I think Europe’s still where you need to be if you want to pursue a seat in Formula One – at least still in this era of motorsport. Who knows what the future will hold. Looking back though that decision to move back in 2008 has undoubtedly played its part in getting me to where I am today as part of Marussia Virgin Racing. After the Canadian Grand Prix you’re headed to Germany for the next round of the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series. How’s the year been so far? I’m really looking forward to heading to the Nurburgring and the next double -header round. We’ve had a good start to the season. We’re seven races in and I’ve had four podiums, including a win, three poles and three fastest laps. I’m second in the points just one behind the leader so I’m definitely in the thick of it. We’re in a position to win each time out and we have to maintain that focus and commitment. There are still ten races left this season so there’s a lot of racing still ahead of us! 18