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GP Week : Issue 182
GPWEEK: You obviously hope to fight for the GP3 championship this year after a consistent debut season. How do you feel about the new car? Are you more confident in it than you were the previous one? TIO ELLINAS: To be honest I’m more confident this year because now I know the circuits pretty well. I’m trying to do all the preparation I can, and my aim is to always finish in the top four, top five. That’s the way to win a championship – to be consistent. If you are inconsistent then you can’t do much. You can win three races and crash out of the rest, and you’ll be miles from a title. And then you’re nowhere. So what circuit are you most looking forward to this year? I’d have to say Abu Dhabi, because I’ve never been there. It’s the last round of the season, and the thrill of the new. Last year the one I was most excited about was Monaco – it was very special for all of us to experience that. You’re taking part in the Young Drivers’ Test for Marussia this year. Is that going to be after Abu Dhabi, or in the summer? It’s going to be in July. That’s what we’re planning for, anyway. We’ll see how it goes. And you’re going to be the first Cypriot to take part in an FIA-sanctioned event. Does that give you extra pressure, or extra motivation? To be honest, extra motivation. I’m doing this for myself, because I really love racing, and it has always been my dream to be a Formula One driver. Racing has been my whole life, and it’s what I’m going to continue to do – what I’m going to try and continue to do. If everything goes well, fingers crossed, why not aim for the top? Exactly – if you’re not there to win, why are you there? Every racer should arrive at the weekend thinking they can do it. Everybody is racing to win. Everybody. You just have to do the best you can, show that you have the maturity to get to the top, and somebody will spot that. It’s worked for Seb, hasn’t it? It worked pretty well for him! He was in the Red Bull Junior programme, and at every step he showed them that he had what it takes to get to the top. How did you 'get into' Formula One? You have so many karting championships to your name – did you fall in love with F1 on TV, or did your karting make you interested in Formula One? I first started because of my dad, who used to race. I spent a lot of years in karts, and I wanted to move into Formula racing when I was 16, 17, but I couldn’t find a way through. Then at 18 I found a programme which was looking for 50 drivers for a Grand Prix Shootout. I won the competition, and from there I was able to move into the Formulas – Formula BMW, Formula Ford... You get on the ladder and just start climbing, don’t you? Tell me more about the Grand Prix Shootout – what was it like? There were 50 people from all around the world. First they put us in normal cars with a driver coach, and he would test our abilities as we went around the circuit. After leaving that first round, they emailed to say I had made it through to the next stage, which had ten people. The second stage took place at Pembery, a track in Wales, and out of the ten of us I got the best time. From there, I won a contract with an English manager for a year, which is when I started my Formula racing career. It’s quite an unusual way in, but a clever one. I like it. Yes, it is unusual. But it was an opportunity. In Cyprus, many people don’t understand the world of Formula racing – we don’t have a racetrack, only a karting track, and the thinking was that I couldn’t come from such a small place, go to Europe, and impress people. I could have stayed in the karting world, but I spotted the opportunity and I went for it. Since then, I’ve tried to move upwards all the time. If you want to succeed in life you have to take advantage of every opportunity, don’t you? I imagine, then, that it’s been a challenge for you to secure local sponsorship if there’s not much of a racing culture in Cyprus. It’s been a big challenge. My family have been supporting me, but we keep pushing in the hope that things will go well and we will find something. It does take time, doesn’t it? Time, luck, talent, timing... So what are your plans for 2014 if you secure the GP3 title this year? Will you move up to GP2, or are you looking at WSR? If I manage to win the championship this year the plan is to go to GP2. Before that, I hope to show my abilities during the Young Driver Test for Marussia, and if that goes well – fingers crossed – then something might happen. You must be looking forward to your first time in a Formula One car. For sure. It has been my dream to drive an F1 car. I will get limited time in the car, but it’s still huge for me. It’s huge, an experience. 5 MINUTES WITH TIO ELLINAS The Cypriot GP3 contender has eyes only for July and an F1 test, as KATE WALKER finds out 5 MINUTES 7 GPWEEK.com // 7 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: