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GP Week : Issue 193
F1 >>> FEATUrE (RsF). How important is it – not just the RsF or the financial backing – but how important is it for a young driver to have a driver development programme behind him and not just from the financial point of view? Well, without Racing Steps, I’d have nothing. I wouldn’t be racing anything! They’ve supported me since the start of 2008 up until now. They’ve supplied the budget for me to be in competitive teams, and that’s why we’ve got good results. Without them, without the results, the financial backing, the support that they give, then for sure I wouldn’t be sat here talking to you now. Apart from the budget, there’s also a lot else that a driver development programme like the RsF brings with it. Talk to me about the other sort of work they’ve done with you. We go through everything a driver needs to do to be ready for Formula One. So that includes physical training, income just to live – because if you think about it, how is it possible when we’re doing what we’re doing to earn money when we should be training, we’re doing things like this. So they support me that way, with the media training, everything, absolutely everything you do. They do as much as they can to develop drivers. It’s not just myself – all the other young guys coming up from go-karts, Formula Renault, Formula 3. You’ve got bikers in MotoGP at the moment, so it’s a fantastic scheme, really: a group of people all funded just by the one guy as well ... amazing! They have some pretty unconventional methods don’t they? I read this piece over this weekend about the heart surgery for example... Yeah, yeah! Forgot to mention that! With me, and also Mark Webber did this. Yeah, we saw live heart surgery and the doctor ... just incredible. It makes you realise the amount of preparation that needs to done for a race or for an operation, it’s really similar. And one of the guys had a cardiac arrest and his heart stopped. But they were so calm. They were like, ‘Okay we have 30 seconds before this guy dies, but this is what we do.’ No panic, okay done. And it’s like us – if we make a mistake in a car, or go off in qualifying, you’ve just got to learn to forget it and concentrate on going for ward. That’s a similarity between that and what we do. so take a driver who has ample budget to fund his junior career all the way up to Formula One. He’s also got the talent. And then you take adriverwhois–notjusttheRsF– but part of any driver development programme, say, the Red Bull one, or the Ferrari Driver Academy, whatever it is. Do you think a driver who is part of a programme will still be a better- prepared driver? I think when you look at the majority of programmes, all the drivers are young and talented and that’s why they’re there. I believe that everyone’s got their opportunity to progress and do well in the junior series and you’ve just got to make the most of it. And, you’ve got young guys – Antonio Felix da Costa, Carlos Sainz in the Red Bull [programme]. Someone who maybe should be further for ward is Robin Frijns, who is not backed by anyone. He’s won every single junior series championship he’s ever competed in. So goes to show how important it is to be within a group of people that are able to communicate with the right people. so is it a case of, you work through your junior career, you’ve got your results to merit a Formula One drive but then you get to the fringes of Formula One, you get to Formula One and then it’s like hitting a ceiling because of the budget issues and all of that? Do you think it is that way – is it frustrating for a young driver ....? This is the biggest step, so of course it’s going to be the hardest. But given that everything else seems to count more than the merit or the talent... The thing is, you’ve got to look at it from two points of view, really. You’ve got to look at it from my point of view, or a driver’s point of view, and it is annoying to see big spenders just buying their way into Formula One. Of course it is. Not to say they’re not talented but there are people maybe that deserve it more. But then when you look at it from a team’s point of view: given the tough world we live in, they need the money and at the end of the day if an average driver was employed by a team yet they had the money to develop the car, you’re going to gain more from the car than you are from the driver. So that’s the way it is, that’s the reality of the sport. I wanted to talk to you about GP2 driving standards. We saw that incident in singapore with Alexander [Rossi] and Fabio [Leimer]. Do you think there is something that needs to be addressed because that is the feeder series into Formula One isn’t it? I can’t really comment on that, really. At the end of the day, we’re all individual drivers and we all make our own decisions and of course we’re young, we’ve been put into a fast car – the closest car to a Formula One – so you’re going to expect more incidents than what you would in a Formula One World Championship race. So, it’s to be expected but, for sure, at times there have been some strange incidents. What about next year? I’m sure you’d like to step up to a Formula One race seat, but is that a realistic goal for next season? I don’t know. Would you rather do what Valtteri did, spend a year out – big changes nextyear–sospendayearoutasa reserve for Force India, knowing you will get the chance to drive? I don’t know. Obviously, it’s been my ambition to be a Formula One race driver since I was this big. So, we’ll see. That depends on the situation. We’ve heard a lot about heavier drivers being disadvantaged by the new rules... Heavier drivers? Because the cars are heavy, so they’ve got to lose more weight? I’ve never really thought of that. Are you on about for next year? Yeah, for next year. Well it’s good for me because I’m quite light. I’m only 70 kilos! But apparently the ideal fighting weight is supposed to be 60kg next year – it’s what people are saying if you want enough ballast to move around the car and things like that. Sixty kilos! I don’t think anyone’s under 60 kilos in Formula One. I think I’m a good weight... I don’t know. Does it really make a big difference? Because you see the situation with Nico Hulkenberg, for example... He’s tall. Just move the pedals. Last couple of questions – when you’re not driving on Fridays what does your day involve? Lots of training. I’ll go to the factory and do sim work and help the team. So, quite busy away from the track. And engineer debriefs and stuff like that? Yeah, when I’m here I do all the debriefs. When I’m driving in GP2, sometimes I have to miss a few. But, like for example now, I do all of them, including the strategy, pit stops, everything. 25 GPWEEK.com // 25 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: