There are lot of Indian drivers in the feeder series such as Formula Renault ALPS 2.0, Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, FIA F3, Euro F3 Open and so on. What is your advice to these drivers in terms of securing their seat, getting sponsors?
Well, in today’s motorsport world you have to combine both racing and marketing. Those times have gone when just talent counted, however you still have some insanely talented racers out there. People see Formula 1 and they think it’s all pretty easy, but they have no idea how many hours of pure sacrifice go into a life of a young racer, counting both the work on and off the track.
And Indian drivers do face competition of European racers who have better facilities and bigger budgets…
Yes, as a young Indian racing talent, you’re always out there in a big pile of competitive people, you have to continuously work from a very young age to bring the funding. All of the drivers in Formula 1 today have had people fund them in the younger series – very few of them had just parents funding them. You need external funding, because all junior teams depends on it. The advice to the drivers is simple – believe in success, but be prepared for a lot of sacrifice in those teenage years.
What would be your message women trying to pursue careers in various verticals of motorsport, where there can be a lack of motivation and hesitation to set foot into it?
If you have to enter any male-dominated sector, you have to be totally convinced about what you want to do and you have to be prepared to do exactly that. You will be looked at more strictly, you will be criticized more, you will probably even have to do a much better job to get similar recognition. And if you can live with that, then be yourself, never try to hide the fact that you’re a woman.
Do you think it’s true that women are better multi-taskers?[Laughs] yes, I think we tend to be a tiny bit better at that.
During your years in Welham’s Girls’ School, did you ever imagine you’d have a position like yours today?
Absolutely not, no.
Were there any special moments or memories from your school that have contributed to who you are today?
Probably. It was a very protected environment and you were allowed to have any dream you wanted, there seemed to be nothing stopping you. It was always my dream to become an astronaut and I really believed I could do it, so I think that influenced some of my choices later.
What has been your most memorable moment in your current position?
Well, one of my highlights where I felt to achieve something important was getting a few solid partners on board. But one of the most memorable racing moments, and I wouldn’t say it was the only one, was the 2012 race in Japan with Kamui Kobayashi’s podium. For me the whole environment on that podium was very emotional.
Feeder series are a good benchmark to assess but it’s nothing you can rely on completely.
A lot of fresh talent come to Formula 1 every year, and Sauber most often had rookies in their driver line-up. How long does it take them to get acclimatized to the Formula 1 atmosphere?
It actually happens very quickly, and that’s great since the racers don’t have the luxury of time anymore.
GP2 is getting renewed to Formula 2. In previous years drivers raced both series simultaneously, an there was a narrow gap between the two in terms of talent. Is the leap to Formula 1 still that big?
Of course, there are similarities, but most things run differently in Formula 1. Some say cars in feeder series are harder to drive, but you have to be very careful with statements like these as we’ve had drivers who weren’t in GP2 and were suddenly very good in Formula 1, or we have had drivers who were leaders in GP2 and they’re not in Formula 1 and never will be. It’s a good benchmark to assess but it’s nothing you can rely on completely.
Finally, I have to ask this – what are your expectations in the second half of the season after the break?
We are coming back optimistically with the engine update we have, however we have to work a little bit on the setup still.
Do you see yourself in a better position to perform in the second half of the season or finish in a better position then last year?
Absolutely, we now know exactly what we have to focus on. And the next big move coming up for us is going to be our new update on the chassis. So I do believe in our luck and professionalism during the second half.