Michela Cerruti’s passion for motorsport could almost be considered genetic. Her father, Aldo Cerruti, also known as ‘Baronio’ in the family’s Italian homeland, was a successful racing driver in touring cars in the 1970s, and won the Italian GT Championship (GT Cup) title as recently as 2009.
Michela’s motorsport career began relatively late. After studying Psychology at university in Milan, her father enrolled her in a safe driving course with Mario Ferraris, son of the race-car tuner and constructor, Romeo Ferraris. Impressed by her ‘speed and instinctive car control’, Ferraris convinced her father to let her pursue a career in racing.
She made her racing debut in the Italian Touring Car Championship (CITE class) in 2008, co-driving an Alfa Romeo 147 with Mario Ferraris. The pair finished third in the championship standings.
After another season in the ITCC, she graduated to Italy’s premier tin-top series, the SuperStars Series, running a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG for the Ferraris team; she also competed in the Italian GT Championship.
In her second year of SuperStars Series racing, she exited the season opener as the championship leader after finishing in second place in the opening race and winning the second at Monza.
She transitioned to open-wheel racing, joining the Auto GP World Series full-time in 2014, winning one race (becoming the first woman to do so in the championship) and claiming two further podiums en route to finishing sixth overall.
With barely a year of open-wheel racing under her belt, she signed on to join the all-new FIA Formula E Championship as teammate to driver/owner Jarno Trulli in the Italian veteran’s eponymous team.
We spoke exclusively to Michela ahead of this weekend’s fourth round of the Formula E Championship, the Buenos Aires ePrix on the streets of Puerto Madero to discuss her season so far.
We’re three rounds into the inaugural Formula E Championship season. How would appraise your season to-date?
I definitely haven’t had the best of luck. Every race there has been a problem that brought me out of the points. However, we clearly showed good potential in Punta Del Este and I’m sure that as soon we don’t have any problems, there will be a satisfying result for me.
The preceding round at Punte del Este was followed by the series’ first in-season test. You’ve experienced several technical problems that have limited your track time, but you managed a very healthy 76 laps in this test. What did you focus on specifically in this test, and how will this benefit you in the coming races?
We focused mainly on finding the right setup for the race, as it is the area where we are missing most of the performance. We had the chance to find good solutions in that direction, but unfortunately there was not time enough to try something new in the qualifying mode.
Jarno Trulli is both your countryman and a Formula 1 veteran, while also being a teammate and your team manager. How have you found the experience of working with him so far, and how are you able to support each other in this all-new motorsport adventure?
It is an honour and a pleasure for me to work with him. I see that as an opportunity to learn a lot from his great experience. I see him mostly like a driver instead of a team manager, as during the race weekends he is mainly focusing on this role. He has helped me a lot with my driving and with race strategy.
Factoring in that the Trulli Formula E team is – by Jarno’s own admission in previous interviews – several months behind its competitors given its late start in the pre-season, what are your expectations for the remainder of the inaugural Formula E Championship?
It would already be a good result for me to constantly stay in the top 10, but I’m definitely aiming for something more than that, and achieving a podium in such a great field would be great!
Clichés aside, what’s the biggest professional challenge you’ve faced in your racing career and how have you dealt with it? What skills have you found useful personally, or which have perhaps even surprised you?
The most difficult thing for me is to gain respect and credibility in motorsport, not just because I am a woman, but also because I have a very little experience, since I started racing at the age of 22. Despite that, I think that my determination and hard work have left me achieving good results in my short career, together with the ability to switch from a car to the other one without any problem. I hope I will leave my mark in the Formula E Championship too.
You have undoubtedly one of the most distinctive helmet designs in motorsport. What was your inspiration behind the colour and design scheme for your racing helmet?
I know that people mainly recognize me because of the pink colour, and that’s why I always choose this colour. But it’s also a way to underscore the fact that I’m a woman. The design is always made with butterfly, my favourite animal since I was a kid, tying in nicely as a symbol of femininity and freedom.
Images via FIA Formula E Championship