Dylan Young is one of only a handful of Australian racing drivers competing internationally on the path to Formula 1.
Growing up a stone’s throw away from the Albert Park circuit, he was hooked on F1 as a youngster when Melbourne staged its first Grand Prix back in 1996. Before long, he’d sampled a hire kart and showed immediate talent, but his parents recognised that a good education was equally important, so Dylan didn’t get to go racing until his late teens.
Racing is an expensive and often frustrating business, and Dylan’s rise into open-wheel racing is a testament to today’s environment where talent, commitment and incredibly hard work – qualities which he possess in abundance – won’t just be enough to open doors. Solid financial backing is equally critical in this most expensive of pursuits, and Dylan has found his time in the cockpit halted on a number of occasions due to this. It’s an all-too-sad reality in today’s era of motorsport.
Nonetheless, Dylan has already shown himself to be as quick – and quicker – than those who are proven race-winners in a variety of open-wheel categories, and he was recently given a test with GP3 Series squad Hilmer Motorsport. A full-time gig in F1’s official feeder categories is beckoning, could he become the first Melbourne-born driver to race at his home track on the Grand Prix stage?
We spoke exclusively to Dylan in the latest installment of our ‘Up & Comers’ interview series…
|Formula BMW: Scholarship Trials (2007, 2008)|
|Formula BMW: Testing|
|2010||Formula BMW Pacific Championship: Motaworld Racing Team, 4 races, 0 points, 21st overall|
|2011||JK Racing Asia Series: Atlantic Racing Team, 4 races, 9 points, 15th overall|
|2012||MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship: 6 races, 3 points, 22nd overall|
|2013||MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship: 14 races, 2 podiums, 45 points, 7th overall|
|2014||MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship: 12 races, 36 points, =10th overall|
|GP3 Series: Test drive with Hilmer Motorsport|
How and when was your interest in motorsport sparked?
I blame and thank my Dad for getting me hooked on racing. He never raced himself but he was a big fan of the sport and to this day he remains a die-hard fan. He took me to the first ever Australian Grand Prix here in Melbourne in 1996 and as a little kid I was pretty shocked at the ferocity of the noise. I actually spent the first night in bed chucking a tantrum with an earache from how loud it was!
After seeing my first Grand Prix live that weekend I became hooked and started reading up and watching everything I could on motorsport and F1 in particular, and I just fell in love with it. Like many Melbourne-born kids, I’m a huge AFL [Australian Rules football] fan, but not many kids growing up were into F1 so it was a bit of an obsession that I only shared with my Dad.
Who were your motorsport idols when you first became interested in racing? What was is about their character or achievements that you admired?
The driver I looked up to while growing up was Michael Schumacher; he was of course one of the top drivers when I started watching the sport. Yeah, he pushed the boundaries, but I think all drivers who become World Champions have that hunger to do anything to win. Most of the greats have stepped over the line at times, but it’s a fierce sport and I actually admire that passion to win.
I think the way Michael went that extra mile to create a performance differential to his rivals was pretty inspiring. For example, the importance he placed on fitness and rallying a team around him so that every final percent of performance was extracted was something that I really respected, and it’s something I’ve tried to replicate with my own training.
After all, that’s ‘free’, which is something rare for this sport, so I pride myself on my training as that’s a direct reflection of my individual efforts and could be the difference at the end of a race, especially when you’re driving in sauna-like conditions across Asia and the Middle East.
Of course then Mark Webber came along and he was another idol as it had been a while without an Aussie in the sport and he carved out a pretty successful career. Daniel Ricciardo is obviously another idol, especially because he started off in the very same Formula BMW Asia Championship that I did and he has taken a career pathway via Asia first that I’m trying to replicate.
“Both Mark and Dan are really a breath of fresh air in the sport, just by being themselves. So many drivers try to fit into such a PR politically correct bubble and don’t stand out from the crowd.”
What do you recall about your first experience behind the wheel of a kart?
The first ‘kart’ I drove was, like most kids, a hire kart. I was begging Dad to have a go after going to the 1996 Australian Grand Prix and after my first drive I happened to be pretty nifty behind the wheel. I was beating adults easily and whilst it was only a hire kart facility, the manager of the venue noticed my lap times and told my father and I should get into karting professionally.
I had this absolute rush when I went karting for the first time, I think the thing that stood out for me was just the way you were connected to this machine and you’re in your own little world behind the helmet.
How influential was the support of your family when you started out racing?
My family has been absolutely amazing in sticking by me through all the ups and downs. I must confess a difference between me and almost all other drivers is that – other than when my Dad caved in to my constant nagging after almost ten years to very generously get me my first kart – I’ve been financially on my own ever since.
I have to secure every dollar by myself, even for a new pair of gloves or some visor tear-offs so it’s not like I’ve had a partial budget each season or anything from the family. I don’t want to hash on it too much; I’m trying to showcase that if you are hungry enough and put your ‘head down, and bum up’ and really want something, you can find a way. I’d like to think that my situation could be a shining light for another kid coming up without any family funding, as no one thought I’d even get to where I am now.
I really don’t want to sound disrespectful or anything because when you travel the world racing you get to see a lot of people in terrible living conditions so I know I’m really lucky coming from Australia and I have a great family. Sometimes a lot of us in this sport can forget that when we are in a sport with such huge dollars. So whilst I might have been on my own financially from a racing perspective, my family has been there financially supporting me in other areas of my life, such as a great education which I’m grateful for. They’ve been by my side and supported me through thick and thin on this journey when they could have tried to push me away from racing.
I cherish every single lap I get in a car and whilst a lack of financial support has made it an extremely difficult ride, I’ve relished the challenge and I take nothing for granted. Likewise, I’m a big believer in generating a support team around me who can ride this journey with me and so I’ve been lucky enough to have met some amazing people who have come aboard my team to back me.
The formative years in karting are the best proving grounds to show if you might have what it takes to make it in the bigger leagues of racing. You had the added challenge of starting out at the relatively late age of 17 when many of your contemporaries had at least 10 years’ karting up their sleeves. Was that challenge apparent, and how did you overcome this?
To be honest, I discovered really quickly that karting was going to be a handful. My dad just didn’t have the mechanical or technical knowledge with setting up the kart and he also moved internationally which unsettled things a bit as well.
You’re competing against people that have lived and breathed the sport for so long and so I realized after only a handful of test days that I needed to focus on getting into cars where I could have a support team around me and I could at least trust that the car was working. I realized that everyone jumping into cars from karts would also have to re-adjust, so the quicker I could get into a single-seater it meant I was overcoming some of the disadvantages of not having been in karts from the time I could walk.
You moved to open-wheel racing in 2010, making your debut in the Formula BMW support races at the Malaysian Grand Prix on a grid featuring the likes of Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat. How did the opportunity come about?
The opportunity actually took a lot longer than what I anticipated. When I realized I’d have to get out of karts almost immediately and into cars as quickly as possible, I was 18. I did a Formula BMW test and its scholarship trials where I literally just missed out on one of the scholarships by a bee’s dick, which would have provided €50,000 towards the season in Formula BMW Pacific.
Without trying to sound like a broken record on the whole budget thing, it just took quite a while for me to raise some sponsors instead. So we missed a season or two when I should have been making my debut at a younger age, but during that time I constantly had offers from a number of Formula BMW teams because we were still testing.
Finally in 2010, I got that breakthrough and it was pretty surreal to be making my debut alongside Formula 1 at the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix. Looking back on it now, it was a pretty talented Formula BMW grid that I was lining up against. Carlos & Daniil (who has shot up like a beanstalk since back then) were already in the Red Bull program and it was their first car race from karts as well, but they were much, much more prepared than I was with a huge amount of testing and years of karting.
I came home ahead of Kvyat in Race 2 actually so I’ll take that one! He’s doing a fantastic job now and has taken his opportunity with one of the biggest teams in F1. Funnily enough I was looking at a photo I have recently and it’s a shot of about ten of us for the photoshoot before the race and you have Carlos and Daniil who are now obviously in Formula 1, and a couple of others who have tested an F1 car, and then you have me with my boring unpainted white helmet like the Stig…
I guess I’ve realized how much time flies and how much my career has risen quite slowly compared to these guys without having budget issues. Timewise I should have already put my bum in an F1 car.
It would be hard to imagine a tougher circumstance to have your first race in the extreme Malaysian weather conditions and on a circuit as demanding as Sepang. How did you fare on your first weekend and what lessons did you learn?
Malaysia has some pretty crazy temperatures to drive an open wheeler in but to be honest I was physically pretty well prepared. I had been busting it out in the gym as much as I could, but basically had the least testing and seat time out of the entire field. The biggest thing I learned was that I simply wasn’t aggressive enough. Part of that was probably worrying about contact with other cars due to knowing I had a low budget. Looking back, that was just ridiculous and it’s probably a theme that set me back for the first year or two, and when you’re thinking like that, you’re never going to be maximizing lap time right on the edge.
Your much talked-about budget constraints would sideline you until the penultimate round at Singapore, which is again another tough event – and a street circuit! – at which to compete. How did street circuit racing compare with the more flowing Sepang circuit?
I think Singapore leveled the playing field a little. No one had turned a lap there compared to the countless amounts of testing that were done at Sepang by the other drivers. I was out for a few months because of a lack of budget so coming back in and being faster than my team-mate at Motaworld Racing straight away was a confidence booster.
The Marina Bay F1 Circuit in Singapore doesn’t really give you much time to relax as well. Race 1 was my first wet race, and following on from earlier in the year I probably wasn’t driving with enough balls because I still had this little demon sitting on my shoulder reminding me to keep the car out of the wall.
Then in Race 2 I was taken out by another driver anyway, so it was a bit of a weekend to forget. However, fortunes changed when I came back to Singapore for the next year….
…in what was now known as the JK Racing Asia Series. Again, budget challenges would see you out of the car for some months. How much of an impact does this have on your career path, and how did you try and rebuild from that point?
It has a massive impact, not only on your career path but even just mentally. At the end of 2010 I decided to move overseas to pursue my dream. For the first year in FBMW I was finding it difficult to get sponsors in Australia to race internationally and my Dad was living in Asia anyway so I thought maybe I should move over there to try and get some backing for the season as it could prove beneficial.
So here I was, packing up my life and leaving Australia to jet off overseas and I’m obviously putting my ass on the line to chase my dream whilst most of my mates are landing secure jobs and doing the more ‘sensible’ thing. It worked straight away though and I landed a drive to start the season, which again kicked off at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Things were looking awesome and then I ran out of budget again and that took its toll big time, especially having jumped on a plane to move overseas. There were some lonely times overseas and you miss out on a lot of the social occasions with all your friends back home, but I just said ‘Stuff it!’, put my head back down and put together a plan to get back onto the grid because I wanted it more than anything.
The biggest issue with being out of the car for months at a time is you’re always playing catch-up. For the first two-and-a-bit years of my single-seater career I was always having gaps of a few months between turning a single lap. Throw in the fact that all these races were alongside Formula 1 Grands Prix where you only get 30 minutes of practice before jumping into qualifying and it just compounds the problem.
Your sponsors and backers expect results and progress but when you’re out of the car for so long, and the rest of the field is doing eight races or so in-between by the time you drive again, it’s hard to be at the front.
At the end of the 2011 season, I made the tough decision to come home to Melbourne for about 10 months and try yet again to see if I could generate some support from Australia. So ‘rebuilding’ for me was always usually about putting plans in place that could give me the best shot at getting the required support.
You were back for another shot at Singapore, and delivered your best performance to that point, recovering from being sent to the back of the grid for a technical infringement in qualifying. Can you tell us about that weekend and what the results meant to you?
Singapore in 2011 was a pretty big turning point for me. For the previous year-and-a-half, I had been hovering in a similar position on the grid. I rocked up at the Singapore GP support event in September having not done a lap in anything since the Malaysian GP event back in April. Things just started to click that weekend and in qualifying under the lights I put in a big lap right at the end and my engineer came over the radio and told me I was P5 and I was stoked.
It wasn’t pole but my team was over the moon as we all knew that it was a little personal victory because I was ahead of some really strong drivers who had been doing countless testing and some eight races since I last drove, so it sort of gave me that kick of confidence that if I can finally get over this budget crap and get proper seat time and development that I know I can be up the front.
I went and watched F1 qualifying after that and as I came back to our paddock my team manager looked like he had seen a ghost. He told me that somehow, when my teammate and I came in to put a new set of rubber on during qualifying, they had got our sets mixed up and I was wearing his tyres for the last stint and he had mine bolted on.
Rules are rules; we were both disqualified and put to the back of the grid. The thing that got me was that it wasn’t like it boosted our performance in any way shape or form, it was just literally a barcode sticker. I knew I was within reach from a podium as well, so I went to bed that night and I was absolutely gutted as I had such an opportunity to deliver in front of F1 team bosses and put my name out there and now I had to do it from the back of the grid…
Either way, I showed qualy wasn’t a fluke as I came from the back of the grid in both races and managed to get up to eighth in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. So in that sense it was a positive but how good might it have been if I was starting from fifth? Would I have secured some pretty important podiums for my career on the big stage? Anyway, woulda, shoulda, coulda, I had to move on.
You moved onto India to contest the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship in its inaugural 2012-13 season. The cars are more powerful and there’s the added challenge of racing in an unfamiliar country where motorsport is still trying to grab a foothold. Can you tell us about this chapter, racing against the likes of Conor Daly and GP2 Series drivers Jordan King and Jon Lancaster?
I got approached about the MRF drive because they were keen to get an international field. It was in unfamiliar territory but the way the operation is run is first class as they have a lot of the European engineers and mechanics.
The cars are more on Formula 3 pace so it was a step up for sure. The grid was a big step up, as it had guys like Conor Daly (who is one of the funniest guys you will meet) and Luciano Bacheta, who had both piloted an F1 car for a test only a few months prior, and of course Jon Lancaster, who had already done some GP2.
Continuing the theme of my first three years of racing, I couldn’t complete the full season. It was hard to judge my performance completely, but we were running in the top ten before budget issues snuck up on me again.
Back for a full-time crack the following year – this time racing against Arthur Pic and Tio Ellinas, among others – you scored your first podium finishes at the MMRT Circuit in Chennai. These were your best results to-date in your open-wheel racing career; what did this breakthrough mean to you at the time?
It meant a lot. It was the first full season where I didn’t miss any races at all and so then I could show some true development and prove a lot of doubters wrong. It was definitely probably the most competitive line-up I’d raced against – much more than back in FBMW – with the likes of Tio Ellinas. Arthur Pic, Harry Ticknell, Sam Brabham, Ryan Cullen and Carmen Jorda. We also had former F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan come in as a guest driver in the final round as well, so it was a good yardstick.
Therefore, whilst I was having my first shot at a full season, it was also against a mighty grid of some of the quickest guys and girls in Europe, and I was the only Aussie with still quite limited experience. I just kept improving every round and gelling well with my engineer, and then it all came together at the last round where I nailed two podiums.
It was similar to Singapore in 2011 actually, in that I had to work really hard to get the results. We had two days of testing/practice before qualifying and my car was just giving up on me.
My engine blew on the first day so I just had a couple of installation laps, and then on Day 2 we had further issues so I went straight into qualifying with almost no running. As expected, I landed up down the grid – like P15 or something – but then I managed to pass my way up to fifth, which gave me the platform to go for podiums in the next races from there on.
“It was great because I finally got to stand on the podium after years of grinding it out even just to get on track to have the opportunity to show what I can do and this moment finally gave me that relief that I could do it.”
And I did it in a way where each podium I came home ahead of some pretty big names, including Ellinas in the first podium and Tincknell in the last podium. Karthikeyan was also behind me early on in the last race and I could see him in my mirrors and to keep someone who had done a few seasons of F1 was a massive boost as he couldn’t get past.
So after a horrid start to the weekend it finished in style and I tried to sneak a few beers in with the guys that night. My biggest regret was booking my flight home too early that night so I couldn’t stay on with all my team to celebrate! All in all I finished seventh in the Championship standings out of 26-plus drivers, and ahead of some GP3 drivers, so for my first full season against an international field I was quite happy with this.
Although you were a front-runner on a number of occasions, the 2014-15 season saw you unable to replicate the podium results from the year before…
The 2014 season was probably a reality check in terms of how sometimes in motorsport, other factors can tear your season to shreds. I actually felt I drove ‘better’ and was much more dialed in with everything in 2014 for another full season but without wanting to sound like a typical racing driver, I actually had some unlucky moments.
I’ll also put my hand up as I stuffed up big time whilst in the lead in Bahrain. I should have won a race, which would have been mega for me as it was supporting the FIA WEC Championship event, but I locked a brake midway through the race while controlling things from the front and man you should have heard me behind my helmet as I dropped back to fifth.
That cost me big, big points in the Championship but what really destroyed me was the final round in India. Unlike the year before, I had a nightmare event. I was taken out a couple of times by kamikaze moves and in the other races I was event sent out with the wrong set-up on the front wing with no downforce and things like that. But, we are a team and everyone makes mistakes. I had three DNFs in the last five races and that costs you big time so I fell down to equal tenth in the Championship.
Nonetheless, you landed a test driver opportunity with the Hilmer Motorsports GP3 Team at Yas Marina. How did that opportunity come about, and what were your initial impressions of GP3 machinery?
The end of the year had a silver lining as one of the engineers in the MRF Championship was also working with Hilmer, and he had been trying for a long time to get me to come and do a test with their GP3 team.
They were keen to get me in at Abu Dhabi and thankfully one of my investors knew how important the opportunity was and at the eleventh hour I managed to find enough budget for one day’s running. But timing-wise it was pretty out of whack. I was racing in Bahrain alongside FIA WEC with MRF, jumped on a plane all the way back to Melbourne and literally two or three days later I got the shock call-up that I could do the GP3 test, so I had to jump on a plane all the way back to Abu Dhabi a few days later. My body clock was all over the shop, but I was absolutely over the moon to have this chance!
How did the test session go for you?
I only had one day in the car and most guys there do the full three days. I was also coming in on the middle day and I was pretty much the only rookie so we always knew my performance wouldn’t be about banging out a quick lap time.
It was a huge step up in power which was so much fun, I had a huge grin underneath my lid. The GP3 car is actually really, really quick. I had to get used to modulating the throttle more than the MRF car, but the biggest shock was probably the Pirelli tyres as they are a strange bit of kit! You can really only ‘push’ on them for two laps and then you need a cool-down lap, and with Abu Dhabi being such a long lap it was kind of frustrating. I worked out that in the one day of testing I got, there wasn’t actually that many ‘quick’ laps when you consider how often you need a coasting lap.
We also didn’t get my seating position quite right which cost me a bit in the morning session. At 188cm (6’2″), I’m on the tall side, and so you’re always mindful that you’re not sitting too high. With this being a new car we overcompensated and I didn’t really realise until I got out on track that I was actually barely able to see anything!
The plan for the day was just to build up and get used to such a quick car, so lap-time wise we were at the bottom but I knew that would be the case as most guys knew the car, while for me it was always going to take time acclimatizing to the huge power and trusting the extra aero grip etc.
It was all starting to click and I was on a run towards the end of the day, finding a few tenths each lap, and then another driver put it in the wall and the session was red-flagged. I was desperate to get out for a final few laps as I knew I was finding massive time, but they couldn’t get the session restarted.
I really thought at the end of that day that I needed one or two more days in the car as that’s where you find a lot of time. That’s why most drivers do the test for all three days, but of course I didn’t have the money for that yet.
At the time you had indicated a hope of breaking onto the GP3 Series grid but that has sadly not eventuated. What were the factors at play?
Shortly after, the team offered me a drive for the 2015 season and my career was really starting to look on the up. I also had an offer from two other teams but then Hilmer/Force India decided to only focus on their GP2 outfit and sold the GP3 team to Campos Racing, and my sponsors/investors were really keen with the Force India F1 tie-up so that stuffed a few things up.
Unfortunately though, there was a much, much bigger issue that really cost me for this year and it’s why I’ve been sidelined so far since February and probably won’t race until the MRF season kicks off shortly. I haven’t really spoken up about it until now but I had a sponsor who had come on board during my 2014 MRF season and it was also going to kick-start my 2015 season as well. Everything was done and invoiced, brand activation had already commenced, and so this wasn’t just a ‘potential sponsor’ discussion, it was done and dusted and it’s cost me a lot.
Anyway, I can’t say much more about it as he is in the courts at the moment for some other issues because it’s been found out that’s he’s a serial conman fraudster across Melbourne. But either way, I’m putting it behind me and just using it as motivation to get back into the seat shortly.
What are your long-term racing aspirations, and what pathway through the junior formulae have you plotted to achieve these goals?
We believe the GP3 / GP2 route gives yourself and your partners the best avenue to break into Formula 1. It is the ultimate goal, but I realise it’s a tremendously tough gig to get there and I also need to show more at this level. While it does remain the goal, I also know it’s not the ‘be all and end all’ and there’s a lot of mega categories out there, but I want to shoot high for the stars first, even if that means some sort of development role alongside an F1 team and racing elsewhere.
So at this stage for 2015, we are targeting racing at F3 level via MRF again which kicks off in October for 16 races and potentially some guest races in another higher category if the opportunity presents itself.
But I really do need to re-evaluate where I’m going in my career, as I am 26. It’s strange because 20 years ago you had guys like Damon Hill breaking into F1 in his thirties and even a few years ago guys like Giefo van der Garde debuting in his late twenties, but now there’s this pressure to be going through puberty when you break into F1 or other high level categories.
It’s a lot of media build-up and I guess some sponsors wanting to make drivers younger and younger, which I find strange as I think an older or more mature driver can potentially associate themselves with a clientele who seems more aligned to some of these companies. Let’s be honest, it’s not like you can’t drive an F1 car physically into your late 30’s or even 40’s, so in that sense I’m frustrated because I want to keep chasing the open wheeler route towards F1 but outside pressures (not the teams) sort of say you have to start thinking elsewhere.
There are some options even on a development driver level in F1 whilst competing in other championships (which can obviously open the door to a more permanent role), but it needs to happen via rallying up Melbourne to get on board with me on this journey.
I actually grew up on Canterbury Road next to the Albert Park F1 circuit, so we are trying to get Melbourne behind having its own driver. The city is obsessed with sport, but it’s about getting them behind this journey on the way there, rather than only wanting to know you once you’ve ‘made it’.
So at this stage I’ll have to sit down with my manager shortly and really think what the best way going forward is. Whatever happens, whilst I’m shooting for the stars with the F1 goal, I just want to have a successful career in motorsport doing what I love.
Surfers often claim being in an epic barrel is better than sex and well us racing drivers know the feeling of being on the limit and once you’re hooked like that you just want that feeling over and over so I’m chasing my dream.
I have some ‘Plan B’ options that I still think can turn into something quite nice, still involved with F1 in another way but I can’t say much more yet if the ultimate goal doesn’t eventuate.
Of course there is the option to look at coming home to V8 Supercars or even LMP racing, both of which interest me. But I’m not really involved with the scene here in Australia, so it would be a weird feeling to do that as all my racing has been overseas.
Whether it’s the F1 route, looking to LMP1/LMP2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship – which is a great career choice that I can’t not think about – or V8 Supercars, you still need to create those sponsorship opportunities to get into them. It’s just all at a different level, which is a shame for the sport.
How can both fans and potential sponsors get involved in supporting Dylan Young?
For fans, the usual social media streams via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (@_dylanyoung_). One negative I’ve found having lived overseas for most of my career is that my profile here in Australia isn’t great despite the fact I’ve been one of a few Aussies racing offshore. Hopefully having moved back to Melbourne I can connect with the fans a bit more and I have a lot of cool ideas even for fans to interact a bit more via memberships and so on. I’m also available to anyone even for a chat as I’ve had some karters before come to me for some advice on career options so if anyone wants to get in touch just hola me!
For sponsors, I really am trying to create the full racing ‘experience’ for them. I’ve got some really unique money can’t buy experiences I’ve secured that can really create a key point of difference in their marketing activation and drive both value and revenue for their clients, so if anyone is interested please do get in touch via my website and I can give them the details.
Likewise, I actually want to give back and have a team around me who grows alongside me as being an integral part of my team on the inner sanctum. Therefore, I have some investors who have backed my career and who will receive a share of earnings and I’m always inviting others to come on board this club. For people who believe in me now, I actually want to offer this and too many drivers just take, take, take without actually giving back to the sponsor or investor, which is my aim. Ultimately I feel that I can become good friends with my backers and I envisage us all having a beer down the track and looking back at how far we’ve come together.
Clichés aside, what was the most important skill you have learned so far, and what have you learned about yourself personally?
I’ve learnt how much I really love racing and how much it means to me because I would have given up a long time ago if it didn’t mean this much to me. Because there is a lot of heartache that goes into it for those moments that I get to shut my visor and do what I love doing. Being on the edge is just the best feeling on earth when you’re on a quick lap. I live for those moments and the best part of my life revolves around building and creating those opportunities. They don’t just grow on trees.
I’ve learned a lot probably about the lengths I’m willing to go to keep chasing a task that some people simply label impossible. I think for anyone, whatever passion or industry they’re in, the people who really dedicate everything they have to making it a reality are the people who make it.
Motorsport might not exactly stand true to that, given that ultimately finances dictate a lot, but I know there are drivers who have already fallen back long ago who had family funding behind them but didn’t want to put in the hard yards to take their career even further.
Whether or not I achieve exactly where I want to go in this sport, it’s taught me how competitive life is and that the ones that really have that hunger and grit will stand the true tests. I love the quote,’when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful’. I know I’ve put absolutely everything I can into this so I’ll have no regrets even if it doesn’t eventuate but I’ll then be able to take these lessons elsewhere in my life.
I honestly think too many drivers from Australia just never even give it a crack. From quite early on, it’s either V8 Supercars or F1, and 98% will choose V8 Supercars. Some might call me stupid and I can see their view and where they’re coming from because they’ll say it’s better to have a 15-year career in V8 Supercars and never reach F1, rather miss the boat on coming back to V8’s. But, those drivers might also be thinking ‘what if’ and I at least know I’ll never be haunted by that ‘what if’ because I at least had a crack. I’m not saying I’ll never look at the V8 Supercars option – I have a huge amount of respect for those guys and it’s not easy to break into that series – so time wise I could be jeopardizing that as well. However, everyone is different and for me personally I know I had to chase this route towards F1.
Formula 1 remains your ultimate goal, although today’s ‘spec’ is attracting praise and criticism in equal measures. What are your thoughts on the top flight today and – as both a fan and aspiring top-level driver – what changes would you like to see implemented as the F1 contemplates it latest raft of rules and regulations changes?
I love Formula 1, but honestly I’m not exactly happy with where the sport sits at the moment. It should be the quickest, loudest, ‘biggest’ category globally.
I think they’ve gone too much towards the eco-friendly endurance style of racing. I’m not saying it shouldn’t care for the environment, but the style of F1 doesn’t even suit the engines they’ve got. That engine formula should be for endurance racing like the FIA WEC with 6-24 Hour races. I miss the noise, and I think it’s a critical thing that’s missing.
When I was at the Australian Grand Prix this year with my sponsors, I could even tell the excitement for them was lost a bit. When I was with Marussia F1 in the pits in 2014 they said the same thing that some of the excitement that got their sponsors engaged and shocked with the sport had now gone. It has lost a bit of that wow factor that truly made F1 stand out.
The cars need to be quicker as well. When I did the GP3 test I think my lap time was just only 7 seconds shy of the slowest car in F1 from Free Practice 1 (the Caterhams) and that’s just ridiculous. Then you see the GP2 Series is basically always quicker than the slowest Manor F1 cars.
What they are doing for 2017 is good with saying they will get the cars back to being 5-6 seconds a lap faster which would make them the ‘quickest’ cars ever. But, unfortunately I don’t think the engines will sound much better and I still worry drivers will be tip-toeing around and not being able to push. In a perfect world I’d like to see them go back to V10’s, but I also want a Ferrari in my driveway tomorrow so I can’t see that happening…
Images via Dylan Young, GP3 Media Service, MRF Challenge, Sutton Images, XPB Images