Exclusive interview with Robert Wickens

Exclusive interview with Robert Wickens

30 November 2011 – Robert Wickens was the quickest driver for no less than two teams at the Abu Dhabi Young Driver test, making the most of his track time after becoming World Series by Renault Champion. The 22-year-old Canadian chats exclusively with GPUpdate.net.

Wickens hails from Toronto
How did the Young Driver test go for you?
Everything went very well, in my opinion. I had goals for myself to kind of tick off: I wanted to be in the top three with Renault, and I did that, and I also wanted to be the quickest driver on each of the teams and I did that as well. So, all in all, I think I should be proud of what I achieved.

Could you feel a clear difference between the LRGP and Virgin cars?
Every car is different, but there are definitely some subtle and smaller differences between them. To be honest it was what I expected it to be, in terms of differences in performance.

You have some incredible statistics to your name: third in Formula BMW USA in 2005 and Champion in 2006, third in the Champ Car Atlantic series in 2007, runner-up in Formula 2 in 2009 and runner-up in GP3 in 2010. How much of a difference has it made to clinch another title, in Formula Renault 3.5 this year?
I think your latest championship is always the most important one. But something I didn’t really realise until mid-season this year is that the World Series by Renault is the first championship that I have actually returned to for a second season, albeit two or three years later; it was the first time since Formula BMW that I’ve done a second full season in the same series. For all we know, maybe I could have been Champion a lot more if I’d had the opportunity to stick in the same championship for multiple years, like you see some of these drivers do. But the World Series is a very important achievement and, hopefully, I can come off the wake of that and try and get something good for next year.

You have recently been able to enjoy some added publicity, such as contributing to the BBC Radio 5 live commentary team during free practice sessions. Have you enjoyed that?
I’ve had a blast! It’s something I’ve always wanted to try and, from what I’ve heard, I’m not making a fool of myself! I have had a lot of great opportunities along the way. For sure, my career path hasn’t been ideal, but I’ve been lucky to be racing in every season so far in my car career from 2005 onwards – there are some drivers who can’t say the same. I think, if budget was never an option or if I have stayed on with Red Bull (backing, which was terminated at the end of 2009), my career path would have been different. But at the end of the day I’m still on the doorstep to Formula 1 and I think that is all that matters.

Whether backed by Red Bull or Marussia, your career has generally been very impressive thus far. So how do you now go about planning 2012?
To be brutally honest, my goal is to get a race seat in any Formula 1 team. I feel like I’m ready, I’m 22 and there are now a lot of drivers on the grid who I have actually competed against. So I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to join them there. Some things have to come into place to make that a reality, but I’m also working on some other things to make sure that I will be doing something in 2012.

On the last day of the Young Driver test, it very much looked as though you were thrown out of the morning session because Marussia preferred to run Charles Pic. Is that how it felt to you?
I guess the brutal facts are: yes, that’s the case (laughs). I guess they had their own contracts to oblige to and, whatever the reason was, Charles ended up getting my morning, because I was meant to have the full day on Thursday. It kind of just made me work even harder with the running that I had in the afternoon. I think I only did 33 or 34 laps in the afternoon so, considering I didn’t really get out of the car that often – I think I only got out for about ten minutes, once or twice – it was a busy afternoon and I was stuck doing a lot of the Pirelli tyre testing, so we couldn’t really change the car or do that much to it. So the car wasn’t ideally to my liking, in terms of balance, but once in a situation like that all you can do is adapt and try to do the best job you can.

Charles Pic joins Marussia for the 2012 season
Charles Pic has now been confirmed with Marussia Virgin for 2012, which forces yourself and other drivers to look around at other teams now…
I just focus on my own thing, there’s no productivity on worrying about others. If you just do a better job yourself, you stand a better job of getting something, so I’m just keeping my head down and doing everything I can to try and secure a Formula 1 seat.

The driver market is and has been saturated for a long time this year. Is it best to be in the F1 environment, such as with a reserve drive, or to continue racing in another series?
To be honest, that’s what I’m not sure about right now (laughs). It’s one of those things. I think, if you can get a Formula 1 reserve driver deal with a (race) option on 2013, that is a very good-looking option. To take a year out of racing and being a reserve driver…at the end of the day, I’ve been racing since I was seven years old in karting. I’m pretty sure that, if I have to take a year off racing a car to just driving cars and going on the simulator and stuff, I wouldn’t lose my racecraft.

But, definitely, the more seat time you can get, the better - and you don’t get more seat time than when you are racing. It is definitely a tricky one but there are some options on the table for me, so we have to evaluate some and try to see what the best deal is for 2012.

Wickens celebrated his Formula Renault 3.5 title
If it is any consolation, most of the others who took part in the Young Driver test find themselves in a similar situation: trying to squeeze onto a tightly-packed F1 grid.
Yeah, for sure. From what I’ve heard from other people, it’s definitely not the best market to be getting into F1 right now! But I guess that, if it’s an easy fight, it’s not really a fight worth fighting for (laughs)!

The season is now over – do we have a case of train, train, train up to 2012?
Absolutely. I was pleasantly surprised that my fitness was good enough with the Young Driver test, but at the same time I’m not an idiot; I understand that the Yas Marina circuit is probably one of the easiest, as physical fitness goes. But I was pleased that my neck was not a problem anywhere because there are some fairly heavy braking zones – the back of my neck was good under braking during the whole time with Renault and also with Virgin, it was very good.

I was very encouraged by all of my hard work over the winter and this whole summer, getting ready for the opportunity of an F1 test if I won the Formula Renault 3.5 title. I think it went well but on the same token I think I know that my training is working, so I am just going to keep going in that direction and work as hard as possible.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Friday 27 March 2015

  2. Renault issues threat to quit Formula 1 12:05

    Renault issues threat to quit Formula 1

    Renault Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul says that the French company could pull out of Formula 1 - with Red Bull's Christian…

    F1
  3. Vettel not happy with Friday performance 11:54

    Vettel not happy with Friday performance

    Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel says he was not happy with his own performance during practice for this weekend's Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  4. Alonso upbeat about McLaren progress 11:10

    Alonso upbeat about McLaren progress

    Fernando Alonso says he is pleased with the progress McLaren has made as he returned to action during Friday practice for the…

    F1
  5. Stevens pleased to be within 107 percent 10:22

    Stevens pleased to be within 107 percent

    Manor Marussia driver Will Stevens says he was pleased to be within the 107 percent mark of the fastest time in both practice…

    F1
  6. 10:04

    Latest F1 photos: Friday at Sepang

    F1
  7. Red Bull drivers note improvements 09:50

    Red Bull drivers note improvements

    Red Bull pair Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo expressed their optimism over improvements made to the RB11 following Friday's…

    F1
  8. Bottas confident over back injury 09:43

    Bottas confident over back injury

    Williams driver Valtteri Bottas says he is sure that he won't be bothered by the back pain which forced him out of the…

    F1
  9. Hamilton surprised by Ferrari practice pace 09:02

    Hamilton surprised by Ferrari practice pace

    Lewis Hamilton says he was surprised by the pace Ferrari displayed on the opening day of practice for the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  10. 07:39

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Full Practice 2 results

    F1
  11. Hamilton moves ahead in second practice 07:34

    Hamilton moves ahead in second practice

    Lewis Hamilton recovered from his morning technical woes to set the standard during second practice for the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  12. Williams given suspended fine over tyres 07:01

    Williams given suspended fine over tyres

    Williams has been given a suspended fine of €10,000 after a tyre breach in Malaysian Grand Prix practice. All drivers are…

    F1
  13. 05:54

    Follow second practice for the Malaysian GP!

    F1
  14. Marciello pleased with F1 practice debut 05:52

    Marciello pleased with F1 practice debut

    Sauber reserve driver Raffaele Marciello was in high spirits after making his Formula 1 practice debut at the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  15. Hamilton's engine allocation unaffected 05:12

    Hamilton's engine allocation unaffected

    Mercedes has said that Lewis Hamilton's engine allocation will not be affected by the problem he suffered during first practice…

    F1
  16. Stoner to make racing return at Suzuka 8hr 04:50

    Stoner to make racing return at Suzuka 8hr

    Casey Stoner will come out of retirement to contest this year's Suzuka 8hr race with Honda. The two-time MotoGP World…

    MotoGP
  17. 03:45

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Full Practice 1 results

    F1
  18. Rosberg tops FP1 as Hamilton hits trouble 03:37

    Rosberg tops FP1 as Hamilton hits trouble

    Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg topped opening practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix, while team-mate and reigning World Champion…

    F1
  19. 01:51

    Follow first practice for the Malaysian GP!

    F1
  20. Sepang boss wants young Malaysian in F1 01:20

    Sepang boss wants young Malaysian in F1

    The boss of the Sepang circuit says that the future of the Malaysian Grand Prix would be boosted if a young driver from the…

    F1
  21. Video of the Day: Hamilton's Sepang preview 01:04

    Video of the Day: Hamilton's Sepang preview

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton previews this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

    F1
  22. Thursday 26 March 2015

  23. Video: Dealing with the heat at Sepang 19:14

    Video: Dealing with the heat at Sepang

    Fred Fernando, of Ferrari medical partner Medex, talks about tackling the heat and humidity at Sepang.

    F1
  24. Márquez sets pace in opening Qatar session 17:55

    Márquez sets pace in opening Qatar session

    Reigning double World Champion Marc Márquez set the pace as the new MotoGP season began under the lights at Losail in…

    MotoGP
  25. Ex-tester Frijns joins Blancpain Series 14:37

    Ex-tester Frijns joins Blancpain Series

    Former Formula 1 test driver Robin Frijns has switched to endurance racing for 2015 after signing a deal to race for the WRT…

    Misc
  26. Amberg joins Lazarus for GP2 campaign 14:10

    Amberg joins Lazarus for GP2 campaign

    Zoël Amberg will make his GP2 Series debut next month after penning a deal to race for Lazarus. Amberg has spent the last…

    GP2
  27. Hamilton: Red Bull equalisation call 'funny' 13:55

    Hamilton: Red Bull equalisation call 'funny'

    Lewis Hamilton says Christian Horner's call for the FIA to rein in Mercedes is "funny", considering the success his Red Bull…

    F1
  28. IndyCar season preview: Five key questions 13:21

    IndyCar season preview: Five key questions

    When the green flag drops on the streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday, it will have been almost seven months since the last…

    Indy
  29. 12:31

    Latest F1 photos: Thursday at Sepang

    F1
  30. Manor Marussia fires up car at Sepang 12:28

    Manor Marussia fires up car at Sepang

    Manor Marussia has fired up its car for the first time ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix. The outfit made the…

    F1
  31. Sepang circuit boss wants late-season slot 11:43

    Sepang circuit boss wants late-season slot

    Malaysian Grand Prix boss Razlan Razali is hopeful that Sepang will extend its stay on the Formula 1 calendar, and has set his…

    F1
  32. Kobayashi joins Toyota's WEC effort 10:46

    Kobayashi joins Toyota's WEC effort

    Former Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi has joined Toyota's World Endurance Championship squad as its official test and reserve…

    LM
  33. Rosberg: Unfair to say we're further ahead 10:41

    Rosberg: Unfair to say we're further ahead

    Nico Rosberg says it is unfair to suggest that Mercedes has increased its advantage over the rest of the Formula 1 field this…

    F1
  34. Williams signs Sutil as reserve driver 10:03

    Williams signs Sutil as reserve driver

    Williams has announced Adrian Sutil as its official reserve driver for the 2015 campaign. The German, who lost his Sauber…

    F1
  35. Bottas makes car changes to aid back 09:14

    Bottas makes car changes to aid back

    Valtteri Bottas says he has changed the seat and pedal positions in his Williams in a bid to prevent a repeat of the back issue…

    F1
  36. Alonso says steering 'locked' for testing crash 08:19

    Alonso says steering 'locked' for testing crash

    McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso has gone against the team's official explanation of his testing crash, revealing that he…

    F1
  37. Alonso, Bottas declared fit to race 05:22

    Alonso, Bottas declared fit to race

    McLaren-Honda's Fernando Alonso and Williams driver Valtteri Bottas have been declared fit to compete at this weekend's…

    F1
  38. Sepang memories: Räikkönen's first win 05:14

    Sepang memories: Räikkönen's first win

    Watch as McLaren's Kimi Räikkönen claims his first Formula 1 victory at the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix.

    F1
  39. Wednesday 25 March 2015

  40. Stewart sure Alonso will have no problems 14:45

    Stewart sure Alonso will have no problems

    Three-time Formula 1 World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart believes that Fernando Alonso will have "no trouble at all" when the…

    F1
  41. Button: Malaysia heat to test McLaren 13:08

    Button: Malaysia heat to test McLaren

    Jenson Button believes that the high temperatures expected at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix will test McLaren after a…

    F1
  42. 12:47

    Latest F1 photos: Preparations at Sepang

    F1
  43. Allison expecting Ferrari to close gap 10:51

    Allison expecting Ferrari to close gap

    Ferrari Technical Director James Allison is confident that the team will be closer to Mercedes at the Malaysian Grand Prix than…

    F1
more news