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. Tuesday 21 April 2015

  2. Video: Ayrton Senna's first Formula 1 win 10:40

    Video: Ayrton Senna's first Formula 1 win

    Today marks 30 years since Ayrton Senna's maiden Formula 1 victory, when he dominated proceedings at a rain-soaked Estoril…

    F1
  3. Feature: Bahrain GP's key questions 10:12

    Feature: Bahrain GP's key questions

    In the build up to the Bahrain Grand Prix, GPUpdate.net posed five key questions and contemplated the potential outcomes.…

    F1
  4. Renault confident over permanent fixes 09:12

    Renault confident over permanent fixes

    Renault Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul says that the company will use the three week gap before the Spanish Grand Prix to…

    F1
  5. Video of the Day: Ecclestone on Formula 1 05:34

    Video of the Day: Ecclestone on Formula 1

    F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone discusses the current state of the sport with the BBC F1's Eddie Jordan.

    F1
  6. Monday 20 April 2015

  7. 17:03

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  8. Bahrain Grand Prix: Winners and Losers 16:32

    Bahrain Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

    Lewis Hamilton claimed his third win of the year while Kimi Räikkönen took advantage of Nico Rosberg's late brake issue to…

    F1
  9. Manor Marussia 'proud' of flyaway efforts 13:18

    Manor Marussia 'proud' of flyaway efforts

    Manor Marussia team boss John Booth says the outfit can feel "justifiably proud" of its efforts over the opening four flyaway…

    F1
  10. Video: Ricciardo's Renault engine gives up 11:36

    Video: Ricciardo's Renault engine gives up

    Daniel Ricciardo's Renault engine gives up in dramatic fashion at the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    F1
  11. Ricciardo onto fourth engine after failure 11:32

    Ricciardo onto fourth engine after failure

    Daniel Ricciardo will move onto his fourth power unit at next month's Spanish Grand Prix, after his dramatic final lap failure…

    F1
  12. Rossi wanted longer fight with Márquez 10:12

    Rossi wanted longer fight with Márquez

    Valentino Rossi says he was disappointed not to take his battle for victory with Marc Márquez in Argentina onto the final lap…

    MotoGP
  13. Arrivabene: Räikkönen back on form 09:42

    Arrivabene: Räikkönen back on form

    Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene declared that Kimi Räikkönen is officially back on form after his Bahrain Grand Prix…

    F1
  14. Pérez hails 'one of my best races' 09:12

    Pérez hails 'one of my best races'

    Sergio Pérez reckons he drove one of the best races of his Formula 1 career en route to a points finish in the Bahrain Grand…

    F1
  15. Video of the Day: Grosjean in the kitchen 05:22

    Video of the Day: Grosjean in the kitchen

    Romain Grosjean joins Lotus chef Max Portioli in the team's kitchen at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    F1
  16. 01:26

    Championship standings after Bahrain

    F1
  17. Sunday 19 April 2015

  18. Dixon jumps Castroneves to win Long Beach 23:33

    Dixon jumps Castroneves to win Long Beach

    Scott Dixon comfortably won a fast-paced Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, helping his championship aspirations after…

    Indy
  19. 21:46

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday at Sakhir

    F1
  20. Vettel admits being unable to find rhythm 21:37

    Vettel admits being unable to find rhythm

    Sebastian Vettel says he wasn't able to find a good rhythm as he made several errors on his way to fifth place at the Bahrain…

    F1
  21. 21:25

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Río Hondo

    MotoGP
  22. Alonso encouraged after achieving objective 21:20

    Alonso encouraged after achieving objective

    McLaren driver Fernando Alonso says he was satisfied to achieve his pre-race objective by finishing the Bahrain Grand Prix…

    F1
  23. Rossi wins as Márquez crashes out 20:44

    Rossi wins as Márquez crashes out

    Championship leader Valentino Rossi claimed his second victory of the season in Argentina after a dramatic finale in which Marc…

    MotoGP
  24. Bottas pleased to fend off Vettel 19:56

    Bottas pleased to fend off Vettel

    Valtteri Bottas was pleased with his efforts after keeping Sebastian Vettel at bay during the closing stages of the Bahrain…

    F1
  25. Räikkönen left with mixed feelings 19:17

    Räikkönen left with mixed feelings

    Kimi Räikkönen was left to ponder what might have been after narrowly missing out on victory in Sunday's Bahrain Grand…

    F1
  26. Hamilton urges Mercedes to 'keep pushing' 19:08

    Hamilton urges Mercedes to 'keep pushing'

    Lewis Hamilton has urged Mercedes to "keep pushing" with development after another strong Ferrari performance in…

    F1
  27. 17:48

    In full: Bahrain Grand Prix race result

    F1
  28. Hamilton wins ahead of Räikkönen in Bahrain 17:46

    Hamilton wins ahead of Räikkönen in Bahrain

    Lewis Hamilton took his third win of the season with a commanding drive at the Bahrain Grand Prix, while Ferrari's Kimi…

    F1
  29. 15:46

    Follow the Bahrain Grand Prix live!

    F1
  30. Ecclestone happy with V6s if costs controlled 14:55

    Ecclestone happy with V6s if costs controlled

    Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said that he would be happy for the sport to continue using the current V6 turbocharged…

    F1
  31. 14:21

    Starting grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix

    F1
  32. Video: Drivers meet the fans at Sakhir 14:16

    Video: Drivers meet the fans at Sakhir

    Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, and Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Kimi…

    F1
  33. Haryanto secures first GP2 win in Bahrain 13:05

    Haryanto secures first GP2 win in Bahrain

    Indonesian driver Rio Haryanto claimed his maiden GP2 victory during the Sprint Race in Bahrain, passing Julián Leal early on…

    GP2
  34. Bell to make return at Indianapolis 500 11:15

    Bell to make return at Indianapolis 500

    Townsend Bell will return to IndyCar at next month's Indianapolis 500, driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing. Bell has…

    Indy
  35. Video of the Day: Verstappen vs Sainz Jr. 05:12

    Video of the Day: Verstappen vs Sainz Jr.

    Toro Rosso drivers Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. go head-to-head in an autograph battle.

    F1
  36. Saturday 18 April 2015

  37. Castroneves takes record Long Beach pole 23:29

    Castroneves takes record Long Beach pole

    Hélio Castroneves will start on pole for tomorrow's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach after breaking the track record in…

    Indy
  38. Daly to replace injured Moran Jr. 20:34

    Daly to replace injured Moran Jr.

    American Conor Daly will fill in for Rocky Moran Jr. this weekend at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Moran Jr., 34, would…

    Indy
  39. 19:54

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday at Sakhir

    F1
  40. Button senses improvement despite problems 19:42

    Button senses improvement despite problems

    Jenson Button is adamant that McLaren is making strides despite the Briton being plagued by problems so far this weekend in…

    F1
  41. Márquez dominates to take Argentina pole 18:57

    Márquez dominates to take Argentina pole

    World Champion Marc Márquez took a dominant pole position after controlling qualifying at the Río Hondo Circuit in…

    MotoGP
  42. Vettel: Ferrari will be closer in the race 18:52

    Vettel: Ferrari will be closer in the race

    Sebastian Vettel is confident that Ferrari will provide Mercedes with an even greater challenge in race conditions in…

    F1
  43. Rosberg says he 'got it wrong' with strategy 18:17

    Rosberg says he 'got it wrong' with strategy

    Nico Rosberg has admitted that he "got it wrong" with regards to his qualifying strategy in Bahrain after ending up third on the…

    F1
more news