Interview with Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn

Interview with Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn

17 October 2012 – Monisha Kaltenborn began her post as Team Principal at Sauber last week, taking on the role ahead of the Korean Grand Prix. The Indian, who became the first female team boss in Formula 1 by stepping up to replace the departing Peter Sauber, takes the time to discuss her new job and look ahead to her home race in India...

Your passport gives your full name as Monisha Kaltenborn Narang. Why do you so rarely use your double surname?
I really like my Indian name. My Indian heritage and my parents’ family mean a great deal to me, which is why I never wanted to give up Narang. On the other hand, you have to admit that double-barrelled names aren’t very practical in day-to-day business operations. That’s why I only rarely use my full name.

What does the Indian Grand Prix mean to you?

Well, I really have to distinguish between the professional and the private side. From the sports point of view, as far as the Sauber F1 Team is concerned the Indian GP is a race like any other, with the same meticulous preparations and the same aspiration to achieve the best possible result. From a personal point of view, it’s rather different. Obviously I’m particularly looking forward to this race in my home country.

As I travel to all the grands prix as part of my job, I don’t have time for private trips to India. During my school and university days I would go there regularly. My husband Jens and I celebrated our marriage in India with a fabulous and very happy Hindu ritual. I feel very attached to India.

Will you be seeing friends or family during the grand prix?
I won’t really have time for private visits during this year’s race, but I’ll be flying out at least a day early to spend some time looking around New Delhi and attending various media events. I’m also involved as an ambassador for the FIA’s Women in Motorsports Commission, as well as an event by the F1 in Schools initiative.

Which memories do you associate with India?

Oh, undoubtedly my wonderful childhood. Since I was their only grandchild for a long time, my grandparents spoilt me rotten, and we had three delightful dogs. Up to the age of eight I attended Welham Girls’ High School in Dehradun, my birthplace and one of the oldest and most traditional cities in the north of this vast country. It was a very happy time with marvellous friendships. Then in 1979 my parents decided to emigrate to give me a better education.

What made your parents decide on Austria?
Originally the plan was to find a new home in an English-speaking country. But Vienna was the first stop on our journey because an uncle of my father’s was working at the atomic agency there. We liked it and so we stayed. I was sent straight to an Austrian rather than an international school, so I learnt the language very quickly and became integrated. I also completed my law studies in Vienna and took on Austrian citizenship, which had many advantages. And of course I have a lot of ties with Austria. I’ve spent a considerable part of my life there, after all.

To what extent are you still Indian today?
                                                 

I don’t think you ever lose your roots, and anyway you can

tell where I’m from just by looking at me. I also think I have a certain serenity and openness you might describe as Indian. That includes shrugging off negative experiences and focusing positively on the future – something that is very important in an environment as competitive as Formula One.

As for my Hindi, it’s no longer as good as I’d like it to be. But I do try to talk Hindi with the children occasionally. Our son is ten years old, our daughter seven, and I’d like them to learn the language. But my parents are better teachers than me.

How important do you think Formula One is for India?
Basically it’s difficult for any sport to find a place in India next to cricket. But I do think that the interest in Formula One has risen significantly since its debut last year. At least the media interest we are experiencing as a team would strongly indicate that. It seems right that India, as an upwardly mobile nation, a huge marketplace and a high-tech location, has found a place in the Formula One calendar with its excellently trained engineers. Both Formula One and the country can benefit from it.

What chances do you hold out for the Sauber F1 Team at the Indian Grand Prix?

The track layout is very similar to that in Korea. There are slow and fast turns and quite a long straight. However, it will be warmer there and Pirelli is providing different tyres – soft and hard rather than the super-soft and soft ones we had in Korea. That will mean different race strategies. For the C31, the circuit in India is likely to be neither ideal terrain nor particularly problematic. I’m confident that we will manage another decent points haul there.

You’re into your first week as Team Principal at trackside. What does this step mean for you?
I’m very happy at the confidence that Peter Sauber has placed in me. I grew into this role step by step, of course. I had been head of the company’s legal department since 2000, in 2001 I joined the Board of Management, in 2010 I became CEO, and since the end of 2011 I’ve held a third of the company’s stakeholding.

Peter Sauber’s withdrawal from the day-to-day running of the business has been on the cards for a long time, so this latest step was well prepared. I’m acutely aware of what it means to carry the responsibility for this company, which has been around for over 40 years and involved in Formula One for almost 20 years.

Is it more difficult as a woman to be accepted as Team Principal?
Professionally I’m sure gender plays no role. And as I’ve been around for such a long time, I don’t think I’ll be seen more in terms of a woman than a boss. People who are new to the scene might just do a double-take at first, but that will soon settle down.

How do you manage to cope with the twin responsibility of work and family?

It usually works very well, though in some situations it can prove an organisational and emotional challenge. I believe it’s very important to involve the children. We stay in touch on race weekends by phone or skype – these days, fortunately, there are such options. At home my husband, my parents and a nanny manage to cushion my professional absences. I’ve got a strong support system, and the kids are really proud of what their mother does.

How satisfied are you with the Sauber F1 Team’s achievements so far this season?
With four podium places and now 116 world championship points, we can certainly be proud of our achievements so far as a private team. Of course there have been races where things didn’t go to plan and we forfeited valuable points. Our car, the Sauber C31-Ferrari, is a great success and has proved competitive on virtually any kind of circuit. Some describe it as one of the best cars on the grid. Now it’s a matter of carrying the impetus forward into the remaining four races.

Our ambitious goal remains to finish fifth in the Constructors’ World Championship. And I have the utmost confidence both in our team at Hinwil and in the crew at the track along with our two drivers, Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez.

What are your personal highlights of the season so far?
To answer that I’m going to have to take off my sober, objective hat for a moment: it was just so emotional when Kamui finished third in Japan.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Sunday 30 April 2017

  2. Frustrated Alonso: Every weekend is the same 17:25

    Frustrated Alonso: Every weekend is the same

    A frustrated Fernando Alonso commented that "every weekend is the same" after he failed to even make the start of the Russian…

    F1
  3. Räikkönen content with return to podium 17:17

    Räikkönen content with return to podium

    Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen expressed satisfaction at returning to the podium positions for the first time since mid-2016 as…

    F1
  4. 17:06

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Sunday at Sochi

    F1
  5. 17:04

    Follow GPUpdate on Instagram in 2017!

    F1
  6. Palmer, Grosjean blame each other for clash 16:48

    Palmer, Grosjean blame each other for clash

    Renault's Jolyon Palmer and Haas' Romain Grosjean have blamed each other for the collision which caused both to retire at the…

    F1
  7. Wolff 'very proud' of Bottas after first win 16:31

    Wolff 'very proud' of Bottas after first win

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says he is "very proud" of Valtteri Bottas after he claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory in Sunday's…

    F1
  8. Hamilton: P4 maximum with cooling issues 15:56

    Hamilton: P4 maximum with cooling issues

    Lewis Hamilton says fourth position was the best result he could have achieved in the Russian Grand Prix after struggling with…

    F1
  9. Massa downplays Vettel's complaints 15:42

    Massa downplays Vettel's complaints

    Williams' Felipe Massa has dismissed Sebastian Vettel's complaints after the Ferrari driver lost time trying to lap the…

    F1
  10. Vettel: Victory chance lost at the start 15:20

    Vettel: Victory chance lost at the start

    Sebastian Vettel believes his prospects of taking victory at the Russian Grand Prix were squandered at the start, as he lost out…

    F1
  11. Bottas: Maiden F1 win worth the wait 15:11

    Bottas: Maiden F1 win worth the wait

    A delighted Valtteri Bottas says his maiden Formula 1 victory was "worth the wait" as he fended off Sebastian Vettel during a…

    F1
  12. 14:41

    In full: Russian Grand Prix race result

    F1
  13. Bottas fends off Vettel for maiden F1 win 14:39

    Bottas fends off Vettel for maiden F1 win

    Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas jumped both Ferrari drivers at the start and fended off a charging Sebastian Vettel in the closing…

    F1
  14. 12:36

    Follow the Russian Grand Prix live!

    F1
  15. 12:02

    Starting grid for the Russian Grand Prix

    F1
  16. Overview: Formula 1 qualifying battles 09:32

    Overview: Formula 1 qualifying battles

    As often highlighted: a Formula 1 driver's main reference point is their team-mate. Although race results and the final…

    F1
  17. Honda to supply Sauber from 2018 08:27

    Honda to supply Sauber from 2018

    Honda has announced that it will supply Sauber with power units from the 2018 season onwards, in addition to the firm's…

    F1
  18. Hülkenberg: Race will be 'true teller' of pace 08:10

    Hülkenberg: Race will be 'true teller' of pace

    Nico Hülkenberg believes the Russian Grand Prix will act as a "true teller" of Renault's recent updates, if he is able to…

    F1
  19. Grosjean: Struggles not down to brakes 07:34

    Grosjean: Struggles not down to brakes

    Haas driver Romain Grosjean says his struggles during qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix were not brake-related, stating that…

    F1
  20. Video of the Day: Fan drives Formula 1 car 05:32

    Video of the Day: Fan drives Formula 1 car

    Watch as a lifelong Formula 1 fan drives a Formula 1 car for the first time, courtesy of Renault.

    F1
  21. Pagenaud claims victory at Phoenix 04:30

    Pagenaud claims victory at Phoenix

    Simon Pagenaud took advantage of a timely caution to capture the lead and hold on for victory at Phoenix on Saturday night. The…

    Indy
  22. Saturday 29 April 2017

  23. 19:14

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Saturday at Sochi

    F1
  24. Alonso: McLaren losing 2.5s on straights 19:10

    Alonso: McLaren losing 2.5s on straights

    McLaren driver Fernando Alonso has continued his criticism of power unit supplier Honda, believing the MCL32 is giving away 2.5…

    F1
  25. Ocon 'a bit frustrated' despite maiden Q3 run 16:16

    Ocon 'a bit frustrated' despite maiden Q3 run

    Force India youngster Esteban Ocon believes he could have qualified in a higher position, despite making his first Q3 appearance…

    F1
  26. Ricciardo 'staying positive' despite gap 15:24

    Ricciardo 'staying positive' despite gap

    Daniel Ricciardo says he is "staying positive" about Red Bull's prospects in 2017 despite a sizeable deficit to pole position at…

    F1
  27. Massa enjoying fight with Red Bull drivers 15:09

    Massa enjoying fight with Red Bull drivers

    Williams driver Felipe Massa says he is enjoying being able to fight with the Red Bull pair at this weekend's Russian Grand…

    F1
  28. Bottas eyes start gains from third place 14:54

    Bottas eyes start gains from third place

    Valtteri Bottas is optimistic that the nature of the opening sequence of corners at the Sochi Autodrom can provide him with the…

    F1
  29. Hamilton laments final sector struggles 14:48

    Hamilton laments final sector struggles

    Lewis Hamilton lamented balance troubles in the final sector as he wound up fourth during qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix…

    F1
  30. Räikkönen felt pole was within reach 14:45

    Räikkönen felt pole was within reach

    Kimi Räikkönen reckons pole position was within his grasp before he was overhauled by Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel in…

    F1
  31. Vettel 'over the moon' with Sochi pole 14:36

    Vettel 'over the moon' with Sochi pole

    Sebastian Vettel has labelled himself as "over the moon" after he claimed his first pole position since 2015, with Ferrari…

    F1
  32. 14:08

    Russian Grand Prix: Qualifying results

    F1
  33. Vettel on pole, Ferrari locks out front row 14:06

    Vettel on pole, Ferrari locks out front row

    Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Russian Grand Prix in a tight qualifying at Sochi Autodrom, ahead of team-mate Kimi…

    F1
  34. 12:45

    Follow qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix!

    F1
  35. 11:06

    Russian Grand Prix: Full Practice 3 results

    F1
  36. Vettel, Ferrari stay on top in final practice 11:01

    Vettel, Ferrari stay on top in final practice

    Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari continued to set the pace during Saturday's final free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix…

    F1
  37. Video: Andretti 'Visor Cam' at Phoenix 10:06

    Video: Andretti 'Visor Cam' at Phoenix

    Go onboard with Marco Andretti's visor camera for a lap of the Phoenix International Raceway.

    Indy
  38. 09:46

    Follow final practice for the Russian GP!

    F1
  39. Sirotkin set for second FP1 run in Spain 07:38

    Sirotkin set for second FP1 run in Spain

    Sergey Sirotkin is set to receive another opportunity to drive the R.S.17 during practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, after his…

    F1
  40. Video of the Day: Alonso visits IndyCar 05:38

    Video of the Day: Alonso visits IndyCar

    Follow Fernando Alonso as he makes his first visit to the IndyCar paddock and Andretti headquarters.

    F1
  41. Castroneves gets Phoenix pole, lap record 05:12

    Castroneves gets Phoenix pole, lap record

    Hélio Castroneves reset his own track record from 2016 en route to pole at Phoenix on Friday night. The Brazilian led the field…

    Indy
  42. Friday 28 April 2017

  43. 16:22

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Friday at Sochi

    F1
more news