Exclusive interview with Tom Blomqvist
10 October 2013 – Red Bull Junior Team pilot Tom Blomqvist is competing in the Formula 3 European Championship with this year, and currently lies seventh in the standings with two races remaining. Here the 2010 Formula UK Champion - and son of 1984 Swedish World Rally Champion Stig Blomqvist - talks to GPUpdate.net about his season, being part of the Red Bull family and what lies ahead in 2014...
Tom, can you tell us about your first steps in motorsport in New Zealand?
I moved to New Zealand when I was seven. I started karting there about half a year to one year later. I did all my karting in New Zealand. Okay it is nothing like Europe, I guess, but we had some good drivers’ there. I raced against Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy, a lot of very good drivers that have come over here and done well. You learn your race craft and you learn what you need to know. Then I took the jump to come to Europe in 2009 when I raced in Sweden, in a small championship [Swedish Formula Renault 2.0 - Ed]. I then progressed from there really.
I read that your mother encouraged you to start karting and not your father. Is that true?
I don’t know where that came from. I can’t remember. But for sure it was my father. He wanted me to get into racing. We started in quad bikes when I was two years-old. It was natural that I was going to end up racing something.
Has he pushed you towards rallying in anyway given that was and is his sport?
No, not at all. He was totally cool with whatever I wanted to do. I liked going sideways with the quad bikes. But then I got into karting when I went to New Zealand and I really liked it and I have been doing that ever since. It felt like a natural progression to step into cars once you have been racing in karts. I have had a go in a rally car here and there, but nothing serious. We will have to wait and see. Of course it is good fun and I wouldn’t mind giving it a go. But at the moment my focus is on circuit racing.
Rallying could be an option for the future then?
You never know, but, as I said, my goal at the moment is Formula One.
You’ve got some help now from Red Bull. How does that work?
I’ve got the support of Red Bull for this season. They are helping me out massively and without that I simply wouldn’t be racing. It has been a bit tough this year with the results we have been getting with the team. We have been a bit unfortunate. Things just haven’t really gone our way. We are up against the likes of Prema, Carlin, Mücke and Fortec. They are big teams and have a lot of personnel. We are just a little team. We are definitely up against it and, considering that, sometimes are results are quite good. The Nürburgring was a bit of a disappointment in August. We really struggled there. But we found a bit more speed at Zandvoort.
Do you feel extra pressure because you are in the Red Bull Junior Team?
To be honest, no - they put pressure on their drivers because it is their philosophy. But it is a pressure environment. Besides you want to succeed for yourself and when there is any added pressure from other sources it adds to it, but ultimately it makes no difference. At the end of the day it is your life and you are the one that wants to make something out of it [racing]. You have been given this golden opportunity by someone, so there is no reason to let that hinder your performance. It is what it is and you have got to go with it. It is your goal, it is your dream to race and if that, the extra pressure or so called extra pressure, is going to stop you from being able to perform you are obviously not going to make it anyway. It doesn’t bother me. It just keeps you on the tips of your toes. But I just keep my head down and keep focused.
You have been in the McLaren Driver Development programme too, haven’t you?
Last year I was on that. I have been jumping ship a bit! They gave me a lot of support in 2012. But what I needed unfortunately was the funds. That is my problem getting the money to go racing. We simply cannot afford to go racing ourselves.
What are the biggest differences between those two programmes?
Obviously Red Bull gives financial support and McLaren didn’t support me financially.
So Red Bull made sure you got a seat somewhere?
This is your second season in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. How would you rate it to the last one?
This year is a lot tougher. The competition is really hard. Last year was tough, but there wasn’t as many cars, and not as many drivers who could really do well. The teams were starting out too and so there were big differences between the cars and things like that. It was easier to get there or thereabouts. This year if you are a little bit off the pace you could be quite far back. It is definitely a lot more challenging. But it adds to the excitement.
Raffaele Marciello, the current championship leader, struggled to get up to speed at Zandvoort...
Yeah, exactly, you never know [who is going to end up where]. Marciello and [Felix] Rosenqvist they are long gone in the championship battle. But it is still pretty on between those two. I think it might go down to the wire if Rosenqvist keeps on top of his game and Marceillo has a few struggles here and there. It can soon close up again [Marceillio has scored 384.5 points so far this season, while Rosenqvist has 375 points going into the final two events – Ed].
You are at Eurointernational now - it is a team you have a history with isn’t it?
I have a history with the team and also Red Bull has a history with the team. I did really well with the team last year. I did a few one-off races with them. Antonio [Ferrari – team director and team manager] and the team wanted me to help out with their German F3 Championship programme. I won the majority of the races we did. It was really good and he managed to help me out with Red Bull. But, as I said, unfortunately it hasn’t gone the way we would like - that is the way racing goes sometimes.
Is there a lot of contact between the different Red Bull Junior Team members throughout the year?
Carlos [Sainz Jr.], Daniil [Kvyat], António Félix [da Costa] and I all have bases in Milton Keynes in England. So the four of us are obviously based in the UK and we catch up every now and then and hang out a bit. It is quite cool really. I don’t really see much of Beitske [Visser] and Callan [O'Keeffe]. But I am sure we will catch up sooner or later.
We might see da Costa go to F1 next year with Toro Rosso and earlier this year we saw him, Kvyat and Sainz do the Young Driver Test at Silverstone. Can we expect you in an F1 car soon?
I hope so. That is the goal, but it all depends on the results and how the remaining races go this year. But my head is down and I am focussed on the job in hand. That [F1] is my dream and with the support of Red Bull it is possible. I just need to keep working hard.
Do you have any plans for 2014?
No, not as of yet. As I said, I just need to keep pushing. All I can hope for is to continue racing again with Red Bull. Let’s just see how it goes.
What would be the logical next step?
I have my preferences. I’d like to do the World Series by Renault. But it is not my decision at the end of the day and it depends entirely on whether or not I continue with Red Bull. They will make the decision.
At the end of the year then you need to go to Austria and have a chat with Red Bull motorsport chief, Helmut Marko. Does it work like that?
Yeah, pretty much. He is a very straight forward guy and he tells it how it is. I will find out sooner or later if there is going to be a drive for me or not. It is pretty simple. You just need to deliver. It is quite a straight forward programme. There is no bulls**t. You do well and you get looked after. If you don’t do well that is the way it goes. But that is life and that is racing.
How much is your father still involved in your career?
He is involved because he is my father. But he is just in the background. He doesn’t help - he can’t help out financially or things like that. He is just there for moral support.
Did he ever dream about circuit racing?
I don’t think so. He has done a bit of it at times throughout his career, but just for fun, nothing serious.