Exclusive interview with Robert Wickens
10 October 2011 – Sunday saw Canada’s Robert Wickens clinch the 2011 World Series by Renault title at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, with a collision having occurred between himself and Carlin team-mate Jean-Éric Vergne. The 22-year-old Virgin Racing F1 reserve driver took time out after the race to discuss the latest with GPUpdate.net.
Rob Wickens, well done – you are the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Champion…
Yes, sounds pretty good! (laughs)
First of all, the title-deciding race. We had a very interesting scenario – what was your version of events?
At the beginning of the day that wasn’t how I expected everything to pan out. I didn’t have a start which I can particularly brag out, it wasn’t great – me and Albert (Costa) got off the line together but third (Anton Nebylitskiy) had a fantastic start and got between the both of us. I was conceding third but then I got blocked a bit by Albert, because he had a decent gap at this point and didn’t really have to defend into the first corner; he went to the outside, but I was there, but then he braked really early – maybe because yesterday he went wide and what have you.
There was nowhere I could go so, to defend myself, I went over to the inside; I had a look in my mirrors, there was no-one there, everything was good. Then, all of a sudden, at the apex of Turn 1 I got a big whack in the sidepod. In my view, I wasn’t given much space and was past the point of no return. We (Wickens and Vergne) made contact and it broke my suspension; from there I just couldn’t steer and I feel terrible for (Nathanaël) Berthon because there was nothing he could have done and I just was trying to turn. I hope he is alright; I know he was taken away in the ambulance but I’m sure it’s just for precautionary checks.
Away from the incident today, how do you sum up your season?
On the whole, it’s been one of the best years of my career. I was up at the front almost every weekend, challenging for wins, and my engineer Paul Wallace did a fantastic job, always having a car that can be there in qualifying. To end with seven or eight podiums – it would have been eight podiums if Monza had counted, because I had that grid penalty – but definitely in my eyes I think it’s pretty impressive.
I’m really happy with the year. I think we were a consistent front-runner along the way and I hope everyone down the pit lane saw us as a threat on-track every time; that was a goal I had going into the start of the year and I think I can walk away feeling that I accomplished that.
Your name is already quite well-known, thanks to your role with the Virgin Racing Formula 1 team. How much has that helped you this year?
I have learned a lot, just as the reserve driver. You can’t really carry much over into the World Series by Renault because it’s a completely different car and a completely different operation – you go from 47 people on one team to ten here at Carlin on two cars. But I have loved the experience from Virgin and doing an aero test was great. I definitely want to be in Formula 1 more now than ever before.
You must at least be hoping for some F1 Friday drives next year…
Yes, but at the end of the day it’s not my decision. I’m a race car driver, I want to race and I want to race in Formula 1. From my side I feel like I’m ready for Formula 1 and maybe we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Do you speak much with Canadian compatriot Jacques Villeneuve?
Not at all! I met Jacques when I was 16 at a BMW dinner, because I was racing in Formula BMW and he was at BMW Sauber; he shook my hand and said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ and that’s the extent of my experience with Jacques Villeneuve. So, no, we don’t speak at all (laughs).
Apart from Formula 1, we now have a few months until the proper racing action resumes. Do you have anything planned for 2012?
I have absolutely nothing. Hopefully now I’ll have a bit of fighting power for next year! We’ll just have to see where it goes. It’s not really up to me, I don’t have personal money to go anywhere; it’s up to the sponsors and to Marussia about what they want to do and hopefully I can maybe gather a bit more myself.
Robert Wickens was talking to GPUpdate.net’s Gregory Haines