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. Monday 23 October 2017

  2. 19:05

    Follow us on Instagram for the best photos!

    F1
  3. Opinion: Verstappen's penalty the right call 19:03

    Opinion: Verstappen's penalty the right call

    Max Verstappen's penalty for his bold overtake on Kimi Räikkönen on the final lap of the United States Grand Prix was the…

    F1
  4. STR confirms Gasly, Hartley for Mexican GP 17:19

    STR confirms Gasly, Hartley for Mexican GP

    Toro Rosso has confirmed that Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley will race for the team at this weekend's Mexican Grand Prix…

    F1
  5. Wehrlein unimpressed at Magnussen move 16:52

    Wehrlein unimpressed at Magnussen move

    Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein believes it was "quite an effort" for Kevin Magnussen to crash into him on the opening lap of the…

    F1
  6. United States Grand Prix: Winners and Losers 15:32

    United States Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

    Lewis Hamilton put himself on the brink of a fourth world title, some midfield drivers starred, while a controversial penalty…

    F1
  7. Räikkönen 'surprised' by Verstappen attempt 14:34

    Räikkönen 'surprised' by Verstappen attempt

    Kimi Räikkönen says he was "a bit surprised" by Max Verstappen's last-lap manoeuvre through Turn 17 as the pair battled for…

    F1
  8. Viñales sets sights on Dovizioso in standings 13:42

    Viñales sets sights on Dovizioso in standings

    Yamaha's Maverick Viñales says his target for the remaining two races this season is to overhaul Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso…

    MotoGP
  9. McLaren 'deserved' Austin points - Alonso 12:56

    McLaren 'deserved' Austin points - Alonso

    Fernando Alonso hailed an "amazing performance" from McLaren at the United States Grand Prix and believes the operation deserved…

    F1
  10. Kvyat: US Grand Prix my best race in 2017 11:44

    Kvyat: US Grand Prix my best race in 2017

    Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat described his United States Grand Prix as the "best race of the year" as he marked his return to…

    F1
  11. Video: Haas Hill at the Circuit of the Americas 10:58

    Video: Haas Hill at the Circuit of the Americas

    Join Gene Haas, Guenther Steiner, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen as they visit #HaasHill at the Circuit of the Americas…

    F1
  12. Ocon relieved to overcome pre-race issue 10:22

    Ocon relieved to overcome pre-race issue

    Force India's Esteban Ocon labelled his United States Grand Prix as "very satisfying", and praised his team for overcoming a…

    F1
  13. Sainz Jr. enthused by Renault debut points 09:06

    Sainz Jr. enthused by Renault debut points

    Carlos Sainz Jr. revelled in a "smooth" weekend as he followed up a Q3 spot with points on his Renault debut at the United…

    F1
  14. Wolff: Mercedes to 'keep foot on the gas' 06:32

    Wolff: Mercedes to 'keep foot on the gas'

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team will "keep our foot on the gas" after completing "half of the job" by clinching the…

    F1
  15. Video: F1 goes pink for cancer awareness 04:02

    Video: F1 goes pink for cancer awareness

    McLaren highlights how Formula 1 went pink for the United States Grand Prix to raise breast cancer awareness, in conjunction…

    F1
  16. 03:16

    Championship standings after United States

    F1
  17. 01:04

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Sunday in Austin

    F1
  18. Ricciardo braced for Mexico grid demotion 01:02

    Ricciardo braced for Mexico grid demotion

    Daniel Ricciardo says he is braced for a back-of-the-grid start at the upcoming Mexican Grand Prix, following his engine failure…

    F1
  19. Bottas left to lament late-race tyre wear 00:40

    Bottas left to lament late-race tyre wear

    Valtteri Bottas conceded that it was "not possible" for him to execute a one-stop strategy, after the Finn struggled with the…

    F1
  20. Sunday 22 October 2017

  21. Hamilton: Pre-race set-up changes crucial 23:54

    Hamilton: Pre-race set-up changes crucial

    Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton believes set-up changes before the race were a big factor in securing victory at the United States…

    F1
  22. Vettel admits he lacked Hamilton's pace 23:01

    Vettel admits he lacked Hamilton's pace

    Sebastian Vettel has conceded that Ferrari lacked the pace to fight with Lewis Hamilton at the United States Grand Prix, after…

    F1
  23. 'Idiot steward killed the race' - Verstappen 22:40

    'Idiot steward killed the race' - Verstappen

    Max Verstappen has hit out at "one idiot steward", believing they "killed" the race, following his post-race penalty in Austin…

    F1
  24. Horner slams 'unbelievably harsh' penalty 22:26

    Horner slams 'unbelievably harsh' penalty

    Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has hit out at United States Grand Prix stewards in the wake of Max Verstappen's…

    F1
  25. Verstappen penalised, Räikkönen third 21:49

    Verstappen penalised, Räikkönen third

    Max Verstappen has been issued with a five-second time penalty after stewards at the United States Grand Prix deemed that he cut…

    F1
  26. 21:45

    In full: United States Grand Prix race results

    F1
  27. Hamilton edges closer to title with victory 21:43

    Hamilton edges closer to title with victory

    Lewis Hamilton won the United States Grand Prix to edge closer to a fourth title, regaining the lead from Sebastian Vettel after…

    F1
  28. 19:20

    Follow the United States Grand Prix live!

    F1
  29. 19:00

    Starting grid for the United States GP

    F1
  30. Vandoorne gets additional 25-place drop 17:29

    Vandoorne gets additional 25-place drop

    Stoffel Vandoorne is set to incur an additional 25-place grid penalty for taking on new power unit components, after Honda…

    F1
  31. Pirelli expects two-stop United States GP 15:32

    Pirelli expects two-stop United States GP

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli believes a two-stop strategy will "theoretically" be the fastest approach in dry conditions at…

    F1
  32. Hartley confident over long-run potential 14:42

    Hartley confident over long-run potential

    Brendon Hartley says he is confident over his long-run performance as he prepares to make his Formula 1 debut at the United…

    F1
  33. Van der Mark gets Sepang Tech 3 call-up 14:12

    Van der Mark gets Sepang Tech 3 call-up

    World Superbike rider Michael van der Mark has been drafted in by Tech 3 for his MotoGP debut at next weekend's Malaysian Grand…

    MotoGP
  34. Alonso: First lap crucial in points push 13:14

    Alonso: First lap crucial in points push

    Fernando Alonso is wary that McLaren could be "exposed" on the opening lap of the United States Grand Prix due to its speed…

    F1
  35. Dovizioso left to lament 'big disappointment' 12:29

    Dovizioso left to lament 'big disappointment'

    Andrea Dovizioso described his Australian Grand Prix as a "big disappointment" as he lost substantial ground in the title race…

    MotoGP
  36. Renault debutant Sainz Jr. targets top six 11:32

    Renault debutant Sainz Jr. targets top six

    Carlos Sainz Jr. believes he can capture a strong points haul on his Renault debut at the United States Grand Prix, after…

    F1
  37. Rossi prepared to play changed 'game' 11:06

    Rossi prepared to play changed 'game'

    Valentino Rossi says MotoGP tactics have become "a bit more dangerous" but insists he is prepared to match his rivals, after a…

    MotoGP
  38. Video: Behind the scenes with Ferrari 10:22

    Video: Behind the scenes with Ferrari

    Take another look behind-the-scenes with Ferrari during the weekend's action at the Circuit of the Americas.

    F1
  39. Márquez: Australian GP 'like a Moto3 race' 09:42

    Márquez: Australian GP 'like a Moto3 race'

    Marc Márquez labelled the Australian Grand Prix as "like a Moto3 race" after he prevailed in a thrilling scrap for victory at…

    MotoGP
  40. 06:48

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday in Australia

    MotoGP
  41. 06:46

    In full: Australian Grand Prix results

    MotoGP
  42. Márquez triumphs in Australian GP thriller 06:44

    Márquez triumphs in Australian GP thriller

    Marc Márquez put himself on the brink of a fourth MotoGP title after prevailing in an epic Australian Grand Prix, which…

    MotoGP
more news