Were you in to motorsport before you started racing yourself?
Yeah. I first started following motorcycle racing- Grand Prix motorcycles and World Superbikes- and I was very interested in getting started in that. But my parents deemed it a little dangerous and steered me the way of go-karts and from there I started getting interested in Formula One.
How old were you when you started in karts?
Fourteen, so I started fairly late in karting terms. That was in junior TKM and I did a year and a half of that and then moved up to senior TKM
Tell me a bit about your karting career and then the move in to single-seaters.
As I said we started in TKM. In my first year in senior TKM we won the local club championship at Glan Y Gors and the following year, 2006, I won the British Open Championship, the first Welsh driver to win this cup. I think I won it by two and a half seconds. I also competed in Super One that year, continued in 2007 and finished 8th overall. During that season we dovetailed the karting with some Formula Ford testing and for the last few round of Super One we were just turning up so as to maintain a top 10 placing.
What was it like driving a single-seater for the first time?
Stepping in to a Formula Ford, the first thing I noticed was the body roll, the extra weight behind me and the extra stopping distance. The acceleration and the speed weren’t really factors. It didn’t strike me at the time and still doesn’t now really. It was more that the car felt clumsy after racing go-karts, and it was clear that you needed a lot more finesse and precision when making that transition.
And so it was two years in Formula Ford?
Yeah, two years in Formula Ford. I started off with Myerscough College team at the beginning of 2008. Midway through the year we switched to Kevin Mills’ team. That year we won 7 races and had 13 pole positions. As you can tell from that poles to wins ratio we had a lot of incident. Some were mechanical but inexperience also played a part. So we finished 3rd in the scholarship class that year.
And then 2009….
We stayed with Kevin Mills. We’d wanted to challenge for the championship but I think there was a bit of immaturity from my side. I was still learning the ropes of the car racing world and the motorsport world in general so we had some ups and downs last year. I had a pole and a podium; I had some strong performances. But overall the end results weren’t what we’d hoped for. But I still learned a lot, and I think I showed great potential.
And for 2010 you’re looking to British F3?
Yeah, either the national or international class. We haven’t quite finalised our plans yet but we’re working on a couple of lines at the moment. We’re talking to a few teams and to a few business partners and it’s looking really promising for us to have a really good package and challenge for whichever championship we’re in.
Do you have a clear path of how you’d like to move through the categories?
The plan is for two years in Formula 3, two years in GP2 and then Formula One. But you’ve got to be flexible depending on what series is the one to be in. World Series by Renault or Formula Two might turn out to be the series to be in so you’ve got to be flexible. But that’s my aim at the moment. The plan was always two years for Ford, two years of F3, two years of GP2. That was the plan when we started looking at moving in to single-seaters. If I’m in F3 national next year I want to be champion and then top 5 in the international class the following year and then hopefully GP2. But I’m not thinking about that yet. I’m just looking to the first test.
GP2 is a very expensive series…
That’s right, but British F3 is an expensive series- any international motorsport is expensive so you’ve just got to race hard and raise the money. You can’t stop until you’ve raised the funding. The plan’s worked so far- I’ve done my two years of Formula Ford and now I’m looking to F3. You’ve just got to have that mentality.
How are you doing for sponsors?
No sponsors at the moment. I’ve had quite a bit in the past and we are working on this continuously but there’s no one right now.
There’s a lack of Welsh drivers moving through the junior categories. Do you think that’s linked to sponsorship? Wales doesn’t have big companies putting money behind drivers.
I think it is a funding issue, for sure. There’s certainly enough talented guys out there but I think there’s more participation in England- certainly in the Midlands- than there is in Wales. There are certainly some very talented guys but there’s no real commercial backing. I think in Wales, and the UK as a whole, there’s no recognition from the government side of it, there’s not so much support. I’ve read stories of the great support the Irish council gives its drivers and the same for Spain. These places seem to really get behind their drivers but in this country it seems to be more towards football, rugby and athletics.
The Argentine government have paid part of the money for Jose Maria Lopez’s USF1 drive!
Yeah, that’s right, Carlos Reuterman is pretty influential over there. If you’ve got some influential people high up it’s a lot easier. But I can’t see that happening with Wales. The assembly isn’t devolved enough to be putting that kind of funding behind someone.
What sort of physical training are you doing at the moment?
Well if you want to be an F1 driver you’ve got to train as hard if not harder than them, so yeah I train twice a day, six days a week. I’m working with a fitness trainer and a sports psychologist.
And are you up on the technical side of the sport?
Yeah, it’s 90% of the battle really, being up on the technical side and giving quality feedback to the engineers. It’s especially true in Formula One these days, with it being such a development race, and so in the lower formulae you have to prove yourself to be very good technically. It’s something i pride myself on- I regard myself as a good technical driver- and I think it’s something that gives me the edge in certain situations.
You’re obviously pretty committed to getting to Formula One but would you consider other forms of motorsport? Touring cars maybe?
There’s nothing else on the horizon at the moment but ultimately I want to be able to make a living out of racing. If I have to look at something else in the future maybe I would but at the moment I’m just looking at touring cars as a nice way to retire after Formula One!
What do you think separates you from the hundreds of other guys your age from across the world who want to make it to F1 in the next few years?
I think it’s my determination. I’m so single minded about what I want to do and I’m so determined to get there. I feel it, you know? If I can’t do this I don’t want to do anything. It’s my determination that’s going to get me there. And I understand what it takes. I’ve learnt a lot in the two years of Formula Ford about the dedication required and I’m putting that dedication in. Whether it’s getting to Formula One, getting to the Olympics or becoming a Premiership footballer you need to put in that hard work. You can have the talent but if you don’t channel it properly you wont get there. So it’s my determination that sets me apart.
Do you get a chance to watch much F1?
Yeah, if I’m not racing on the same weekend I follow it all. I really enjoy watching the practice sessions. You get more of an insight in to how the teams work and how they operate in testing. I think I prefer watching the practice sessions to watching the racing actually!
Anthony Davidson doing the practice sessions has been really good.
Yeah, with him being so switched on you get a really good insight in to how the driver thinks.
From the time you’ve been watching F1 which driver would you say you admire the most?
Well from my time watching F1 I’ve got to say the one who stands out is Schumacher. He’s so good at creating an environment in which he’s able to flourish. He did it at Ferrari and I think he’ll be able to do the same at Mercedes. He’s able to put the right people around him and make an environment that he feels comfortable in and who are singing from the same hymn sheet as him.
How do you think he’ll do this year?
I think he’ll do as well as ever. If the car’s up to it I think he can win and I think it’ll be interesting to see who’s going to be the quickest Mercedes driver between him and Rosberg. I think it’ll be Schumacher because, though he may be a few years older, he’s still got the determination he had when he was winning world titles. I can’t see anything having changed.
And he’s still very fit…
Yeah, he looks like he may even be fitter now! He’s had three years to work at it so he might be fitter than he was when he was last in F1.
Is there a driver from the whole history of the sport who you admire, Schumacher aside?
Prost is another one. I just admire how calculating he was when he raced. He was like the opposite of Senna in a way. He was so methodical and meticulous in his preparation and so calculating when he raced. I prefer that. It’s not the most entertaining swashbuckling style but from watching the old races you feel he was a master tactician.
So Prost vs Senna, you’d go for Prost?
Well my favourite driver of the two is Senna, but I admire the way Prost went about his racing. He maxmised his talent, perhaps more so than any other driver.
Obviously you just want to drive in F1, but is there one team that holds a particular appeal for you?
Ferrari. I’m not sure whether there’s a bit of an emotional link from being an emotionally charged Welshman to the emotionally charged Italians, but I just love Italian people, love the way they go about their business, love the country. And then I love Ferraris. I’ve always dreamed of driving a Ferrari road car and since I’ve been involved in motorsport I’ve dreamed of driving a Ferrari race car. So it’s got to be Ferrari.
Speaking of Ferrari, who do you think will have the edge there, Alonso or Massa?
I would have said Alonso if he’d gone there two years ago, but, although the Renault wasn’t up to much, I still thought he was disappointing last season, so I’ve got to say Massa really. I think in the same way Schumacher can put a good team around himself Massa has been able to do the same thing at Ferrari. And his accident, though terrible at the time, doesn’t seem to have done him any harm. He was able to get out of a bad car, go and recuperate, have a rethink and really focus on the 2010 season. Barring Schumacher I think he’s had the best preparation for 2010.
And the all-British line-up at McLaren?
I’m a Button fan. I like the story. Getting to F1 was quite straightforward for him but he’s had a real struggle from there, and I like guys who’ve struggled to make it to the top. I feel like it’s similar to what I’m going through. I’m having to struggle to get to the top, and hopefully I can. That said I think Hamilton over a lap is the faster driver and I’m not sure if Button has enough to beat him really. But I’m sure he’s got enough mental strength to live with the situation. I think he can get the team on his side and he’s very good technically so it’s going to be really close there. It depends on whether the new regs suit Button’s style.
Is there a driver whose style you think is similar to your own?
As a young driver my driving style in evolving. I’m constantly trying to change it for the better. If I see certain driver’s style and I think I like the way they drive the car I try to mould my style to be more like theirs. I really like the smooth drivers- the Buttons and the Prosts over the Sennas and the Hamiltons- the way they caress the cars around the track. That’s the style I like, and I think that’s the way you have to drive these modern cars. They don’t like being thrown in to corners and you have to be really smooth with them. Then having said that one of the most exciting drivers I’ve seen in F1 is Jean Alesi. The way he used to drive, particularly on street circuits, was amazing.
As a Brit, how do you feel about the return of the Lotus name to Formula One?
I think it’s fantastic that they’re coming back. Hopefully it can kick start an increased British interest. I hope they do best of the four new teams. Virgin have got their car finished quicker but they designed the whole thing with fluid dynamics as opposed to a windtunnel. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes on the track. If it works it could save teams a lot of money
Virgin are said to be working to a very small budget, in F1 terms. Do you think F1 needs to embrace cost cutting?
I think it’s the way forward really. The days of outlandish spending are over, at least until the economic world changes quite drastically. For Formula One to survive it has to cut costs.
With nearly all the manufacturer teams pulling out and new privateers coming F1’s going back to the way it was in the past, isn’t it?
Yeah, and I think it’s interesting. Those new teams might not be that stable, because they haven’t got a big corporation behind them, so we might see more teams coming and going over the next few years. But F1’s going back to its roots, which is good. But it’s always good to see the big manufacturers in racing, be it F1, Moto GP or rallying. It gives the teams more relevance to the real world.
Final question: if you won the lottery this week and had £8m burning a hole in your pocket would you buy yourself a seat at USF1, or would you stick to your plan?
I’d still go for British F3 this year! You’ve got to stick to your gameplan. If I won £8m it’d go in the bank and pay me right up to my final year of GP2.