Exclusive: Saffron Walden race ace gears up to impress Red Bull bosses

15:25 14 February 2013

Tom Blomqvist

Tom Blomqvist

Archant

REWIND eight years. A precocious 18-year-old from the small German town of Heppenheim sits on the Formula 3 Euro Series grid for the first time, while, on the other side of the world in New Zealand, the son of a Swedish rallying legend brushes all comers aside in his go-kart.

Fast forward to 2010. Three years after being given his big break, Red Bull protégé Sebastian Vettel beats Lewis Hamilton into second place in the dramatic season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to be crowned the youngest ever Formula One World Champion.

The British superstar also sees his record as the youngest winner of the Formula Renault UK Championship eclipsed by an up-and-coming Saffron Walden racer with a famous last name...TOM BLOMQVIST.

November 2012. Vettel smashes seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher’s record as the youngest triple world champion. Two months later...Blomqvist, now 19, is revealed as the latest racing sensation snapped up to Red Bull’s junior programme.

THE parallels of success have left Blomqvist on the fringes of Formula One superstardom – but his dream of competing in the pinnacle of world motorsport will rest on whether they continue to mirror each other all the way to a race seat opposite Red Bull’s golden boy.

This year will see Saffron Walden’s motor racing prodigy take to the FIA European F3 Championship grid as he gears up to impress his new bosses.

In all but name it will be his second year on the F3 Euro Series grid after the FIA announced a revamp and rebranding of what has been billed “the most competitive young talent series on the planet”.

A certain Mr Vettel was also 19 when he took part in his second Euro Series campaign – winning four races – and two years later he was racing for the Toro Rosso F1 team after riding the crest of a wave on Red Bull’s junior programme.

Ahead of what Blomqvist has described as a “make-or-break” season in his career, reporter SAM TONKIN caught up with the racing superstar to discuss off-season relaxation in New Zealand, Red Bull’s simulator and everything in between – including his thoughts on the struggling British F3 Championship.

What it means to be signed up to Red Bull’s junior programme...

“It is a brilliant opportunity for me. I haven’t had the funds in the past so this takes away the stress of trying to find sponsorship.

“Red Bull will look after me quite a bit on the management side. Obviously I still have Mark [Blundell of 2MB Sports Management] who looks after me, but they will sort out my training, give me the chance to do a lot of simulator work and cover the media side of things.

“The way the programme works it is quite a cut throat environment and you have to deliver. Drivers are put under a lot of pressure, which is the way Red Bull operate, but you have to deal with that and get on with that part of the game.”

On his five-week winter break seeing family in New Zealand...

“It is the time when I get most training done because I haven’t got much else on and the weather’s really nice. I get a chance to have some down time and recharge the batteries. It is good not to think about racing for a little bit and just clear my head – it is quite therapeutic really.

“I’m with my family too and it’s great to be able to spend a bit of time with them because they give me so much support. Sometimes I get a bit homesick but I feel really good about the coming year and pleased to have been given the opportunity with Red Bull.”

On the future of the struggling British F3 Championship...

“I don’t think any drivers have committed to British F3 yet, which is pretty sad because the championship has produced a lot of top drivers over the years. There are only four rounds at the moment which is a bit of a shame, whether it is a one year thing or it’s in trouble I don’t know, but hopefully it means the FIA F3 Championship will compensate for it.”

Gearing up for the new FIA F3 European Championship with EuroInternational...

“This year will be a new environment that we’ve not been in before. The team has not competed in the Euro Series so we are quite fresh. I’ll be pushing them like hell, as I’m sure they will for me, but it is going to be tough.

“The new championship is the Euro Series with a new FIA take on it so there are a few new rules and some different tracks.

“Officially pre-season testing isn’t till March 8-9 so I have some simulator stuff to do over the next month with Red Bull and then I’m going to Italy to see the EuroInternational team.

“I’m sure we will have a competitive car and with pre-season testing coming up the team is working hard on some developments, so we will see.”

Goals for this season: Championship or nothing...

“I definitely want to be competing for the title. Red Bull will be expecting me to so I have to give my all and give it my best shot. I need to work hard and hope it brings results.

“We’ll work our socks off once again and see what we can pull together. It is going to be make or break to impress the guys at Red Bull otherwise I’ll be on the outside looking in, like some of the other drivers who haven’t lived up to expectations.

“If you do all that they ask then there is no reason why you cannot go all the way and make it into Formula One. Both the drivers at Toro Rosso at the moment were part of the programme, as well as the guys before that, so there is light at the end of the tunnel for me now.”

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