Exclusive: A behind-the-scenes glimpse into F1 hopeful and Red Bull Junior driver’s weekend at Silverstone
PUBLISHED: 17:31 18 April 2013 | UPDATED: 17:42 18 April 2013
(c) FIA F3 / Suer
RED Bull Junior driver Tom Blomqvist is looking to build on his ninth place in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship standings as he heads to Italy for a two-day test with his Eurointernational team.
The 19-year-old salvaged 11 points at the home of British motorsport last weekend and is keen to extract more performance out of his car ahead of the third round of the season in Hockenheim at the beginning of May.
He picked up a 10th and a fifth in races one and two at Silverstone, before scything his way through the field for a 14th place finish in the final event on Sunday.
That was about the best he could have hoped for after being forced to start race three from the back of the pack – the result of a rear tyre coming loose from his car in qualifying.
Reporter SAM TONKIN caught up with the Saffron Walden driver after Saturday’s action in an attempt to catch an exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of young drivers with aspirations of making it into Formula One...
HAVING followed Tom’s racing career since joining the Reporter 18 months ago I’m well aware of the lofty ambitions he sets himself.
The will to win, his determination to succeed at all costs and the dedication he has to achieving his ultimate goal of a Formula One race seat were evident from the moment I first spoke to him.
Which is why, after watching him endure a difficult qualifying session and secure a modest return of 10th and fifth in Saturday’s opening two races at Silverstone, I wasn’t expecting him to be in the best of moods for an interview.
But the road to F1 is twisty and tumultuous, with so many young drivers vying for a chance to compete in the pinnacle of world motorsport, and setbacks are a given.
In a season 30 races long, patience is a virtue – a trait not commonly associated with men who make a living trying to get every ounce of speed out of a racing car.
That may explain why Tom is in a much more upbeat frame of mind than I’d anticipated when he greets me at the Eurointernational team unit.
Before I can fire off my first question he’s already talking excitedly about a two-day test next week which he hopes will give him and the team a chance to improve the car further.
“I would say we’re about sixth quickest by the looks of it. The four Prema cars and Rosenqvist in the Mücke are ahead of us, while Will Buller has also been fast, so we still have plenty of work to do,” he says.
“It’s always going to be tough, and we’ve got to be realistic because we’re a young team, but I’m trying so hard and everyone is dedicated to the job in hand. I have full confidence in the guys and trust them completely to deliver.”
Finishing 10th and fifth is not where he wants to be. The make-up of a racing driver is to win. But there is also no sense in being downbeat, even though it’s clear he wants to be fighting for the championship.
“Luckily we have two days testing coming up, so hopefully we can knuckle down because it’s a long season. We want to be winning races now but the aim is definitely to do so by the end of the year. I’m gutted not to have at least got on the podium in the second race.”
Aside from the result, I ask him to talk me through a typical race weekend and the preparations that come with it. “I arrive at the track on the Thursday. While the guys set up I’ll go for a track walk, run through a few things with my engineer and we’ll have a full debrief of the previous race.
“On Friday, we have free practice in the morning and qualifying in the afternoon. It means if you haven’t been to a track before there is not a lot of time to do much running, so it’s important to get on top of things quickly.
“The cars are in parc fermé after the two races today, so we can’t do anything until they’re back. Then we’ll have a quick look through the data to work out what we’re going to do for tomorrow before I head back to the hotel down the road around seven o’clock to try and relax.”
He tells me he has no set pre-race preparation routine, despite occasionally listening to music, before I bring up the suggestion of whether he gets the jitters before making his way on to the grid.
“No, no, I don’t really get nervous. I guess there is always some form of nerves but for me it’s more about the excitement because I really love my job – it’s pretty thrilling,” he says.
I then make the cardinal sin of suggesting Tom appears to be quite a laid-back, relaxed character, to which he replies: “I maybe come across laid-back but I’m so dedicated and focused on racing. This is what I want to do. I love training when I’ve got a bit of spare time, especially cycling, but the weather has been rubbish recently!
“Everything I do is to make sure I can be the best I can be here on race day. That does mean making a few sacrifices – a lot of people my age are out partying, but that doesn’t bother me.
“There is a time and a place for that sort of thing but being in the best condition for the next race is far more important than a night out.”
I ask him what the rivalry is like in the F3 paddock and whether all the drivers get on with one another. “We’re all friendly with each other – I don’t have anybody here I don’t like. I’m pretty close to Alex [Lynn] and Felix [Rosenqvist], they’re both good guys.
“But I don’t really see any of the drivers when I’m not at the race track. At the end of the day I have to beat these guys so you can’t get too close.
“You can’t be giving anything away on the track because you’re worried about messing up your friendship. In this game you have to be a bit selfish otherwise you’re not going to make it to the top.”
Born and raised in the UK, Tom moved to New Zealand at the age of six before returning to Saffron Walden in 2010.
He is no stranger to spending long periods away from his family but I’m keen to find out how he finds the travelling associated with the European Formula 3 calendar.
“Silverstone’s one of my home races so I’ve got a few friends and family who have come along. My grandad is here with me this weekend too and it’s always nice to have him come to my races,” he says.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 15 so I’m used to not having anyone around and it doesn’t bother me when we’re travelling around Europe.
“A lot of people say I’m so lucky to be travelling all over the world, and it is such a privilege, but at the same time this is our job. It’s what I’ve grown up doing – a lot of guys go to university but this is what we do.”
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