Gil de Ferran took up his new position as Sporting Director at Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda at the start of this week. As a double Champ Car champion and winner of the Indy 500, the Brazilian has already achieved many of his motor racing goals and...
Gil de Ferran took up his new position as Sporting Director at Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda at the start of this week. As a double Champ Car champion and winner of the Indy 500, the Brazilian has already achieved many of his motor racing goals and he's now looking forward to an exciting new challenge within Formula One.
Q: How excited are you to be joining Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda?
Gil de Ferran: This is an amazing opportunity for me to develop my life and my career. It's type of role that I had in mind for when I retired from driving. Obviously, I'll be leaving my friends and colleagues behind in the United States but it's going to be a huge challenge for me. Onwards and upwards.
Q: Did you miss the competitive atmosphere of the racetrack and is that what led you to leave the TV booth and to get back into racing more on a competitive basis?
GdF: Absolutely. Certainly one of the things I've learned over this last year or so is that I am a racer at heart. I miss the competition side. When I stopped racing, I didn't want to leave the sport completely. Over the last year or so, my competitive juices kept flowing. That didn't mean that I wanted to get back driving. So I think this role answers all my emotional and intellectual needs.
Q: How much of this is you wanting to be able to use your engineering background as well as wanting to get back into the competitive side?
GdF: Well, my interest in racing was very broad from the day I started. Obviously I love driving, I love competing, but I also love the machines. Even when my interest in driving was waning during the last year and eventually led to my retirement from that side of the sport, my interest in everything else remained high.
I guess over the years I accumulated different experiences, both behind the wheel and in other parts of motor sports, including the technical part. Hopefully, as time goes on, I'll be able to contribute more and more to the team. But my main role is more sporting related or racing related and I suppose in a way less technical.
Q: You had Formula One ambitions many years ago. Is this unfinished business?
GdF: I don't think so. I had a lot of fulfilment in my driving career, especially in my last stint with Team Penske where I was able to win many races and championships, and especially the Indy 500. I finished my career in the end of 2003 very satisfied, happy with what I'd achieved and not really bitter about anything.
As far as Formula One goes, I have always had a fascination with it, ever since I watched Emerson Fittipaldi battling Jackie Stewart in the early '70s as a kid and it's no secret that, when I went to Europe, I wanted to be a Formula One driver. My road took me in a different way, but it was just as fulfilling. Doing what I'm now doing really has nothing to do with any sort of unfinished business. For me it's a new avenue and it's a great opportunity."
Q: What is going to be your first task?
GdF: My first task is going to be doing a lot of observing and listening. I think the worst thing I could do is disrupt things in the short-term. Obviously, B.A.R Honda finished second in the championship last year with mostly the same people that you'll find there today. I have to find my feet first. So my initial plan is to really observe, take a lot of new information in and, hopefully, over time, my contribution will increase and my immediate plan is to be at the test in Paul Ricard this week.
Q: How well do you know Jenson Button?
GdF: I see Jenson as certainly one of the best drivers in the world today and somebody who obviously has not only the potential to win races but to win a World Championship. He's a great asset to B.A.R Honda and I'm very much looking forward to working with him. My first job is to get to know him better -- that's primarily why I'm going to Paul Ricard this week to get to know the whole team better. I intend to spend a lot of time with not only Jenson but also Takuma Sato and the test drivers. I don't think you can be effective if you don't understand deeply the people you're working with.
Q: As you say it's a big challenge for you; what are your feelings inside? Is this like starting the Indy 500?
GdF: You've hit the nail on the head. It's certainly an enormous thing in my life and my career. I felt every emotion you can feel over the last few weeks. I'm hugely excited and, of course, I'm hoping this will be the beginning of my next career.
Q: Finally how difficult is it going to be making the jump from Indy Cars to the F1 cars?
GdF: I'm sure there are many nuances about the F1 race team that I don't know about -- therein lies the challenge. But on the other hand, I feel like I accumulated all the experience I can over the years. In many ways and there are going to be a lot of difficulties that I can't even foresee at this very moment but, at the end of the day, a lot of characteristics and ingredients in racing are common worldwide. This type of role is definitely something I wanted to do. I feel ready for it. I guess time will tell how successful I will be."