VI­SOR DOWN

F1’s new­est rookie is barely a fort­night away from start­ing his very first grand prix. We met up with Brazil­ian Felipe Nasr to find out how he’s been pre­par­ing for his For­mula 1 de­but

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

WORDS PIC­TURES

JAMES ROBERTS GLENN DUN­BAR/LAT

As the cars line up on the Mel­bourne start­ing grid on Sun­day 15 March, look out for a deep­blue-and-yel­low ma­chine, prob­a­bly to­wards the rear of the eld. As he rolls the newly liv­er­ied Sauber into po­si­tion, Felipe Nasr will pull down his vi­sor and look up at the ve red lights on the start­ing gantry. This will be the re­al­i­sa­tion of a dream held since the day he rst raced a kart, aged seven. He will be­come the 31st Brazil­ian to start an F1 grand prix.

Each stage in Nasr’s ca­reer has been a step­ping stone to the top of the sport – and now he’s at the sum­mit. The boy from Brasilia caught the rac­ing bug from his un­cle, Amir Nasr, who rst came to Europe to race in For­mula Ford in the 1980s. Amir re­turned to Brazil and with his three broth­ers (in­clud­ing Felipe’s fa­ther), es­tab­lished a rac­ing team that’s been suc­cess­ful in sin­gle-seaters, stock cars and tour­ing cars.

In 2009, Felipe Nasr made the long jour­ney to Europe and started win­ning races, tak­ing the For­mula BMW Europe ti­tle on his rst at­tempt. He was then schooled through Bri­tish F3, rst with Räikkö­nen Robert­son Rac­ing (he’s man­aged by Steve Robert­son) and then Car­lin. Af­ter win­ning the Bri­tish For­mula 3 cham­pi­onship in 2011, he grad­u­ated into GP2 with Car­lin and has even taken part (twice) in the Day­tona 24 Hours sportscar race. Last year, Nasr com­bined GP2 with a re­serve-driver role at Wil­liams, mak­ing ap­pear­ances in Fri­day prac­tice ses­sions.

“Through­out my ca­reer I’ve been build­ing up my char­ac­ter and ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Felipe at the rst pre-sea­son test in Jerez. “It takes time. Ever since I rst came to Europe to do For­mula BMW, ev­ery­thing has been build­ing up to this mo­ment. I’ve been learn­ing and pre­par­ing for F1. Un­der­stand­ing how I come to a rac­ing week­end, the hours in the sim­u­la­tor, the train­ing – ev­ery­thing to be­come more ex­pe­ri­enced.”

On the 2015 Aus­tralian Grand Prix start­ing grid, it will be an all-new driver line-up at Sauber with 22-year-old Nasr part­ner­ing 24-year-old for­mer Cater­ham driver Mar­cus Eric­s­son. And Nasr has al­ready been im­pressed by what he’s seen at the Swiss team’s Hin­wil base.

“I went to Sauber be­fore Christ­mas to meet ev­ery­one from the de­sign ofce to the en­gi­neers at the fac­tory and I was im­pressed by the size of their fa­cil­ity and wind­tun­nel,” con­tin­ues Felipe. “It has been a good win­ter as I’ve pre­pared my­self men­tally and phys­i­cally for the new sea­son and I can’t wait to get be­hind the wheel.”

Split­ting his time be­tween Brazil and Miami, Nasr has been work­ing on an in­ten­sive tness regime, no doubt im­press­ing Sauber’s ex­pe­ri­enced physio Josef Le­berer.

“Each morn­ing I’m in the gym, work­ing with weights, con­cen­trat­ing on a dif­fer­ent part of the body each day, be that up­per body or arms or legs,” says Felipe. “In the af­ter­noons I fo­cus on car­dio by run­ning, cy­cling or swim­ming. I’ve been kart­ing over the win­ter to keep me sharp.”

Sauber have ditched their tra­di­tional white­and-grey (with a red ash) colours for a roy­al­blue-and-yel­low scheme in def­er­ence to Nasr’s pri­mary spon­sor Banco do Brasil. The mil­lions ar­riv­ing in spon­sor­ship will be much ap­pre­ci­ated by the cash-strapped team and it has been an as­so­ci­a­tion that Nasr has worked hard to foster.

“Orig­i­nally Banco do Brasil spon­sored sports in­clud­ing vol­ley­ball, ten­nis and beach soc­cer but they wanted to get into mo­tor­sport back in 2011,” he says. “They came to us and now we’ve been work­ing to­gether for four years. They be­lieve in me and get­ting to F1 is the re­al­i­sa­tion of our dream. I’ve also had other spon­sors that have been with me since the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer and I’ve been able to bring them all to For­mula 1.

“Now I’ve got to this stage, I’m fo­cus­ing on Mel­bourne. I don’t know the cir­cuit, but I feel ready as a driver to per­form. I still have a lot to learn, but be­ing at grands prix with Wil­liams last year has stood me in good stead for the sea­son to come. I can’t wait for it all to begin.”

Forty-two days will have passed be­tween the rst day of the Jerez test and the open­ing race of the sea­son in Mel­bourne. Six weeks un­til Felipe is sit­ting on the start­ing grid wait­ing for those ve red lights to come on. When they go out, it will her­ald an ex­plo­sion of noise and colour as the long-awaited new sea­son bursts into life. How will Felipe feel as he sits on the start­ing grid about to race for the rst time in For­mula 1?

“It’s the mo­ment I’ve been think­ing about,” he says with a grin as wide as Bernie Ec­cle­stone’s wal­let. “But I can’t tell you how I’m go­ing to feel. I can only an­swer that af­ter the race…”

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