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
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 ofce 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…”