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Dear F1only readers,
When I was asked to do a column for F1only, I actually didn’t really know how to react. I mean, I’m not a journalist and to be honest, the essays I wrote in school were pretty bad, so I had and still have serious doubts, if I’m qualified enough. However, Carla, the editor of F1only, said that writing a column might help to give motorsport fans the possibility to learn more about me – and maybe even get to know me from a different side. So I was like “Okay then, let’s give it a try”, but she had to promise that she wouldn’t blame me, if the website loses visitors now.
Anyway, to understand where I am now, I think it helps to understand where I come from. In my family, nobody ever had anything to do with motorsports. My elder brother was pretty good in football, so that was actually the sport we were into. I also enjoyed playing football as a small boy, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that I didn’t have any talent. I still play from time to time and somebody who really knows about football recently told me: “You play like Arjen Robben! When he has two broken legs.” Well, I didn’t have much hope for a football career anyway.
But back to my childhood. I happened to visit the indoor kart track in Maasmechelen when I was six years old. The only reason I got there was that I was too small (…. or let’s say too young, as I’m still quite small…) to stay at home alone, so my parents had to take me with them. The karting event had something to do with my dad’s business, so we were all just watching and I immediately said to my parents “I want to do that as well!!”. And you know that children can be very persistent, if they really want to do something. So my dad said we would come back one day when I’m old enough. He probably thought I would have forgotten this promise the other day – which was his first mistake!
Obviously I didn’t forget. So we came back some months later and I, at the age of seven, got in the kart. It was great. I enjoyed it so much and I wouldn’t want to stop. Fortunately I didn’t do too bad, so my parents allowed me to repeat it several times and the more I raced the harder it was for me to wait for the next time.
Whenever I was at the karting track, I just drove for fun. I wasn’t seeking for competition or so, I just wanted to drive. Once there was a championship at the kart track in Maasmechelen, which was more or less a fun thing for children, not really very competitive. My father signed me in for this championship which I didn’t know before, so it was quite surprising for me. And then my father made his second mistake: He promised me to buy me my own outdoor kart, if I should win this championship. Of course he thought I wouldn’t stand a chance, but I did. And so I had my very first go-kart at the age of eight.
I continued karting and I was so enthusiastic about it that I really tried very hard to improve my driving. I had joined the GKS team and I stayed with them for my entire karting career, which lasted ten years in total. It was a great time and we were pretty successful together, both in national and international karting.
Naturally I left the karting and tried to go for a career in single seaters when I was 17. I raced in Formula BMW Europe in 2009 and 2010, in Formula Renault 2.0 in 2011 and in Renault World Series in 2012. Having won all three championships I hoped for a career in Formula One and becoming 3rd driver of Sauber F1 in 2013 and test and reserve driver of Caterham F1 in 2014 has brought me a step closer, but still I haven’t fulfilled my dream of becoming a real Formula One driver.
I guess most of you know well about F1 and how difficult it has become to jump into a F1 race seat. Nowadays you need not only your driving skills, but also some backing, either financially or politically. I haven’t had a sponsor during my entire career. The money I needed to race in the junior formulae was the prize money I had won in the year before plus some Euros that my father gave me to pay the fees.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about the situation. It is like it is and my situation doesn’t get any better by complaining. Instead I work together with a bunch of people I trust and as a team we are trying all we can to secure a F1 race seat for 2015. I certainly haven’t given up on my dream yet and I am more committed than ever to do the step through the door on which I have been knocking on for three years. I mean with Max already having his seat secured and with Giedo seeming in a very good position, it would be great to have triple Oranje on the grid in 2015, wouldn’t it?
In my next column I’ll get more into detail about trying to get into the race seat next year. The column should be ready around Christmas, if I start writing it now… it literally took me ages for this one, but I hope you enjoyed it a little bit. 😉
So long, thanks everybody for your support so far and I hope to be back with good news soon.
(Images: Caterham F1 team and Robin Frijns)