Q and A with Robert Wickens
Montréal, Canada – Round 3 of the 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, hosted in Malaysia last weekend, saw Toronto’s Robert Wickens take the reigns of A1 Team Canada’s entry for the first time.
Wickens spins out last weekend in Sepang
Living up to his billing as one of the country’s most promising open-wheel racing talents, the 18-year-old delivered Canada’s first points of the campaign with a third place podium finish in the Sprint race before an early retirement in the Feature cut short the team’s hopes of a second points scoring finish.
An eventful A1GP race debut saw Wickens initially finish fourth in the Sprint but Germany’s exclusion from third, following a late stewards decision, awarded the final podium placing to the Canadian. It was a richly deserved result for the rookie having qualified fifth and held third on merit for most of the race. The afternoon’s Feature race proved no-less dramatic with Wickens spun at the first turn before retiring seven laps later having been fortunate to avoid a massive collision with South Africa’s Adrian Zaugg.
Back from Malaysia, Robert took time out to reflect on an impressive and dramatic A1GP debut:
Q: You’re the first Canadian driver to score a podium on your A1GP debut – what does that mean to you?
Robert Wickens (RW): “I think it’s really cool! It’s a bit unfortunate that I didn’t get to go up onto the podium like I deserved to at the time but it’s still a great result to have on paper. It’s great to get Canada on the board with some points and even better that it’s off the back of a top-three finish.”
Q: Were you expecting such a strong start to your A1GP career?
RW: “To be honest I was definitely expecting points. We were quick in practice but I know we left a bit on the table from both myself and the basic handling of the car. I knew we had the potential to break into the top five and that’s where we qualified for the Sprint.
“I made a great start in that race, we very nearly had second place after the first turn, and from there it was a case of trying to pace myself. The balance of the car really went off in the second half of the race so I found myself busy protecting my position.”
Q: What was going through your mind after Germany barged past you on the final lap of the Sprint race?
RW: “Really at the moment it happened I was trying not to spin! Once I gathered the car up I was purely focused on holding on to fourth place through to the checkered. The suspension on the left-rear side had sustained some damage so it made for a pretty entertaining last lap as I fought to keep Brazil behind me.”
Q: Does the added track time available in the ‘Rookie-Only’ session prove to be useful?
RW: “Well for me, this time around at least, it wasn’t overly useful as I only completed four laps. That said even in that time I was able to get a feel for the track and get a visual on finding the limits. Unfortunately we had a problem with the steering rack and ultimately it cost us quite a bit of track time on the Friday morning.”
Q: What were your expectations heading into the Feature race starting from 12th?
RW: “I certainly knew we had a car that was easily capable of reaching the points again. I knew that if we had a good couple of pit-stops and a decent race strategy then another top-five finish could have been achieved. I think we proved our pace on-track even after the first turn spin when China hit me from behind.”
Q: You were flying through the field having been caught up in that turn one incident, how much reaction time did you then have when you saw Adrian Zaugg in the middle of the corner preceding your sudden retirement from the race?
RW: “Well I initially saw Zaugg off to the side as I was approaching the entry to the corner. I committed to the corner thinking everything was going to be fine but I don’t know what went through his head as he started moving just as I was on the apex of the turn. We all know what followed after that!”
Q: Did you speak to Zaugg after the incident?
RW: “I didn’t and I’m not the kind of driver who’ll go up to another driver and start yelling either. He knew I was disappointed so I just left it at that.”
Q: There was a lot of talk about driving standards at the weekend – what was your impression as a rookie to A1GP?
RW: “Well obviously I wasn’t impressed with the incidents I found myself caught up in! There’s no doubt that there’s some great racing in A1GP and it makes for a good show at the end of the day which isn’t always the case elsewhere.”
Q: Overall you must have been happy with the progress made by the team – what areas in particular do you feel are working well now?
RW: “I think the overall efficiency of the team is working better now than it was before. There’s a lot more chemistry there now that everyone’s had the chance to work together for a bit longer, not forgetting that the squad was completely new at the start of the season. The atmosphere in the garage was really positive throughout the weekend and I think it was reflected in the performances.”
Q: What do you think we can expect from A1 Team Canada throughout the rest of the season?
RW: “You’ll see Canada growing stronger and stronger I believe. If we can maintain this level of improvement I wouldn’t be surprised if you see us gunning for regular top-five’s and podiums. We’re definitely making our way towards the front of the field and I would have thought in the second-half of the season we’ll be up there challenging consistently for podiums and hopefully a victory with some luck on our side!”
The 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport continues with Round 4 hosted at the Zhuhai International Circuit in China, Friday 14th – Sunday 16th December – www.a1gp.com