The first race winner of 2021 and one of three Red Bull juniors looking to follow in the footsteps of 2020 graduate Yuki Tsunoda.
We spoke to the Kiwi to get an insight into the man behind the visor. He picked out his favourite music, movies and TV series, told the story of signing his Red Bull junior team contract in a New Zealand café and recalled his habit of walking around barefoot as a child.
WHERE DO YOU CONSIDER HOME?
“I grew up in New Zealand and the scenery is very different to where I live now in Milton Keynes, which feels like more of a city. I grew up on the beach in a house right on the waterfront. I spent a lot of at the beach as a kid, I was always outside.
“I realised the other day that when I was in New Zealand, I never wore shoes. I even went to school with no shoes, I went everywhere barefoot until I was around 10-years-old. All of my friends were the same.
“The bottom of my feet were so hard, I could look at the end of my feet at the end of the day and they could be full of prickles, but I’d have not even felt them. That was pretty normal where I was from, as a lot of us grew up on the beach or farms.”
READ MORE: Bruno Michel's Guest Column: If he continues this form, Pourchaire could join the title race
WHO INSPIRES YOU?
“My first hero was Lewis Hamilton, but then when I was a little bit older and understood more about motorsport, it was the New Zealand drivers, like Mitch Evans, Richie Stanaway, Nick Cassidy, Scott Dixon and Brendan Hartley. Richie was the guy who I looked up to the most, my coach Enzo Mucci used to work with him and that’s how we met.
“I watched Shane van Gisbergen in the New Zealand Grand Prix last year when I was engineering a car for a friend of mine who was racing against Shane. Shane was so clever.
“He was nowhere in practice, so much so that we didn’t even look at his data, but he was lifting from session one, just doing his own thing, mucking around, writing notes down. He came from Supercars and was just doing this as a one-off, but he was writing notes down the entire time, he was so clever. As a racer, his racecraft is one of the best.
“Overall, I wouldn’t say that I have an idol of such, not anymore. I think I stopped wanting to be ‘like people.”
HOW DO YOU RELAX AWAY FROM THE TRACK?
“When I am home it is Call of Duty. I have a gaming setup where I can talk to a lot of my friends from home. There is a time difference so one end will have to get up early or stay up late, but we will all talk, play games and sim race. That is the best way for me to keep in touch with people from home.
“It is also a good way to shut off from racing. I have used Twitch before as well for streaming, but I do that more during breaks from racing."
READ MORE: Shwartzman’s Guest Column: The Russian support really was something else
WHO DO YOU GET ON BEST WITH ON THE F2 GRID?
“Richard Verschoor. I was teammates with him two years ago at MP Motorsport in F3. He was a really nice guy and a good teammate.”
WHAT MEAL WOULD YOU COOK TO IMPRESS SOMEONE?
“The only thing that I can make is omelettes. I make a lot of omelettes at home - I actually made one live on a stream once. No word of a lie, the most viewers that I have ever had was people wanting to watch me make an omelette.”
IF YOU WEREN’T A DRIVER, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
“I used to be really into Motocross and Supercross. I even did it for a while when I was younger and I absolutely loved it, so I would say something like that. I just loved being on a dirt bike.
“We lived on the beach and didn’t really have anything to do it, but my friend lived on quite a large farm and I used to go there, even before I started karting, at like three years old. We would be on his farm on dirt bikes and quad bikes.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MOVIE AND TV SERIES?
“Movies, it would probably be Interstellar. TV series, it would be Friends and Suits. I have watched them all of the way through probably three times over. I switch between the two. Currently, it’s Friends, but then after that, I will go back to Suits.”
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE MUSICAL ARTIST?
“It is really hard to pick one, but as an overall artist, probably J Cole. Otherwise, maybe Drake.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT BEING A RACING DRIVER?
“This is a cheesy answer, but the speed. The feeling that you get when driving is why we all do it. It’s as basic as it gets, that the feeling of pure speed.
“In these cars especially, when you are going wheel-to-wheel with someone and you get really, really close, I get a massive shot of adrenaline and I absolutely love it.
“Sometimes I will get extra close - without touching of course - to get to that point. There is a photograph where I am in the middle of two cars somewhere, doing 325kph, nearly touching, and I absolutely loved that. The rush that you get from that is amazing.”
WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
“The most important thing as a driver is your helmet, so probably my first painted helmet. I have that at home and it is pretty special.
“When I was a kid, I wanted a painted helmet for so long and it was a surprise when I got it. It is still really clean, my dad looked after it a lot.”
READ MORE: Zhou ‘sure’ that UNI-Virtuosi have the pace to ‘keep fighting for the title’
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE RACING MEMORY?
“Winning the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand. Winning that at home was pretty cool. It was also a pretty unique set of circumstances.
“Winning the Grand Prix as a Kiwi is huge, so to then take the Championship as well is really cool. Then afterwards on the Monday morning, we went and signed the Red Bull contract in a café. Literally, the morning after winning, so that was pretty special.”
WHERE WOULD YOU VISIT IF YOU COULD TRAVEL ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD?
“New Zealand. I just love going home. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what I do, but I do miss home quite a lot during the year. I always look forward to going back for the summer.”