Long Interview with Super Formula Rd. 3 Winner Giuliano Alesi
Thank you. Getting pole and a victory in our second race weekend feels amazing. As a team, we’ve been putting in so much work since the beginning of the season to sort of get me comfortable in the car. Obviously, it hasn`t been easy, because me doing a double entry makes me super busy jumping from one car to the other. So, I don`t have as much time as the other drivers to spend with one engineer. But, I think we`ve done a fantastic job until now. The car has been amazing, the team has been amazing. For sure it feels like a great accomplishment
Rain has always been a condition, if I feel good, that I have been able to perform in. The last race I won in GP3 in Europe, it was rainy conditions. Also, the last pole position I had was in the rain. I feel like if I get everything right, that everything comes together. But what really helped me last time (at Autopolis) was having a car that was able to give me confidence to push. That was the most important aspect of the session. Just to feel comfortable and confident in the car. And I had that. As far as skills, it is trickier in the rain than it is in dry conditions. But I think I had a good teacher—being my father. He taught me how to drive in tricky conditions, and also going on ice every winter, to sort of get the feeling of a car that slides. That has helped me up to now.
Well, for sure. I mean, every time, every condition, when it`s raining, when there`s a lot of water or on a drying track, where there`s not so much water, the line changes. And the driving approach sort of changes. So, it was all about adapting as quick as possible. For sure it wasn`t easy, but I felt like I had a really good car that gave me a lot of confidence during the session, that sort of helped me change my driving style lap by lap depending on the track conditions.
4. You are ever-so-close to winning in Super Formula Lights (SFL), too. That would make you the first person to ever win in both categories in the same season. Do you feel that racing in both Super Formula (SF) and SFL gives you an advantage because of the additional track time?
I mean, I have been really close to winning in Super Formula Lights as well. But for different reasons, I wasn`t able to. So, that’s something for me to work on, and also for the team to work all together. I think winning in Super Formula Lights would be a huge accomplishment this season, as well. So, that is definitely one of my objectives this season. I am working as hard as I can to make that happen, but my main focus is my work.
The additional time on track, I don’t feel it gives me a specific advantage, because I haven’t had any experience whatsoever on Japanese tracks, so everything is relatively new. So, I have a lot of catching up to do to the other drivers I am currently competing against, so I wouldn’t say it is an advantage.
I understand why foreign drivers like Autopolis. It feels like a roller coaster. It’s much more different than what we have in Europe. Something different always gives one much more of a sense of excitement than other tracks we’re used to. So, I had a good time at Autopolis, even though it is a bit scary at times, it is a fantastic track.
To be honest, I feel the SFL car and SF car are quite different. Mainly because the weight to power ratio is every different between both cars. In the beginning, it was really tricky to jump from one car to the other and adapt. But I feel that at the moment, it seems a little more natural for me to change from one car to the other. I wouldn’t say they are similar—they are quite different.
7. Now that you have won in Super Formula, and you’ve had a couple days to let the victory sink in, what is your goal for the rest of the season (in both SF and SFL)?
It was for sure a huge accomplishment, and I needed some time for everything to sink in. And for me to realize what really happened, because it is so big, and because it means so much to me. I needed time to realize it, because I couldn’t believe it. But now that everything has settled in, my objective in Super Formula Lights is to really win races and to be on pole. For that, I still have quite a bit of work to do to get used to the car a bit more, to understand more about it, and to also learn the tracks. Because from now on, I`m going to tracks I’ve never been to before. It’s all about learning as quickly as possible. And that is what I am going to focus on. It’s the same for Super Formula as well. In Super Formula, I need to keep the same approach as I’ve had to until now, which is just focus on my work and focus on my confidence with my car, and the circuit. Because I know I have a good car, I know I will always have a good car with the TOM’S team, so from now on, it is just up to me to get used to the race track as quickly as possible, and for me to deliver, with the results we need as a team at the right moment.
8. Tell us a little bit about the set-up of your car. Do you use the base settings that Kazuki Nakajima uses, or is it set-up closer to Ritomo Miyata’s?
To be honest, the set-up of the #36 and #37 car are a bit adapted to what the main driver has. So, the car I have been using is a little closer to Kazuki’s set-up. The base is his. And after, depending on what I need, we make fine tuning modifications for me to feel a little more comfortable with the car. That is what we have been doing until now, and I think it has been the right approach.
9. Do you have a mentor who you work with in Super Formula, like Ritomo has the famed Toranosuke Takagi?
A specific mentor, I have my father, who I call very often on the phone to continuously have advice on approaches to different situations, and new challenges I’m facing. But in Japan, I work very closely with the team and my engineers. I spend a lot of time with Kenta and Yamada-san, it’s something I’m getting used to. Also, Ritomo has been helping me quite a lot, since the beginning of the season, giving me really good advice on certain tracks. He has been a great teammate, helping me out often, and when I’ve been in difficult situations.
10. Where did you learn Japanese? Your mother is Japanese, but did you receive a formal education? What other languages do you speak? Does being multilingual help in racing? I know that when speaking with fans and the press, it certainly makes a lasting impression!
I learned Japanese as a kid, because my mother always spoke Japanese to me. As a kid, I used to speak really well, but growing up, I sort of lost some bit by bit. So, now it’s a bit of a challenge to get everything back, but I think so far, so good. Everything is slowly coming back. So, that is definitely something I am quite happy about. What is helping a lot is spending time with the team, and spending time in Gotemba, because there aren’t many people to speak English with. It is really about me putting a lot of effort into speaking Japanese. In terms of other languages, I speak French, English, and Italian quite well. Unfortunately for now, Japanese is still the weakest, but I’m working on it. What is definitely important here now is to speak Japanese.
11. Super Formula is only seven races, but it’s a long season calendar-wise. I know plans change, but at this current point in time, what are your current plans for the 2022 season? And beyond that, what categories would you like to race in?
We’ve completed almost half of the championship in Super Formula. For now, I haven’t really thought about my plans for 2022 yet, because I have been super busy working on the present. If I were to add a small statement, my dream, my objective is to stay here in Japan and to race in Japan. So, until then, I will continue to give the best I can this season, and keep the momentum that I have now, and then yeah, we’ll see what happens from then onwards.