Mediabank Formule E

Interview

'Obviously I thought a little bit about being a team boss in F1'

'Obviously I thought a little bit about being a team boss in F1'

15 May - 17:00
1

Ludo van Denderen

With third place in the standings, Oliver Rowland has a serious shot at the Formula E title. As he himself says: "My full focus is on the FE and my team Nissan." Still, the Brit manages to find time to be team boss of his own karting team in his (rare) spare time and also coach one of the biggest talents in motorsport: Arvid Lindblad. The future star (16) from the Red Bull Junior Team won his debut race in Formula 3 earlier this season and is predicted to have a golden future. Not least by his mentor, Rowland.

When Oliver Rowland (31) was driving Formula 2 himself, the realisation came one day: "I realised that if things didn’t go well in my last year of Formula 2, I would be out of a job in 12 months time. There was a backup plan in terms of being a fallback to keep me going for a few years," the British driver said in an exclusive interview with GPblog. Therefore, he decided to set up his own karting team.

Life as a team owner is sometimes stressful

In hindsight, it turned out to be the perfect decision. Not because his own motorsport career failed - his current form in Formula E proves otherwise - but because Rowland has a lot of fun running Oliver Rowland Motorsport. "The fun bit is winning and the gratification of passing information over and having that competitive edge week in week out is something that I enjoy. A lot of it is pretty stressful when it's not going well. I won't lie, dealing with parents and understanding that kids are also very young and up and down. Sometimes you might get a good batch of kids and sometimes they're a little bit more difficult. Trying to keep the parents focused on the pure development of the kids is pretty stressful, to be honest."

But, Rowland says, it is mostly educational for himself: "I sometimes wonder why I do it," laughs the Formula E driver. "But I think it's a learning experience in how to deal with people how to deal with drivers. How to deal with different types of drivers because when you have eight drivers per season, you come across a variety of different kids, and they all kind of require slightly different stuff to make them peak, so it's something that interests me. Obviously, with this Formula E calendar getting busier and busier, it's getting harder and harder to spend as much time there but I’m constantly in the loop of what's going on and on the day-to-day management of things."

Learning to cope with pressure

Rowland explains that children aged seven to nine often need to be taught the basics of racing, such as how to get the most out of a kart. At the next stage of their development - when they are shown to have the speed - it's about gaining experience on the track and teaching them the secrets of racing; defending and how to get to the end of a race. "When they get a bit older, you have to kind of manage the mental aspects of ‘okay pressures on now you've got all the tools that you need to succeed, how do you handle the pressure, how do you deal with it when you have the pressure of becoming the champion’."

It's not just training the young drivers that motivates Rowland. "The technical side is very interesting for me as well, whether it comes to the setup, the engines, the carburettors, all that sort of stuff interests me quite a lot as well because it was something that my dad was into when I was a karting and something that I kind of have a bit of a passion for as well."

Confidence is key to success

He calls the experiences with karting juniors in recent years an "eye-opener". "I don't think you always realise that the older you get, you kind of take this more mature approach and actually seeing how much confidence affects people and makes you believe in yourself or not and how that affects performance," said Rowland, who has also found the current generation of kids is completely different from when he himself was young.

"I try to avoid these kind of things. I’m old school. If you want to come and you want to learn, you have to work. You’re not going to have an easy time and expect to win just because you put our sticker kit on and our guys are looking after you. We give what you give in. If you want to do nothing, then there's also that side of things, I guess a little bit."

Lindblad is Rowland's first star

The first star Rowland assisted was a young male of around seven years old called Arvid Lindblad. Meanwhile, the Brit is seen as a future F1 driver who is currently causing a stir in F3 and is part of the Red Bull Junior Team. Rowland can remember the first time he met Lindblad well; after someone asked him to come and have a look at a young male who could steer quite nicely.

"So I turned up, and immediately it was clear like, wow, he's fast, and he's got the basics. You tell him something for a seven-year-old, he was like a sponge. I said, go and do this, he went out and did it. And I remember thinking, he's a little bit different. I hadn't worked with loads of people at that point, but I realised that at seven, to be able to take the information and perform the way he was, I realised that he was a bit special," Rowland says now.

Is Lindblad the Antonelli of Red Bull?

So Lindblad has already been picked up by Red Bull, and a bright future beckons. Everyone is talking about Kimi Antonelli, but Lindblad could just turn out to be Red Bull's Antonelli. "We know the pressures of being on the Red Bull programme. You don't have room to not perform. But I think what he's shown so far is that in every tough moment, he's come out of the other side, and I think that's a really strong attribute to have. He's constantly on the back foot."

"They shift him straight into Italian F4 at 15. Then, obviously, went straight into Formula 3 at 16. It's big steps. But I think he's on the right path to certainly be ready in the next 18 months, two years (for F1).

Rowland himself was part of the Williams Academy, so he knows exactly what a training programme is like. "They’ve given him a high level of tools and support. It’s surprising because you read stories over the years of this and that. Honestly, I think it's a great place to be at the moment. I mean, every junior team's slightly different in terms of the support that they give you. It also depends on the driver, but I think he's in a perfect position to develop."

Will Rowland be a team boss in Formula One?

Lindblad will perhaps be in Formula 1 one day. Rowland also has the top class of motorsport in the back of his mind. Not as a driver, but as a team boss. "I would like to retire at 40 and be on the beach somewhere. But my passion for motorsport will probably haunt me. Obviously, I thought about it a little bit [team boss in F1]," confesses the Briton, who then says he particularly likes working with talented kids who don't have the means to reach the top on their own.

But he also says: "I guess the team boss in F1 is also something that's quite interesting on my side. So it's something that I will probably actively look at. Of course, you need to gain experience in the lower categories, but right now it's not really on my radar, but those would probably be the two avenues that I would look at taking up post-racing career."