Felipe has a feverish fanbase in his native Brazil, a country that loves its motorsport and has a legendary relationship with Formula One. And Felipe is their most recent Formula 2 Champion, having sealed last year's title with five victories.
After his title triumph, he joined us as Test & Reserve Driver alongside Stoffel Vandoorne. Felipe will continue in that role through 2024, working in the simulator at the AMR Technology Campus and behind the wheel on track, helping us on our journey to become title contenders.
Ahead of the 2023 São Paulo Grand Prix, we joined Felipe to see how the last year with Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team has shaped him mentally and physically – and shown him a new side to racing.
Felipe, you've just re-signed with the team as our Test & Reserve Driver and you're going to drive the AMR23 in Free Practice One at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. What are your emotions right now?
I'm really proud. I've learned a huge amount from Lance, Fernando and the rest of the team, whether that's at the AMR Technology Campus or at the track. I feel like both the team and I are growing and building on this journey we are on.
I cannot wait to drive the AMR23 again in FP1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It's hugely exciting and I'm looking forward to being reunited with the car after my FP1 outing at Monza earlier in the season.
We're pushing for more in the final races of the season and over the winter break to prepare for 2024. It feels fulfilling to be a part of that.
How have you evolved over the past year with the team?
I've become a lot more complete: not just as a driver, but as a person. This year has sparked a shift-change in my mentality – it's taught me many things.
Since the start of my career, I've been regularly racing every year, but this year I've been on the sidelines, which has taught me to be patient.
Seeing racing from another perspective has really helped me to develop. Having the opportunity to see things from another angle and learning from other points of view has helped me grow. This has been complemented by the work on the track that I have been doing through the team's development programme.
I feel ready to drive the car whenever the team needs me. I feel I'm doing a good job, and I feel fast every time I jump in the car. I'm a much more complete driver.
You've driven an F1 car a number of times now. Is it becoming more familiar?
It feels amazing. The AMR23 is really nice to drive. I replaced Lance for the pre-season test as he recovered from his injury and the first morning in the car, straight away, I was like, 'OK, the car feels so good.'
Driving an F1 car is quite different from what I was used to before – so I've been getting up to speed with that.
It's just so versatile compared to other cars I've driven. An F1 car works so well around any type of corner, and it's so much faster on the straights.
Of course, it's very difficult to get to grips with an F1 car over one session. At Monza and in Bahrain I just tried to enjoy the experience as much as I could and learn as much as I could from it.
Is it as simple as jumping into the car – how much preparation do you have to put in to get ready before a test or Free Practice session?
People don't see how much preparation and hard work goes on behind the scenes, thinking about the things I've learned on the simulator or seen in the data. Of course, I have my head completely focused on the task at hand but there's so much to take in and process.
Do you ever get nervous before driving an F1 car?
Never. The one thing I'm not, is nervous.
That's the main enemy for athletes – you must not let the pressure get to you. I try to focus my mind on the job and execute it like a robot – calm, precise, and focused.
What do you do when you're not driving the car?
When I'm not driving, I'm trying to learn as much as I can. I'm constantly learning – it's so important for development. When I'm at a Grand Prix, I'm learning as much as I can from Lance and Fernando; when I'm in the simulator, I'm helping the team find new set-up solutions and trying to be better at what I do best and what I'm most passionate about – driving.
There's so much to learn from Lance and Fernando. During the weekends, I have access to their data and video footage of their driving, as well as the help of our engineers, to further myself.
Having that access has accelerated my development.
Do you ever miss racing, Felipe?
I'm ready to race – but there are only 20 seats in F1 and, as I said, this year has taught me to be patient.
I'm hungry to compete, but I have an important job to do as Test & Reserve Driver for the team. It's a job that is helping me become a better driver and helping the team on its journey. I'm fully committed to it. This is something I'm prepared to give my all for.
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