When Jessica Hawkins climbed out of the cockpit of the AMR21 at the Hungaroring a few weeks ago, the distance covered by the British driver during her debut F1 test was far greater than the 26 laps she'd put in at Budapest’s Grand Prix circuit.
It was the culmination of a journey that has taken her from motorsport fan and karting winner to Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One® Team Driver Ambassador and beyond. "It's taken me every bit of blood, sweat and tears to get here," she said of the historic test – but as she reveals, it's amazing how far fandom can take you...
"When I was seven or eight years old, I saw a kart circuit in the distance and begged my dad to let me have a go. That was it. I fell in love with motorsport. It was all I could think about, all I was interested in. Having said that, I don’t think I ever thought that it would lead to where it has taken me. I was just a young kid really enjoying a hobby I was passionate about and it turned into a career – one that's been amazing.
"Sometimes I look back at the journey I've taken, the cool things I've done and what I've achieved, and reflecting on it just makes me sit back and think, 'Wow, I've had such a great career and some wonderful stories to tell.'
"It was up to me to pursue my dreams. That's what makes it all the more special to me – because there wasn't really much motorsport in my background. My mum really had no idea about motorsport. My dad actually raced for a couple of years when he was younger, but he very quickly had to stop because he ran out of budget. So, while he wasn't completely clueless, he'd been out of it for so long that he didn't know it that well.
"My involvement in motorsport has very much been driven by me. Obviously, my parents were very helpful along the way: they stayed motivated and stood by me because I wanted it so much.
"I can't actually put my finger on why I wanted it so much. I just love it and I love it as much today as I did when I first started. I love everything about it – the speed, the adrenaline, the teamwork. Winning, I guess, is what motivates me. The feeling that you get from winning is second to none. And it's not just F1, it's all of motorsport. It's my life and I don't really know anything else. I'm not nearly as passionate about anything else as I am about motorsport.
"It hasn't always been easy. There have been many times when I've questioned my future. I've questioned my potential for longevity in the sport. I've questioned my ability, wondered if I'm doing the right thing, whether I'm good enough. But every time I had those doubts, I proved them wrong. I suppose that's what makes me the driver and the person I am today.
"It might seem a daunting environment but for me, F1 has been a very welcoming community. It's a real privilege to be working with a team. You create friendships and relationships with people that last a lifetime. You're working with like-minded people, doing the thing you love. It's a very welcoming sport, especially at at our team. It's like my tribe. I think that’s a good way to describe it.
"Interest in F1 is huge, especially among women, and it's great to be one of the women leading that change. It's a responsibility that has fallen on the shoulders of myself, female racers and other women working in motorsport, but that's a responsibility I really welcome.
"It's great, too, that we're leading the way in breaking down barriers for women in the sport. The team has been one of the leading forces behind creating that change, and they've provided me a role within the team to showcase what I'm passionate about and to inspire more women to pursue a career in racing.
"Social media has a lot of power to tell that story too. TikTok is something I'm still learning to use and I'm not very good at it yet, but it's a great place to show what you're doing and to get your message across. It's great to be able to share and bring people with you on the journey.
"Motorsport has given me some great moments and I hope there are plenty more to come. One of the key moments I remember goes all the way back to my karting days and my first-ever European race. I'd begged my dad to let me do the race, but we didn't really have the money to. So, trying to save some money, my dad bought some slick tyres but didn't get any wets.
"Race day arrived and initially it was dry but for the final, a massive black cloud came in over the circuit and the rain started to absolutely pour down. Maybe 60 to 70 per cent of the grid changed to wet tyres and I just looked at my dad like, 'Oh my god, what are we going to do?'
Just as the race was starting, the rain suddenly stopped. I think I was about fifth on the grid, on slicks. Now, karting can be quite brutal. It's not like car racing where there’s no contact. In karting people push each other along all the time. Also, at the time there were no drop-down bumpers. So, I thought if everyone's pushing everyone over the line at the start and I’m on slicks, I'm definitely going to go off at the start.
"I dropped to the back of the grid on the rolling-out lap, but each lap the track was drying, and from last I ended up winning this big European race by about 20 seconds. And it was all because my dad didn't buy any wets.
"I can still see my dad, as I was crossing the line to win, lying on the barrier with his arms behind his head. He knew that I would see him and he was so smug, as if he knew what was going to happen – but it was just luck really.
"Those are the kind of memories motorsport gives you. They're incredibly vivid and important and I know there are going to be more in the future."
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