With only a few rounds left to go, the BRDC British F3 season is coming to a thrilling end. Swedish racing ace Linus Lundqvist looks on course to be crowned champion and the British F3 desk sat down with the Double R driver to discuss his path into the sport, the strength of Swedish motorsport, the highs and lows of being a racing driver, and his future plans…
With the end of the season rapidly approaching, Swedish racing ace and championship leader Linus Lundqvist would be forgiven for having the champagne just at arms reach. The Double R driver has been dominant all season, wracking up victory after victory and is going into rounds 19, 20 and 21 at Donnington with a 111 point lead over fellow Scandinavian, Nicolai Kjaergaard. However, nothing can be taken for granted in motorsport and Lundqvist is well aware…
The F3 desk sat down with the 19 year old Tyreso native to discuss his motorsport career and his thoughts going forward after what has been a stellar season.
I started by asking how the teenage ace got into motorsport.
“Well that’s a bit of a question I ask myself”, Lundqvist began. “The thing is that none of my family members have ever done racing, not parents or grandparents or anything like that, so I’m still wondering where I got it from and where I got started!” Lundqvist has always been interested in cars in general, even before he knew how to walk. During a trip to Finland, a six year old Lundqvist was first introduced to a go karts. Being a bit too small to take a kart round the track solo, he took a tandem kart. Instead of being unnerved by the speed, he asked to go quicker and quicker. And it is here that the racing seeds are said to have been planted.
“When we got back to Sweden, I went to a karting school on a Sunday afternoon for two hours. We got to learn about the flags, the racing line and what that is, and stuff like that.” A then-seven year old Lundqvist was hooked, he bought his first kart and started going racing on the weekends. “It’s then since escalated to [my current seat in ]F3″, Lundqvist added.
With the love affair for racing firmly in place, I asked who his heroes were growing up. “I started watching Formula 1 in 2007, [Lewis] Hamilton’s first year, and he made a very big impact on me by going on to win the championship the following year.” Having made such an impression, Lundqvist admires Hamilton greatly. “I’ve always held Hamilton very highly, but after that I don’t really have a hero. I have people that I look up to and think, they’re doing something great. Like Daniel Ricciardo, I look up to him nowadays, but Hamilton has always been the person from a very young age.”
Hamilton’s path to the pinnacle of motorsport is well-documented and it was clear that the four-time World Champion was turning up to karting track back in the day with more than a “This-is-something-to-pass-the-time” attitude. I asked Lundqvist at what point his karting became less of a hobby and whether a career in racing could be a possibility.
“Um, well, I don’t know actually”, the Swedish ace began. “I started racing because I loved driving and that carried on for a few years. Nowadays, of course, I want to make it as a professional career and the dream is to become number one: World Champion. What keeps me motivated, and why I doing it, is because I love winning.” It’s this love of winning that got him going even at a early age. “When I actually started to compete and got that first taste of winning and what it feels like standing on top of that podium… I think it was just an addiction and that has sort of what kept me going”, he continued. Lundqvist recalls that it was either his first or second year of cars that was the turning point for his consideration of a career in motor racing. For Lundqvist, though, even from an early age, the dream was to drive Formula 1.
Our thoughts then turned to Swedish Motorsport and the the opportunities young people have to get into and progress in the sport. As some of you may know, the F3 desk covers a lot of topics regarding young people in the sport and it’s a subject close to our heart, and we were keen to know Lundqvist’s thoughts.
“Yeah, I think it doesn’t matter really what business or sport you’re looking at, it’s never easy reaching the top,” Lundqvust stated. “You have to consider, especially Formula 1, there are twenty people in the world who can do it each year. If you manage to get there, you can consider yourself lucky, but you have probably worked very hard to get there. I wouldn’t say it’s easy to get there, either from Sweden or the UK or USA or wherever.” Marcus Ericsson is currently the only Swedish Formula 1 driver on the grid, Sweden having not had an F1 driver for 20 years. Lundqvist thinks that motorsport is not being viewed as highly as it was at its peak in Sweden in the 1970s. “I think just looking at the last couple of years, last year we had three world champions, so I think motorsport in Sweden is coming back”, the Double R driver added. “And not just in Formula 1, but in things like Rallycross and Rally, so I’m confident looking to the future. I think now is a pretty good time to be a Swedish racing driver!”
As Lundqvist previously stated, getting to the top is hard wherever you are based, but with the British motorsport scene being as strong as it is, I asked the championship leader if it was a conscious decision to come to the UK to participate in both in F4 and F3? I also wanted to know whether he saw the UK as a good stepping stone for his career…
“I wouldn’t say it was super-obvious [to choose to participate in the BRDC championship], you have to look at your options,” Lundqvist considered. “There are a lot of series out there: Like, with the F4 series, you’ve got German F4 and Italian F4, and the SMP F4…” With the contacts Lundqvist already had, British – with both F4 and F3 – was the biggest option. “Plus, the UK really is the home of motorsport!” he added.
Oh Mr Lundqvist, flattery will get you everywhere…
“The target of last year was trying to get a good result and maybe to make a name for yourself”, the racer continued. “The best place to do that is the UK. [Personally, it made sense] as we get taught English from a pretty early age in school so I already knew English [as opposed to] German or Italian.”
It’s worth noting Lundqvist’s English is far better than the F3 desk’s Swedish…
Moving on to the now, I asked Lundqvist if he had any plans to race outside the UK. “As of the moment, I’m 100% focused on the F3 championship, trying to take that all the way”. He confirmed. “Right now, we’re looking pretty good, but a lot can happen!” Despite being focused on the job in hand, Linus has clear aspirations to become international. “We’ll see what happens, I’m focused on doing well this year, but obviously we have started looking at next year and what opportunities and options we have. Hopefully, something international next year but so far only in the UK this year.”
A short while back, the F3 desk spoke to Harry Webb of Chris Dittmann Racing about the struggles the British racer was experience in his climb up the motorsport ladder and I continued by asking Lundqvist what his views were on climbing the ladder and what the hardest part of the sport was.
Unsurprisingly, sponsorship – and the time spent finding it – comes out top when I asked Lundqvist what he spends the most time doing off the race track. “The thing is, without the sponsors or without having the budget, you’re not racing. So, that’s the thing that always comes first. By the end of February , I wasn’t sure if I was driving this year or not… But then luckily, we got everything together and I’m able to sit here today and compete in F3. I’m very thankful for the sponsors I have and that they support me,” he explained. Elaborating further, Lundqvist sees his role in F3 as part-driver, part-businessman. “It’s not easy, especially when from a young age you have to find sponsors. From like 15 or 16, you need to go out there and put yourself on the spot to convince sponsors to come along. And it’s not easy from that point of view….You just want to race, but then you have this [business] side as well.”
With this element of racing being so important, Lundqvist has created his own company, LL Motorsport AB. “In racing, you don’t only have to best driver out there, you have to be the best businessman as well.” It’s impressive to see Lundqvist so focused and approaching these administrative challenges as just that: a challenge to be accomplished, rather than a hurdle.
Bringing it back round to this season and the step up from F4 to F3, I wondered how Lundqvist was finding the challenge. “Every step you will take will be harder, you know? It’s tough physically but also competition-wise, the competitors, my rivals… they get better as well”, the Swede said. His aim is to try and do everything a little better than last year, both on- and off the track. “I think everything gets tougher as you progress on the ladder but so does the fun level of it as well. I think the more you enjoy it, the more you are willing to sacrifice, to really go for it.”
Having touched on future plans, I wanted to know if there were any time lines or specific plans for the British F3 ace’s international ambitions. “That depends on how this season ends now. But the biggest question is, of course, budget-wise: what we can do and that will decide which direction we will go in.” Keeping his cards close to his chest, the Swede left the F3 desk guessing as to what that direction might be… “It’s sort of the same for every driver – and for us – every year. We will first have to look at our budget is and then see what our options are and what we can do. We definitely have the name and the ambition is to do something internationally next year, but we will see whether it’s possible to do that.”
As always, I finished up by asking if Lundqvist could pick one track, one car and one driver, what they would be? “I’m going to go patriotic on this one”, he began after a long pause. “In my opinion it’s my favourite track I’ve driven on and it’s an old Swedish F1 track called Anderstorp. Ooh, that’s a tough one…you know what? I’ll take last year’s F1 cars round Anderstorp with Ronnie Peterson.”
With the F3 crown in sight, it might be worth noting the name Linus Lundqvist. This young man is surely a star in the making…
For more information on Linus visit http://www.linuslundqvistracing.se/
Linus can be found on all the usual social media channels.
Transcribed and edited by Sara Page