Ameya Vaidyanathan Q&A: "Senna - the documentary inspired me to take up racing"
The year 2018 will be Ameya Vaidyanathan's fourth season in competitive racing in the single-seater category. Remarkably, the Indian only took up racing in 2015 at the age of 19-years and went straight into the BRDC British Formula 4 championship without any prior karting or single-seater experience.
He competed with Hillspeed and finished 12th in the standings which included three podium finishes. For 2016, he moved to the Euroformula Open series with Carlin while also competing in selected rounds in the upgraded British F3 championship.
After his Oulton Park crash, he missed two EF Open rounds but still finished 15th overall and was the fifth best rookie. He continued in the series for another season and was fighting for the title until late drop of form, eventually finishing fourth with 169 points.
He did few rounds in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship and has now moved full-time, staying with the British squad continuing his learning curve. The 21-year-old has a fascinating journey in motor racing which started after watching Senna.
Here's more from him:
Q) First things first, can you tell us about your Indian origin. Where you are from and if you have been to India or plan to? More so, what inspired you to take up racing even though you know you were late in picking it up?
AV: "I was born in Pune and, although I have lived away from India ever since, I have a lot of family still living in the country. I try and come back at least once a year to visit them. I’d definitely say it still feels like ‘home’!
"I decided to take up racing on the back of watching ‘Senna’ - the documentary. I was really inspired by his story, and at the end of high school, I decided to take a gamble and start racing in England- just like he did!"
Q) Interesting this. Can you then take us through your journey? Was British F4 really your first-time in racing with no prior karting experience? Must have been difficult..
AV: "I started in 2015 and British F4 was indeed my first championship and I hadn’t done any karting before that - it is true as well. The first years were definitely character building to say the least, since not only was the process of driving a car completely alien, but embracing the motorsport community also took some time.
"I think the tough times I’ve had have done me a lot of good though, and the breakthroughs I’ve had are testament to that. There’s still a lot to learn though, and I’m in it for the long run."
Q) Looking ahead to your first full European F3 season, how did testing go? How much you were able to work upon from your brief run in the 2017 season?
AV: "It’s been up and down. I think we’ve got some really good things to build on moving forward, but there are clear areas to work on as well. This year I’m onboard for the full championship so I’ll get a lot of seat time, and I’ve got to make the most of it.
"There was definitely a lot to take in [last year]. The structure of the weekend was quite unusual at first- back to back practices, followed by an evening qualifying definitely meant that you had to be on it straight away.
"That was the main thing I struggled with [in my brief run]. Getting the best out of what we have sooner is my main focus. As a team though, I think we’ve had a solid pre-season."
Q) It is your rookie season and you'll be up against a formidable line-up, where do you think you can finish realistically - both overall and rookie standings? Is rookie/overall podium possible you reckon?
AV: "I think I have to break the season up into thirds: in the first third, if I can consistently run in the Top 15, that will be a step forward. In the middle third, I think I should aim to be solidly in the Top 10. By the final third, If I’m able mix it up with the sharp end of the grid, I think I’ll have had a great season. As for finishing place in the standings, that’s less relevant for me."
Q) And what do you think of your competitors both in terms of teams and drivers - who do you think will be difficult to race against, whether your teammates or others and also the teams?
AV: "Since the competition is so tight, I’d say that all the drivers will be difficult to race against. I have very strong teammates (Jehan Daruvala, Ferdinand Habsburg, Sacha Fenestraz, Nikita Troitskiy and Devlin Defrancesco) as well, which definitely helps. Of course, they will be the ones that I will try and chase."
Q) If you look back since you had a lot catch up on, do you think those two years in EF Open has helped you develop as a racer? How crucial are your decisions especially since you started your career a tad late than others?
AV: "I think they definitely have. It was important to continue as a ‘second year student’ to put what I learnt in my rookie year to use. Last year, being as competitive as we were made me 'realise what’s needed to be at the front.
"Every year has been so valuable given that my career has started this late- no doubt that my management have made all the right decisions so far. "
Q) Moving to a different direction. Your incident in British F3 [at Oulton Park] actually made big headlines in India. Were your surprised or you followed?
AV: "I heard! I was surprised the news spread internationally- the accident was quite spectacular so I knew it would get some attention locally, but when I had people from all over phoning in to check on me soon after it had happened, I was a bit confused!
"After the crash, I unfortunately had to sit out from racing for a couple of months for precaution, but I’ve been fine since."
Q) So finally, what's your plan for the future, of course, F1 will be the target? Do you see yourself doing another F3 season? Also, aside the single-seaters, have you had any plans for other types of racing?
AV: "I’ve always looked at my racing from a ‘process’ point of view: the goal is to really push my limits and become the best racing driver I can be. If that take me to F1- awesome! But there are so many other categories where you can prove your worth against the best. Those are the sort of places I want to find myself competing in.
"As for next year, I think I’ll only give it serious thought after this year has finished. My aim is to definitely continue in single seaters, however should an opportunity come up to compete in a one off event in another form of racing, I would definitely consider it. "
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