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Exclusive interview with Robert Doornbos 08 May 2007

Robert Doornbos (NED) Red Bull Racing Test Driver. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain. 26 January 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton

With no third cars in Friday practice sessions this year and even more stringent testing restrictions, the Formula One reserve driver is finding it increasingly difficult to get time behind the wheel. So does he simply wait, or wait whilst also racing elsewhere? Red Bull Racing’s Robert Doornbos has chosen the latter option and headed to the US. When the F1 call comes, he figures there’s no better preparation for racing than to race…

Q: While some test and reserve drivers are simply biding their time, waiting for a Formula One drive, you preferred to take up the challenge of another series. Was this purely to stay ‘race fit’?
Robert Doornbos:
For sure, it was very important to race this season, even though I’m very happy to be involved with RBR in F1 as their third driver. But with the new regulations in F1, with limited mileage in testing and my high motivation, I just couldn’t sit still and Champ Car looked like the best option!

Q: In your first three Champ Car races, you have been on the podium twice. If you continue with steady, strong results this year, how do you think they will affect your chances of recapturing a full-time Formula One race drive?
Of course, it doesn’t hurt my career that I came into a new series like Champ Car and got to spray the champagne in two out of three races! My aim is to become a successful driver at the highest level possible. My relationship with Red Bull is good and I know that they will keep an eye on my performance in the USA and in the F1 car during testing, so that can mean a way back to F1.

Q: From your personal perspective, you must think it would make sense for a Formula One team to bring back a driver with your proven speed and ability?
I feel that as a driver in F1 I took my chances and got the maximum out of it with Minardi in ‘05 and RBR last year. I had a very strong team mate in David (Coulthard) and I was able to match and better his pace in two out of the three races I competed. So to answer your question, it would be great if they get me back!

Q: How does it feel to be enjoying podium success, while both of Red Bull’s Formula One teams are seemingly still quite some way from doing so?
It felt really damned good again to be fighting for the win and to be competitive. I finished my F3000 career on the podium and unfortunately in F1 I never had the competitive car. I still follow very closely what Red Bull is doing and the contact with the engineers I really appreciate, so I know what’s going on. They are in the right direction and hopefully they can get some good results this season.

Q: How different is the Champ Car experience to that of Formula One racing?
The Champ Car reminds me a lot to my International F3000 year in ’04 because you drive with big cars, no tyre warmers, no power steering, and steel brakes… so you drive it a little different than F1 cars, but at the end of the day it’s great fun, just like F1! And in the end it is all about winning - so the material might be different, but the will to succeed has to be the same.

Q: You recently races two street circuits - Las Vegas and Long Beach - on consecutive weekends. How exciting were they, compared to purpose-built race tracks?
Ha, I always really enjoy driving on street circuits! That’s the reason I moved house to Monaco, so I can do it every day!

Q: Are you satisfied with your 2007 performance so far? And where do you see room for improvement, in terms of driver and team?
Yes, I’m happy that we scored good points from the first races and the podiums are good for overall motivation. But we need to improve the car more because all the teams are pushing very hard to find the ‘sweet spot’ in set-up with the new Panoz Champ Car. And therefore I’m just on my way to the Portland Raceway where we start testing for three days. After that you will see me in the paddock in Barcelona.