Jaime Alguersuari

Interview

Jaime Alguersuari

Former motorcyclist and racing driver
Interview:
Amanda Zuydervelt

Jaime Alguersuari became the youngest man to start a Formula One race when he competed in the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix – and the first driver born in the 1990s to compete in the world’s leading motorsport. But the bright-eyed Spanish racer isn’t just a lean, mean, driving machine. He also loves making music: he headlined the 2010 Barcelona Music Conference and has played sets at clubs including Amnesia in Ibiza under the DJ stage name of Squire. His debut album Organic Life, released by Blanco y Negro Records on 14 September 2011, topped the iTunes album chart just five days after its release. A SEAT Ambassador, Jaime also loves and drives the best in quality, compact, sporty autos. He sat down with Stylebible to chat with us about speed, SEAT, and spinning discs.

I read that you started karting at the age of eight. Did motorsports run in your family?
My father used to be a good motorbike rider in the old days. He won the “Buldor” at Le Mans as well as the 24-hour Montauk race, on the old track in Barcelona.  He used to be Spanish 50cc champion and also the European 50cc champion, back before my sister was born. I believe that a need for speed runs in my family’s blood. Motorsports has been something that our family lives and breathes every day – to the extent that my father once founded a magazine called Solo Moto. He started in the world of journalism, with magazines always open to the pages describing motorsports and sports in general. He is now running a world sporting series for Renault that includes events like the Barcelona marathon.  Ever since I was young, sports led me, fed me, and nourished me. I loved participating in sports, and not just motor-racing: I enjoyed other individual pursuits, including golf and tennis.

Who were your big idols when you were starting out?
I didn’t really look up to anyone specifically – it was more that I respected racers as a genre, as a group of people. I loved karting and I was gunning to be a professional go-karter. I looked up to those guys, and when you want to be like them, a few rungs up on the ladder, you can’t start looking all the way ahead to the likes of Michael Schumacher or Ayrton Senna.  I was not looking at Formula 1 when I was ten years of age. And when I started to race, the world of F1 started to loom a little larger, but when you are studying, having fun on the weekend, and enjoying your youth, F1 isn’t the be-all-and-end-all.

Do you still go karting now?
Absolutely - it is one of the best forms of training there is for Formula 1. I base some of my training around karting races and I’m planning to do three races this year: the World Cup in southern Italy, a race in Las Vegas, and at the tail-end of the year there’s the European Championships. I’m really looking forward to those three races – in 2009 I took part in the World Cup and it’s amazing to drive against those guys; it’s so different from Formula 1. The challenge is genuine, and the level of difficulty is very high.

How did it come about that you joined Red Bull at the age of 15?
My first contract was with Intrepid, an Italian kart maker run by Mircos del Sol, the first professional who really recognised my potential. He called me and we signed my first contract at the age of 15. I did the whole season with him as my backer and mentor, and took part in a few races and championships. I did pretty well, and when I was looking to move to single-seat racing in 2005, I serendipitously received a call from Red Bull. They were running the rule over a new set of drivers in Estoril, Portugal, and they invited me along. It happened so quickly: I was at school and I had to get a flight over and there 30 or 40 kids and they selected four drivers, one of which, thankfully, was me.
It must have come as shock when you got sidelined recently.

I have no answer to that because I still don’t understand why that happened.  It was very strange; I wasn’t expecting that to happen, especially as I had been told that everything was on for 2012. My aim was always to be competitive – to be a winner and to be successful. This is the way I race, and the way I have always driven in Formula 1. I don’t have five million euros to spend on a Formula 1 seat – my family isn’t wealthy like that. But I am forever grateful to Red Bull because they gave me the opportunity to drive and to shine in the highest echelon of the sport.

What is it like being the youngest person on the circuit?
It is great for two races but you always need to be changing your mind and your goals. My aim now is to be world champion in F1, because I do believe I can win and that I can do it. I need a good car, a competitive car.

What car would you like?
Any car in the top ten would be fine.

At the moment you are a BBC co-commentator on Radio 5 Live. How is that going?
And I’m doing test driving for Pirelli as well! It’s a great project for me, as it keeps me active in Formula 1 and most importantly, it keeps my body and my mind fit. The programme is intense with Pirelli. We do a lot of long runs, the really hard yards, and we get to test the new rubber on Formula 1 tracks.  It is great for me: I get the chance to develop a product that no one knows, and that gives me the inside-track on what people will be driving, and how they’ll be driving, next year. I don’t see myself without a drive next year.

What has been your most memorable race so far?
The race that you never forget is the one where you earn your first F1 point. It’s a cumulation, the result of working so hard for so many years. And then one day it happens – you achieve your first points. And people sit up and notice: suddenly you are a competitor, a racer, and you’ve done a good job, so your team is happy. And presumably the car did its job, and that makes you, your team, and everyone around you, so proud and happy. I came ninth in Malaysia and this was a race I will never forget, my ex-girlfriend and my family was there. It was perfect.

How do you prepare for a race?
I used to go alone to the races, travelling with my physio.  Music is something that helps me to get into the zone, into the mentality of being a driver at the weekend. It’s always good to get in touch with your emotions before a big event as, in the end, it isn’t just about the race. It’s about everything that goes with the race: the travel, the jetlag, being away from home. So on your long plane journeys you need to be balanced and grounded.

What car do you drive when you are not on the track?
I drive a SEAT Lyon Cupra R, which is a pretty fast car. Obviously you can’t really drive fast on the highway but it has really good grip - it’s a very sporty as well as a very comfortable car, so you can drive it alone, or pile your family in and go for a drive. I also drive a SEAT Alhambra. I know it sounds a little bit strange that I drive an Alhambra, given that it’s a people-carrier, but I love biking and surfing, and it has so much space in the back, as well as being comfortable and safe.

You’ve driven the new SEAT Ibiza, what do you think of it?
In terms of design, I think it has reached a fantastic modern level.  I think SEAT is changing a lot. It’s a young company, in the sense that it is evolving and developing very fast.  It has a Mediterranean philosophy mixed with German technology and that’s a great combination. It’s made in Barcelona, so it has a Catalan feel: it’s new, young, sporty, and aggressive. It has real power but it’s also light and easy to drive. It’s a very special car.

You are also really into your music – and that isn’t necessarily a natural pairing for motorsport. What attracted you to being a DJ?
They look very different pursuits at first sight, but actually they have so much in common. Both are done with your heart. Both give me the same feeling.  I love racing because I love to challenge another guy, and to try to be faster than he is, even when I’m in a technically slower car. I try to do the best that I can, and that’s what I try to do as well with music: to do something that no one can do: something different, something special. I do both with heart and with passion.

What artists have influenced you, musically?
I have lots of musical influences. I like electronic music: you have so many inputs from other genres or artists within electronic music, I love classical music for example, I love opera, chillout music, jazz, even hip hop. You find so many different sounds, and you can then mash them up and go to the recording studio and flesh them out, make them into ‘real’ tunes.

Tell us about Organic Life.
That was my first single, released last year. It was a good moment to introduce it as I launched my nickname which is Esquire. People ask why I chose that name – well, let’s say that it’s my second surname in English and I did that because I wanted to separate my driving from my music. I love both, and I drive and mix and make music with all of my Catalan passion, but I want to make people understand that the fan that is supporting me at the races does not have to be the man who respects and follows my music. I believe that music is open to everyone and I think I bring a lot to electronic music but it also brings a lot to me. This is what I want to do: I don’t have to be a Formula 1 superstar to be a great DJ. I would love to be a great DJ and producer in my own right.

What is on your iPod?
You can find pretty much everything on it. There are tracks by Bob Marley, Spanish music, band anthems, orchestral music, jazz, hip hop, pretty much every genre.

What can’t you travel without?
My iPod and my trainers – it’s very important for me feel active, fit and strong.  I recommend a book from Lance Armstrong called “It’s not about the bike” – it’s an amazing read. Life is a challenge, you are always battling something.

What are you favourite hotels?
My favourite hotel is my house, but normally I just want to be comfortable. When I’m racing, I just need to be close to the track.

What do you like doing when you have time off?
I love going into my studio, closing the door and getting into the electronic world.  When you get into the studio you express yourself and I recommend it to everyone.

Do you get involved with social networking?
I am on Twitter, but the problem is that I have so many tweets, it’s hard to reply to them all. Today, as it happens, I reached 100,000 followers, and I celebrated after a race by giving away one of my karting helmets. The guy that won it is into karting, and I tweeted him to tell him he won.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
It was from my father, who has been the guiding force in my life. He educated me and gave me direction. He helps me keep my focus and strive for my goals. The best advice I ever received came from him – it was simple. Be yourself, he told me. If you are yourself, if you remain true to yourself, it doesn’t matter how high you rise or where you go. He keeps me grounded.

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