FormulaNerds Cut To The Race Podcast

EXCLUSIVE: Vicky Piria on W Series, future, and more: “2021 has been the hardest year of my career”

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W Series driver Vicky Piria recently launched a project to give a possibility to girls to approach motorsport. After the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, FormulaNerds spoke about this with Vicky as well as about her second season in W Series, fellow Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, using social media in a good way and more.

Hi Vicky! How are you and where are you speaking to us from?

“All good! I’m at home in Milan and I just got back from the gym. Everything’s pretty much okay. I’ve watched Formula 1 yesterday, now it’s Monday, a new week… We seem to go very slowly, even though I’m busy during the off-season but yeah”

How are you keeping busy during the pause to maintain training and everything else?

“I’m very very busy because luckily I work a lot. So I’ve just finished filming a tv series where I try and review supercars, which is really cool cause I’ve got the track to myself and I’m just there pushing it and having good fun. I’ve just finished filming that and I also do some things on Youtube, always car reviews and stuff like that. That’s my main job and then I just try to keep busy training and preparing for next season. At the same time, I’m trying to do some good: I’ve organized a day in the simulator for six girls. They came and I coached them so they lived like the real racing car driver experience even though they’re nowhere close; only one was karting and stuff. They just love motorsport, they have such a big passion and it’s a cool thing to let them enjoy an experience that they wouldn’t have otherwise. So, that’s one thing I did also lately and basically working, events, everything which is pretty much car or racing related. This weekend I’ve been down in South Italy as there was a rally race. The only reason I went there is because they would’ve given me one lap with a rally car but then I was hanging around watching the other races because obviously, I don’t have a rally license. My license is for racing on track but I had a go and I loved it as well. I’m really seizing the moment day by day and every opportunity I get to get in the car, whether it’s work or events or whatever I just go. “

You already introduced us to the #Lamiavittoria project. What started it and what was the purpose of it? Can you talk us through that?

“It all came up because I always thought I had a lot of male followers because my sport is obviously racing-related but then every now and then some girl would text me, especially after the end of the season as it didn’t go well, they were like “Oh look don’t beat yourself down, you don’t know the good you’re doing. I love motorsport, I love cars but I’ve got no one to share it with because my family thinks I’m crazy, my friends, the girls aren’t interested, the boys are kinda jealous of the sport and don’t wanna share it with me that I’m a girl. I don’t know who to share this passion that I have for motorsport with and living through you and your channels, what you say it’s basically just to enjoy motorsport.”. I thought that was really inspiring and that I could do something nice for them, you know? So, I went to the sim facility where I train for the W Series races and asked if we could organize a day to invite a few girls that aren’t in racing, they’re not in karting, it’s not a shoot-out like what W Series does but it’s just purely girls that are completely into racing, they were from very different ages and we gave them an opportunity to live a day as a racing car driver and get closer to the sport, understand that there are different ways to live the sport. So, I did this social media contest, which I was really worried about because I thought only five or six girls would reply and I was telling my boyfriend like “I need to find some girls who would do it for fake just in case no one replies” but there were so many girls that were just sharing their passion for motorsport. It could’ve been a picture with their grandad’s old race car or a picture of their room with posters of Verstappen and Hamilton or the first time they tried a rental go-kart. I chose six, the youngest was 16, the oldest was 32. They did a full day in a sim facility but it was really easy-going in terms of everyone being really close like a big family but I tried to keep it kind of professional so we did a briefing, theory lessons, they started the sim and I was with them every time coaching them, they did data, telemetry… They were like girls in a candy store, just so happy. They also improved so much because at the beginning they were nowhere, they were so dangerous even on the sim but then by the end of the day they were actually really good. It wasn’t hard, I did it because I thought I have all this girl-community that’s into motorsport but it’s not easy, especially in Italy, to get close to motorsport so if I could do something good, then why not? So, I just did this and it was a huge success. “

As a driving instructor, how do you teach someone else and transmit the feeling of the car?

“There are different ways to communicate: one thing I try to do is, instead of saying “go right, go left, go inside, go outside”, when I’m on a car or next to them on the sim, I tell them where to look because vision is the most important thing so I say “look at the apex, look over there, try to look for a straight line”. That makes their mind work in a way a racing car driver’s mind works. Then obviously when everybody that I instruct gets good, it gets to a point where they are dangerous because they could make mistakes and it’s up to me to make them do mistakes where it’s safe to do them. If they have to brake really late and they can do a mistake, I’ll make them do that where I know there’s a run-off because it’s important as a driver to make mistakes. It’s just about feeling the car and trying to transmit what you feel on the car because we need to feel what the car is doing without having the steering wheel, just out of our senses and we need to correct it in case it gets dangerous. For sure, it’s something really nice, it’s really challenging. I think it’s the scariest part of being in the car. I’ve never been scared of driving myself but I’ve been scared sometimes going next to people. It’s just about giving people time to understand, some people are quick-learners, others take more time but then I’m persistent, it depends. I just try to make their mind think and not just copy what I say to do like braking-wise or “do this, do that”: I think that’s my secret. “

You talked about how it can be difficult to approach motorsport in Italy and in your career you had to stop racing for a period because of a lack of funds. Moreover, you’re friends with Antonio Giovinazzi, what do you think about his future exit from Formula 1?

“I know Antonio really well as we were racing go-karts when we were kids. I’ve just been to Apulia, which is where he comes from in Southern Italy, and I was talking to a few people that support him and help him out. I think he’s an incredible talent but motorsport is an incredibly tough world. It’s hard for several reasons: you need to be in the car, you need to be practicing, you need to be supported, supported within the team. I just think ultimately, he didn’t have the right support from where he was in this situation and I don’t think he’s lacking talent, yesterday [Saudi Arabian GP] was quite a good example of that because he went on point and it was a cool race where you needed to keep cold and understand what was happening and he performed incredibly. So, I’m really disappointed but the good thing about Antonio is that he is still the kid he was when he was go-karting. He’s so enthusiastic and loves everything. He loves everything maybe even despite the bad side, the business side, of Formula 1. I’m sure he will enjoy Formula E a lot and who knows if he might be back one day. I’m sorry but I’m not that sorry because I have so much trust in his capabilities that, one way or another, he will be a huge champion someday somehow. “

About Formula E, you work on the commentary with Italian tv but what about driving in Formula E? We have seen W Series own Alice Powell doing a test, is it something you would like as well?

“Of course, I would like to try it! I might try the demo car this year in Rome and give it a go. Obviously, it’s not the same as doing proper testing but it still gets me into the car. I think it’s such a great championship because the level of the drivers is incredibly high. It’s difficult because if you think about how many years F1 or racing with fuel engines has been going on people know what to expect, Formula E is in its eighth year racing with electric and I think the progress made in the years has been incredible and they’re still changing. They’re changing the qualifying formula next season which shows that it’s still a really young Championship that has a huge potential with great drivers and great teams involved. So, I’m looking forward to the season and who knows…”

Would you be interested in rally or Dakar?

“More than rally what I’ve been dreaming for years is Dakar, so rally raids. I did a test and everything but obviously, Dakar and rally raids are quite expensive. It’s not like a weekend race but you’re away for months because before the Dakar for practice and stuff you stay away for two or three months. Anyway, it’s something I really love, I enjoyed that so much. I love everything that involves racing cars but obviously, rally raid requires a completely different approach mentally and everything. I always loved the example of a complete driver, like I look at [Fernando] Alonso and I think he’s the most complete driver in the world at the moment because he’s gone through IndyCar, Formula 1 but he’s done Dakar and stuff like this as well. It’s cool and why limit yourself? If you like it, you should try it out as well, otherwise, I wouldn’t be driving a Formula 3, so I would like that. Although probably I have too many dreams for one life anyway but every day is a day to try. “

Regarding the season, you spoke out about it being a difficult season as well as a learning point. What do you think is the biggest lesson you take away from it?

“It’s been probably the hardest year of my career, mentally especially. I just had so much bad luck, technical failures, and everything. When it’s a Championship that is so compressed in one free practice, one qualifying session, one race if you’ve got problems in quali and free practice, it pretty much affects your performance in the race; also, because we’re really close and it takes little to be top 5 or P15. It’s been a real year mentally because not being where I think (or I thought) I was meant to be, I started self-doubting, not understanding what happening, thinking what you can do to get better and stuff. At the end of the day, I just think probably drivers have bad years and this has been a bad year for me. What I take is that I suffered a lot but it’s all about the learning so even when you suffer, you learn something about the car and yourself and you just have to try to take the good and move on. “

You’re very active on social media. How important do you think it is to have characters like yourself that become models not only for women in motorsport but also for mental health?

“It’s important. I think we need to balance it out. People that follow social media aren’t silly, they know if someone is doing something only for the media. Social media for me it’s part of my job, I’m not gonna lie, but that’s why I did the event I did using my job because if I didn’t have this following probably the sim center wouldn’t have cared to do the event. Obviously, they liked the idea to do the event because it was something for women but also because they had a good ambassador for it, which was me. The main thing is to use social media in a good way. Sometimes is right, when it’s the moment, to say life is not always good. I did a long post after my last race of the season to try and explain what I’ve been through during the season just to make people understand that it’s not always easy and they encounter challenges, setbacks, anyone does. I mean look at Formula 1 yesterday. I also think it’s important at the same time to give awareness but also play it down because in the end we’re talking about social media, which is something completely fake and in the cloud. I think it’s important that who follows on social media tries to take the good but also play it down, guys, because at the end of the day it’s not real life. “

Headline Image: W Series

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