Freddie Hunt as teammates with Mathias Lauda, ambassador with Formula E and all things wildlife-concerned. And yes, he's still set to be a future Le Mans winner. Interview.
Freddie Hunt is a busy man. You'd be too if you practically co-produced a live sequel of the movie 'Rush', flew around most of Asia and Europe due to commitments at various racing events with Africa on the radar while thinking of surviving the great 24-hour race.
The India-based single-seater MRF Series races during the winter season and saw the novelty of the unusual - but obvious - team-up of two second-generation drivers with Mathias Lauda and Freddie Hunt. Having his first outing with the 2000cc car I asked Freddie about his venture in Qatar last weekend:
It was tough, because I had never driven the car or anything like that before - with that much power and downforce. It's not a lot, but more than I'd done. A lot more power than the Formula Ford car I drove at Castle Combe. That was about 130-140bhp, but these are around 210. A lot more grip, too, which is great fun - I enjoyed the cornering speeds and the braking.
I had a 30-minute practice session to learn the track and the car, and then I went straight into qualifying. I was about a second and a half off the pace. I qualified 8th of which I wasn't too upset about, because that was my first race in quite a while. And then the race itself wasn't that good because the car wasn't behaving properly with a lot of understeer. I thought my driving technique had something wrong with it, so I was just trying to figure out how to drive better. And before the last race we made a setup change and then I realized it wasn't my driving - it was the car, because it suddenly felt like a whole different ride, as if there was double the grip. Then I set the fastest lap of the race, and unfortunately I got a bit overexcited, made a mistake and finished in the gravel. I went from 11th to 6th on the first lap, and on the second lap I was a second quicker than everyone else. Then I went into the gravel and when I came out I was the quickest again by a second and a half, which was the third fastest lap of the weekend. Very happy with the pace. Good race and weekend overall, learnt a lot. Now, I'm very excited and looking forward to the next race in Bahrain. Now I know I've got the pace, so we can really attack the guys at the front.
Apart from racing duties, Freddie has been 'selected' as a Driver Ambassador and Sustainability Spokesman at the Formula E Championship. He was present at the inaugural race in Beijing. This is how he saw the cars and their philosophy:
Formule E is great for me. The whole idea is to promote electric cars and to show the world that they can be driven in the streets. They are not sluggish or slow, but fast, sexy and much cheaper to run than a conventional car. And they are cleaner for the environment - that's the whole point of the championship. A lot of people were worried that we were trying to turn racing electric, which isn't the case. It's just getting internal combustion engines off the road, that's why we race on street circuits.
There were observations that the cars seemed slow on TV at least, but the shunt of Nick Heidfeld and Nico Prost put that argument in a rather different perspective.
The cars are still a bit slow, yes. They are nearly 900kg, 300 more than an F1 car and most of the single-seaters. Also, it's still the very early days of the technology, that's why they can't put out that much power, because I think the motors would get too hot. But it won't be long until the technology improves and I'm sure and we'll be able to get half the weight and twice the power from the batteries and yet be able to get much more distance out of them. So I think in a few years the cars will be almost as quick as a premier single-seater. They are not slow by all means - slower than an F1 car, of course - running almost F3-times, but still fast enough to get a good accident, haha! I haven't driven one yet, but will do soon. The next race I'll be attending is Uruguay and then Buenos Aires in January. The reason I'm not going to Malaysia is because I'll be at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
That brings us to the double-point race in Formula One 2014, which would be a sin to miss out on from someone fairly close to it.
Every two or three years there's a drastic change in the rules, this is just one of those, really. The cars are slightly different with the new engines and the turbos, they make a different sound, but I think it's just the natural evolution of the sport. On the TV the cars sound a lot more quiet. Once you get up close, it's different. I don't dislike them, I think they sound 'torquey' and more powerful to me. I'm not complaining about it at all. Now you can stand in the pitlane and have a conversation with someone. Definitely the Renault engines sound the best.
2015 is vague for the young man in racing terms, but he has a clear perspective when it comes to long-term plans - for one of the biggest single sporting events in the world.
BTCC is a possibility but not so likely. The Radical series is on the radar, possibly some GT racing. I'm building up the experience to race at Le Mans.
MRF and Formula Ford is good for that. Next year the Radicals will be even better, because they are a lot closer to the LMP2 cars with their similar sort of structures, power and downforce. The Radical Championship is an ideal training ground, I'd say.
[video is for illustration purposes only]
Apart from racing, Freddie has other passions in life as well that correlates with his role in Formula E as well. He's been quite outspoken about wildlife preservation in recent weeks.
Wildlife has been my greatest interest and passion since I was a small boy - that's what I'm really focusing on in the long term. Part of the motivation behind me driving is actually the profile I can create and the awareness I can spread. I'm working with the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation to see if I can help them. They are doing various wildlife projects in Africa and possibly we're going to Africa in February.
2014 is not over yet, though, Freddie has still some cards up the sleeve. He's about to pay tribute to Walter Hayes, one of the masterminds behind the Cosworth DFV, the single most successful F1 engine of all time - that also helped his father to his Championship-winning legend.
I'm going to the Walter Hayes Trophy next weekend at Silverstone, sponsored by Hackett London. It's the same car I drove at Castle Combe with the engine rebuilt now, because I was actually down on power in that last race, which I found out about a month ago.
Lucky we talk on the 24th of October, the 38th anniversary of James Hunt winning the F1 World Champion title at Fuji Speedway in 1976, which seems to have slipped Freddie's mind at the moment of us speaking.
What's the date today? Was it on the 24th of October when he won the title? I have to raise a glass then.
We'll have one, too. Cheers!
image is from Freddie Hunt's Facebook page