(This article was originally published in December 2022)
Felipe Drugovich said he is aware of the “pressure” of being the next Brazilian in Formula 1 but wants to use it as “motivation”.
Of the many countries to have shaped the 72-year history of Formula 1, there are few who have left quite as large an impact as Brazil.
In a country of more than 200 million, many of its citizens have gone on to drive in the pinnacle of motorsport and a select few have achieved its highest honour.
The country has been responsible for 101 F1 race wins, a figure only the UK and Germany can beat, and has produced three World Champions in Nelson Piquet, Emerson Fittipaldi and perhaps the single most legendary figure in F1 history: Ayrton Senna.
All of this means that anyone who drives under the blue, yellow and green of the national flag has one of the world’s most expectant countries watching.
There have been a total of 31 Brazilian drivers and now Formula 2 World Champion Felipe Drugovich hopes to join them.
The 22-year-old was announced in September as the inaugural member of the Aston Martin Driver Development Programme and will serve as the team’s reserve driver for 2023.
Speaking exclusively to PlanetF1, Drugovich admitted he felt the “pressure” of being the next Brazilian in the sport but wants to use it as a catalyst for his potential career in Formula 1.
“It’s the first time I can really experience my home GP,” he told PlanetF1 on the eve of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
“Getting in and out of the hotel in the morning, people are already asking for pictures.
“It feels really good [to be Brazilian]. Obviously It comes with a little bit of pressure but it’s a good pressure which will serve as motivation because people care a lot about who represents their country and now that’s me.”
The newest arrival into the Aston Martin paddock is not without ambition though, admitting that his ultimate goal is to win the World Championship and revealing that he only signed with Aston once the chance of a permanent seat was no longer an option.
“We took the decision around Zandvoort,” he said. “There were pretty long discussions because we were seeing what was possible, what was on the table.
“I just didn’t want to miss out on any bigger opportunities because obviously bigger is to be on the grid. As soon as we saw being on the grid was impossible, the best option was with Aston.”
The Brazilian has already been getting his feet under the table, completing a 300km test of the car at Silverstone and he also took part in FP1 in Lance Stroll’s car at Abu Dhabi.
“That was amazing, a really good experience,” he said of the Silverstone run-out. “A dream come true. I really enjoyed it, the weather wasn’t amazing but we managed to do 300km.
“The downforce is ridiculous. Even braking is very different.
Felipe Drugovich has already spoken with “right guy to learn from” Fernando Alonso
Drugovich is not the only new face who will be dressed in the British Racing Green of Aston Martin next season as Fernando Alonso makes his switch from Alpine to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel.
There is hardly a better teacher for Drugovich to learn from than the two-time World Champion and the 22-year-old said he had already been speaking to the Spaniard.
“He needs no introduction and he’s been really nice to me,” the Brazilian said. “Hopefully I can learn a lot from him next year. He’s the right guy to learn from.”
Drugovich’s arrival, as well as the creation of the driver programme, is all part of Aston Martin’s push to become not only a race winner but also a Championship contender,
The Brazilian said he was impressed with what he has seen and said that the team shares his goal to “make it work”.
“The main goal for next year is getting as much experience as I can. Following the team around, learning as much as I can because it’s a new team for me.
“Driving is obviously the best thing you can do to get experience but also following the briefings, stuff like that.
“The ambition is pretty high to make this driving programme work. I’m the first guy into it and they are really willing to make it work and I am the same.
“I will work really hard to be there one day [on the F1 grid] and hopefully I can start this programme the right way.”