We are very pleased to have had the pleasure of interviewing Bruno Carneiro, Japanese Formula 3 driver. Bruno and his team, Albirex Racing, have finished the 2017 Japanese FIA F3 season in 11th place overall. In 2016, Bruno won the Chinese FIA F4 championship. He is also the winner of multiple kart series.
Our chief editor, Charles Côté, recently talked with Bruno to gain insight into the life and aspirations of an up and coming race car driver.
Charles Côté: First of all Bruno, congratulations on completing your first season in the Japanese Formula 3 championship. How did it feel to finish the season in 11th place overall out of 26 drivers?
Bruno Carneiro: Thank you very much! I felt it was a pretty good season overall. The team and I learned a lot about car set up as the season progressed. I also had to learn how to handle and drive a Formula 3 car, which is a totally different animal compared to anything I’ve driven before! Working hard to adapt to these new experiences resulted in finishing 11th overall. Although this was a pretty good result, my goal is to obviously be a front runner. It’s a rookie year for me and we learned as much as we could. Hopefully, we can make next year work by applying all this new knowledge towards next season and give it our best shot. I strongly believe that we can do much better than 11th overall in 2018!
C.C: After winning the 2016 Chinese Formula 4 championship, did you feel confident in your abilities to succeed in F3?
B.C: I felt we were going to do well in Formula 3 after our season in Formula 4. Obviously, coming out as champions, it’s a big confidence booster. I was very confident in my abilities and what could be achieved after winning a championship. I felt that Formula 3 was the obvious next step after Formula 4. Racing in Formula 3 was a pretty big jump considering all the aerodynamic upgrades and other modifications. Since we were following the European regulations in 2017, we got the big front nose, big rear wing and upgraded diffuser. It was all very different to what I was running in Formula 4 but I felt that after winning the championship, I could do relatively well and run near the front of the grid. We definitely exceeded expectations after finishing certain races in P6 and P7.
C.C: Racing is clearly your passion, do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to become a professional racing driver?
B.C: There wasn’t really a moment I could think of. Racing is just my life. As a child, I was always playing with toy cars and making race car noises. It’s something that I was always passionate about. If I had to point to a specific time, it would probably be in my early childhood, watching Formula 1 for the first time. Since then, I have always been passionate about racing and have always been thinking about racing. It still is the only thing I think about. Racing is definitely my life and my passion. When I decided I wanted to become a professional racing driver, I was already racing karts. At that time, I would always say that the dream was to get to Formula 1. I never would have guessed I would be where I am today but look at where we are now! It really goes to show that everything is possible. I’m very fortunate in that respect. Although there wasn’t a specific moment when I decided to become racing driver, I was given the opportunity to race by Ivan Utrera, who is the founder of Rodizio Grill, and we’ve been progressing since then.
C.C: The Mercedes-Benz powered Dallara you raced this year is quite different to the F4 car you drove last year. How did it feel to take the wheel of such a different machine?
B.C: It’s a very different car! Obviously, there’s a lot more downforce, power and torque in a Formula 3 car. Also, the chassis is very different as well. Formula 4 uses a Mygale chassis compared to the Dallara chassis used in Formula 3. Simply put, everything is different! It was all new to me at the beginning of the season. In Formula 4, you can easily throw the Mygale into turns and carry the momentum as much as you can. In the Dallara Formula 3 car, you want to carry the momentum but you can’t just throw the car into the corner. You must be extremely smooth compared to the Formula 4 car. There’s other differences as well like traction and following the right racing line is a lot different in the Formula 3 car. It took me quite a few laps to get used to the car but once we had perfected the setup, I started to gain a lot more confidence in the car.
C.C: This year, in F3, you raced at 6 different race tracks including Fuji Speedway and Suzuka. Tell me what it was like to race on the former and current Japanese GP Formula 1 tracks?
B.C: Fuji Speedway was very impressive because we were doing 160 mph, about 260 km/h for almost 12 seconds down the main strait, which was a lot of fun! Fuji Speedway is mostly a straightaway, but there are also some very complex corners especially when climbing up the steep parts of the track. Fuji was also a very interesting circuit in the rain but we ended up getting the P6 finish anyways. I feel like we could’ve ended in P5 but we had some traffic issues. It’s a great memory for me to have been able to race at Fuji Speedway. Suzuka is just breathtaking! I had a bit of an emotional moment at Suzuka during preseason testing. The sun was setting as I went into 130R (corner). It was a very touching moment for me because Ayrton Senna is my hero and to know that he had driven where I was at that moment made it particularly special. Going through 130R flat out, doing about 245 km/h, with the sun setting, knowing that my hero had done exactly the same thing made it a very special moment. I feel very honored to have been able to drive on such a fantastic track.
C.C: Following your Chinese F4 championship win, you attended the FIA prize giving gala in Vienna, Austria. At the event, you met Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo. Which of these three F1 drivers do you look up to most and why?
B.C: I definitely look up to Lewis Hamilton the most because he’s a phenomenal driver. I went to the Japanese Grand Prix this year and got to watch him live. His qualifying lap was absolutely amazing to see you in person! His driving ability is something that I look up to and I aspire to one day reach his level. When I met him at the Gala, he was incredibly humble and nice to me. In fact, I ran up to him at the Japanese Grand Prix and asked him to sign one of my hats. As he was signing my hat, I reminded him that we had met in Austria the previous year at the Gala. He looked at me for a couple seconds and said “Oh yeah, it’s good to see you again!” He also said that he thought it was crazy that we were meeting each other at such far places around the world. After he handed me my hat back he asked me what I was doing this year. I told him I was racing in Formula 3. It was very special to share such a moment with a Formula 1 world champion. I then ran into him two days later leaving a restaurant and my girlfriend called out to him and got his attention. We waved at each other as he was escorted by a sea of security guards. All in all, he just seems like you very likable guy!
C.C: Albirex Niigata, your current F3 race team, has stated in a press release that their goal is to fight for the championship title in 2018. Are you looking forwards to the challenge?
B.C: Our goal is to win. The team wants to win but you just have to see if everything will work out financially for next year. We’re currently fighting hard to try to find sponsors for 2018 and hopefully we can get the budget together to race. My goal is to win the championship and I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen. I want to be up in front where I feel like I belong and deserve to be. I want to win and I will do everything I can to make that happen.
C.C: Obviously, your goal is to reach Formula 1. Do you think that you have taken the right steps in your career, so far, towards that goal?
B.C: Getting to Formula One is absolutely my ultimate goal. There is also Super Formula now which is a big racing series in Japan, so I think coming to Japan was definitely the right step as far as trying to make a career out of it and gaining recognition.
C.C: About Formula 1, can you tell us what would be your dream team to race for and why?
B.C: If I had to choose my dream Formula 1 team to race for, it would have to be Mercedes-AMG Petronas. This year in Formula 3, I got to race with a Mercedes-Benz engine and it was a big confidence booster and big honor to have the name Mercedes-Benz associated with me. To drive a silver arrow would be amazing because they are currently the top professional racing team. Also, to stay in the Mercedes-Benz family would be very cool having represented them this year. I would love to have the opportunity to one day race for them in Formula 1.
C.C: What will you be doing in these past coming months to prepare yourself for the 2018 season?
B.C: Right now, I am currently in Osaka, Japan but I came to Tokyo for meetings. There were two big companies with whom I had meetings with so far. I went by myself and got that done. I’ve been making a lot of sponsorship proposals and a lot of fundraising in order to finance my travels in order to sit down with potential sponsors. The past few weeks have been a bit difficult since I have not had time to go to the gym. I will soon begin focusing on physical training in order to be fit for next year’s season. At the beginning of last season, it took me a few races to be physically and mentally ready for Formula 3. Next season, I am planning on being 100% ready by the first test of the season!
C.C: As a professional racing driver, what attribute makes the difference between average and greatness?
B.C: I think that as a driver, you can never give up. The ability to never give up, to keep trying as hard as possible is necessary. You must also be very brave and confident in yourself. This year, I felt like I gained a lot of confidence in my abilities as a driver. We struggled a few times with not having the right setup for the car but we were still able to achieve relatively good results in my opinion. To have finished the season fairly close to the top runners like the Honda factory drivers and team Tom’s, which has been in the sport for 20 years now felt great. In that sense, I was able to gain a lot of confidence in myself and as a race car driver. However, the ability to never give up in the face of adversity is in my opinion the most important attribute a race car driver can possess.
C.C: From myself and the team at Racing News Worldwide, we would like to wish you all the best in the pursuit of your dream. We look forwards to seeing you on the racetrack next year! Would you like to take this opportunity to thank anyone in particular?
B.C: Thank you so much! I really appreciate you for having me and the opportunity to have done this interview with Racing News Worldwide. I would like to thank Rodizio Grill who have been my sponsor since day one and Ivan Utrera, founder of Rodizio Grill. He is the one who bought me my first kart. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my family, particularly my dad who has been very helpful and supportive my entire career. Currently, he is working very hard with me to get proposals out and find new sponsors. I would also like to thank my sponsors like Wilson Track Design, Mercedes-Benz, Scarlet underwater photography, shark savers and Arai helmets. It’s a great honor to be racing in Japan and being sponsored by Arai helmets. I would also like to thank my race team who has been instrumental to my success this season!
We look forwards to seeing what the future has in store for Bruno Carneiro. We will be keeping in touch with him and update you on his progress.
For the audio interview click play.