The 12 Questions interviews continue this week with the first Formula One drivers to be featured in the series: Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.
1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?
KM: It requires both. Getting to Formula One is a lot about the natural ability, showing that in the Junior Formulas and the categories you race before Formula One. You’ve gotta work really hard, that’s all.
RG: I guess we’re only 20 (F1 drivers) in the world, and my grandfather was vice world champion (silver medalist) of skiing, and he said it’s 80 percent work, 10 percent talent and 10 percent of chance. I think he was kind of right, because work is the main one. Of course, if you don’t have the talent, there’s no chance you’re gonna make it to the 20 top Formula One drivers in the world. So you need everything right, but work is what takes the most of us.
2. What pitch would you make to convince people to become fans of yours?
KM: I wouldn’t do that. (Laughs)
RG: I’d say never give up, because my whole career has been about ups and downs. I came to Formula One, got fired — same as Kevin — and then came back. Yeah, just never give up.
3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?
KM: The travel, probably. Going to the places that we race, it takes a lot of energy. But it’s not so bad a lifestyle, really, to be honest.
RG: The hardest part is being a dad. That’s not my job, so whenever I come to a racetrack, I’m like that’s something I control 100 percent. Being a dad is every day a new thing. But yeah, leaving the house is the hardest part, especially with the kids.
4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?
KM: Yeah, I don’t mind.
RG: I don’t mind as long as it’s when you’ve finished. Not like when you have a big piece of meat in your mouth and you’re like, “Yeah, I can’t do a picture right now.” But it’s always nice.
5. What’s a story in Formula One that doesn’t get enough coverage?
KM: I don’t even know.
RG: There are two things I see. It’s the teamwork, how much effort the mechanics and the engineers are putting in. And on TV, we’re never gonna replicate the G forces, the speed and the agility of the cars. I wish one day we’d get the TV to actually give us (the sense of speed). Like when you watch tennis, the ball goes pretty slowly on the TV, actually when you go to Roland-Garros (for the French Open) or the U.S. Open, it goes really, really fast and you’re surprised.
6. Who is the last driver you texted?
KM: Probably Romain.
RG: Probably Kevin.
That makes sense. In NASCAR, a lot of the drivers are friends and hang out a lot. Do you guys have relationships with other drivers at all?
KM: Not really. Not like relationships. We spend a lot of time because we do the whole season together, so when we get off the races, we tend to spend time with our families and friends outside of racing.
7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?
KM: In principle, not really. At least I don’t feel like an entertainer. I got here because I want to race and everything else around it is something that you have to do as well in order to get racing. The racing part is why I’m here and the rest just follows.
RG: I think we’re athletes. We do a sport. Sport is entertaining, so I guess we kind of are. But I think our first thing is to be athletes and doing high level sports.
8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack? Do you ever shoot the middle finger?
KM: No, only because you get a penalty if you do. Otherwise, it’s tempting sometimes.
Is that right? You get a penalty here if you do that?
RG: You better not do it. Sometimes I do it, but I just keep it in the cockpit so no one can see it.
9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?
KM: No, not really. There’s not the same kind of teamwork in Formula One as perhaps in NASCAR. But I like the way it works in NASCAR, it’s just not the way we do things in Formula One, really.
RG: No, not really. Sometimes they do it, like they can block you on a fast lap, but I’m trying to be as fair as I can like everyone else.
10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?
KM: The most famous is maybe (legendary F1 driver) Stirling Moss? I think so.
RG: I had dinner with Rafael Nadal. He’s pretty famous, he’s a really cool guy. So yeah. (Rally driver) Sebastien Loeb as well. I’d go with Nadal.
Was Nadal pretty down to earth?
RG: He was really, really nice. We had a nice dinner and he’s a really cool guy. We chatted about everything and had a really great relationship.
11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?
KM: I don’t know. I’m going to go with a boring answer and say everything. There’s not one thing that I need to improve, I’m gonna try and improve everything. And every aspect of my skill set and aspect of being a racing driver, I need to improve.
RG: I think it was just managing the frustration. It’s something that’s getting better; I’ve been working on it this year. It’s getting better and better. But every year there’s something new that you can work on, and — who knows? — next year maybe it’s managing the lead in the world championship. (Smiles)
12. The last interview I did was with NASCAR driver Ty Dillon, and he wants to know: who is more athletic, Formula One drivers or NASCAR drivers?
KM: Definitely Formula One drivers.
RG: Sorry guys, we are.
The next interview that I’m going to be doing is with Danica Patrick. Can you guys come up with a question that I can ask Danica?
KM: Who’s got bigger balls — Formula One drivers or NASCAR drivers?
RG (pretends to leave): I’m out of that one. I wasn’t here. (Laughs)