The hope of French motorsport. The young 18-year-old driver, Théo Pourchaire is currently 2nd in the Formula 2 world championship, the antechamber of Formula 1, his dream. Despite some disappointments this season, and a title that is a little further away after a tenth place in the Netherlands on Sunday, the Frenchman still dreams of F1. He confides in 20 Minutes on his career and the difficulties of obtaining a seat in Formula 1.
Theo, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I am Théo Pourchaire, I am 18 years old. I’m racing in Formula 2, this is my second season with ART Grand Prix, a French team. I’m part of the Sauber Academy, which is Alfa Romeo’s F1 academy. I started with karting, I was French champion three times. I did French Formula 4 where I was French junior champion. I did German F4 where I was German champion in 2019. In 2020, I become vice-world champion in Formula 3, and last year I finished 5th for my first F2 season.
How did you get a taste of motorsport?
My father was a fan of rallying and motor sports in general, he was the one who put me in it. But he had nothing to do with this environment, he was never a pilot. I come from the south of France, near Cannes, so I started around. Karting from the age of 3, so it was very very young. Then it came time for the first, then second competition, and I really liked it. We didn’t stop, because at first it was still fun. Around 6-7 years old, I started doing regional and then national races. And my father took to the game, me too, it became a passion, and I never wanted to stop. My whole family made the necessary efforts to continue. Today is not bad, I’m in F2 and I hope to reach my F1 dream.
Around what age is there this switch between fun and the desire to go further?
I think around 12 years old or so. When I started to go karting internationally, during the European Championships, World Championships, in big teams already, where it is more professional. We have a lot of teammates, the stakes are higher. This is starting to get serious. The other step is when I switched to single-seaters, in French F4 in 2018. There I realized that I was not that far away from F1. Even though it’s very hard to reach it, I felt that I was getting closer.
What are the difficulties in getting fully into motorsport?
Motorsport is very expensive. So the financial aspect is complicated, not everyone can do it. All that is karting, it remains feasible but then it becomes quite expensive. My family supported me and made a lot of sacrifices. I realize this more and more, because when I was little, for me, it was normal. Today I am very grateful. I’m helped by my federation, I’m helped by the Sauber Academy, by some sponsors, it’s very important. After all, it’s a passion above all, I love it, and it’s not just F1, there are plenty of branches. I love doing that, I try to have as much fun as possible and that’s the most important thing.
What is the life of an 18-year-old young man, from one circuit to another around the world?
It’s very special for someone who is 18, it’s almost unique, there are only 22 of us doing it. We travel a lot. I had my baccalaureate last year but I was in the FFSA Academy school, so I did correspondence courses, then I passed my baccalaureate as an independent candidate. Otherwise I am very rarely at home, often at competitions, or at the simulator to prepare. And a lot of sport, mental preparation. But thanks to this sport I discover many countries, I love to travel. I discover lots of new cultures, I go on the most beautiful circuits in the world, it’s great.
How is this season going, what are your goals?
There have been ups and downs, it’s for everyone like that, I think. There are always good times, times not so good. We try to move forward, to progress all year round. It’s going pretty well, I’m 2nd in the championship so it’s fine, we hope to do better. After that there are a lot of things in which I can improve, such as qualifying. There are areas in which I have made good progress like the starts, the race, I feel comfortable. It’s far from over, I believe in it and I give it my all.
What are the next steps to get a steering wheel in F1 when you are a youngster in F2?
Do the best you can. If I give everything and extract 100% of myself, Théo Pourchaire, on the track, and show it, I would have nothing to reproach myself for.
Is there a result requirement to reach F1, what does it take to have a steering wheel in F1?
Of course, winning the championship helps. It’s a dream, it would be amazing and the biggest title I can win this year. So I prepared for that, I hope to do that. Is it an obligation or not? I give the best possible, there are plenty of hazards that can come into play. We’ll see. But we are not that far off, even if the competition is fierce. For my part, I’m not at the top in qualifying, but I know that in the race I’m a little better than my competitors. I think it is doable.
Does the fact of having 2 French drivers who have recently won a Grand Prix make it a breath of fresh air for the youngest French drivers?
F1 has become much more popular in France thanks to Esteban [Ocon] and to Peter [Gasly], and suddenly people are also interested in the future. Since we are on the same weekends as F1 with F2 and F3, these are very nice races to watch, very close. It’s interesting for the public, and it allows us to have more visibility. I hope to join them.
What are the main difficulties to reach F1, is it only a question of performance?
There are a lot of aspects for F1, it’s different compared to football or basketball. You have to be very efficient, no matter what. The 20 drivers who are in F1 are very good drivers. Sometimes there is also the financial aspect, that’s how it is. I take the example of last year, Oscar Piastri [vainqueur en F2 en 2021] hasn’t been in F1 but he will get his chance. It’s not just performance either, we mustn’t forget that, but as a driver you can only deliver on the track.
Does F1 give the young driver enough of a chance, beyond the obligation to run rookies in free practice?
I think, yes, F1 gives young people a chance. On the other hand it is complicated, you have to be excellent to reach it. Afterwards I think that for free practice it’s complicated with the changes in regulations, so this rule comes at a bit of a bad time. Because the teams are always looking to improve their car, I understand them on that. But that will come later in the year, we will see more and more teams fielding a rookie in FP1. This is a good thing. F1 remains different from F2 and F3, it’s another world. It’s good to show your potential, to show what you’re worth on the track. It’s good to have the possibility.