Sean Gelael will start to familiarize himself with Prema Powerteam at the Abu Dhabi Formula 2 testing this week. Before the event we took the opportunity to conduct a deep interview with Prema boss René Rosin about Sean, the 2018 season and their future together.
What an exciting announcement for the Prema team and for Sean! What are your feelings about working with him next year?
Next year we'll have a new car, and having an experienced driver could be a good choice. Looking at Sean, and how he performed in the four F1 free practices, he didn't do bad at all. I think we can deliver some good results with him, and that's part of the decision. He's a good guy, we know him since Formula 3, we were very close to race together in 2014 in F3, then our paths didn't cross up until last year when we had Antonio Giovinazzi, who has been supported by Sean's father. But from next year we will be together and that's the most important thing.
Among Prema's former champions, Pierre Gasly is already in F1 and Charles Leclerc is also on his way. What could that mean for Sean?
It's part of our program to work very well with the drivers, and we would like to give him our best expertise. He's very motivated by this new challenge, because coming to the champion team of the last two years is definitely a challenge, but he's capable to take it, he's ready to do that, and from next week we're concentrating on the work together.
How relevant is Sean's Formula 1 experience in Formula 2?
For sure it's an experience with a bigger car and bigger environment. It's part of the process, but I want him to concentrate much more on Formula 2 next year, especially at the beginning. For sure having experience with a good F1 team is something very important.
Do you think it can help him to accommodate himself in a more professional environment?
I don't know what the future will bring. My goal next year to make progress and bring the maximum out of him. I will do my best to make him perform good in F2.
What are Sean's strongest and weakest points?
We don't know him that much, but if we look what he did in testing, we can say, he can do a very good job for sure, the speed is definitely there. Speaking with some F1 people, everyone said, he did a good job. Of course he's under a bit pressure, but it's part of our job the ease this off, and focus on delivering the results. For sure it will be a challenge, because looking at the standings, we could expect from him a better job, but on the other hand, I think in the right environment, he can do something very good. We need to start step by step and not expecting to win in the beginning, just bringing the results, building his confidence, and everything will be done. That's part of my job.
So you follow Sean's career for quite a few years now. Do you already have a specific idea about what do you need to give him to deliver the expected results?
First of all, I need to make him comfortable with the people who are working around him. We have to give him the feeling that he gets the right support from the team and we will do that. I need to know him a little bit more, I want to know his personality. This is why it's so important to already start to build a relationship between him and the team.
But do you see the potential in him?
Every driver who reaches this level has a potential. We try to do our best and then we will see. If at the end of the year we can say that we did a good job, I would be happy. If we will make some mistakes, we need to sit down with the guys and try to understand what happened. I am really motivated and really looking forward to work together with Sean.
If a Formula One team like Toro Rosso gives him a chance to drive in Free Practices, this has to be a sign of good potential. Do you agree?
Absolutely! Today money is important and in Formula One you need it to get a chance but you won't get the chance if you don't have the potential. Because if you don't have the potential, F1 people won't allow you to drive their cars. Sean has already showed a lot of things about his potential, so our job is to build a good environment around him in which we can work together in a good way.
He performed really impressively in Monza, when he was charging through the field in very difficult, wet conditions from the back of the grid. Is it also an encouraging sign for the future?
Last year in Spielberg he even finished on the podium, so it's clear, when he's in front, he's able to deliver. I'm not worried at all, we just need to stay relaxed, make a good atmosphere around him, make him comfortable, and from there we can start the job.
Mark Webber also said that in the beginning it was difficult for him fighting in the mix with a less competitive car, but when he got good car, he was immediately in contention for the world championship. I cannot say anything about the other cars Sean drove, but I know what Prema can deliver and offer him. We just need to make him comfortable in our environment, and from that point, start the job.
Do you think that providing the right evironment is one of the most important part of this whole game?
For sure, you need to have a good car and good drivers. If the environment is not good, the drivers don't feel comfortable, they can't give 100, but only 80 percent. This is not enough to get the best results at this kind of championship level.
Can you tell us how easy to do a bad job in F2, because a lot of people think that the cars are absolutely identical?
My job is to try to win and get the maximum out of my guys. Maybe it's not always enough for the win, but our goal is always to perform at the best possible level. I'm forcing all my engineers, all my mechanics to focus on the target. I think we have the right people for doing that.
Is Sean capable to work hard for the success?
We need to work together, but he's already demonstrated that he's capable to do the job. So I'm positive and confident on that.
Are you prepared that your team will be very popular in Indonesia?
Of course I know we will be popular, but I'm focused only on racing. Popularity is secondary for me. The fundamental thing is that I want to keep Prema on the highest level possible, and I'm sure we can do that with Sean.
It seems that you have to be not only the boss of the team, but some kind of a psychologist or a father-like figure as these guys are quite young.
One of the most important part of our job is to make the people working together in a comfortable way. It's not only about delivering the best car but to deliver the right environment for the drivers. That's the biggest part of our job and I think this is where we can make a bit of difference compare to others.
As you mentioned before, F2 will race with a new car in 2018. When will they deliver the first of this new vehicle and what are your plans for the testing?
We are waiting for the information from the organisation of FIA F2. For sure, we will have to start testing in March, as usual and I think we will have six testing days. It depends on when they deliver the car, but it will be quite soon, in the first days of the New Year. From there, we will be working on the preparations of the 2018 season.
Will it be a busy pre-season for you?
The first couple of months will be tough, but this is part of our game. When we entered the championship last year, we have collected the material from Lazarus on the 7th of January and only in two months time we were ready for the first official test in Barcelona.
Finally, we have to ask you about some negative comments in the social media after the announcement about Sean. Do you have a message for the fans who are criticising Prema's choice?
Social media nowadays is an important part of the world. Before we made our decision, we waited and thinked a lot. I have to do my job in the best possible way and this means if I would follow what is going on in the social media or in the press, I should change my job. That's all! Anyway, we got negative comments in the past, for example when we signed Lance Stroll. We helped him to arrive to Formula One and we are really proud of him and I can say he is one of the very best who drove for us all over the years. I think it's important to follow what the people are saying in social media, but we have to focus on our job which is to help the improvement of the drivers.
Does it mean that if the environment is good, you can quickly raise your game and get on with the job?
Look, at the beginning of the year, everybody was talking about Lance. I know him since 2012, and he won his first race in 2014 in Formula 4. I know exactly what he was capable. Everybody was complaining about the money of his father, but money doesn't bring success. The hard work of the driver and the team bring success. That's the main thing. Drivers need to work a lot, and if someone has the money of his father, he has to deal with that. This is an expensive sport, We just need to concentrate on the job with the drivers and make that happen.