Di Francesca Zito
Axel Gnos is a 19-year-old driver from Switzerland. This year he’s racing in the Formula Regional European Championship with G4 Racing: he raced in the Italian and Spanish F4 Championships in the past years. We got the chance to have a chat with him, let’s get to know Axel better!
You’re competing in the Formula Regional European Championship this year, what are you learning from this experience?
It’s my second year in FRECA, I was rookie last year with the same team, G4 Racing. This year is tougher, the level grew up quite a lot: I’m working hard and struggling to match myself and my results from last year. The feeling is tougher and everyone is suffering from this. There are lots of things I’ve learned and I’m really happy about our work as a team. We just keep going forward and improving.
What are the differences you noticed between F4 and FRegional?
I did two seasons in F4, 2019 and 2020, racing in the Italian and Spanish Championships. All the people you face in F4 are the people you will face in the other categories, so all the drivers are very good. F4 is the basic of the open wheel car: you learn to work with the engineer properly and you get to test a lot. The step is quite big especially in terms of speed and how the car is, so there’s a big step from one another. The level increases a lot and everyone is very competitive.
What’s your goal for this season?
My goal isto improve all the way to the end of the year and being happy with our performance. I will try to be more consistently close to the points.
We know that some of your friends compete with you in FRegional: how do you manage this friendship on track?
When there is a challenge, like a qualifying or a race, so when it gets important, you don’t really take them as real friends: you just focus on yourself. If one ruins your quali lap or your race, or if there’s a crash with him, you just talk to him later and fix everything. You must have this kind of relationship on track with your friends.
Between races and both physical and mental preparation, you don’t have much free time: how do you manage this with your friends off the track and with your family?
During race week I’m very focused, we have sim days and preparation; out of the race weekends we can rest for two days and then we go back to training again. I also have some free time and I spend it visiting the city where Ι live and taking some time for myself.
This year you’re racing in your father’s team, G4 Racing, as you’ve done previously: is working alongside him an incentive or does it put more pressure on you?
I guess it depends on the relationship you have with your team manager. You never want to disappoint your team manager or the people that love you. I think in my situation it doesn’t change a lot the relationship with my father. I just talk to him as my father, not as my team manager. About pressure, your performance impacts how the team is gonna go so you have a little bit of pressure but it just boosts me to improve and do better.
You have the chance to drive in historical circuits such as Monaco, Monza, Spa: how does it feel and what’s your favorite track?
Coming from F4, when I used to race there, there weren’t so many nice tracks as it’s now. Last year, coming to FRECA, I was “WOW”: I discovered so many tracks like Zandvoort, Spa, Monaco, and it was very nice. My favorite track is Mugello because I’ve been a lot to Italy: it’s a very nice and fast track, I love it, you can make differences there. I also love Barcelona and Spa: that’s my top 3. Monaco is always very special, it would be first but you get so few track times there that you can’t really enjoy the track, you just focus to do well as much as possible. It’s one time in the life experience.
Do you have any ritual before getting into the car?
I usually warm up with music, as everyone pretty much. I think about what I’m going to do, I re-watch the maps with the engineers during the brief, we talk a bit, I train just to try to get the pressure off me. Then I start preparing: before putting my gloves on I call my mechanic to tie me up, we do a bit of preparation. I practice with the fit balls, both hands, and I just go in the car. It’s a ritual before every session, then you enter your own bubble basically.
What do you think about a career in covered wheels? Did you ever think about that?
When I was in F4 I thought I would have done open wheels as much as I could and then I would see how it would go. Since I’ve learnt a lot this year in FRECA, everyone after a year in FRECA becomes very mature and a very fond driver. I can’t say I haven’t thought about it this year but at the moment I’m focused on what’s remaining on FRECA and then we’ll see what happens.
How would you create your F1 lineup? Pick up a team and two drivers from any category.
I think I would put Gasly, because I want to see him in a good car, and I would say Yuki [Tsunoda] because I’ve met him. I would say also Gasly-Russell, which might happen someday in Mercedes: two very good drivers, very fast, with two different careers. As a team I would pick up Mercedes, it’s the most realistic. I’m not really a fan of Red Bull, I like Ferrari but let’s say Mercedes.
Who’s your favorite F1 driver? Even from the past.
I’ve been brain-conditioned by my father, it’s Senna. My father was a huge fan of him so I’ve been growing up watching him. And since when I started watching F1, I would say that Vettel is a very good driver, I used to like him, he’s very fast.
You live close to Italy and you race here often. What do you like the most about this country?
I’m trying to learn Italian: I speak fluent Spanish and it’s a bit similar, so I understand perfectly when someone speaks in Italian but I can’t write anything. I just do a Spanish sentence and add o and e, I just try to make it sounds Italian. I also like italian race tracks: Monza, Imola, Mugello, Vallelunga, they’re all very nice tracks. Compared to my country, Switzerland, we’re dreaming of having a race track there, and you’ve got so many and this is so nice. The food is very good as well, even though I don’t really like some types of focaccia. There are also a lot of nice cities such as Rome, Florence, Venice, even if I’ve only been there a day so I need to visit a bit more but you don’t have much time to visit when you have to race there.
When you’re off the track, what do you like to do the most?
I usually play videogames with my older brother and we spend a lot of time together talking. I also cook a lot: my mother usually cooks but when she’s not there I cook for my father because he doesn’t really like it. So I like cooking and I improve every time, I have my own recipes book, so yeah definitely cook, videogames and I also train a lot and I go karting because we have a track close to us. I’m happy with what I do when I’m chill.
What was your childhood dream?
Since I started karting I wanted to be a pro driver, I wanted to live from it and I just wanted to live and help my family after all they’ve done for me, just by doing what I like the most which is driving, so that’s pretty much it. I wanted to make this my job.
How’s your relationship with school since you’ve started racing?
I started at 7 years old and I was always good with school: I’ve skipped a year because I was doing very well and I changed country, it was a bit harder but it was ok, I kept going. But since racing took more time, I asked my school for some help and they told me they wouldn’t help me and that I had to choose: sport or school. Since I had one year advantage, my parents took the decision to take me off for a year to see how it was: it was in 2019, it went very well, I had very good results in F4. My parents kept believing in me. I didn’t have a bad relationship with school but since they were not so supportive with me it ended up on the bad note.
Favorite cheat meal?
Pizza, even though I don’t like nutella pizza and sugar pizza in general.
Pineapple: yes or no?
Good pineapple: yes. If not, no. I use to like it a lot, when it’s toned with very good ingredients any pizza can be very good. Pizza is always a solid cheat meal.
Tell us a funny moment that you remember with a smile on your face
My brother started karting before me and it was quite frustrating because I couldn’t do it and I started karting at 7. My brother stopped because he didn’t enjoy racing with other people. I was happy to start karting and I was glad to be there. One day my mum came to see me (she never used to come because she was scared, and she still never comes because she’s scared that something bad could happen): it was a normal kart track, and she was in pit lane. I would go in the pits every lap going flat-out just to see my mum and so that she could see me. That was funny but I was very stupid because I went to the pit lane just to impress my mum.
Do you follow any other sport?
Yes, I really enjoy seeing other people at other sports: when I’m in the hotels with my father we just watch tv and we watch volley, football, basketball, or anything, I fall in love with things. I’m not a huge supporter but I follow a lot of other sports and E-Sports as well, any big event or some random match, I admire how some athletes can be so close to perfection.
If you hadn’t started racing, what would you have done?
I would have wanted to be an egyptologist: I like history and old things.
How would you rate your season so far on a scale from 1 to 10?
Knowing that I’m improving, I would say a 4/10. The last two weekends we had very good and promising pace in quali, that could’ve done a lot better, I’ll try to end up at 7/10 by the end of the season. I like all the tracks coming up so I’m looking forward to race there.
Interview by Camilla Coletta and Francesca Zito, for the Italian version click here.