Q. You've been racing since you were nine years old. What made you start racing?
A. Motorsport has been in my family for as long as I can remember. My Dad was into karting when he was younger and more recently he raced in the National Auto Grass Championship and won his class in 2002. My Uncle is also a motorsports fan and still races supercars so I've been around motor racing my entire life.
As a child I was quite into my football, playing for the local village football team with my friends from school. It was actually my Dad who first got me started in Karting. He thought it would be something I'd enjoy and suggested I have a go.
What surprises a lot of people is I actually hated my first experience of Karting! I was still very young and didn't know anyone at the Karting track and to be honest I was happier playing football with my friends. I wasn't very comfortable the first few times I had a go in the Kart and therefore wasn't very quick and when you're young and not immediately very good at something it doesn't really make it enjoyable!
However, my Dad encouraged me to stick at it and I'm grateful he did as I started to get better at Karting, I made a group of friends at the track and really start to enjoy it. Bit by bit I began to win races and then Championships and I started to believe that this was something that I was good at and could potentially have a career in, and the rest is history!
Q. Over the past seven years you've won ten different Championship Titles. Which one meant the most to you and why?
A. All of them are important to me but I would say that winning the CIK FIA European KF3 Championship in 2007 was a special day. It was the culmination of a perfect race weekend. I won all of the heats, plus the pre-final race and the main race; it was one of those weekends when everything came together. I was up against the best drivers in the world in the Championship and to me it is important to be able to not only win, but to be able to win against the best.
Q. What do you think are the three main qualities that make a successful racing driver?
A. I would say determination; not just on the track but away from the track too. You have to be determined to be the fittest you can so you can perform when you are in the race car and then you have to be determined to get the best qualifying and race results when you're at the track.
Natural ability is also a big factor. I believe there must be a natural ability when you are in the car which you can then build on over the months and years to be a successful racing driver.
And finally, I think it in order for a driver to succeed; he must have a good team around him or her. It's important to surround yourself with the best people and for there to be the right chemistry amongst the team. I really believe that this is the difference between achieving good results as a driver and great results.
Q. What is the best thing about being a racing driver?
A. I would say that it is the same not only for other racing drivers, but also athletes in other sports: winning and achieving a great result. To win a race or a Championship is a feeling like no other and I actually struggle to find the words to describe it. I think it may be one of those things that is impossible to understand, unless you have experienced it yourself.
The feeling you get from winning has the ability to give you that extra boost when you go into your next race. You want to win again so you can get that incredible feeling again!
Q. What is the worst thing about being a racing driver?
A. Without a question; definitely the travelling. There is a perception out there that racing drivers lead a really glamorous life; flying around the world and visiting lots of amazing countries. Yet the reality is that I don't get to see anything apart from the airport, my hotel room and the track! Some of my friends are convinced I'm on a permanent holiday which makes me laugh as the reality is that I have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch my flights, I am flat out with work from the moment I land to the moment I leave and I don't have any time to explore these amazing countries that we are racing in! I do know how lucky I am to be able to race but this is one part of my job that I definitely don't look forward to.
Q. Fitness is a big part of a racing driver's life. Talk us through the kinds of fitness training/diet you regularly do?
A. Fitness is probably the only part of my life where I have a regular routine. It is such a huge part of being a racing driver that it is my main priority at the start of each year and the first thing I get sorted.
It can get a little frustrating when people can't understand why racing drivers need to be fit as they 'only' need to turn a steering wheel! But then I suppose it's hard to appreciate the amount of physical strength and stamina needed to drive a racing car if you've not had the opportunity to do so.
I am very lucky as I have a personal trainer who works with me on my fitness. We put together a fitness plan which I follow and I do some sort of training virtually every day of the year. Diet goes hand in hand with fitness. When I first started out racing I was told exactly what to eat and when but I now have a very good grasp of what I should and shouldn't be eating so I pretty much manage my own diet. I keep a food diary from time to time to check I am on the right lines and which can be tweaked if necessary.
I find it very easy to eat healthy as I notice such a big difference in myself when I eat well – I have so much more energy, I get more done and perform at a higher level which is vital when the difference between winning a race and finishing second can be just tenths of a second.
Q. Away from the race track, what do you like to do in your spare time?
A. I actually really enjoy going to the gym. I go to be fit for racing but I enjoy it too. I also just love hanging out with my friends. To be honest I don't mind what we're doing; whether it's going to the cinema, going bowling or just hanging out at each other's homes. I just love the banter of being with my friends and being able to relax with them.
Q. What are your top three 'likes'?
A. Blackburn Rovers Football team, Spaghetti Carbonara and Michael McIntyre.
Q. What are your top three 'dislikes'?
A. Spiders, Mushrooms and Horror films.
Q. Who inspires you both inside and outside of the motorsport world?
A. To be honest there isn't one specific driver who I look at and wish to emulate. Instead I look at all of the drivers, analyse their strengths and weaknesses and then use their strengths to inspire me to do well.
Outside of motorsports there are a lot of people who inspire me to succeed. My family definitely inspire me the most. I see how much they sacrifice for me and that inspires me to go out there and succeed so that one day I can give them something back. But I also see how hard they work in their jobs and that motivates me to work at least as hard as them in my work.
Q. You were Vice Champion for the 2010 Formula BMW European Championship; missing out on the Championship by only a handful of points. How do you get over the disappointment of not winning, and focus on the next Championship?
A. Missing out on the Championship by such a small margin and knowing that I hadn't thrown the Championship away with a big mistake was really tough. I knew I had done everything I could to try and win that Championship and to come so close was really disappointing.
It is the total opposite feeling to winning a race or Championship and, again, it's difficult to put into words what a horrible feeling it is to lose. But what it does do is make you absolutely determined that you never what to feel like this again and therefore succeed the following year. You turn the feeling into sheer determination to win next time.
Q. You're 18 now and about to compete in the British Formula 3 Championship, what are your racing goals for the future?
A. My ultimate goal is to race in Formula One. It's quite concerning at the moment as it's clear that to make it in Formula One currently that you need more than just talent, you need a big budget too. I'm really hoping that things change otherwise I worry that it will be extremely difficult to get there.
I know that whatever happens with Formula One that there is a long journey ahead of me to get there so the main focus at the moment is to take one year at a time and to focus on winning each Championship and pushing to be best driver I can be.
Q. What advice would you give aspiring racing drivers?
A. Probably the biggest piece of advice I could pass on is the importance of surrounding yourself with a good team of people. I have been lucky in that I have always had a fantastic team around me and I really believe that this has played a big part in what I have achieved so far. At the end of the day you need a solid foundation to build from otherwise everything on top can just fall apart. While I may be the person driving the car, racing is definitely a team effort and to be the best driver you have to have the best team of people around you.
Q. You've just completed your first year in British F3, how was your season?
A. It was definitely a mixed year, full of highs and lows. We had a tough start to the season where we had to deal with a few car issues such as engine misfires, I was also unlucky to be hit by other cars in races which affected my results. It was also a learning curve for me; getting to grips with a new car and new tracks. However it was also a year of good progression and after the challenging start to the season the whole team worked through our problems and we managed to turn it around. By the second half of the season we ended up one of quickest cars on the grid, scoring podiums in every race weekend, including my first British F3 win at the Nurburgring. Looking back I'm pleased with my first year, our aim was to score regular podium finishes and to get at least one race win and this is what we achieved.
Q. What was your highlight of your rookie season in British F3?
A. Definitely winning my first British F3 race at the Nurburgring. Winning is without a doubt the best feeling in racing and it was great for the whole team to be back on the top step of the podium. The win also marked a turning point in the season. It proved we had resolved the issues in the earlier part of the season and that we now had the package that could win races. After the Nurburgring we got more podium finishes and some really strong qualifying results too and picked up a big haul of points in the last part of the season.
Q. What has been the toughest moment of your season?
A. I'd say it was during the first few race weekends of the season. Coming to British F3 after getting second in the Formula BMW Championship the year before we had high hopes but things just didn't go our way in the opening races. Donnington was especially tough and disappointing as we would have finished second if the battery pack on the car hadn't failed. It was a real reminder of the highs and lows in motorsport and we all had to dig deep to keep motivated and keep believing that our luck would change. But in some ways the tough start to the year made the second part of the year even sweeter and was definitely the perfect reminder that you should never give up!
Q. What are the main things you have learnt over the past twelve months as a racing driver?
A. I definitely think I've grown as a racing driver this year. It was by far the toughest year in racing I have done and you learn a lot about yourself when things aren't going perfectly. The year has proven how important it is to believe in yourself and to keep pushing no matter how bad things look. I have always been a really determined and driven person but this year has shown that I can really dig deep and keep pushing when things aren't going to plan.
Q. What were your opinions of racing with Carlin?
A. It was a real privilege to drive for a team of this calibre. Carlin is one of the most successful race teams ever and as a driver you always want to be driving for the best. As a rookie I had a lot to learn and take on and it was the same for my engineer who was also a rookie but we worked hard together and with the wider team and made real progress. It was also good to be in a team with such a strong line up of team mates as I was able to learn a lot from the drivers who had already had a year in British F3. Having team mates who are tough to beat also pushes you as a driver as you are constantly trying to improve. I'm really looking forward to coming back to Carlin for 2012.
Q. What have you been up to this year away from the race track?
A. It's been the busiest year ever! When I haven't been racing or testing I've been at other race tracks!! I took part in the Henry Surtees Foundation Trophy and the Dubai 24 Hour Karting races. I also went to Macua for the F3 race where I learnt a lot which I will be able to put into practice when I race there. I've also been doing a lot of driver coaching for some young karters which I really enjoy but it definitely means race tracks have been my second home this year!! I was invited to the Autosport Awards which was a really good night and definitely one of the biggest nights where everyone in the motorsports industry gets together so it's always good to be able to catch up with everyone. I've been training hard at the gym throughout the year as fitness is such a vital part of racing. Luckily I really enjoy it although I it was definitely nice to have a little break from it over Christmas!
Q. What are your hopes going into your second year in British F3?
A. I have only one goal next year and that is to the win the Championship. Testing has gone well so far but it will be interesting to test the new car for 2012 as there will be some differences from last year. It's a long winter season and I can't wait to be racing again in March.
Q. You took your A-Levels this summer, apart from racing how will you be filling your time next year?
A. If it's anything like the last six months of 2011 after I finished my A-levels it will definitely be another busy year! I'm part of the MSA Team UK and BRDC and they arrange some great events throughout they year so that will form a key part of my year. I also train with the guys at McLaren so this plus other training at home will fill a lot of my time. My schedule for the year tends to get confirmed by the end of February but then there's always extra things to add throughout the year so I imagine it will be another whirlwind year!