After the cancellation of Formula Renault UK for 2012, Formula Renault BARC, previously the feeder series to FRUK, has quickly become the attention of those, looking for the future stars of Formula One. With the season kicking off at Snetterton this weekend, I caught up with Ivan Taranov, driver for Antel Motorsport in 2012. After Antel claimed the title last season with Dino Zamparelli, Taranov has stepped up to the plate for his second year in the sport.
Luke Smith: Thanks for talking to us Ivan. Firstly, could you tell us a bit about your background and route into motorsport?
Ivan Taranov: I can’t really say much about my background to be honest… Since I was a little boy I was into racing, but no one thought it was serious. I think I was about 11, when I first thought that I wanted to do nothing else but racing. Unfortunately, in Russia, motorsport is on a very low level, unprofessional and costs a fortune, but at that point, we couldn’t afford go racing abroad. I first drove a kart in November 2009, in Lydd, and there I met Richard Brunning – Technical Director of Daytona. It would have been almost impossible for me to achieve something without his help. He brought me into Daytona Rotax chamionship. Although he never said I couldn’t win, he never said I could win a race in my first year. My first year in karting brought me 8 podiums and 3 wins. I knew that championship wasn’t as competitive as the national Rotax series, but it was pretty good for the first year, and it was too difficult for me to complete in the national championship without my parents in the country, as I was living at a boarding school. The decision to go to Formula Renault wasn’t spontaneous, it took time to make that decision. First the idea was to go to Formula Ford, but then I thought that there wasn’t much point as these cars have no wings, therefore you don’t learn much about using aero and downforce. Formula Renault seemed to be the best decision – one of the most competitive series, good value for money, quite a lot of races and opportunity for further progress into the faster series. I now understand it was a bit wrong to go into the first year of single seater racing with a rookie team, but at that point the main point was to learn basics of racing, and a rookie team was okay. I went to my first race meeting with only about 10 test days under my belt, which clearly wasn’t enough. I qualified at the last row, but made progress through the race and finished both races 11th. Towards the end of the season I understood that I probably needed a more experienced team if I wanted to win. It didn’t take long to sign with Antel.
IT: I don’t think I can ever be satisfied with anything except a win. For the first year, 14th place in the overall standings out of 26 drivers was okay, but not good enough for me. Any driver can look for excuses, like a rookie team, bad car etc, but I knew I could do better. The car definitely couldn’t win. It was alright for regular top 10 finishes, which I didn’t achieve. You also have to be critical and harsh on yourself in order to progress. As soon as you think you’re fast enough, someone will overtake you. Anyway, I learnt a lot in my first year, and will use it this year.
LS: You’ve moved to defending champions Antel for 2012. How much of a step up has it been so far?
IT: I signed a contract with Antel before they became champions. I had a few options, but when you look at Antel, you see great passion and a desire to win. It’s like Ferrari in F1, whatever the situation is, whatever difficulty they face, they will squeeze the absolute maximum out of the car, do anything to win, and that’s what we have in common. It’s easy to say “I never said I will win”, but what I’m saying is that both me and the team will do our absolute best, give it everything to take the biggest trophy home. I don’t feel the pressure of driving for the defending champions, even the opposite I would say. I have a great engineer and a great team of people working with me, my job is to take maximum out of the car, their job is to make car able to win. Each of us does our best, and together we can achieve what we’re here for. There is no pressure. Dino (Zamparelli) always comes and helps us when he can, everyone in the team has always supported me whatever happened, and I feel very comfortable in the team. I guess it would be obvious to say they work on a different level from what I’ve seen before. The team is much more professional and much better organised. They also develop me as a driver to become much better and faster.
LS: How has testing gone? Do you feel confident for the season ahead?
IT: Testing went well. We did quite a lot, trying to cover all the circuits we will have to drive during the season, because testing ban begins end of April. I don’t know how fast I was exactly compared to others, because not everyone runs a BARC spec car during winter testing. Compared to last year’s pole position lap time, it wasn’t too bad, could be faster, but I’m still improving. Last week during the media day at Silverstone I was leading the standings the whole day when everyone was on the old tyres, and just lost a bit on a new tyre run because of traffic and ended up 5th. It doesn’t bother me too much, as we know the pace is there.
LS: What are your aims for this year?
IT: I will just keep doing my best. We will see after the first race. Of course, the aim is to be winning races, but I don’t want to make any predictions. We will see where we are in the field at Snetterton.
LS: What are the next steps after Formula Renault BARC?
IT: I don’t want to discuss anything about 2013 yet, it’s just beginning of 2012 and I’m concentrating on this season for now. where I go in 2013 will depend mainly on the results this year and on sponsorship.
LS: What do you think of your fellow Russian, Vitaly Petrov?
IT: Actually you are not the first person to ask me that! I don’t really like to judge the others, but I don’t see him being a champion. He is definitely quick, but not great.
LS: Who is your prediction for the F1 World Championship this season?
IT: Considering how the championship has started, it’d be mad for me to make any predictions! The front runners are so close, I don’t know what to expect from the next race. I’m a big Alonso fan, so I’ll wish him luck this year. I hope ferrari will sort out the car (and kick Massa out) and Fernando will be winning again!
LS: Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?
IT: I want to thank my engineer, Christophe. He’s awesome. I have a great engineer and a great team of people working with me, and I am thoroughly looking forward to this season.
LS: Ivan, thank you very much for your time.