This Cat from Ponce is ready to Pounce
Puerto Rico is famous for rum. Pretty soon the island nation will be famous for racing also. ‘Gracias’ to Felix Serralles IV. The 18-year old from Ponce is crossing the pond to compete in the ultra-competitive Formula Renault Eurocup this season with English team Fortec. Felix has been scratching for racing success since “I was six years old.”
F1weekly is pleased to introduce this talented driver and wish him all the best in his racing career.
Q: Congratulations on your 2011 Formula Renault Euro Cup deal. Big step for your racing career, what are the expectations for the season?
A: Thank you! Yes, it is a big step coming from the Skip Barber National championship series, right now my expectations are to score points and finish in the podium since I am not sure of where I am at compared to the other drivers competing in the Eurocup.
Q: How many teams did you test with before deciding on Richard Dutton’s Fortec team?
A: I have only tested with Fortec Motorsport for this decision, but I have had some test in the USA for different series. But thanks to the Team USA scholarship my dream of racing in Europe has come true, Fortec has been really great, everyone is very fantastic, the mechanics are very friendly and is an environment that I feel comfortable with. Mr. Dutton has also been incredibly nice and was the one who convinced us to step to a more challenging step in my career to join the Eurocup instead of the BARC championship because of my debut in the BARC car in Pembrey; winning 2 races, a 2nd place and an unfortunate DNF.
Q: Last year you had a taste of European racing in UK, what was the experience like?
A: The environment and the racing is very different, the people are great, the competition is TOUGH and very aggressive. But I got along with the teams I raced with very well.
Q: How much confidence did you gain by scoring two wins at Pembrey in Wales in the BARC Formula Renault Winter Series?
A: It was definitely a boost of confidence, but once the Eurocup deal started I really wanted to learn as much as possible and train to get ready for the 2011 season!
Q: What track did you enjoy more, flat and fast Silverstone or the ups-and-downs at Brands Hatch?
A: I really enjoyed both tracks, for a Formula Ford it is very fun at Brands Hatch because there is no downforce and you have to drive on the limit, but driving the Renault at Silverstone GP layout, well it was amazing!
Q: Why is Paddock Hill Bend at Brands your favorite corner?
A: Paddock Hill bend is my favorite corner because it is a very difficult corner, it is very hard to take the corner the same way every time because is very challenging with blind corner. You cannot see what is ahead of the track until you start going down the hill!!
Q: You also had a chance to visit the McLaren Technology Centre, describe the place please?
A: Where do I start!? It was, one of the best time of my life, everything was so very organized and clean you could have eaten from the floor, they very secretive and we weren’t allowed to take pictures of anything, even though I sneaked some pics of the older car from 2008 to 1980s cars. It was too hard not to get pictures of the beautiful cars they had!!!
It was also a very amazing experience because I got to SEE and TOUCH my favorite driver, my idol, my passion and my hero. AYRTON SENNA’S championship winning car!
Just being next to it almost brought tears to my eyes, let alone touch it!
Q: You touched the wheel of a McLaren F1 car what was so special about this particular racing car?
A: Touching Lewis Hamilton’s F1 steering wheel was incredible; they explained to us all the buttons except ONE secret button!!
Q: You raced in USF2000 last year and Skip Barber series before; how did you find racing and winning in single-seaters compared to karting?
A: Racing in formula cars is very different; you have to be smoother with the wheel, and slow things down in your head and movements. Karting is very fast paced and is more aggressive, the formula cars you have to take care of your car, so you can finish.
Q: You are from Puerto Rico, how popular is motorsports on the island?
A: Since the economy downfall, all sort of motorsport has decreased by almost 100%, out the 3 million almost 4 million people from Puerto Rico only 4 people race competitively, and I am one of them.
Q: Are you happy with karting and racing opportunities in Puerto Rico for talented young drivers?
A: Many good karters have come from karting in Puerto Rico, and have been top contenders, but I hope that if I make it in the professional world of racing, to help the karting in Puerto Rico.
Q: How important was winning the support of Mazda after your success in the 2009-’10 Skip Barber Karting Shoot-Out?
A: Without them I wouldn’t have raced in Skip Barber, without Skip Barber season I wouldn’t have won the Team USA scholarship, without Team USA…I wouldn’t be here today.
Q: Please tell us about Felix Serralles, the young man not the racer; your taste in music, food and what other sports you enjoy apart from motorsports?
A: Hahaa, I love Spanish music and anything that catches my attention, but my favorite is techno. I love sushi, Italian food, and, of course, even though not very healthy for my diet in racing Puerto Rican food! Rice, beans and CHULETAS FRITAS (fried pork chops).
I am very athletic; I received the most outstanding athlete of the year award in my boarding school in Connecticut (Oxford Academy), love basketball, soccer, tennis, wakeboarding and knee boarding. Spending time with my family and friends, but I can never get enough of racing! I put racing, any race car before anything, or anyone!
I am very dedicated to my racing career and I want to be the first Puerto Rican to reach Formula 1.
– – Nasir Hameed
Greetings and San Juan regards.
All photos courtesy of Felix Serralles