Robert Wickens: “Mercedes wanted me – the others just wanted my money”
From Canada to the wider world of motorsport: Robert Wickens has a long and arduous journey behind him. In a four-part interview series, we take a look at the man behind the racing driver. In this fourth and final part, Robert talks about...
- ... his switch to the DTM: “Quite honestly, I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
- ... his decisions: “I don’t regret anything in my life... I’ve always relied on my gut feeling.”
- ... his dream job: “I was done with Formula 1 and the business of raising funds and with everything that involves.”
Rob, you won a championship in Europe for the first time in 2011. Did you find yourself at another crossroads after that?
Robert Wickens: Most definitely. I had my heart set on Formula 1. At that time, I was reserve driver for Marussia Virgin Racing and was allowed to drive the car in Friday practice at Abu Dhabi. I gave a good account of myself and was only a tenth of a second behind Timo Glock, who was then one of their regular drivers. I did the Young Driver Test, and everything went well. A lot of other teams expressed interest in me. Everything was going great, but then everyone needed funding. So there I was, back at square one. How was I supposed to drum up this money? We were in negotiations with Marussia Virgin Racing about the 2012 season. They told me that I had to raise a certain amount. We managed to do this, so I kept my side of the bargain. Then a driver came along with a lot more money behind him, and they said: “Sorry, we’ll take him unless you can find the following amount in the next two weeks.” That was impossible for me.
What did you do instead?
Robert Wickens: After the Young Driver Test, Toto Wolff, who was then part-owner of both Williams and HWA, had also approached me and asked if I was interested in a DTM test. Obviously, I said yes. He arranged a test for me at the end of 2011, and I loved the car right from the word go. It was great fun working with the team, but I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to give up on Formula 1. I was still negotiating with Marussia, so when that eventually fell through, I said to myself: “OK, Formula 1 can go hang.” And quite honestly, I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
So you don’t regret turning your back on Formula 1?
Robert Wickens: In retrospect, you might say I was very lucky. I don’t regret anything in my life – at least not yet! That’s the most important thing. I’ve always been at some sort of crossroads, those moments when I had to decide which way I would go. I’ve always relied on my gut feeling, and my parents have supported me. Even when I switched to the DTM, I trusted this gut feeling. That was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. Because as long as I can remember, it was my dream to compete in Formula 1. I had my foot in the door and came so close. I still believed that I could do it. But I also knew that the DTM was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
What was your decision-making process then?
Robert Wickens: I had to weigh the pros and cons – it was a difficult decision. Mercedes expected an answer from me. So I just made my mind up: OK, I’m done with Formula 1 and the business of raising funds and with everything that involves. Because the fact was that Mercedes wanted me, while the others just wanted my money. That’s why I chose the DTM, and I don’t regret it in the slightest. Because where would I be in Formula 1 now? I would be fighting for survival every year, trying to move from a small team to a better one. Sure, you never know what might have happened. But the fact that I came here and am able to acquit myself well in the DTM speaks for itself. It was a difficult decision, but I’m very happy with the way it turned out.