Nineteen-year-old Robert Visoiu is participating in his maiden season of the GP2 Series having joined the Rapax team. The young Romanian partners former Sauber F1 Team test driver Sergey Sirotkin in the team for 2015.
Talking to The Checkered Flag ahead of the second round of the 2015 GP2 Series season at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, the Romanian driver revealed it was his father’s love of motorsport that opened his own eyes to racing, but as soon as he sat in a go-kart, he knew what he wanted to be.
“I started off because of my father’s passion for racing,” revealed Visoiu. “I guess this is a normal story and I like to keep it that way, without sugarcoating it for the press.
“After starting in Romanian Karting I started liking it a lot and knew straight away that this is what I want to do for a career. I’ve then moved to karting in Italy, where I raced the fastest guys in the world, but the goal was always to reach the top of the single seaters ladder.
“I am very happy with my progress so far. Sure, I had a lot of ups and downs but I can honestly say I was fast in everything I’ve driven and I am very happy GP2 is no exception. Sure, I’ve made mistakes, but this is how you learn and I think I’ve learned a lot.”
The Romanian spent three years in the GP3 Series, the first year with Jenzer Motorsport before two years with Arden International, and felt the time in GP3 was beneficial for his career. Despite racing there for three years, he is still a teenager, a fact many don’t realise.
“GP3 was good for me,” insisted Visoiu. “I came in when the “old” car was there and stuck to GP3 as a progression towards a faster car.
“Their jump to more power came natural to me and the new car, the new tires and the new type of racing they brought were tricky to comprehend, but I think it taught me how to focus better and how to understand tires more.
“I was almost always the youngest in the championships I raced in. This can be good or not so good, but I will never use it as an excuse.
“I think I have yet to reach my absolute maturity, but I feel like I am where I need to be right now and that I can now grow into the racing driver I know I can be.”
Initially Visoiu had intended to step away from motor racing so to focus on his studying in London, but the Romanian quickly realised that he missed racing and got his manager to get him a drive for 2015. He feels that this season could be his chance to shine as he feels better prepared than he has done in the past.
“I would love to be able to tell you that was a stunt to get a better deal, but I have too much respect for your profession to tell you that,” laughed Visoiu. “The truth is I felt like I didn’t give enough importance to my school so the decision was made to move to London and focus on University.
“After that I just missed racing too much. I felt like I didn’t peak yet and knowing I can still have a say in racing, I contacted Horia (Totu, Visoiu’s manager) and asked him he could put a program together for me. We did just that, but in a different manner.
“I got my priorities right this time and I am much better prepared than I ever was. Thanks to his program I know I can do much better from now on. This is my chance to shine!”
Despite his career decision coming relatively late, Visoiu was able to negotiate to drive for the Rapax team in GP2 this season, and feels the professional nature of the outfit should give him the opportunity to have a strong season in 2015 alongside new team-mate Sirotkin.
“We took a close look at the teams which still had drives available and after discussing with Rapax we quickly understood they are a strong group of professionals and they can give me what I need to get the strings in GP2,” said Visoiu.
“The first thing we noticed at Rapax was that they are like a family. They have all been working together for many years, they have a very solid technical expertise and they know the car very well. The same people who worked with [Pastor] Maldonado and [Luiz] Razia in 2010 now work for Sergey and myself, so I feel very lucky to be at Rapax.
“I have a very good relationship with everyone in the team, so I feel we can do a great job together this year. I needed this after the past season…
“[My team-mate] Sergey is not only a very fast driver, but also a really nice guy. We know each other for quite a few years now and we respect each other. At the first pre-season test I didn’t quite know what to expect from the GP2 car, but Sergey already had experience in it and he helped me get up to speed quickly.
“It’s a pleasure working with him and I am looking forward to some good fights on track with him. We’re surely have a couple of those this year.”
Visoiu feels exciting to be racing in GP2 this season, revealing it will be mostly a learning year for him. He hopes to be able to surprise people during the year with his speed, and believes that with Rapax he can secure some good results.
“I am really excited about going to each race this year,” said the Romanian. “This past winter made me realise how lucky I am to be able to pursue my dream and made me understand this is not a game. It’s a fight with 23 other super fast guys and the simple thought of that makes me want to get back in the car and race!
“First and outmost this is a learning year for me, but I have understood what my mindset needs to be, what my work rate needs to be and how I must prepare for each round. It may sound like a cliché but I honestly have no pressure now.
“I know I can be fast enough to surprise many people this year and I will work hard to make that happen. I know I have it in me and I am super happy to have such a good team of people behind me, helping me to get where I need to be.
“It’s difficult to explain, but I just have a feeling this year everything can go well. Sure, it’s a long year and there will be many difficult moments, but I know if I work hard and I give it my all, I will be happy with myself and the results will follow.”
The Romanian feels his first GP2 race weekend went well, finishing fifth in the opening Feature race and seventh in the Sprint race in Bahrain, and felt he learned a lot about the series and in particular tyre management during the weekend. He currently sits sixth in the championship.
“I feel it went really well,” revealed Visoiu about his Bahrain weekend. “We had a good car and I felt prepared. Qualifying in the night was amazing and then the racing made me feel very comfortable in the car.
“I made some mistakes in race two, but all in all I feel I learned a lot from the tyres and I have made good progress in generally understanding how things work in GP2. I know there’s still a long way to go and I am not where I know I can be, but I will continue to work hard.
“I need to keep my feet on the ground and to understand that, as I said before, I am here to learn. Coping with the difficult moments will be key, but I am positive and I am really happy to be able to race against the top guys in GP2.”
The feature race in Bahrain saw Visoiu penalised after being found to have exceeded the pit lane speed limit, but he was happy the team were able to help him claim a strong fifth in the race despite this penalty.
“[My first GP2 pit stop] gave me my first ever GP2 penalty, that’s how good it went,” laughed Visoiu. “That was actually my mistake, as I was clocked doing 61kph instead of 60 in the pit lane, but the team worked well and gave me the momentum I needed to get my 5th place finish. It was great!”