Formula 1 eSports racer Olli Pahkala is embracing being part of the McLaren Shadow eSports team for the 2018 F1 eSports Series, despite never discussing with the team during assessment week.
Pahkala was selected in the first round with the eighth pick of the Pro Draft by McLaren, as their sole pick ahead of the eSport series set to take place in October.
The Finnish sim racer, part of Team Redline, was projected highly in the draft for his sim racing skills and high grades in the assessments that took place at Silverstone.
Reflecting on being drafted, Pahkala says it feels amazing that his journey into the eSports series can continue and has become a huge life changer for him being part of an F1 series.
“It feels amazing!” said Pahkala. “I still find it difficult to have it realize in my brain so it’s still kinda shocking for me.
“But this is exactly how I want it and this is a huge life changer for me and now it’s become a realism where you are able to focus on a professional eSport racing career so I’ve done this six years and now the door is open and now is the time to focus with it 100% and that’s what were gonna do.”
With high prospects in the draft with the likes of Fabrizio Donoso Delgado, Cem Bolukbasi and Sven Zurner expected to be drafted early on in the Pro Draft, Pahkala had to wait for the eighth pick for his name to be called up and join McLaren.
The Finn revealed he had no expectations on where he would be drafted and that he never had any discussions with McLaren during the assessment days at Silverstone.
“It was really hard to have any expectations so it was obviously really glad to see that I’m that high on the Pro Draft, I wasn’t expecting to be that high so we didn’t know before hand our results.
“Being P7 for me means you’re defiantly up there, you’re defiantly on the eyes of the teams. But it’s not only from the assessments, it’s also about what kind of person you are, are you a team worker, what abilities do you have, are you able to cope with media and all that stuff.
“Teams never really got into that or ask that so they, so for example I never had a chat with McLaren. They kept themselves completely out of the objective way and far away themselves from me, which is why its always difficult to judge whether a team is interested in you or not.
“I think that’s what the cool part of this competition was you never knew and with the weekend all of the assessments were done between the Wednesday and the Friday, and we watched the Grand Prix the whole weekend which was quite nerve wracking because you have literally no idea what’s going to happen, but I think it went just perfectly for me.”
With tough competition selected in the eSports series, when asked if there’s anyone that stands out that would be considered a rival, Pahkala replied with:“It’s really hard to say.
“I think everyone is kinda like a rival. I think the competition will be more between the teams in the end and to win a drivers’ championship you need to work as a team very much because everyone single one of these drivers who were picked today will have their skills to win the competition so I think at the end of the day it’ll come down to team working skills.
“I don’t have any specific rival. I love these guys out here. We’ve got to know them quite well during the week.”
The twenty-eight year old Finn is known for being a humorous character out of the 40 qualifiers for the series with his sense of humor and cheeky dance celebrations such as ‘the floss’, which he performed the moment he was drafted at the GFinity eSports Arena. He explains that his open behavior and dancing is his normal self and that he enjoyed the experience leading up to the Pro Draft.
“It’s defiantly the real me, sometimes I’m a bit more quiet and sometimes I enjoy something when I have quite a lot of fun, that’s how it goes.
“I enjoy the time here and being with all these drivers and knowing that these assessments are like it’s only about the performance, of course the performance is an important factor, but you need to also show emotions. I think I nailed it, I don’t hide anything or when I feel something I show it, like the traditional Finnish way or not.
“But that’s me and that how I’ve been throughout my whole life. I love being in part of a group and for me it’s a natural situation, it’s not necessarily for everybody but I think in these situations I shine.”
Pahkala says the aim is to the win the championship with the help of McLaren when the season starts, but for now he is embracing the opportunity to be part of the Woking team.
“I’m gonna embrace it. For me, obviously the main thing is to win the championship. I think McLaren has the capabilities and interest to develop us drivers, develop the eSports team and win the championship.
“I’m 100% sure that the way we will work is that we don’t have any barriers. We are there to work together for the victory and I’m sure we will hand that out. That’s our mentality how we will work and I know how they work like this and how invested they are into the eSports and how cool they are so defiantly no pressure.
“It’s a huge opportunity and it’s a huge advantage that we will have for the competition.”