Vicky Piria has joined Trident Racing to contest her first year of GP3 this season. The 18-year-old Italian talks to GP WEEK
How does GP3 compare with what you were doing before?
I did two years in Formula Abarth. Most people in GP3 have been racing for four years, and maybe they did more than one championship in a year. I started racing cars in 2009, but only some races and not that seriously. I got serious about it in 2010, doing the whole championship, but that was with 180bhp and this is 280bhp, more downforce, and very different tyres.
GP3 is quite a step up then…
At the end of 2011 I did some testing in a Formula 3 and was aiming for the Italian championship. I was really fast, P2, P3 and two tenths off people who had already raced for a year. So that would have been a logical choice to challenge for the championship, but then I got in touch with Trident who have entered GP3 for the first time this year, and they offered me a seat. Maybe this year I will struggle, but the thing is I'm still really young. I turned 18 six months ago.
You have the time, but GP3 is so expensive won't it be difficult to do a multi-year program?
Well, that's the thing. You can't take too much time. If you have the budget then you can spend three years here before stepping up to GP2, which would be ideal, but that would cost a lot.
GP3 and Abarth cars are so quiet, don't you want to fall asleep at the wheel?
I tried a Formula Renault once and I had a headache afterwards because I wasn't used to it, I've always raced really silent cars!
What's your target for this year?
A lot of the tracks I don't know, only Barcelona, Monza and Spa, and we know what high level tracks we have in this championship. My aim is to be top ten by the end of the year, and keep improving every race. So to do my best, and hopefully find some budget to do more.
As you are one of GP3's more, let's say attractive drivers, you're at an advantage when it comes to sponsorship, don't you think?
Yeah, being female is an advantage. But the thing is there are three of us in GP3, which is a nice thing. Obviously I was used to having a lot of attention before, because I was the only girl. Now there are three of us to share the attention, which is kind of better. The thing is, you have more media appearances, but that doesn't make you quicker and that is what this sport is all about. Being on magazine covers doesn't help you win races. Maybe it helps you find sponsors, but that's not easy for me as it's a hard time in Italy right now.
Is that why there are no Italians left in Formula One?
If you go to the UK and talk about F1, people know who all the teams are. In Italy, it's just Ferrari. If you're not driving for Ferrari, they're not interested. And although there's this great racing heritage in Italy, the most popular sport is football. So if you go to a company or individual and ask if they would rather sponsor a football team or a GP3 driver, they'll probably choose the football team.
You recently presented an award at MTV's TRL Awards in Florence. Daniel Ricciardo was presenting too. Was that fun?
Yeah, I didn't get to talk to him because it was pretty crazy. My management have been pushing pretty hard on that. Trident's owner, Maurizio Savadori, manages singers in Italy and has many contacts, so he's been helping me out.
How did you get into racing?
My dad bought my brother a go-kart. He was six and two years younger than me. At the beginning I was scared, but one day something clicked inside me and I didn't want to get out of the kart. So my dad agreed to take me racing. I used to do horse riding too, and sometimes the events were on the same day so I had to choose, and I chose racing.
As your mother is English, Silverstone is sort of your home race…
I've always lived in Italy but I have some relatives in England and I speak English really well. The thing is, Silverstone is a really hard track. There are some corners there you never find on an Italian track, up and down hills, different types of curves, and unpredictable weather. If you've learned on British tracks, I think you're probably more well-rounded.
Would you ever date a fellow racing driver?
Girls like racing drivers. When I bring my friends to the track they say 'How can you concentrate here?!' But I could never trust a racing driver, because I know what they're like! It would just cause problems, and I try to avoid problems. It's not easy having any boyfriend when you're racing. I know with my exes, they'd get jealous because I'd turn my phone off for four days, and they know I'm with 20-odd drivers and hundreds of mechanics and engineers. I don't need anything serious right now, because my priority is racing."
Adam Hay-Nicholls is editor of GP Week and Formula One correspondent for Metro UK and Metro International