Samir Ben lined up at four ADAC Formula 4 race weekends this season. In an interview, the 19-year-old discusses the outings in the ADAC’s junior series and his team, Jenzer Motorsport. The Swiss driver also reveals why Niki Lauda remains his great inspiration.
Samir, when did you first become aware of motorsport, and how did you get into this sport?
My first experience behind the wheel was in a “Puffo” kart in old Kiesgruben when I was seven. We set up cones so I could drive round a little track. I caught the motorsport bug from my father, as he has always been interested in fast cars.
Jenzer Motorsport is based in Lyss in Switzerland. You live just 35 minutes’ drive away in the municipality of Worb. How much do you benefit from being so close to the team?
It is very practical, because it does not take me long to get to Lyss. Jenzer Motorsport has a simulator that I can use, which really helps me prepare for races. We also go out for meals together sometimes, which strengthens the camaraderie within the team. The crew is unbelievably experienced. After all, Jenzer has been in business for many years, and has also been involved in Formula 3.
From a sporting perspective, how would you sum up your season?
I have already improved a lot since the start of the season, so I am definitely on the up. The racetracks are all new to me, which means I must first adapt to them. I have learned a lot over the course of the season, and that will help me in the future. Sure, the results could be better, but you must not forget that this is my first real season in ADAC Formula 4. Prior to this, I had only made one guest appearance in 2011 in Spielberg.
After the individual sessions, you sit down at the laptop with your engineer and analyse the data. How important is that to you?
Nowadays, data analysis is indispensable. While I am sat in the car, there are many aspects, of which I am unaware. We are able to use the analysis to optimise braking points, for example when and how hard I need to brake. We also look closely at gear changes and work out what I could do better. However, I have to admit that I don’t break the data down to the finest detail, but primarily focus on my feel and the feedback from the car. ‘Learning by doing’ is my motto.
As a driver, you do not have many opportunities to influence the design of the car. But you can have a say when it comes to your helmet. What does your head protection look like?
There is a big “S” on the side of my helmet, and in this “S” is my name, Samir Ben. I also have my name in big letters on the top of the helmet. When it comes to the colour, I have based it on the team colours: as well as the main colours of black and red, I have also incorporated a lot of blue. Plus, if you look carefully, you can also make out the cross from the Swiss flag.
How popular is motorsport in your native Switzerland?
There are not many racetracks in Switzerland, and the ones we have are only intended for karting. Motorsport is far from as big as it is in Germany, for example, which unfortunately makes it difficult for me when looking for sponsors.
Many drivers have a role model. Do you?
Niki Lauda still inspires me today. The way he felt the car and the feedback he then gave the team were remarkable. I am very impressed by his whole story. I still watch a lot of his earlier races and documentaries on Niki. It is extremely cool to see how he used to drive.
Finally: What are your career plans?
I live to be at the racetrack. For me, there is nothing better. One dream is to one day be a works driver. I would like to make my hobby my job and to earn a living from it.