Growing up surrounded by the thrills of motorsport, Sebastián Montoya’s first racing hero could be found right at home – literally.
Now the Red Bull Junior is spreading his wings as becomes the latest driver to give his take on the three people who have impacted who he is today. Unsurprisingly, three racing icons immediately spring to the Colombian’s mind, alongside talking us through the joys and challenges of racing alongside his own father.
“I have to start with my dad, I think it’s quite obvious but he’s always been there for me. He's pretty much the reason I started racing. I really admire the way he not only looks at racing, but also his career and about life, to be honest. I really admire the way he goes through things and his mentality.
“He's been through it so he knows the struggle outside of it all. I think everyone believes a race car driver's life is perfect and we live in mansions and we enjoy life, but honestly, it's really difficult and he understands the struggle. He understands how difficult it is and through the highs that I go through and through the lows, he always brings me through it and teaches me how to manage my emotions, what I should work on and stuff like that.
“I love racing, especially because I could do it with my dad and there’s nothing I would change about it. Racing with my dad, it’s stressful to say the least because I’m very competitive and when I’m with my dad, we’re very competitive. We play padel together, golf, squash and sim racing together. For example, when I started testing cars, we would do sim races together and would be quite close as I would get better and better. Then there was one time we crashed – the first time I was quick enough, but I didn’t know it was him.
“(Juan Manuel) Correa and my dad were fighting. I caught them up and was going to pass them, but then my dad hit me in the back and spun me. I threw my headphones and thought it was Correa, so I turned around and asked who hit me. Everyone went quiet, no one would say anything and then I realised.
“In the end, it makes it fun and my dad pushes me a lot to be quicker than him. We did the Petit Le Mans last year where we finished on the podium. In the end, my dad’s fastest lap was 0.046s quicker than me, but then my average lap time was 0.082s faster than his. That was the only race where we were really close because in the other races, I was quite fast, whereas there we were second and third fastest.
“We push each other a lot and we try to find a balance of what works and what doesn’t. At the first round of ELMS in Barcelona this year, he did first Practice and the car was really understeering. I did FP2 and the car was really oversteering and we compared our driving styles and they were completely different. My dad was like ‘no, you’re driving it completely wrong’ and I’m like ‘well, you’re driving it completely wrong with the understeer, you need to drive it like this’.
“The next day I got in for FP3 and had massive understeer and then my dad got in at the end and he had massive oversteer. When we went to compare the data, he was driving the car exactly how I drove it with the oversteer and I drove exactly how he drove with the understeer. So, I was like you’re wrong, but I’m wrong as well. We’d never discussed about how you have to drive it, but through what he’s taught me, we ended up with the same solution. It’s funny how we did what the other thought was wrong, but actually turns out it was right.”
“I really liked his mentality of always getting better. I feel that’s something that I’ve learned is that you’re never good enough, but that doesn’t mean you’re always going to be missing something. I believe that the more you work on it, the more you work on yourself, the more you work on your driving in general, it's just going get better and there's no limit to want to stop.
“Coming back to my dad, he said he’s still learning stuff and even from me, which is kind of funny considering that I’m his son. He should know a lot more than me and he should know all the stuff I know and Senna was a big believer in that there’s always more to learn and there’s always more to discover.
"It might sound a little stupid to some people but if you just make yourself a little bit better everyday and have that consistency, it will make a difference in three or four months, which is a little bit of how I view my season.
“I started in Bahrain and I was quick, but it was really difficult for me to apply the speed. Each weekend I got slightly quicker and quicker and you just get chipping away at it. You just get better and better, having his head down mentality of just focusing on yourself.”
“To be honest, I’m a really big Max and Lewis (Hamilton) fan, but I feel like I relate a lot to Max in a sense that we’re both very aggressive drivers. Considering his dad also raced in F1, I see that as accomplishing something and not people only looking at you for your last name, but also because you’re doing something. At the same time, I feel like that’s something I’m starting to do with people looking at me like ‘oh that’s Sebastián Montoya’ and not Montoya’s kid, so it’s a big thing.
“When Max first got to F1, he really struggled and it was a really big step for him. Yet he just kept working at it and now he’s at the point where I think a lot of drivers want to be at, which is being dominant. I feel like he has that winning mentality of ‘I’m going to do it and if there’s something that I want, I’m going to work to get it’. For example, he always keeps pushing that little bit and doesn’t cruise around saying he doesn’t have the fastest lap, but it’s okay he’s going to win. It’s like what he did at the Red Bull Ring, just pushing and pushing to get a big enough gap to be able to box and then get the fastest lap at the end.
“People might think that’s a bit childish or that’s not the correct thing to do, but the way I see it is that it’s just the winning mentality of if I have the ability to do this, I’m going to do it because that’s performing at 100%. It might not mean much to him in terms of the Championship, but in his sense, it’s just completing everything there was for the weekend and to be a complete performance package.”