Throughout his journey so far, Rafael Villagómez has learnt many lessons from both his family and fellow sporting stars that have helped shape the person and driver he is today.
Enjoying some downtime away from the track, the Mexican driver looks back at those who have had the biggest impact on him, including a Formula 1 home hero.
“Obviously he’s the only Mexican driver in F1 right now. Of course, I look up to any F1 driver because I believe the reason why they’re there is because they deserve it and it’s only because of hard work, but especially for Checo. I think his junior career was not easy and being in F1 hasn’t been the easiest for him, but he’s the type of driver you see deliver every time and he gives his best.
“I’ve watched F1 since I was really, really young and the first memories I had of Checo was in Monza where he finished second with Sauber in 2012. Since then, I’ve looked up to him and he’s a driver that doesn’t get much attention, especially in Europe, but back in Mexico he’s really, really big.
“I’ve talked with him quite a few times and it’s always good to catch up with him, he’s a really kind guy. Last summer he was in Zandvoort and I crossed into him and we talked for a bit. Of course, he’s quite busy, but I’ve had a few talks with him regarding some of the things that I struggle with, and I can go up to him and ask for his advice.”
“First of all, we share the same first name! When I was a kid, I used to watch quite a lot of tennis and obviously the name was the first thing that attracted me, but then I looked into him more. He’s looking all the time at how to improve himself, which all us drivers are always looking to do – you’re looking at each other to see where you can improve.
“He’s someone that is really quite humble and he’s never not smiling, so this is something I really like about him, apart from his amazing skills at playing tennis. At the end of the day, racing drivers and tennis players are both high performance athletes. They’re completely different sports, but they follow the same techniques.”
“Growing up, your parents are the guys that teach you everything and guide you through life. Even now, he’s an important part of me because whenever I’m struggling or going through a bad or good moment, he’s the first person that is here for me. My dad raced for a bit – when I started karting, we were going so often that he got into it, and he started to race.
“He’s quite calm. Each time I race I think he understands more and more, sometimes he has a radio which is good for him to listen in. It’s good for parents to understand it a bit more because as a parent they want what is best for their kids and sometimes that’s hard for them.”