While many current drivers began their careers at an early age through karting, Alex Lynn took a slightly different route as he was introduced to Motocross when he was four years old.
The young Briton’s stint competing in Motocross lasted until he was 11, when Alex received an injury having landed in an awkward position after coming off one of the jumps which injured his hip, putting him out of action for a few months.
Due to the danger of racing on two wheels over high jumps, Alex decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and make the switch from two to four wheels which pleased his mother, who wasn’t too thrilled with Alex continuing down the two-wheeled path.
Alex hit the ground running after switching to karting, quickly rising through the ranks and joining Fortec Motorsport in the Formula Renault UK Winter Series finishing 10th in his debut season and winning the series the following year.
In 2011, he dominated the Formula Renault UK Series claiming 12 wins and 14 pole positions on his way to winning the series ahead of current GP2 rival Oliver Rowland.
When asked where Alex’s greatest racing inspiration, there was no hesitation in his answer.
“Michael Schumacher was my idol when I was growing up, he obviously dominated Formula 1, but the attitude he portrayed I think made him a real champion,” said Alex.
“What defines a real champion is someone who isn’t afraid to do what they think is correct and they don’t care what anybody else thinks, even though sometimes it’s portrayed to be wrong. I think a champion is someone that can fail, but still come back and win again, it’s not always a clean route and that’s the mentality I’ve always tried to have.”
While it’s easy to choose a sporting icon to admire and model yourself after, picking one outside of the sport you’re competing in may come as a tougher challenge, although it’s not very surprising when Alex tells us who he admires most outside of motorsport.
“My Dad is another big hero of mine, it’s more I’ve got a lot of respect for what he’s done in his career and in his business. Where he has come from in his life, if I can be half the man that he is then again, I’ll be happy.”
When the time came to make a step up to British Formula 3, Alex again impressed making nine appearances on the podium with one win and two pole positions. The following year he made the switch to complete a full year in the European Formula 3 Championship where he finished the series third behind Raffaele Marciello and Felix Rosenqvist.
Although it was Alex’s performance at the 2013 Macau Grand Prix that capped off a successful year which led to a call from Red Bull, after winning the prestigious event to join the likes of Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Ricciardo Patrese.
“I worked my ass off to do that,” Alex said.
“It’s a mentality I think, it’s knowing I had done everything I could to prepare physically, mentality, with the team.
“OK I had the best package, I had a Mercedes-Benz engine as I was a Mercedes-Benz driver, I had a Prema Formula 3 car which was the best car on the grid, I had the engineer that had finished second in the Macau Grand Prix the year before with Marco Wittmann.
“A lot of things came together, but it’s a realisation that you’ve got the package that you need, and it’s ‘I now need to produce the result’. Motor racing isn’t about the driver, but the driver is the one that produces the result as so many factors have to come together, and it’s about controlling every element that goes into a race weekend.”
Alex joined the Red Bull junior team in 2013 and was put in GP3 car with Carlin, where he impressed immediately by winning on debut in Spain then backed up his performance winning the next race in Austria.
It was an incredibly consistent year in GP3 which saw Alex only finish outside of the points on two occasions, as the then 20-year-old went on to win the championship comfortably ahead of fellow countryman Dean Stoneman.
“I applied the same mentality as I did when winning the Macau Grand Prix throughout the whole season of GP3, almost win at all costs. It didn’t matter what happened in my life that year, it was just winning was everything.”
As Alex was racing as a Red Bull junior driver during his GP3 season his Carlin carried the livery of Red Bull, which puts extra attention on a young driver given the cut-throat nature of the programme – if you’re not performing, expect Red Bull to find another young driver who will.
It’s here when Alex’s smile gets just a little wider as he recounts his time racing with a bull on his car, knowing that he achieved the best possible result Red Bull could ask for.
“When it’s going well it’s the best feeling in the world, because you know there’s a lot of pressure, but you know that the reward is so high. When you’ve got Red Bull on your car, the spotlight is on you, but when you win it’s the best.
“It’s all about being positive, I believe that pressure is sometimes a very lucky thing to have because people expect a result from you, you expect a result from yourself and it’s something you’ve got to be proud of because people are expecting you to do well.
“I’ll always be extremely proud that I can say I had one year with Red Bull and I won.”
Racing in the Red Bull junior program would only last a year for Alex, as he left the stable to pursue an alternative route towards his Formula 1 career when Williams approached the newly crowned GP3 champion.
As Red Bull had already fast-tracked Max Verstappen to Formula 1 and promoted Carlos Sainz Jr. to the Toro Rosso team, the Red Bull path to Formula 1 became somewhat of a dead end.
Williams offered Alex the position of their test and development driver for 2015, where he dovetailed the role with his GP2 season racing for DAMS driving alongside current Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly.
The pair were closely matched throughout the season as both drivers finished the year with 110 points each, with Alex getting the upper hand on his Red Bull-backed team-mate by winning two races to Gasly’s none.
This year is critical for Alex’s chances at a Formula 1 drive. Given the speculated shuffling of the drivers and Williams being one of the keys to the driver market, there is a good chance a seat will become available, and to be rewarded with a seat means earning a good result in GP2.
“Winning is the only thing I’m coming here to do, there’s no but. I think talking about my past successes, I believe that the junior CV that I’ve got is better than some of the Formula 1 grid already.
“I only come here to win. The politics are going to do the talking for themselves anyway and they’re going to make their own decisions.”
The addition of Paul di Resta to Williams as the team’s official reserve driver let Alex focus fully on his GP2 title campaign.
“I didn’t want it [reserve driver role] because I wanted to focus on this championship and I didn’t want to do all the travelling. I think if you want to win this championship you have to focus solely on this, you can’t have your head twisted. This is bloody difficult; you need to be committed.”
When the inevitable question arose about his chances of a Formula 1 drive next year, Alex appeared quite confident with his answer.
“Very high,” he said on the probability of an F1 seat. “I’ve tested the car as many times as I can, in the simulator they know I do a good job, I’m going to do the best I can and if I get the chance I get the chance. I believe I’ve deserved a chance for the past three years and I hope I get it.”
In the meantime, when there’s no racing happening, Alex fills his spare time with more sports and leads a “very normal life” for a racing driver. An avid Arsenal supporter, Alex juggles watching any sport and maintaining a social life when he’s not behind the wheel.
“I’m a massive football fan, I’m a massive sports fan in general. I live a very normal life, I’ve got a girlfriend and I hang out with her a lot of the time.
“You’ve always got to stay grounded and remember you’re extremely privileged to drive fast cars for a living, but at the same time it’s important to be extremely focused on it. Everything has to be in moderation.”
Images via GP2 & GP3 Series Media. Interview originally published here