What is fascinating about motorsport? Maybe it’s the dangerous appeal of insane speeds, or the allure of a race-cars body, the smell of Raceday or is possibly the sound of pure power.
Number one chart topper for us would be the men and women behind the visor. Swiss endurance driver Louis Delétraz, 25, salutes us from Geneva, and we’ve got all your questions answered.
Waiting for the snow to come down, Louis Delétraz is taking few breaks in-between his demanding racing schedule and testing days of their new GTP at Daytona International Speedway. Born with racing blood (father: Jean-Denis Délatraz), Louis wraps up 2022 in a whirlwind of wins and advances.
Louis takes his second straight ELMS title; P4 in Behrain FIA WEC finale; Joined Wayne Taylor Racing & Acura for IMSA Michelin Endurance Championship; Multi-champion at the 2022 Petit Le Mans finishing overall fifth place at Road Atlanta for Tower Motorsport; no stranger to the world-famous Rolex 24 at Daytona… just a few achievements in the last few months alone.
Delétraz has gathered fans from all over the world. His F1 debut for Haas was short-lived but a further personal understanding of his strengths and how best to apply them. Keep reading for his thoughts on this matter.
The first time I spoke with Louis our connection went down in my history books. Found myself scrambling to catch up with technology over a faulty internet signal. We laughed though an unsuccessful Google search and reconnected the next day. Come Saturday morning, I felt like I had already made a friend with Louis, who is humble with his racing career successes while we jive over 11 questions from my notepad.
“I couldn’t help but laugh when I noticed one website listing you as alive,” I said as we both laughed. “But in all seriousness, racing is a dangerous sport, have you come close to a near-death experience?”I asked him.
“For sure it’s good to see that I’m alive,” laughed Louis. He told me about his big crash in Formula 2 in 2019, where his breaks failed and he hit the wall. “It all happened so quick. And that’s the first time I really thought, ‘Okay, it’s going to hurt.’” Luckily, after a quick recovery he was back in the car and quickly too, it was the first time he was really close to win a Formula 2 race and he wasn’t going to play his chances of not being there to take the podium finish again come Monza the next weekend. “If you get scared, you stop, you lose performance. I’m sure that if you get scared, you stop pushing, you stop going fast. And then you cannot race anymore. At least, not at that high level,” said Louis.
Read our full interview below.
An Interview: Louis Delétraz Part I
Fueler: Formula One has been a part of your racing career, even though it was maybe shorter than you wanted it to be. With the 2022 season just ended (with hearty gossip), what are some of your memorable moments with Haas.
Louis Delétraz: Yeah, well, for sure, I mean, every driver dreams about Formula One when you grow up. I went through the ladder, and then I went a lot of the years in F2. I did my F1 test in 2018, which was, for me, being very close to the dream.
I have only good memories being with Haas, being in the simulator for them. I wish they gave me a bit more of an opportunity maybe to get on their race set for sure. Because I had my Super License, which is a big topic right now too.
I think I did decent results. I did not win Formula 2, but for sure at that moment I didn’t have the money to convince people to go to Formula One. So both together made it my choice to go to endurance. But I have many memorable moments, and I’m still a big Formula One fan so obviously, I follow.
Fueler: Money is a mega deciding factor in racing. Formula One being noted as the Billionaire Boys Club…
New details have come up for the Women’s Formula One Racing Series. Capped at 150,000 Euros (still a heavy amount) in my opinion is the way to go in motorsport for new drivers to be able to make their way in. How do you feel about having a cap? Is that something that should be standard throughout the board?
Louis Delétraz: Yes, I think money is always difficult topic because you have to always [ask] the how and why. This new Series (which I’ll be honest I also found out recently through the media) for women is great idea. W Series was great platform. I’m a bit, I don’t know if it will be good to have a parallel for women and for men’s. I think it would be great if we could always together, and find a car that actually suits everyone. Let’s put it this way.
But it’s always difficult topic, and you also, everyone has different opinions on it. But indeed, right now, Formula 2, Formula 3, if you don’t have sponsors or a rich family, it’s very hard to get in. And I got lucky enough to be sponsored by a few big companies, and have loyal sponsors with me, which I can never thank enough, because otherwise I would not have done those four years in F2.
I never got a chance and a shot to maybe try Formula One. So to be able to at least get support and that the championships themselves take in their hands, which they will do with, the Women’s Championship of Series Formula 3 and 2 is great.
I think Formula One budget caps are also nice. Right now Formula One is really big, and paid drivers are less and less. Which four years ago when I was trying to go, three years ago, not happening. And I think it’s great to see that the performance of drivers first rather than what they can bring into a team, which was not the case when I tried to join.
Fueler: But driving is not all about Formula One, as you have consistently proved with your track record in the exciting world of endurance racing.
Louis Delétraz: Yes.
Fueler: What was it like having a father in racing growing up?
Louis Delétraz: Well, it’s everything for me. I discovered racing like this, let’s say. I’m born into a racetrack, pretty much. I saw my dad racing in endurance when I grew up. I started racing in single sitter but it was very important for me to drive as many cars as possible, GTs and Prototypes, to get experience and understanding. And I think it’s a shame. But I valued endurance racing, it was never a plan B for me. And yes, that’s why when I saw I could not go to F1 (I tried everything, no regrets), I switched to endurance full-time. And, I think you have so many more opportunities, I’m very happy. There is definitely other very good things there.
Fueler: It sounds like driving was not an expectation growing up. It was really something that you really wanted to do, and pursue. What were some of your first memories of watching your dad race? And, how did it change the course of your career back when you were little?
Louis Delétraz: So first memories, I think, was… I don’t remember exactly, but I remember a strong one was 24 Hours of Spa when he did in GT1s, I don’t know which year, but I was little. And they won a podium and he took me with him on the podium. I thought, “Okay, I want to be back here one day.”
That was probably the first time I ever got really near racetrack podiums, racing and moreso understanding.
Then I grew up, he never pushed me to race. I more wanted, but he never wanted me to race before I was 10-years-old because he thought it was dangerous. But then I turned to him, I was like, “Hey, it’s time to go to McCarthy now.”
And then he started.
It went quite well, and I ended up here, but I think it was never an expectation to make me a race car driver.
Fueler: How lovely, true ambition. When did you get your driver’s license and what was your first car?
Louis Delétraz: First time I was 18, 18 and some months, probably. I did fail it first time, so. I was very excited to come back to school on Monday, with my driver license….But I did not go back with my driving license because I made a mistake, which I was very ashamed of at the time.
Fueler: What was the mistake?
Louis Delétraz: It is a long story because actually I got a probably eight-month pregnant woman as an examiner.
Fueler: Oh, shot… I feel like I know where this is going.
Louis Delétraz: She was very stressed, and probably I was not the most relaxed driver because I come from racetracks, not from learning. I have different expectations from cars than normal people learning to drive. So the fact that she was very stressed, plus me being a bit too aggressive, didn’t help. I don’t think it was one specific thing. I got denied, and I was very disappointed.
Fueler: You learn from your mistakes.
Louis Delétraz: Yeah haha totally. The first car I had was a BMW 135 M.
Fueler: Could you fill us in on your car collection? I noticed you also have an M4 with some extra bits added. Do you have more than one car in your collection?
Louis Delétraz: No, I only have one. I like BMWs. I raced with them in my 20 some years. From BMWs, I started, and then I was in the junior program. Did some GT driving, so they’ve always been very nice to me. And I had good relationships, so I could… My first car was a BMW, and then I always dream of the M4 and last year I said, “Okay, now I can have one. And I’m definitely taking it.” So it’s my only car, but I enjoy, I try to change them every one or two years if I can to because I love cars. I love having nice cars, but also I think you need to be reasonable in what you drive. And having more than one right now is not correct. I only need one for my daily commute, I try to make it a good compromise between sport and practical every day.
Fueler: Speaking of Swiss-made earlier, tell me more about your company iDrop.
Louis Delétraz: Yeah, it’s a company I made with a friend of mine. It’s a digital business card. We just do one contact. You can share all your information to a smartphone, any smartphone in the world. And if you meet the person, don’t need to exchange any more contact cards. And it’s more than just a number. You can share email, social media, videos, PDF files, everything. So it works very well! iDrop Social.
It works with any smartphone, anything that is at least connected to the internet. And is the same technology as the credit cards that touch and tap.
Fueler: Count me in! Speaking of contacts, Lorenzo, Robert and you were on top this season. Explain the dynamic between the three of you?
Louis Delétraz: First of all I think that the history starts with 2021, I switched to Endurance racing, the end of 2020. And I didn’t get my driver until March 2021 with WRT. I did not know what was going to happen.
I got the call from WRT, and they told me, “Do you want to do this?” I said, “100%, I’m going.” And then I got a teammate with Robert Kubica, and I think, I grew up watching him on TV, and then he had the accident. But he was one of the big guys and the most talented drive on the grid, and he’s still in my opinion. So I didn’t know what to expect of him initially.
And then we found out that we became very good friends, and we trust each other a lot. Which we had an amazing year in 2021, and we say “Okay, let’s go again together in 2022.” Because I think sharing a car, if you do it with someone you like, is a lot easier.
I learned a lot from him from his knowledge and experience, and he’s so strong on the technical side. Then you need a young driver, a silver (driver rating by the FIA) driver for complete the lineup for regulation. And Yifei Ye and Lorenzo, who are two really amazing young drivers, and we won many race together. So it makes it easier to have good relation in those world.
Fueler: Sounds like some amazing friendships. Can you choose a favourite podium selfie?
Louis Delétraz: Favourite podium selfie? I would say Le Mans 24 this year. Was big relief and Prema was new team with a lot of expectations. But when you’re new, and you come to the endurance, well, is very hard. And with what happened with Robert and me the year before in Le Mans, where our cars stopped on the last lap from the lead, it was horrible. It was heartbreaking to lose Le Mans in this way. We thought we won. The Marshall came to us, gave us the caps, told us to persevere, and our car stopped. So when we came back, and we said, “Yeah. We’re fighting two years in a row now before we at Le Mans in the most strong category and to do the podium was amazing, so that selfie will be kept.
Fueler: Forever in your memory bank. Give us a taste of the feeling crossing that checkered flag.
Louis Delétraz: Yeah, so Le Mans is always, people say it’s not only about speed even if or right now it’s 24-hour sprint because the level is so high. You need to also start off trouble or so the first objective is going to the end. And the first 20 hours of racing you have to keep it in mind because if you go crazy the first hour and race and have contact, you will not go to the end.
And for me has a special meaning because in 2021 was hard. I mean, we like 23 hours, 58 minutes. And that last lap when you were just waiting for it to come back and celebrate, it stops on track 4. A reason unknown. You lose Le Mans, you lose a win. And then the worst was next day after part, like it had nothing.
So we really wondered, “How can that happen?” And this makes it even more relief to reach the year after. I mean in 2022 in the last lap, I was so stressed, I wish there was no camera on me.
Fueler: I can only imagine the stress.
Louis Delétraz: It’s hard to relax.
Fueler: … heartbreaking. I bet you wanted to get out of that car and walk to the finish, push the car! What excites you most about the 2023 season?
Louis Delétraz: The most exciting I think is my new deal with…
…… read Part II of An Interview with: Louis Delétraz in our next interview post!