Newly 30-year-old Swedish racing driver, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, is no stranger to the podium. Interview Part I.
The Season Finale of Season 2 Extreme E Electric Odyssey races through Uruguay next weekend is a mere 7 days away. We once again reunited with Mikaela, but this time over Zoom instead of a dusty military base in Sardinia, Italy.
Season two has been strong for team RXR and Mikaela and teammate Johan Kristoffersson take first place in overall standings of 83 points. Mission? Take yet another podium finish in the Energy X Prix. We are ready to watch another Crazy Race over dangerous terrain! Mikaela will just have to wait for the snow to come down to drift (like our Canadian hometown), as Uruguay is set for 25 degrees Celsius next week.
FINALS RESULTS TEAM RXR
1st Place in the DESERT XPRIX – NEOM, SAUDI ARABIA (19-20 Feb)
3rd Place in ISLAND XPRIX I – SARDINIA, ITALY (6-7 July)
1st Place in ISLAND XPRIX II – SARDINIA, ITALY (9-10 July)
Fueler: This season We are getting to watch two Swedes in a pod, and the dynamic duo between you and Kristoffersson is electric. Maybe that has to do something with you both being from the same cultural background, but definitely the Swedish flag is becoming some common colours on the podium.
Mikaela:Yeah, no, that’s very nice, and thanks a lot. I mean, like you say, switching to RXR was a big thing for me and I was very happy when they asked me to join the team, the championship winning team from season one, and join together with Johan, who’s now five times world champion in Rally Cross. So it was a big thing. And also being part of that team, working together with Nico, learning from all his experience. Looking back at this season, it kind of feels incredible and amazing because I’ve learned so much.
And I think when it comes to Johan and me, we really want to win. We really want to make sure that we maximize everything that we do. So we work into detail and we really support each other.
We live quite close to each other (about 45 minute drive) so culture wise that’s the same, yeah. He’s also very much like my brother, they’re very alike, and I have a very close relationship with my brother, so I also think straight from the beginning I felt welcomed by the team, very comfortable with Johan as a teammate, even though I’m asking him thousands of questions each weekend, what can I do here and how should I do this? He’s always supporting me and helping me, but he’s also there to tell me, “Okay Mikaela, we’ve done the homework now for tomorrow, let’s go home and rest.”
You can tell that he’s a dad of two kids, but you can also tell that he’s got a lot of experience and he’s very open with giving me support. He would never keep anything for himself, he always wants me to be the best driver that I can be and develop me and the team in the best that we can.
So yeah, I really feel that we’ve done a great job this season, and it was a bummer, of course, in Chile with the car not starting, but that’s how it is in motorsport. I know a lot of people have been saying that, “Of course you’re going to win the championship,” and “That’s easygoing,” but it’s tight now. It’s tight with the points and anything can happen. I think Chile definitely showed us that anything can happen.
It’s this thing about always staying on your toes, trying to do your best, and keep in mind that anything can happen, both when it comes to the negative way, as in Chile, the car not starting, but then also in the positive way. So you always have to keep the energy up and keep on going and keep on working.
Fueler: It sounds like RXR really is the dream team. The mentorship from Kristoffersson, from Rosberg, from everyone in the team …but you posted about a mentorship program that you are leading too. What was the outcome of that?
Mikaela: It was a mentorship program that we launched on the International Girl Child Day. Me and Nico are going to have virtual sessions with three girls that are the winners. So it’s Amelia Nelson from the US, and then it’s two Swedish girls, Cavelle and Alexia Donison. We’re going to have virtual workshops with them, speaking to them about their dreams and what they’re thinking about the future and how they look at it.
Speaking to Nico now during this season, I changed my mindset definitely going to races. Before it was more race by race and I wanted to maximize everything that I could, whereas now this season I’ve been trying more to not take any big risks or big chances, try to always be close to the limit, but maybe bigger margin than I would have before, because if you think about the long run.
I think this opportunity for these girls is really amazing for speak to a Formula One World Champion with so much experience. But also, I really hope that I can bring some tips and give them some good advices when it comes to how they should think about the carry out, if there are any, I don’t know, uncertainties that they wonder about what did I do in that kind of situation. I’m very excited about these talks that we’re going to have.
Fueler: Many say it’s late having discussions about women in motorsport. But it’s never late to launch mentorship programs like the virtual sessions you’ve done with the girls. Giving others a glimpse into your life is invaluable!
I know you like to kiss that podium! How do you keep your focus?
Mikaela:I mean, I would of course love to win the championship this year. That would be simply amazing. I’ve never won a championship. I’ve been P2 best and P3 with Jay Bixby last year in Extreme E. But like I said, anything can happen. What I’ve really learned through life in general, not only motorsport, is that things can turn so quickly, so try to not take anything for granted and just focus on the moment. The things that I can control at this very moment. I mean, I can have hopes for even tomorrow, but the only way I can control tomorrow is maybe to prepare myself as well as I can. But just be in the moment I am in right now.
It’s very easy when you’re standing there maybe doing the track walk and you think, I wonder what the start is going to be, the final. But there are so many steps ahead of that that you need to put your focus on, so really being in the moment.
Fueler: You have also passed a different milestone, you turned 30 a few days ago. How does it feel to say, I’m 30?
Mikaela:It feels big. And it feels much better turning 30 now when I am 30 than when I was 29, because I was a little bit, how was it going to be like and so on. But like you say, it is kind of a milestone, because for 10 years I’ve been in my twenties and now I’m 30. But being in the position where I am right now, I feel that I have developed so much as a person and as a driver through everything that I’ve done the last couple of years.
I feel like I’m an adult woman, but still happy and sometimes a bit childish maybe. But I do feel that these 10 years in my twenties I’ve changed so much as a person and grown so much. So that feels good. And stepping into new thing with turning 30, also moving to new apartment. So, yeah, nice steps.
Fueler: The thoughtful thirties.
Mikaela:I think so… I think so. And also, then you’re more sure of yourself and what you want to do and where you want to go. I mean, for example, I’m going to have another lecture tomorrow, and I’ve done many over the years. In the beginning I was frightened. I’m always a bit nervous maybe before them, but now it’s fun because I also know that I go there, I do my thing, I do my very best, I can’t do anything more than that, and I can’t be anyone else than myself. But that has taken some time to come to that state.
Fueler: With World Motorsports it comes, of course, with traveling, you’ve been to seven parts of the world with Extreme E in definitely very extreme driving conditions. What has been the most memorable terrain?
Mikaela: I think over the past two seasons now, for me, Greenland was very special. It’s part of Denmark, which is then part of Scandinavia, so it was the very closest to home track. But doing the first ever sport event in Greenland racing just close to the glacier, that was breathtaking in many ways. But other places are also breathtaking in positive and in negative ways. I have to say, being in Senegal, seeing all the plastic that is being washed up on the beach is really devastating. Going to Saudi Arabia, to these places we go, is really breathtaking. So it is for sure the adventure of my life to do this with Extreme.
Fueler: What has been the most memorable of the legacy programs with Extreme E, and why have you taken it to heart?
Mikaela: I think maybe the planting of the mangos in Senegal, because we got to go out there, we got to meet the local people, and it felt really that planting these trees, being out there, they were so happy that we were there taking part of this planting of the trees. It was a really special feeling.
To know that we were planting these trees last year, and now one year later to have a look. Unfortunately, we didn’t go to Senegal because of the situation of the war in May. But looking on Google maps and seeing how this has developed, and knowing that this is something that we did as organization, that feels really special.
But we’re also going to do… I am not sure. Lena, I don’t know if you hear me. We’re going to do some tree planting in… Can you hear me?
Lena: I can hear you.
Mikaela: Hi. Good. I just wanted say that we’re going to do the tree planting in Sardinia in December. I’m not sure, though, am I allowed to say that now?
Lena: Yes, we can talk about this. We’re doing a tree planting in two weeks time, so right after Uruguay we’re going to Sardinia to plant 4,000 trees where the wildfires were.
Mikaela: I think that, for me, will also be very, very special, because it’s also going to be close to Christmas time. Christmas time is the time of giving, so I think that’s going to feel really good in my heart doing that. I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to say it, but good, we are.
Fueler: I understand that the calendar is coming out next week for the third season. Am I right?
Mikaela: I don’t know about that actually, but if it is, that’s nice.
Fueler: What would be a place of the world that you hope seeing on the calendar?
Mikaela: For me, we were speaking about snow, that I love snow and I love ice drifting, so to do something in Scandinavia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, up north, that would be simply amazing for me. And of course then we will go very much up north, because that is the thing, speaking about Sweden, I remember just 10 years ago, in my twenties, that it was snowing on my birthday, but now this Saturday, I think it was 14 degrees. So we can really tell the difference now of the temperatures. So that’s, I mean, also a thing to highlight, that it’s very different now compared to back in the days.
Read PART II of our interview with Mikaela here!
Led by 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg, the team is an evolution of Team Rosberg, founded in 1994 by Nico’s father and 1982 F1 World Champion, Keke Rosberg. RXR builds on the team’s success in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series as well as Nico Rosberg’s post-F1 career as an entrepreneur in the field of sustainable mobility.
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky has successfully competed in the Scirocco R-Cup Germany and in the rallycross discipline. In 2015, she took part in the newly established Audi Sport TT Cup. She also started in the junior classification of the ADAC GT Masters in 2016 and in the Audi Sport Racing Academy in 2017, before switching to the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship in 2018, where she made history as the first, and only woman ever to win races in that series.
In 2019, Åhlin-Kottulinsky was appointed test driver for Extreme E’s founding partner Continental, helping to develop the CrossContact tyre for the series’ ODYSSEY 21 e-SUVs. Prior to joining RXR, Åhlin-Kottulinsky competed for JBXE, driving alongside Jenson Button and later Kevin Hansen, claiming third place in the first-ever Extreme E season.