Catching up with Marlon Stockinger
MANILA, Philippines - Last May 4 to 5, Manila Speed Show - The Lotus F1 Team Philippine Road Show was held at the SM Mall of Asia and Quirino Grandstand in Pasay City. Marlon Stockinger, Lotus F1 Junior Team member and the first Filipino to drive a Formula 1 car, together with the whole Lotus F1 team, held a press conference at noon on May 3 and a gala in the evening, both at the Manila Hotel. Throughout the event, motorsport (and even non-motorsport) enthusiasts were treated to an up-close look into the world of Formula 1 racing.
As a rookie, Marlon won the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix in the GP3 category. While preparing for the Manila Speed Show gala, he took time out for an exclusive chat with Rappler.
Marlon spoke to us about his love for racing, the people and team that have supported him along the way, and his hopes for the future of Philippine racing.
RAPPLER: Can you give us a brief background on how you got into racing and the preparation that led up to this point in your career?
MARLON: I basically started racing go-karts (as a kid) in Carmona and Cavite. It started with my dad. He got into racing before I did and he introduced me to go-kart — not even the whole circuit, just up and down the street. I guess the rest is really history because, from that day on, we decided to get into motorsport.
He always says it’s financially the worse decision he made but luckily, at the end of the day, we have been able to get all this success with the race in Monaco. I’m just glad to also have the Lotus F1 team behind me. Hopefully we can garner more support and stay on that path.
What do you do in terms of training before races? How much time do you actually get to practice on the track versus other modes of training?
With racing it is actually very limited. It is almost how a boxer trains for a fight. You spend so many weeks preparing your body but until you actually fight the person it can take months. We’re not to that extreme but certainly it’s between almost two weeks, sometimes a month, between races. A lot of the time in between is spent training for the race because you need to stay physically fit.
Where do your modeling and even entertainment careers fall in a schedule as hectic as this?
I understand that it is part of the job. Any sports athlete is required to do things like this. But with how the race is going, with all the media attention simply through the road show event, I think things fall into place in a way — although sometimes I get less time for myself.
It’s good and obviously I would never deny it because it's always (a) good (form of) promotion. It’s also the reason why I got this far.
Who are the F1 drivers that you look up to and aspire to be like?
Definitely Senna (Ayrton Senna) because the guy was very passionate about what he was doing. He left such a mark in motorsport and it was definitely felt when he left the sport, dying in Imola in 1994. I look up to him a lot even though statistically he is not as good as Michael Schumacher.
I think had Senna lived on he would have achieved even more. I know that may sound harsh but he is definitely one of my heroes in racing. I really looked up to him even though I was born after most of his championships were won.
Watch Marlon drive the Lotus F1 car in this video posted on YouTube by freezymenthol:
Being half-Filipino and half-Swiss, what does it mean for you to be representing the Philippines and wearing the Philippine flag on your car and uniform?
Of course, I have Swiss roots. My father is from Switzerland and he moved to the Philippines. The thing is, I grew up here in Manila. I grew up near Malate and Manila Bay and, for sure, I’m 100% Pinoy.
My father has no problem with me carrying the flag because he knows I grew up in that type of environment. I would be kind of going against my own heart if I carried another flag. Of course, I pay homage to my Swiss roots. I think a lot of traits that I have from racing also come from that.
But, yeah, I was born and raised here so I truly feel Filipino.
With the exception of countries like Malaysia, Macau, and Singapore where F1 has established a large fan base and hosts races, do you think that kind of fan base and support can be established in the Philippines? If so, how do you plan to do that?
I hope so. Hopefully, with what I’ve been doing like winning races in Monaco, getting into the Lotus F1 Team Junior Program, bringing F1 cars (not just one but two) to the Philippines, I hope that people can see the connection now.
We are not really that far from achieving this dream or this goal not only for myself, but for hundreds of fans and people very passionate about motorsport. It only takes that "little bit" more, but that "little bit" is always the hardest.
For sure, I need to hopefully gain more attention, gain some sponsorships, some support from the country, and really get the people behind me before we can get there. To do well in the series, I’m racing in the World Series by Renault.
How do you hope this event will affect the perception and interest of Filipino F1 fans or Filipinos in general?
Hopefully, it will break the stereotype that Europe is the leading country for racing drivers, having this event here where people see not only an F1 car, but a Filipino driver in a Formula 1 car.
Hopefully, by giving them a good show, I am able to prove to everyone that it could be any one of us. Even if I don’t make it, I just hope one day from what we are doing now we are able to inspire a lot of young Filipinos to be up and coming racing drivers. I believe this country can produce that. We excel in so many sports. Why not motorsport?
How often do you plan to hold this event? For this first one, who are the key players?
One of the key players is definitely Globe Tattoo. I’m very thankful that they came on board as an event partner and as a sponsor of mine. They have been supporting me the last couple of years so it’s really great to continue that partnership and make it grow into the Formula 1 scene. I think it shows great synergy, and it’s just really great to have that type of support as well from my family.
Without them I would have never made it this far. They have supported my career up until this point and can only go so far as well because racing is really expensive. So I hope, at some point, that can stop and other forms of support can eventually follow.
(I'm also very thankful to) the Lotus F1 Team for trusting me with an F1 car and giving me the opportunity not only to test it but to drive it on the streets of Manila. All these key people have given me so much and I just hope I can give back.
Can you tell us a little bit about the cars that were brought in for the event?
They are Formula 1 cars. Unfortunately, they are not the current spec simply because you can’t take the racing car out of the season. These guys are flying them to the next races. I think they are being prepared now for Barcelona. So, unfortunately, (for this event) I can't drive a current car. No demo show can actually do that; they normally use cars that are either a year or two years out.
I’m driving the Renault R30. It is branded and has the liberties of Lotus so, technically, it is a Lotus Formula 1 car. They finished second (I think) with this car in Monaco so it's still a quick car. If you were to race it in the Formula 1 field right now, it would be mid pack. It’s definitely a very fast Formula 1 car even if it is not contemporary.
It’s the first car Kimi Raikkonen tested when he tested with Lotus, so I have the opportunity to actually use Raikkonen’s car. It's just a nice feeling to know a world champion sat where I’m sitting now and it's not his name on the car, it's my name. That’s really cool.
What message would you like this event to leave with the Philippine car- and race-loving market?
I hope the message definitely is to show progress in terms of motorsport, in terms of Pinoys as a people; with Lotus being seen very often as an underdog in the motorsport world, and I think that is how we’ve been seen as a people.
We have history. We had people like Dodjie Laurel winning Macau twice. He also raced with a Lotus Formula 3 car, I think, at the time. It’s a new generation now so, hopefully, we are just making people more aware and bridging that link and showing them that it's not impossible, that we can reach the top of a level in terms of sport and in terms of Formula 1.
You flew back home for the event and will be returning to Europe soon. What can we expect to see from you when you are there? Any big races coming up that you can let us know about so your fans here can show their support?
I came back just for the event. I would have loved to stay longer but duty calls. The next race will be in Monaco. That’s a really nice track because I won there last year so it would be nice to obviously repeat what I did. It’s the hardest task you can ask for but I’m still looking forward to it.
Even if I don’t win, hopefully I get (into the) top 5, get some good points, and really just make people aware that even though it is still my rookie season I’m able to put in good results. The race will be on May 24 or 25.
What do you hope to see in Philippine racing in the future? Do you think we can expect more Pinoy F1 drivers?
Definitely. There is no reason why we shouldn’t have more Filipino drivers racing in F1 in the future. I think we really have the talent for it. We have this fighting spirit. We Pinoys as a people never get things handed easily to us. We are always fighting our way to make sure we take ownership of our own lives. I think this transcends not only into normal life but also in sports.
I definitely believe in the future of Filipino racing drivers.
Watch this video of an interview with Marlon published on YouTube by Peter Windsor:
- With reports from Dexter Lira and Jama Ramos/Rappler.com