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The defending champion harnessing a “calming feeling” in Excessive E

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Quickest lady on the planet? At the least, that’s what ex-Formulation 1 world champion Nico Rosberg says about Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky. The reigning Excessive E champion has to smile when she’s requested concerning the praise from her Rosberg X Racing crew boss.

“I used to be positively very honoured when he stated this,” says the 31-year-old. “Being provided the chance to be a driver in his crew RXR in Excessive E was an enormous deal for me.”

When Ahlin-Kottulinsky joined the crew in 2022, it had already taken the inaugural crown. She had little or no off-road expertise, however she and team-mate Johan Kristoffersson have been a potent drive throughout season two, solely narrowly lacking out on giving RXR one other title. That have solely made her stronger, and the next season she approached issues very otherwise, which finally led to her and Kristoffersson securing the title final December.

“I’ve labored with a psychological coach for a few years,” she reveals. “Staying within the second helps me to remain calm. Personally, the title means lots to me. I’ve gained races earlier than and had robust seasons the place I completed second or third. However it was such a relaxing feeling to know that I can win a championship.”

Ahlin-Kottulinsky, who lives in Karlstad, Sweden, doesn’t simply goal to be the quickest lady; her dream is to be the quickest driver typically. She believes Excessive E’s requirement to have a female and male driver share every automobile has offered an important alternative.

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“What Excessive E did was so intelligent as a result of it introduced feminine drivers to a high stage of motorsport,” she states. “After all, you’ll be able to play soccer in flip-flops, however if you happen to don’t have correct sneakers you aren’t going to be the very best. It’s so necessary to have the fitting circumstances and help.

Ahlin-Kottulinsky has appreciable background in circuit racing, together with racing a GT3 Audi within the ADAC GT Masters

Photograph by: ADAC Motorsport

“If you evaluate the gaps to the male drivers between season one and season three, the velocity elevated by 86%. That’s as a result of you’ve the chance to work with the very best.”

That wasn’t at all times the case in her profession, although she comes from a motorsport household. When Ahlin-Kottulinsky clinched her first championship underneath the expansive Chilean sky, she took a second to gaze upwards, reflecting on how her triumph marked a full-circle second. Her grandfather, Freddy Kottulinsky, conquered the 1980 Dakar Rally in a VW Iltis and shared race tracks with legends resembling Keke Rosberg and Ronnie Peterson, competing in collection together with Formulation 2 and Formulation Tremendous Vee.

Rallying runs in her blood, with each her mom, Susanne, and her father, Jerry, having additionally made their mark on the game. However not like her rally driver brother Frederik, her path into the game was not essentially predetermined: “My brother knew from the get-go that he wished to be rally driver, whereas I used to be not so into motorsport. I used to be into gymnastics and dancing.”

“Once I did the primary race in 2021, I simply thought, ‘What have I bought myself into? This isn’t my factor’. I used to be sort of terrified the primary laps. However then I loved it” Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky

Her first try at karting ended badly – the kart broke down after an accident, her brother cried, and he or she cried too. Now she laughs about it. Her second try adopted six years later on the age of 12, and two years later she celebrated her first podium end. This was adopted by stints within the DTM-supporting VW Scirocco R-Cup, the place she grew to become the primary lady to win, that collection’ successor the Audi TT Cup, Germany’s ADAC GT Masters GT3 collection, and in Scandinavian Touring Automobiles.

Ahlin-Kottulinsky is glad to enterprise into new terrain. Like many different Scandinavian racing drivers, she loves selection and switches backwards and forwards between circuit and off-road. In 2023, she raced in Excessive E, RX2e, Porsche Carrera Cup and SSX Nordic. Not solely was she following within the footsteps of her grandfather, however her team-mate Kristoffersson was additionally a task mannequin of types.

“Johan didn’t do any karting and began late with motorsport simply when he was 17,” she explains. “However he has achieved so many various issues and he can change. That is the explanation why I need to strive all of the various things. The extra you drive the extra you study, and the higher it’s.”

She additionally bought concerned as a take a look at driver for Continental, serving to to develop the tyres for Excessive E and thereby making a hyperlink to the then-new collection. Shortly afterwards, she was chosen as a driver for Jenson Button’s JBXE crew.

Ahlin-Kottulinsky remembers feeling out of her comfort zone when she joined Jenson Button's JBXE team for the inaugural season of XE in 2021

Ahlin-Kottulinsky remembers feeling out of her consolation zone when she joined Jenson Button’s JBXE crew for the inaugural season of XE in 2021

Photograph by: Colin McMaster / Motorsport Images

“I’ve to confess, once I did the primary race in 2021, I simply thought, ‘What have I bought myself into? This isn’t my factor,’” she provides. “I used to be sort of terrified the primary laps. However then I loved it.”

Not solely that, however she and team-mate Kevin Hansen ended the season with probably the most podium finishes and fourth place within the championship: “It opened up a brand new world to me and I felt I need to proceed this gravel and off-road half.”

As we speak, Rosberg X Racing team-mate Kristoffersson is sort of like household.

“I immediately felt comfy with him as a team-mate as a result of he was a lot like my brother and I knew the best way to deal with him. The way in which they impart, they usually work lots with sarcasm. He has children and so he additionally has a whole lot of persistence with me as I ask a whole lot of questions,” she laughs.

Workforce boss Rosberg can also be a fantastic help, even when he can’t at all times be on website.

“We have been speaking about the best way to change the mindset, the way in which we take into consideration issues,” provides Ahlin-Kottulinsky. “Ultimately he was one of many team-mates to beat Lewis Hamilton in the identical automobile and win the world championship. He’s very a lot into particulars. For instance, he analyses our begins and driving types. More often than not he watches the races on TV, however he joins us on-line within the debriefs and was on website in Sardinia.”

This season, she’s as soon as once more underneath contract with RXR. The objective is to defend her title, after all, and to be an inspiration to different younger ladies: “It’s so necessary that younger women can see us in Excessive E. They should know that is one thing they’ll obtain. However it’s additionally about illustration in media and having initiatives like FIA Girls in Motorsport.

“I used to be fortunate sufficient to have a mum who was a rally driver. However not everybody has this.”

Ahlin-Kottulinsky says representation of female drivers in Extreme E is hugely important to inspire future generations

Ahlin-Kottulinsky says illustration of feminine drivers in Excessive E is massively necessary to encourage future generations

Photograph by: Charly Lopez / Motorsport Images

Ahlin-Kottulinsky additionally considers programmes resembling W Sequence or the F1 Academy to be extraordinarily necessary for gaining preliminary expertise and contacts in motorsport. After that, nevertheless, it’s essential that younger feminine drivers proceed to have a programme and never simply an introduction. For her, the truth that no lady has made a profession in Formulation 1 but is only a matter of statistics.

“Should you give 150 boys the possibility to return into Formulation 1, we’ve to additionally give 150 females the possibility,” she claims.

“It’s so necessary that younger women can see us in Excessive E. They should know that is one thing they’ll obtain” Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky

How can this work? By extra folks asking themselves what contribution they’ll make: “The duty shouldn’t be solely on the females in motorsports. Everybody must ask themselves that query about being inclusive. Nico, for instance, is pushing for females in motorsports. As a crew boss you will be extra inclusive and likewise as a sponsor.”

F1 is not a problem for Ahlin-Kottulinsky. As an alternative, she goals of participating within the Dakar Rally:

“This can be a dream to get that have however I would like extra understanding to do one thing like Dakar. It’s a must to learn the dunes, discover that restrict, and it’s important to understand how a lot to push.”

Ahlin-Kottulinsky has one eye on a future participation in the Dakar

Ahlin-Kottulinsky has one eye on a future participation within the Dakar

Photograph by: Colin McMaster / Motorsport Images

Q&A with Nico Rosberg; Rosberg X Racing boss and 2016 F1 champion

What was the important thing to profitable the title in Excessive E in 2023?
It has turn out to be much more troublesome to win the championship now compared to two years in the past. A key was the driving force pairing. Mikaela has made a lot progress. She has a powerful psychological method, which we actually like. And she or he did some tremendous sectors this previous season the place she was beating Sebastien Loeb. Three years in the past, earlier than Mikaela was confirmed as a driver for JBXE, she was a take a look at driver for the championship’s founding companion, Continental, and he or she did a shootout for one more crew however didn’t make it as a result of she didn’t have the expertise. Now, she is the quickest lady on the market.

So that you noticed her potential and are a fan of growing drivers?
Sure, she simply wants extra mileage. Laia Sanz and Cristina Gutierrez have offers for the entire season. That’s so particular about Excessive E to present this chance to ladies. The ladies turn out to be the superstars of the game along with males. I’m additionally certain that someday a lady will compete in Formulation 1. It’s only a matter of time. It will simply be simpler to discover a particular expertise after we’d have extra women attempting to get there.

How may you help Mikaela and feminine drivers typically?
As an advocate for equality in motorsports and as a father of a woman, I firmly imagine in fostering a supportive atmosphere for feminine drivers. One of many methods I can help that is by doing interviews like this to make folks perceive at what stage the ladies in Excessive E are competing and the way superior that’s. However actually, the very best help for Mikaela has been Johan [Kristoffersson]. It’s so important for the 2 drivers to work collectively, make progress when it comes to driving strains and approaching the corners, set-up and every little thing.

What are you able to contribute now within the Excessive E crew out of your time in F1?
One in every of my biggest strengths as a Formulation 1 driver was observing and utilizing knowledge for my benefit and making progress. So, I take a look even on TV once I see the road that Mikaela is driving and provides her suggestions.

There’s additionally a little bit of criticism round Excessive E. What do you consider it?
The racing is thrilling to look at, and Excessive E’s function is to lift consciousness about local weather change and sustainability in every single place we race. The drivers additionally take their very own time to get entangled in tasks. In sport we’ve such an enormous following that it ought to be a duty for us to make use of sport for frequent good as a substitute of simply leisure. And Excessive E is being a task mannequin in that.

What do you intend to do together with your crew in Excessive E sooner or later, particularly within the hydrogen period from 2025?
I’m an enormous advocate for electrification. However I’m additionally open-minded for different technological avenues. And hydrogen definitely will be very fascinating for the longer-term future. Our present focus stays on Excessive E, however Excessive H is unquestionably an thrilling enterprise to contemplate.

Rosberg remains committed to Extreme E

Rosberg stays dedicated to Excessive E

Photograph by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

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