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Sabré Cook: the lady of the two worlds

Exclusive interview with American Sabré Cook, the driver-engineer that is carrying momentum in the second part of the W-Series inaugural season.

Sabré Cook picked up her first W-Series championship points in the third round in Misano, after a couple of tough races in Hockenheim and Zolder. In Italy, she impressively recovered through the field to finish 8th. The 24-year old proved that the top 10 is where she belongs in yet another solid weekend at the Norisring, finishing P7.

A Colorado native, Cook enjoyed international success in karting before making her debut in single seaters on home soil, running partial seasons in US F4 and in the Road to Indy's USF2000.

But Sabré Cook is not only a talented driver that dreams about a future in Indycar, one of the most competitive open-wheel series in the world: she also lives in the UK, in the heart of Formula One's engineering hub. She is in fact a member of the Infiniti Engineering Academy and currently works on the Infiniti engineering program with access to the Renault F1 Team facilities.

With now first hand knowledge of American and European motorsport, both as an engineer and as a driver, Sabré Cook is now closer then ever to her dreams.

Not many young people can say to be pursuing a career as an international racing driver and as a Formula 1 engineer at the same time. Let alone having the potential to excel at both.

She was kind enough to have a chat with us in Nuremberg, Germany, after Saturday's race.

“I love racing, I love competing, I love engineering, I love pushing new technologies to the next level.”

Racers: How did you started your career in racing?

Sabré: I started driving go-karts, the first time I drove one I was about 8. My dad raced motocross and supercross professionally for team Honda back in the 80s and he and my mom did not want us to race in motorcycles, because it’s not if you get hurt, it’s when.

So we got into karting as an alternative and I started racing when I was 10. I stayed in karting for a really long time and I had a lot of success both nationally and internationally.

In 2017 I finally made the jump into cars, full time; quite late obviously, for how old I am, but now I’m on this journey and that’s how I got to this point.

R: You also raced in Italy in karting, right?

S: I only did the World Championship, and then I did the World Finals with Rotax, but that was in Portugal. But yeah, I did the World Cup a few years ago, and that was like the best race I’ve ever done. I just had a really great time and I think I was maybe the first female to ever make it into the finals, which was quite an accomplishment.

It was a really cool experience for me. Actually, the last time I was back in Italy, it was racing with the W-Series.

R: How was the switch from karting to cars?

S: Honestly for me it’s been quite difficult. You know, with karting I was able to practice a lot more as I have a kart track at home that my dad runs. I was able to get a lot of seat time, kind of whenever I wanted.

And obviously there’s a lot more dynamics going on with the car. So transitioning to that, I feel like I’m doing ok but I definitely had to reach out to people that know what they’re doing, to increase my learning curve as quickly as possible to perform here in the W-Series and in other series that I’ve been doing.

But yeah, it was definitely a difficult job, some people switch really easily but for me it’s been hard.

R: Tell us a little bit more about your background in engineering. How does it help you in setting the car up?

S: Well, with the W-Series we’re quite limited on what we can set-up. Obviously with the limited window of changes that we can make, I can obviously theorize well and think about what the best things can be, but it’s so close that you’re not gonna gain too much advantage with the changes that we do.

But obviously my background in engineering really helps me understand why we do the changes that we do and maybe understanding why a certain change might be better because maybe it will help the aero balance versus the mechanical balance. I guess it’s just knowing how each thing effects the car and it makes me understand on a deeper level when I’m driving and when I’m engineering.

Sometimes it can be bad, because I overthink things! [she laughs]. But I think overall it’s really nice to be able to understand both sides, but I do have to make sure that on race weekends I’m purely focusing as a driver.

R: What does motorsports means to you? I know it’s a big question…

S: It is! I mean, motorsport is kind of my entire life right now. I love racing, I love competing, I love engineering, I love pushing new technologies to the next level and see how you can cross over different areas of technology and for me that’s why I really love motorsport.

At the end of the day, it is a competition and it’s entertainment also. You can meet amazing people through motorsports, with different backgrounds. That’s just an overview: I love the driving, I love the technology and I love the people. It’s a combination.

R: What do you think are the biggest differences between racing in Europe and racing in the USA?

S: The obvious difference is the tracks, they are quite different. I’m not going to say that the aggression level is any different, I think it’s quite aggressive in both areas. Some of the rules are a bit different, just how the governing bodies decide to make calls during races, but that changes from series to series.

It’s mostly just the tracks and learning the culture.

R: Is Indycar something that interests you on the long run?

S: One-hundred percent. Indycar is what I decided was my realistic goal three years ago and I think that if I continue to work hard that’s not completely out of the question. So that’s definitely something I’m going to keep working towards long term.

R: Given your knowledge of both American and European racing, what do you think are the changes that F1 needs to fix its problems right now?

S: That’s a sensitive question! I think they’ve already started to take steps in the right direction, I mean, changing the way the aero is, changing the wings and amount of elements and stuff like that, to make sure that there’s not as much aero wash for the cars to race a little bit closer.

But at the end of the day, when you have teams with such variable budgets, they’re able to interpret the rules where they see fit and they can come up with so many different variations of the same solution to the same problem, it’s going to be hard to always keep the racing super tight.

Obvisouly Indycar is spec chassis, so it makes it a little bit easier in that regard. What they can do is try, maybe, to implement one engine manufacturer, but I know a lot of people will hate that. But it’s so hard. What could we do to make F1 better, if all those things would make F1 not F1 anymore? It is the way it is for a reason, because it has always been about new innovations and obviously there are going to be gaps because of that, and because of the budgets.

Really hard question, but I think it’s progressing in the right direction.

R: Ultimately, how do you rate your season so far?

S: 1 out of 10?

R: Yeah, why not!

S: I’ll give myself a 7…and I’ve finished 7th today! There have definitely been moments when I could have done better, I was a bit unfortunate in the first few races and obviously I’m not perfect, I’m still learning and making mistakes everyday. But overall, I think it’s on the positive trend now, after those first few races.

This championship has added so much value to my resume, as a driver and as an engineer. Even though I’m here as a driver, here the engineers are willing to explain things; there are so many of them with an amazing amount of experience and they’re willing to share it, so I really appreciate that aspect.

Getting seat time for me has been super important: the fact that I get all this seat time on new tracks, on a constistent basis for the first time ever is why I feel like I’m progressing quite fast right now. It’s been a great experience.

R: Do you like switching engineers here in the W-Series?

S: I love switching engineers because you get to learn something from each one of them. There are guys that are young and new, and you get to learn with them or you look at things in different ways. And then there are guys that have tons of experience and you can get so much information from them.

I think it’s a great thing, and also you learn how to communicate with different people. I think it’s important to learn how to communicate with everyone in the team, not just the engineers, but also the mechanics, the managers, so I think it’s a good thing.

“The fact that I get all this seat time on new tracks, on a constistent basis for the first time ever is why I feel like I’m progressing quite fast right now. It’s been a great experience.”

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