Ricardo Teixeira, a Portuguese-Angolan racing driver who most notably served as the test and reserve driver for Team Lotus and the Caterham F1 team, discussed his racing career and the challenges of Formula One with Formula1News.co.uk managing editor Suliman Mulhem.
Like most other Formula One drivers, Teixeira started out his racing career competing in karting championships from a very early age, before rising through various single-seater categories such as the now-defunct British Formula 3 and GP2 series.
Specifically, he first drove a go-kart when he was just eight years old and began competing in local and national championships in Portugal just months later.
Teixeira said the biggest challenge he encountered on the road to F1 was having to leave Portugal and move to the UK, as he believed this was the only way for him to have a decent shot of making it.
“In the beginning, I had to work extra hard because my rivals in the UK were a step ahead of me in terms of experience,” he said, before adding that he believes this ultimately helped him develop more quickly.
In 2011, Ricardo Teixeira became the first Angolan to drive a Formula One car after he joined Team Lotus as their official test and reserve driver.
He kept the role when the constructor was re-branded Caterham F1 and stayed with the team until the end of the 2013 season.
The Caterham F1 team subsequently went into administration in late 2014, and the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – which they were only able to enter after a successful crowdfunding campaign – ended up being their last race in Formula One.
“It was an amazing experience. Everybody was pushing to improve the car and there was a lot of fighting spirit within the team. I still keep in touch with a lot of people that worked there… most of them actually still work in F1, spread out across different teams.
“I did grow a lot as a driver and as a person during my time in Formula One, and I feel grateful to have been part of such an amazing project [at Team Lotus and Caterham],” he added.
“It is very tough for a brand-new team to enter F1 and try to compete at the same level with the teams that have years of continuous experience in the sport and have a better understanding of how F1 works.”
Despite not getting the opportunity to race in Formula One, Ricardo Teixeira still accomplished an impressive feat and is likely to remain the only ever Angolan to have driven an F1 car for the foreseeable future, though 20-year-old Rui Andrade will no doubt be looking to change that.
Teixeira last raced in 2017, competing in the Asian Le Mans series with Jackie Chan DC Racing – a Wuhan-based team co-owned by actor Jackie Chan and American racing driver David Cheng.
“At the moment, I work a lot with automotive events, coaching on track and car development for a few teams, in addition to working in Formula 1 in a different role within the F1 Paddock Club,” he said.
Rule Changes Will Encourage Teams To Enter F1
When asked about the upcoming rule changes – specifically, the new 2022 technical regulations, the $145 million budget cap, and the revised prize money distribution agreement – Teixeira said he is hopeful that they will help level the playing field in Formula One.
“The new agreements will hopefully incentivise new teams to enter F1, which should in turn lead to more on-track action for spectators to enjoy and more options on the grid for drivers who are shining in Formula Two.”
Over the last decade, three teams have left Formula One due to financial difficulties, while just one constructor – the Haas F1 Team – has joined the grid.
So, the addition of new works or independent teams to Formula One would certainly be welcomed by all stakeholders of the sport, especially Liberty Media and the fans.
However, despite the rule changes, some teams are likely to continue to rely on so-called “pay drivers” to bring in much-needed sponsorship dollars.
Teixeira, who has been sponsored by Angolan petroleum company Sonangol throughout his career, said he doesn’t think there is anything inherently wrong with drivers indirectly paying for their seats in Formula One.
“All drivers need to have massive support behind them if they want to make it to Formula One. Having the ‘full package’ – talent and financial backing – can greatly increase the chances of a driver landing a seat in Formula One,” he said.
“We have to look at motor racing as a business. Teams need drivers that are extremely talented, but also some that can bring in sponsors.
“The big teams don’t need such arrangements, but many do need this extra money so they can improve their cars, pay salaries, and make the team stronger, so I don’t have anything against it,” Teixeira concluded.
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