Oliver Stewart spoke exclusively to F1 Feeder Series about his progress this year in the British F4 Championship racing with Silverstone-based outfit Hitech GP and his aspirations for the future.
By Tom Evans
15-year-old Stewart had a very successful karting career which started locally in his home country of Scotland. “My dad (Jeff Stewart) started racing a long time ago, but stopped when my sister was born, so around 16 years” explained Stewart when asked about how he found himself wanting to race. “When I was about five or six years old my dad never pushed me to do any motorsport, he always sat back and let me make my own decisions. But one day I just turned around and said ‘Dad when are we getting a kart?’ so it all started from there.
Stewart contested karts locally in Scotland, but once his talent was recognised by both family members and sponsors he started to compete in bigger championships across the United Kingdom.
“When racing in Scotland, it wasn’t for fun but it was more for enjoyment than anything. As I started to get better we decided that I had potential so we started seeing how well I did in other places and championships. And we started doing alright!”
The move to single seaters
For most successful karters like Stewart, if the results are there and the budget is available the next logical step is to move into some sort of car racing. When asked if he had carefully considered his options before his move into British F4, Stewart explained; “Well it wasn’t actually up to us, it was up to Ross-Shire Engineering my main sponsor. They’ve been amazing in helping me throughout my career so I’m very thankful.”
When you’re not from a rich background you don’t expect these opportunities to come every day, so when they do its quite shockingOliver Stewart
“We had a meeting at his house (Alan Dallas, owner of Ross-Shire Engineering) and he presented us with several racing opportunities, one of which was F4. When you’re not from a rich background you don’t expect these opportunities to come every day, so when they do its quite shocking.”
Adapt, improvise, overcome
When describing the differences between cars and karts, Stewart explained the two biggest things to get used to: “Tyre warming is very important and could be the difference between winning and losing a race. In karting you can just throw the kart about really aggressively and that’ll get heat into the tyres. But in cars you’ve got to gently scrub the surface to not wear them.”
“In karts, you don’t apply much brake pressure as you’ll just end up locking the back wheels and spinning off. But in a car you’ll have to stand on it as hard as you possibly can. There are so many different techniques to learn, so its been a difficult transition.”
My sponsors, engineers and boss all have their expectations, some being slightly different to othersOliver Stewart
“Yeah, our preseason was successful.” says Stewart when questioned on the topic. “My engineer, Alec, and chief engineer, Matt, have been brilliant in helping me get where I need to be. My sponsors, engineers and boss all have their expectations, some being slightly different to others, but it’s been good so far.”
When queried about the choice of team for the 2022 season Stewart explained; “Well I’ve had Rob McIntyre who’s currently Oscar Piastri’s manager, so he gave us some opportunities with a few different teams. But we were really impressed with Hitech and I’m so fortunate to be in a team with them.”
“Ollie (Oliver) Oakes who’s the team boss wont take any messing about, but he’s been amazing. He really does push you on to be the best driver possible.”
Sharp learning curve
When asked about the environment within Hitech and how his teammates have helped him this year, Stewart replied; “My team mates have also pushed me. Alex Dunne who’s doing Italian and British F4, and winning in both categories. And Eduardo Coseteng is in his second year, so there’s plenty to learn, as both of them have their individual strong points.
“My goal for the season was to get a couple of race wins, but also to progressively improve round on round. To be consistently fighting at the front for the rest of the year would put us in a great position for next year”
The momentum from that will definitely give us some good pace for Knockhill, and hopefully the rest of the seasonOliver Stewart
From scoring no points in the first round of the season, to fighting for front row qualifying positions and podiums just three rounds later, Stewart was pleased with how the most recent rounds have gone. “Croft was excellent, and was a massive confidence boost for both my engineers and mechanics, but also sponsors and people who support me. The momentum from that will definitely give us some good pace for Knockhill, and hopefully the rest of the season.”
When talking about his future in motorsport, Stewart doesn’t have a set plan: “To be honest I haven’t looked at anything for next year. I’m more focused on doing the best I can this season.”
“Its not up to us where we end up next year, as we’re the ones lucky enough to be getting sponsored to do all this. But my manager, dad and sponsors have had some conversations. At the moment its looking good so hopefully I will be on the grid next year, whether its British F4, GB3 or anything else.
Header photo credit: Hitech GP
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