Jerónimo Berrío: ‘This year helped me grow as a man and as a driver’

For his first year of racing outside his native Colombia, Jerónimo Berrío exceeded the expectations by showing an impressive progression throughout his French F4 season.  The 16-year-old driver talked to F1 Feeder Series about his maiden single-seaters campaign, and his plans for the future that should bring him to Spain.

By Perceval Wolff

Jerónimo Berrío was born on July 14th 2006, only a couple of days after the last F1 Grand Prix that featured a Colombian driver – Juan Pablo Montoya at Indianapolis. Despite never having the opportunity to cheer for one of his countrymen in F1, Berrío always has been in the world of motorsport. “What created the passion was my family because my dad and my two uncles raced in Colombia in karting and then in rally cars” Jerónimo Berrío says.

“I only discovered F1 around 2015, when Vettel joined Ferrari. I am and always will be a big Vettel fan, that needs to be said. All the battles with Rosberg, Hamilton, Mercedes… it fuelled my dream of joining this world one day.” After collecting several titles on the national Colombian karting scene, Berrío knew what the next step of his career would be.

A Colombian in France

Due to the COVID pandemic, French F4 had to go through two seasons with less than twenty drivers. However, for this year, the single-team championship welcomed 24 drivers from all over the world, including eleven foreign drivers. Amongst these international drivers was Jerónimo Berrío, the first Colombian driver to enter this championship since Christian Muñoz in 2017. Why did Berrío chose this category?

“At the end of 2021 we didn’t have anything planned. I had won the ticket to race at the KZ (gearbox karting) World Championship, but I decided to start testing F4 and to go to single-seaters. French F4 quickly became the best choice for us. Indeed, there are no teams engaged, so everybody has the same material” Berrío says.

“Moreover, we saw that there were a lot of very talented drivers that came out from this championship. So we thought this could be a really good and solid starting point for my single-seater career.”

Unlike many of his rivals who had been racing in karting in France for years or at least in Europe, the Colombian driver had to face a major cultural change as well as the challenge of living on his own. All of this while trying to focus on his racing and on the improvement of his driving skills.

“It was my first year living alone in France and also my first championship in Europe. What I loved was that I was doing my passion the whole day. I was training, and everything I was doing was related to racing, so it was the first time that I felt like a true racing driver.

“At first, it was difficult, because of the language of course, but also because I was living alone at 15 years old, learning to cook, to clean… so it has been pretty hard. But this year helped me grow as a man and as a driver. It has definitely been an amazing experience.”

Fraïsse and Villagomez

Berrío was not totally alone as he could rely on his French driver coach, former IAME World karting champion Vincent Fraïsse, who started working with him at the beginning of the year. “We met Vincent because Nicolas Baptiste [another Colombian driver racing in FRECA] used to know Vincent from karting. When we started F4 we didn’t know many people, especially in France, we were totally new to this world.”

“I have known Nicolas for years and he put me in contact with Vincent. We first met at pre-season testing and instantly had a good chemistry. For all the work he did this year, I have a lot of gratitude.”

Even though all drivers are technically all teammates, Berrío had a special bond with another French F4 driver, also discovering Europe and coached by Vincent Fraïsse. “I lived in Le Mans for the whole year, and I was always with Mateo Villagomez, who is a really good driver. We really had all the advantages of a “teammate” relationship as we were always pushing each other forward. We always went to the gym together, doing the same thing all the time. These are moments I will never forget, for sure.”

Starting from the bottom…

If Berrío had an impressive season, it’s especially thanks to his remarkable progression throughout the year. After battling for P15 in the opening round at Nogaro, he then improved to fight for points at Pau, then for podiums at Magny-Cours, and then finally for the win in nearly all of the last four rounds, eventually clinching his maiden victory at Paul-Ricard.

This first meeting really boosted me to push even more, to fight every day to keep on improving.

Jerónimo Berrío

“That first round at Nogaro, I wanted to win the race, because that always is my mentality when I’m racing. But I quickly realized that I had a big lack of experience compared to the other drivers and that I would have to work hard to win. But this first meeting really boosted me to push even more, to fight every day to keep on improving.

“Ending the season on a high with a first win was something really special. We got several podiums and we had so many strong races. Of course, without some little mistakes I did throughout the year, it could have been even better, but from those mistakes you learn.”

“I can assure you I will never overtake under a yellow flag again, even if it is for a win!” he said in reference to the move he performed on Giusti for the second place at the Bus Stop Chicane at Spa-Francorchamps in the final lap of the race, costing him a 30-second penalty.

Making the leap to FIA F3

F1 Feeder Series revealed one month ago that Jerónimo Berrío was in talks to join Spanish F4 in 2023. However, after a strong French F4 season, why doesn’t the Colombian aim to join FRECA or Eurocup-3?

“It’s not an easy question, but we thought Spanish F4 was the best choice for me. FRECA is a really good championship, a series where there is a lot of level, very competitive drivers… but it’s also a really expensive category. For us, we thought it was better to do two years in F4, try to do a very good result on the second one, and try the year after to jump to FIA F3. That’s the plan, that’s what we are working on.”

“Both options have their pros and cons, for sure, but we are heading to Spanish F4 because it’s a championship that is growing a lot. I find it good to gain more experience in F4, before a bigger jump.”

The Colombian driver is currently testing for MP Motorsport at the official Spanish F4 post-season testing session at Barcelona.

Header photo credit: Tom Turschwel

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