Zak O’Sullivan has certainly had a few weeks that will live long in his memory, with the Cheltenham based driver celebrating his birthday with the news of both joining the Williams F1 Driver Academy, as well as being named BRDC Young Driver of the Year.
Speaking exclusively with Park Life Sports, O’Sullivan commented on the attention he has recieved following the news, with the driver believing all the encouragement he has received since has still not fully resonated with him.
“I think because it’s been such a crazy few weeks it will take a little while to fully sink in. I am so grateful for everything that has happened. It’s taking a while to get used to the increased attention on social media too,” said the current F3 driver.
The news will be welcomed by many based in Gloucestershire especially, with the driver moving to Cheltenham at the age of eight and having lived nearby ever since, and after the travelling requirements for motor racing, it always leaves him excited to return to his home town.
“I live in a lovely village just outside of Cheltenham which has lots of good places for walking and enjoying the landscape. It’s such a lovely area. When I was younger, I also played rugby and cricket in Cheltenham so I have nice memories of that. I think because I’m away a lot it feels extra special coming back to my home town.”
His impressive week of news began with the confirmation of him joining the Williams F1 Driver Academy, being the fifth driver currently part of the setup, alongside another Cheltenham based driver in Jamie Chadwick.
Williams F1 has a strong record of success in their Driver Academy, with two current F1 drivers in Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi progressing through the setup, with Williams also promoting a number of recognizable drivers into F1 seats, the latest of these being new Mercedes driver George Russell.
Formula 1 is the ultimate aim for racing drivers, with O’Sullivan being no different, and is clearly aware of the opportunity in front of him, and is looking to take full advantage.
“Williams Racing is one of the most successful teams in F1 history, and they are respected for both their success on track but also the drivers they have nurtured. I’m so proud to be part of the academy and I know we will work well together.”
And two days after that announcement, O’Sullivan celebrated his 17th birthday by joining the prestigious group in winning the Young Driver of the Year accolade, with the likes of current F1 drivers Lando Norris, George Russell and former F1 world-champion Jenson Button previously claiming the trophy.
One of the many benefits with winning the award is the chance to test an Aston Martin F1 car, with this being an opportunity that the 17-year-old is set to relish.
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s such a special opportunity that only certain people get to experience and I will try to learn as much as possible. It will definitely be a pinch-me moment!”
O’Sullivan has had a meteoric rise through the junior racing series as of late, finishing runner up in the Ginetta Junior Championship and F4 British Championship, before winning the GB3 Championship last year.
Follow his success in recent years, he moves up to the F3 Championship with Carling, teaming up with the UK based team for the third consecutive season, with O’Sullivan valuing the stability and strength of their partnership.
“It is so important to me. I have very strong relationships with the Carling team, especially with my race engineer Anthony. Having a good understanding of each other and how we work makes such a huge difference when trying to find tenths of a second etc,” he continued.
“We were Vice-Champions in British F4 and Champions together in GB3, and we have been through a lot together. I trust them to do their all on my side and they trust me to do my all on mine. I’m so grateful for Trevor Carlin’s support for my career.”
He will be joined in the Carling team by Brad Benavides, a 20-year-old American born driver taking part in his second season with the team, following a season competing in the Euroformula Open Championship.
The GB3 Champion’s preparation for the F3 season is already well underway, as there is just under a month away from the start of the season in Bahrain, with the British and Irish national believing the work will pay dividends across the 18 races this season.
“It’s going well. I had my first test in the car back in November, and we have another in Bahrain before the season starts,” he continued.
“It’s definitely different from past cars I’ve driven. Other preparation includes fitness and work on the simulator with my coaches. There’s so much work away from the track which I think some people don’t realise. It’s hard work but I’m hoping it’ll all pay off.”
With the opening round taking place in Bahrain on March 19, some would hold the lofty ambition to maintain impressive form in the open-wheeled racing, especially if like the Carling driver, they had finished a lowest of second in the standings since their debut in 2019.
For O’Sullivan however, while he is confident in his ability, he is remaining level headed with his expectations for this season, while still aiming to perform strongly in the new car.
“I think my main aim this year is to push the car to its maximum and get every inch of performance out of it. I would love to be fighting for points and podiums regularly, but it is very competitive so we will have to see how the field shapes out! Either way, I will give it 100%.”