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22/04/2024 News

Olivier Panis: "I like to pass on my knowledge to our drivers so that one day they leave the nest stronger!"

Paris, April 22th 2024 - The former F1 driver, now Team Principal of his own team, talks about his motivations as he embarks on his ninth season in the ELMS.

"I like to pass on my knowledge to our drivers so that one day they leave the nest stronger!"

After the racing career you've had, what keeps you racing with your own team?

It's often said that passion is greater than reason! I've been very lucky to have had the career I've had, thanks to the enormous help from ELF. It was thanks to them that I got my start, that I got into Formula 1, and today I play a sort of ambassadorial role that is close to my heart, to give a little back. As far as my team is concerned, I've always said 'never'. I know what a complicated job it is. Then one day some friends, including Fabien Barthez, got me on board, and the adventure has been going on for nine years now! And ELF has always followed me. We share the same passion and I'm proud to still be wearing their colours after F1. For everyone, ELF embodies motor racing.


What drives you in your role as Team Principal?

I love endurance racing and what drives me is passion, of course. The DNA of our team is to train young drivers and pass on to them what I have learnt myself during my career. In eight years, with Paul-Loup Chatin, Will Stevens and Job Van Uitert, we have had three drivers who have gone on to become professionals, respectively with the Alpine Endurance Team with ELF in Hypercar, with Jota Sport in Hypercar and with IDEC Sport in LMP2. I'm happiest when I'm on a circuit with a close-knit team and strong ambitions. In human terms, it's great! It's a real adrenalin rush.

Why did you choose the ELMS?

Firstly because LMP2s are no longer allowed in FIA WEC. In any case, we've always chosen the ELMS because it's a championship where the level has always been very high, and it also corresponds to what we can do in the right conditions. Today, all the best LMP2 teams are present in ELMS, and there are some superb crews too, so it's a great challenge. But both technically and humanly, we have the weapons to do well, we have a very fine line-up of drivers, and I think we're going to give the big teams a run for their money, at least I'm doing it to win. We've already finished second, third and fourth. We've always been in the top five but we've never won.


What is the recipe for success in the ELMS?

Consistency, of course. You have to be consistent in your performance, the drivers have to be consistent too, and they have to make no mistakes, because there's a lot of traffic on the track in the ELMS. After that, mistakes are human. What I like is the relationship with the drivers, that's where I come into play and where I have added value. I feel it when they're not in the best of moods, so I try to reassure them and make sure they're comfortable. You have to teach them how to win when you have the best car, but also how to come second or third when you don't have the best car. In any case, we have a real family spirit here, we're close-knit, and I firmly believe that when we all move forward together, when we try to understand our mistakes together, without pressing where it hurts, then we come out stronger.

What would you say is your greatest quality?

It's obvious that I have a lot of character, and sometimes a real pig temper, but I trust people. I'll never let someone down if they're not acting in bad faith. Deep down I'm a real nice guy, and when I give it my all, I always give it my all. Job Van Uitert was really annoyed when he called me to tell me that he'd been offered a free ride with another team, but I'm delighted for him and I'm proud of what's happened to him. Even today, he still calls me to ask for advice and I'm happy to do it because he's given his all for Panis Racing. I do this so that one day they leave the nest stronger than when they first joined and become professional drivers.


What do you think of your trio of drivers, who have just finished the opening round in Barcelona in fifth place?

I know Manuel Maldonado very well. He's an incredible human being, and he hasn't yet revealed the full extent of his potential. I'm more familiar with Charles Milesi and Arthur Leclerc, even though I've been following them for quite some time. They both have a great attitude, they're hard-working and they're really quick. Charles is now a professional driver, he's starting to have a lot of experience, so he'll obviously have a bit of a leadership role. But the key to success in Endurance racing is that the three of them work together. In any case, from what I saw on the opening day of the championship, it's promising. Back home, we've always been lucky enough to have drivers who are very communicative and sharing. In this discipline, you have to be consistent and find a set-up that suits all three of them. The crew has to be a real trio in good times and bad. When you're in F1, you act like an egotist, you only race for yourself. Here the dynamic is totally different, but the sauce already seems to have taken well.