James Calado, a name you’ll have heard within the world of motorsport, and if you haven’t, where have you been? The British racing driver is currently competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship for AF Corse. James is no rookie when it comes to racing; his experience as a driver expands from single-seater series such as GP2, Formula E and Formula One, and taking part, and winning 2019 24 Hour Le Mans.
I’ve always been interested in how racing drivers can adapt to different series and, ultimately, different cars. James Calado was the perfect person to sit down and speak to about his motorsport experiences.
Now, I’ve often seen the WEC vs F1 debate floating through the motorsport hemisphere, which has always made me wonder whether single-seater racing is, in fact, more complex. “I would say no car is harder than the other”, James told me, “It’s more about the level of the championship that we are competing in. If anything, single-seaters are easier in the fact they are lighter and have more downforce.”
There are some main differences between the two series, “I think it’s clear that endurance racing is more about the long-distance and working with a teammate with who you share the car. It’s important to have a good strategy, and obviously not always the quickest driver will win.” Many endurance drivers have said that preparing for long stint races can be more ‘mind over matter’ than the physical demands expected from Formula One drivers. “Le Mans is very demanding, and it’s important to keep the car in one piece and to rest as much as possible as it’s a long week, but with experience now, I find myself able to manage 24-hour races in a good way.”
Since 2014, Formula E has slowly begun gaining popularity with not just racing fans but with manufacturers too. Although it doesn’t take the spotlight of Formula One right now, it does provide closer racing without a dominating world champion. James Calado raced in Formula E with Jaguar in the 2019-2020 Championship; he told me, “(It) is certainly unique, and very software related. They are different to drive and very complex machines. Formula E was always an interest as I saw it as one of the most competitive championships to be involved in. Unfortunately, with the covid situation, I only did a handful of races, and that didn’t work in my favour despite scoring points in most races.”
Alongside Formula E, James had retained his seat with AF Corse in the World Endurance Championship; I asked him whether it was challenging to switch between them. “Both cars are completely different”, James stated, “Driving the Ferrari is second nature to me; I have been at Ferrari a few years now, and I’m used to the car and the Italian Culture. Formula E was completely new; it wasn’t so much about knowing how to drive the car quick, more about getting on top of the energy management and how to be efficient in a race.”
It was exciting to gain an insight into James’ career, which has spanned across a range of different racing series. I couldn’t let him leave without asking which series he had enjoyed the most and what his dream would be. He replied: “The series I have enjoyed the most is WEC, there is a great atmosphere within the championship, and sports cars produce great racing. I was the third driver at Force India, and I competed in many FP1 sessions”, he recalled, “So, I had my taste in F1, but for political reasons, I wasn’t able to get myself a seat although offers were on the table. I’m extremely happy to be working with Ferrari and really enjoy the racing. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Thank you to James for talking with me; we wish you the best of luck in the World Endurance Championship this season. WEC kicks off next week at Spa Francorchamps on the 1st May 2021.