Dino Beganovic will make his car racing debut in 2020 after joining Ferrari’s Driver Academy. In the second part of this special interview, we explore what being a Formula 1 protege will mean for him and what can be expected from him in Formula 4
Ferrari’s effort with its Driver Academy is becoming more and more structured. And what it expects of its Formula 1 proteges is increasing as well. To make the most of that, and meet those expectations, Dino Beganovic will swap Sweden for Italy after the summer, and move to Maranello once he has finished at school.
“In the city of Maranello, everything’s Ferrari,” Beganovic says. “Everything you see is Ferrari, every cafe every store, there is always some Ferrari logo. The factory is really big. They have the factory for F1 and just a couple meters they have the road car factory.
“It’s just really huge and they want the drivers to spend as much time as possible here in Maranello, to grow up in the team and to breathe the air of Ferrari.”
Headline results will help bolster Beganovic’s reputation as he moves into car racing, but as a rookie the emphasis at Ferrari will be on Beganovic’s progression as a driver and a young man. From Italian language lessons to mental training and physical fitness development, Beganovic will be fully absorbed by Ferrari over the coming months.
“If you take the other F1 teams, they maybe support with the money, but they don’t really care about the programme as much as Ferrari,” says Beganovic. “They really want the drivers to be in the Ferrari family. They want us to spend as much time as possible there, because the weeks are very intense.”
It would be easy to get carried away with the opportunity before him. After all, Prema has successful operations in F4, Formula 3 and Formula 2, while the last two Ferrari-supported drivers to make it to F1 – Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi – both raced with the team.
Though the dream looks tantalisingly within reach, Beganovic remains grounded. There is an arduous path ahead of him, and he is only taking the first steps.
“It’s first of all amazing opportunity to join Prema for the first year in single-seaters,” he says. “It’s a very good way to move up to where my dream and goal is. It feels amazing, but for now I just take it step-by-step, and see how it goes.”
Being realistic, and focusing on the present, will serve Beganovic well. The path to the top of single-seater gets steeper the higher a driver climbs. Rickard Rydell, Dino’s mentor, says his protege faces “an extra pressure” being part of the FDA. But the 1998 British Touring Car champion also points out: “At some time you need to be able to handle that pressure anyway. So you might as well learn it in the early years.”
Confidence and success in karting does not always shift into car racing, and it is not an easy transition. Beganovic admits to being “very nervous” and having “some difficult nights of sleep” as he prepared for his first test, fearing he may not be as good as he was in karting.
“It’s a whole new challenge for me,” Beganovic says. “It’s a standing start and everything is so much bigger and the track, car.
“It is like moving over from ping pong to tennis. Everything is bigger. And it’s a different thing racing as well. The slipstream is very important in car racing, and the dirty air. It will be a new experience for me.”
This season, his first season in Italian Formula 4, will be a challenge . The decision to race in Italy makes sense given his experience in the country, and the competitiveness of the series over British category, which was considered but has a different engine and is less well-populated.
There were 33 drivers at the season opener in Italian F4 last year, and 24 scored points over the course of the season.
So, Beganovic is fortunate to count on a voice of such reason and experience as Rydell as he prepares that challenge. And he knows that the efforts of Rydell – and his old karting team boss Joakim Ward – have played key a role in where he is today.
“Rickard has done an amazing job,” says Dino. “I can’t describe how much he has done for me this last year. And Joakim, he helped me up and had a lot of contact with Rickard as well. But Rickard always tells me that I don’t do it for him, or for the investors, I do it for myself. I enjoy it a lot, I just have to have fun and do what I’m best at. And also when the material is good, and when it’s working, he says that I’m always fastest.”
A quality team and equal machinery will give Beganovic every opportunity to prove that is also the case F4, but Rydell says no specific target has been set. Rydell thinks “the biggest pressure is coming from himself”, and says he’s “trying to tell him to take it easy, relax, not want too much to start with”.
But he will probably have to repeat the message to his protege a few times, because Beganovic is, unsurprisingly, eager to hit the ground running.
“It’s a very competitive championship, with experienced drivers who have been racing there for maybe last year or last two years,” says Beganovic. “So they have an advantage, and there are many rookies. But my goal is always to win.
“The tests we have done, the speed was very good. We made some race simulations as well, and it turned out to be very good. We will see through the season how it goes, but my target is to win.”
// Scott Mitchell