Behind the Helmet: Robert Wickens – Part 2
Rob, what was the most frightening moment in your life?
Robert Wickens: I have this feeling that, when I was young, all sorts of weird things happened to me. For example, my mother and I once went picking strawberries. I really loved strawberries, but today I'm allergic to them, which is funny. We often went out picking them. One day, it suddenly started to rain. The rain was so heavy that we couldn't see the road in front of us. It started to hail, and we drove into the car park of the shopping centre near our house. Then a tornado swept along the road we had just driven on. It rushed past us, and a lot of debris was hurled against our car. I was still very young, and I dreamt of tornadoes every night for a whole year. Because I had these recurring dreams of tornadoes, I could no longer be certain when I got older whether this experience had been a dream or reality. So a few years ago, I asked my mother: 'Mum, were we in a tornado when I was younger?' And she confirmed that we were. It was really crazy - the car was moving around on the ground and got lifted up. That was really scary.
Tell us about your private life when you got older. As a young racing driver, you must surely have had a lot of interest from the girls...
Robert Wickens: I'm actually quite a shy person. It takes me a while to get to know someone really well and to feel comfortable with them. It's only then that I start to open up. Maybe I'm no good at flirting, but I've never been a ladies' man or anything like that. I've never been one of those racetrack playboys who charm the grid girls. I've had team-mates who chatted up girls in the paddock and then took off with them. But I've never had any interest in doing that. I was there to race, not to flirt with the girls. I had worked so hard to get there. I didn't want to throw it all away, just because I had girls on my mind and couldn't concentrate on the job.
The story of how you got to know your girlfriend via Tinder is relatively well known. But what was it like when you first met?
Robert Wickens: It's a long story. Because of our line of work, it took a while before we actually met. First of all, I obviously looked at photos of her cosplays, but also normal pictures in her profile with different hairstyles. I wasn't sure whether she might be a hairdresser. Now I know she was wearing wigs. But at the time, I thought to myself, a bit strange, but sweet and also interesting. Unfortunately, it wasn't a match. Because I was on a plane afterwards and then went to see a friend in hospital, my thoughts were elsewhere and I didn't notice that she had sent me a text message. Because I was so distracted, it seemed to her that I wanted to make myself scarce. But that was not what I wanted. I was never the sort of guy who played games. I am very straightforward. That's what I want, and that's the way I am. I'll never tell lies or pretend to be something I'm not. But because I was so busy, it must have seemed to her that I was difficult to get hold of. This made her even more interested, because I probably came across as aloof. But I wasn't trying to be that at all. It's just that I didn't look at my phone, because at that moment, I had other things on my mind.
But eventually you did get around to replying, didn't you?
Robert Wickens: Yes, when I got to the hotel that evening, we started chatting more. Everything was fine, and after I had flown home, I invited her to a Toronto FC football match. But she didn't come, because she had no one to accompany her. On the way home from the game, she called me via Facetime to check out if I was genuine. A friend had told her: 'If he doesn't take the call, he's a fake.' After that, I had to leave again for the next DTM race - I think it was at the Lausitzring. So we didn't meet up for the next three weeks, but we chatted every day and started a kind of virtual relationship. When I flew back to Canada for the Formula 1 race in Montreal, I went straight from the airport to our first date. A week later, we had our second date before I had to go back to Europe and she also had to fly to a show. Because of the nature of our work, it was an unusual start which stretched out somewhat longer than normal.