With Formula Two currently on a late-season break ahead of the final two rounds of 2021 season, I caught up with Bent Viscaal to discuss his racing career, F2 calendar and his F1 ambitions.
Having enjoyed solid success in karting, Viscaal has gone on to endure four title misses in his first two seasons of single-seater racing before enduring a challenging time in F3, yet now has established himself in F2 with Trident.
Viscaal has now exclusively spoken with me about his motorsport journey so far as he candidly reflects on the lessons learned from four title fights, his F3 struggles and offers his opinion on the F2 calendar plus Dutch motorsport fans as well as his F1 ambitions for the future.
Who inspired you to become a racing driver?
Viscaal: “I never really had an idol, or someone who inspired me to become a race driver. If I need to name a driver who impressed me the most, I would say Jenson Button – because of his attitude, sportsmanship and race craft.”
Having enjoyed solid success in karting with 2011 Euro Wintercup and 2015 German Junior Karting titles of note, what was it like developing your racecraft in karting and applying those skills in Spanish and North European F4 Championships?
Viscaal: “Obviously you learn a lot in karting, especially regarding vehicle control. When I started in single seater racing, I could apply almost every racing lesson I learned in karting – only thing is, the car is a bit bigger!”
Having missed out on 2017 SMP and Spanish F4 titles to Christian Lundgaard then 2018 EuroFormula and Spanish F3 titles to Felipe Drugovich, how tough was it to experience four title misses in your first two seasons of single-seater racing and has those experiences benefitted you when racing them since in F2?
Viscaal: “Well, it wasn’t fun, but second place wasn’t bad either. I would love to be champion in those classes, but it wasn’t meant to be back then. I’ve known Christian and Felipe for a while, but every young driver develops.
“The battles we had back then aren’t really beneficial nowadays – they’ve become stronger, as did I.”
2019 saw you graduate to F3 with HWA Racelab where you struggled at times in your rookie season with just one points finish (fifth in French Feature Race). Looking back now, what did you find to be the toughest aspect of that season as a rookie?
Viscaal: “The hardest part was the downgrade. Every driver hopes to learn during a season, especially when it’s his or her first year in a certain series.
“We hit some trouble during the 2019 season and therefore it went backwards instead of forward, which made it extremely difficult to compare and learn.”
Last season saw you join MP Motorsport where you found consistency and a maiden F3 win at Silverstone after being cruelly denied in Hungary. Compared to 2019 how much did it mean to be able to make progress last season and especially get that thrilling win as a Dutch driver racing for a Dutch team?
Viscaal: “It felt like payback when I won at Silverstone. I felt like I deserved the win in Budapest. After a difficult 2019 season, it was nice to be at the front more often.”
This season has seen you enjoy various highs and lows in F2 with Trident – including a second-placed finish at Italian Sprint Race Two. From your perspective, what has it been like adapting to F2 and Trident amidst a lengthy calendar full of gaps and new race weekend format which has been dropped for next season?
Viscaal: “I’m not a big fan of the 2021 calendar, but it is what it is and as drivers, we have to deal with what they present to us. Three races in one weekend isn’t that bad – as there is more spectacle for the fans – but it wouldn’t be bad to have some more race weekends and especially, have them more frequently.”
With F1 being your ultimate aim, how nice has it been as a Dutch driver to see the nation reigniting their motorsport passion and how much would it mean to eventually race in front of your home fans in the future after F2 skipped Zandvoort this season?
Viscaal: “It’s absolutely brilliant. The motorsports vibe in The Netherlands coincided with my debut in auto racing, so it couldn’t be better.
“Obviously it was a pity that F3 raced at Zandvoort and F2 didn’t, but at least I was able to visit the track on Sunday and enjoy the party.
“I never raced at Zandvoort, only at the TT Circuit in Assen. It would be good to race at Zandvoort one day!”
Finally, what are your ambitions for the future and especially given the rise in young drivers looking towards IndyCar and Formula E due to limited opportunities in F1?
Viscaal: “I would love to compete in Formula One, but it’s not that simple to get a seat in that series. It’s never bad to keep certain opportunities open.”