Last year, The Irish Post spoke to Zak O'Sullivan, a British racing driver of Irish descent, about his life in the sport of motor racing. We spoke to the teenager at the time about his goals, dreams, and passion for racing.
Zak was the current champion of the GB3 Championship at the time of the interview, having competed for Carlin Racing. He was also the vice-champion of the 2020 F4 British Championship.
The 18-year-old was born in Cheltenham, England, but has family members that come from Tipperary, Ireland.
The young driver had big dreams to break into the top tier stage of motor racing when we first spoke, and since then, his career has only gone from strength to strength since the first interview in 2022.
O'Sullivan is now a Williams Racing driver in their academy, he's won the prestigious Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year, stepped up a grade in the FIA Formula 3 Championship.
— Zak O'Sullivan (@ZakOSullivan) February 6, 2023
The Irish Post caught up with the racing star for an update on his racing career. We first asked what had changed since last year.
"I think last year was a tricky year," said O'Sullivan. "We struggled a bit more, which was the first time I had been in a situation where I couldn't fight for a championship from the get-go. It was quite interesting, and not something I've liked, but I've learned a lot."
Since moving to Prema Racing and joining the Williams Racing academy, the stakes for the teenager have become higher. Faster cars and better drivers stand in O'Sullivan's way of climbing the motorsport grades again.
He has also had to deal with the headache of traveling on the same schedule as the F1 drivers. He has traveled to countries like Bahrain and Melbourne this year.
"The step up is pretty big. The car is a lot faster. There are also European circuits as well. The last time we spoke, I had only raced in the UK and British-based championships, so it's a bit of a change, really.
"There's a lot of learning to do. Also, with the three and two Formula cars, the tires are quite difficult to grasp. They are based on the F1 style of degradation. There's a lot of tire management, and they are quite complex to understand. Sure, it's a learning curve, but it's a good one, for sure."
Finding a win has been harder since making the step up for O'Sullivan, but following the disqualification of Franco Colapinto, who had originally finished first, O'Sullivan was promoted to race winner and thus scored his first victory in Formula 3 this month.
He also finished second in the sprint race that same weekend.
"It's always nice to win a race," added the driving star. "The travel is always worth it."
"It was a cool weekend. It's a new circuit for everyone in F3. Yeah, it was nice to win the sprint race, and the feature race was a bit hard to overtake, but yeah, it was seen as a positive weekend with points on the board.
"I think on that track, patience was the virtue, really."
"And I think with the DRS, it was hard to overtake, but generally, I made fewer mistakes than in Bahrain, which is always nice, you know."
As mentioned already, O'Sullivan managed to earn himself a place in the prestigious Williams Driver Academy last year. The Academy is an initiative from the Formula One team Williams to promote talent in different racing series by helping them with funds, with the hope of finding drivers who will race for the team in the future. Notable graduates of the scheme are Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi, who both made their F1 debuts with Williams.
O'Sullivan admitted that the organization has been a 'massive' help to him since joining.
"I think it's really cool. Williams has such a big heritage in the sport of motor racing and within F1. Being involved and under their wing has been a massive help for me. I think the fact that you can lean back and learn from an F1 team is always really helpful. I hope it continues."
The perks of being in an academy like that are that you get to speak to people who have reached the highest level of the sport.
One of Williams' current F1 drivers, Alex Albon, has offered advice to the young Williams driver about how he can make it up the grades in the sport.
"Alex is a really nice guy, and it's always good to have a chat with people like him," added O'Sullivan. "Being with Williams, it's great to have access to Alex, and now Logan moving up as well. It's been pretty cool, and chatting with them has always been quite useful."
It's clear to see that O'Sullivan has come a long way since we first spoke. We ended the interview by asking about his hopes and ambitions for the future.
"In the F3 season, my main priority is to try and win the championship. That's the goal, and after that, we'll see. Moving to Formula 2 could be on the cards next year, and again, that will be another learning year in a new category, and we'll see how we do."
"On the F3 weekend, we share the same track with F2 and F1 drivers, and seeing them there is nice. F2 is in touching distance. F1, obviously, is further away, but with Williams, I have a foot in the door, which is quite nice. Provided I do my job, hopefully, there should be an opportunity."
Despite Zak's successful career to date, funding the sport of motor racing is not easy.
Zak's push to the top of the sport requires sponsorship, and companies like WinkWorth Estate Agents have been supporting him for the past three years.
"Of course, motorsport is one that requires significant financing, so any support I can get is important. Whether it's from the UK or Ireland, or any other country, it will be welcomed."
"I think it's the key to people racing, and of course, I have the support of Williams, and they are helping me along. Any other support we can get is always welcome."
O'Sullivan's next race will be at the famous Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on the weekend of May 19-20.
— Zak O'Sullivan (@ZakOSullivan) April 3, 2023