Formula One returned to Mexico in 2015 following a 22-year absence, inspiring a whole new generation of young racing fans. But someone who was already racing is Alexandra Mohnhaupt. The 18-year-old is among a growing number of young girls in South America taking up motorsport as a hobby, but for her now it has become a career with F1 her dream. I spoke to her about racing in Mexico and Great Britain and her hopes for this season and the future.
Having always been interested in cars and racing, Alexandra took up motorsport at the age of 9. “I’ve always had contact with cars, when I was a little girl I played with cars rather than puppies (typical girls toys),” she told me. Racing started as a hobby for her, however after starting to compete and being successful, Mohnhaupt decided that it could be something to take more seriously with her goal being F1 since she was 11 years old.
Her first experience in karting came after her friends recommended a nearby track. “It was a Sunday morning, and we didn’t know what to do so I asked my Dad if we could go to some go-karts that my friends told me about. We went and there were some kids training, and one of them asked me if it wanted to drive for a little bit. It was just amazing,” she explained. Following this, she spoke to her father about driving more regularly and managed to persuade him to buy her, her very own go-kart. “He did, and that’s when it all started,” Alexandra joked.
As said, racing was originally a hobby but after starting to compete on a national level, Mohnhaupt decided it could be something more. Explaining, she said: “I jumped into the national races and I was doing pretty well, so that was when I decided to keep going forward. When I jumped into the F4 car, I said ‘that’s what I want to do’ and everything I do now, the training, the eating, everything I do is for my racing.” A story that is reiterated by others, often young racers don’t consider a career in the sport until they achieve success on a national stage when winning gives them the confidence to try and pursue a career.
The F4 testing that changed her life, has lead to several seasons in the formula. Alexandra has raced in the FIA Formula 4 categories in both the UK and Mexico, though says adapting to different styles of driving and tracks isn’t easy. “There are more difficult tracks in Great Britain than in Mexico, also the level of competition is higher in Britain,” Mohnhaupt told me. However, this hasn’t discouraged her with plans to move to Europe this year to compete more on the international racing scene.
The championship she is looking at racing in is European Formula 3 having previously tested F3 cars. “They’re very different (F4 and F3). The style of how you drive the car (is different) because there is more ‘aero’ and more downforce. Also, the g-force makes it more complicated to drive, and it’s also faster, but I like it,” Alexandra explained. This February she will further test F3 cars with the hope of racing in British Formula 3 later this year. She knows that no matter how much testing she does it will be a challenge to move into F3, but it is a challenge she is up for.
Only a few weeks ago, Mohnhaupt was awarded the Citizen of the Year award in her native Mexico. Speaking of the award, she told me: “it was amazing to be recognised. It was because I inspire a lot of people to ignore stereotypes and to believe that it’s not just a man’s sport and they can do something in it.” This is something she is extremely proud of, and hopes to continue to do. As she does inspire so many people it was only right to ask her advice to the youngsters who admire her. “Just do what you want to do and don’t care what other people say. You should believe in your dreams and goals,” Mohnhaupt advised, adding: “I want to help girls and make it easier for them to be in this sport.”
Alexandra also spoke of the people who inspire her, saying: “I really look up to Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen as racing drivers, but also how they act as normal people. I think it’s what counts the most, how you behave off the track, because it all shows. The people you surround yourself with if they are positive and good people, then you do good.” If you are a role-model, as Mohnhaupt is, it is important that not only are you a good example on-track, but also how you handle yourself off-track and outside of the sport.
Alexandra is keen to race more in Europe; however, this cannot happen until she has finished her studies in a couple of months. School work is particularly important to her with her telling me: “I think education is really important because you don’t know whether it will work or not. If it doesn’t work with racing then I need to have a plan B as a career.” Though that doesn’t mean she always wants to be at school as she added: “I’m doing OK at school but I just want to drive.”
With her aim of racing internationally set in her sights, Alexandra Mohnhaupt is a woman on a mission when it comes to her career. She is realistic, having focussed on her studies in previous years, though now she is coming up to the end of her education, she is ready to show the world just how talented she is. After already being recognised for her contribution to inspiring young girls in Mexico, she can only improve, and continue to change the sport for the better to help those in the future. Only a few days ago she became the first female to win a NACAM Formula 4 race and hopes to continue her winning ways through the season. At only 18, she has a long career ahead and judging by her previous results, that career looks set to be very successful.
(All photos, credit: Alexandra Mohnhaupt)