GIVEN a chance, any motorsport fan would have willingly parted with a fortune to witness the Formula One season grand finale, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix first hand in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Zimbabwe motor racing sensation and Formula One hopeful Axcil Jefferies not only had a front row seat at the season-ending race, but had the chance to mix and mingle with some of Formula One’s global superstars in the run-up to the decisive race of the season.
As the senior racing instructor at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi — host of the 2016 Formula One season finale — Jefferies had the privilege to interact with some of the world’s top drivers.
“It was a very interesting opportunity to interact with all the drivers, understand them a bit better and also learn how they deal with the demands of Formula One,” Jefferies told Standardsport in an interview from his base in Abu Dhabi.
“What surprised me the most was actually the different personalities some of the drivers chose to show the fans compared to what they really are like, behind closed curtains.
“Without a doubt, like many of the people that turned up, I was most excited to see Lewis Hamilton. He’s been a role model to me since I started watching him in GP2, so to get to see him again was awesome! Of course I let him know about his growing fan base across Africa, and he was overjoyed, to say the least,” he said.
It was a proud moment for the local motorsport fraternity as Jefferies posted pictures and videos with the cream de la crème of Formula 1 on social media, including three-time world champion and race winner Lewis Hamilton, eventual world champion Nico Rosberg and the rest of the grid.
But for the 22-year-old Zimbabwean driver, the glitz and glamour of interacting with Formula One royalty was overshadowed by the agony of having to watch from the sidelines while others lived his dream.
“More than anything, to sit from the outside and watch GP3, GP2 and Formula One last weekend was extremely difficult for me,” Jefferies revealed.
Jefferies’s childhood dream has always been to become the first African in the modern era to race in the lucrative F1 and looked well on course until sponsorship challenges threw him off-track a couple of years ago.
“In my mind, I kept thinking that is where I should be and what I should be doing. I am still young and what I am doing is what I should be doing after a career in motorsport.
“If I’m totally honest, it did get to me, but I had to look at things positively and be extremely grateful for what I have as there are many people that would do anything to have the job I do,” he added.
“With that being said, this weekend motivated me so much, that I will make sure I am in a car next year. I will be back and I will continue to pursue the dream of having an African in Formula One, one day,” he said.
The Zimbabwean, who has competed Formula BMW Pacific Championship, the FIA Formula Two Championship, the Indy Lights Championship in the US and the GP2 Series in 2014, nevertheless vowed to came back on to the driver’s seat next year to chase his dream
However, lack of sponsorship saw Jefferies — who is the most qualified race instructor in the Middle East — taking up the role of senior race instructor at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
“I have been based in the UAE for the last two years. The move came as a bit of a surprise as it was something I had not even thought about, but when the opportunity came I grabbed it with both hands! Currently I am working at the best racing track in the world, Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“My role entails a lot more than what my title would perhaps suggest. I am the senior instructor for the circuit.
however, my duties range from race driver instructing to hosting events, car testing and development and pretty much wherever I’m needed at the circuit… like last weekend, where I was in charge of introducing and interviewing all the Formula One drivers for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix,” Jefferies said.