Simon Arron meets a driver who has been a winner in his maiden GP2 season, although car racing wasn’t always on his radar…
Alex Lynn’s father Shaun is best known in racing for his historic exploits, but motorcycles fired his inner petrolhead during his son’s formative years. “From the age of five,” Alex says, “we’d do motocross every Saturday – I competed until I was about 11 – then on Sundays we’d go waterskiing. For his 40th birthday, though, my dad bought a Caterham and started to do a bit of club racing, so we started spending more time at circuits. At that age I just wanted to be like my dad and asked if I could have a go.”
Lynn subsequently received a kart for Christmas – initially for testing. “It was a bit of an eBay special,” he says. “It had an outdated Yamaha engine on a Zip chassis, so I couldn’t race it in anything. At first it was just a bit of fun, but it got to the point where I decided I wanted to compete and at 12 I started in Minimax events.
“I don’t have a stellar karting record. My results were OK, but nothing like as good as the Jack Harveys and Oliver Rowlands of this world. When I tried cars, though, it was as though someone flicked a switch. It’s hard to describe. I don’t want to say it felt easier, but I was more at home.
“I did a Formula BMW test with Jack Harvey at Pembrey. He was in his first year in the series – and had been extremely competitive – and I went a couple of tenths faster than him. He’ll probably hate me for saying it – he’s now one of my best friends – but on that day I was quicker! I’d never been able to compete with him in karts, but from that moment I sensed I might be able to do something in cars. I felt my determination cranking up and haven’t really looked back since.”
Lynn started in Formula Renault before moving on to F3, GP3 and now GP2, with a couple of winter trips to New Zealand to compete in the Toyota Racing Series. “Winning the Macau Grand Prix has been the highlight to date,” he says. “It’s a career-changing race and without that I’m not sure I’d be where I am.”
Just before travelling to the 2013 race, he sent an email to Red Bull’s driver development manager Helmut Marko. “There had been talk about my joining the Red Bull programme,” he says, “but Helmut had said he didn’t want to take me. On the Thursday before Macau I sent him an email, saying ‘Watch this, I’m going to beat your drivers on Sunday’. It was a bit of a bold thing to do, but at that stage I felt I needed to make a difference and considered Macau to be my chance. Helmut replied, saying ‘Thanks for that, let’s talk following the race’ – and two days after winning I was in Graz, signing a contract.”
Red Bull placed Lynn in GP3, where he won the title, but late in 2014 it also added Max Verstappen to its roster. “It was clear that I had moved down the queue,” Lynn says. “Helmut was completely open, told me there would be no F1 opportunities for at least two years and that it might be better for my career to look elsewhere. We parted on good terms and still chat.”
Since then, he has taken an F1 development role with Williams. “I don’t know how many miles I’ve done in the simulator,” he says. “As time goes on my involvement increases and I become an ever more integral part of the team. Hopefully, one day that will lead me to the big time.”
Given the limited number of F1 seats available, has he contemplated other avenues?
“I’m a huge racing fan,” he says. “I’ll watch everything from the VW Fun Cup to Grands Prix. One day I’d like to try Le Mans, Indycars and Aussie V8s, because I just love racing, but at the moment my primary focus is F1.”
Career in brief
Born: 17/09/1993, Romford, England
2009 Formula Renault Winter Cup
2010-11 Formula Renault UK, taking title in second season
2012 British F3, 4th (1 win); Macau GP, 3rd
2013 Toyota Racing Series, 2nd; European F3, 3rd (3 wins); Macau GP winner
2014 GP3 champion
2015 GP2; Williams F1 development driver