Written By Juan Arroyo, Edited by Janvi Unni
Divebomb sat down with Zhuravskiy prior to pre-season testing to discuss his outlook on the season ahead.
George Zhuravskiy made his Formula 4 debut last weekend at Dubai Autodrome with Xcel Motorsport. The 16-year-old will race all five rounds of F4 UAE with the team as he aims to gain experience for his upcoming European campaign.
“To be honest, it feels quite surreal,” he says, adding, “I absolutely love the country that will be racing in. I've had the privilege to visit a few times and it was absolutely an incredible experience. So for me, it's not only about the racing, it's also [about] coming back to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”
Born in Russia, Zhuravskiy has competed in various championships at the national level but is racing full-time away from his homeland for the first time this year.
“Racing at such a level, it's always been my dream racing against so many talented drivers. Obviously, it's going to be extremely challenging, but I'm looking forward to it.”
The 16-year-old has been testing single seaters since mid-2021, doing multiple sessions with old-generation Tatuus chassis in Russia.
“The biggest challenge for me was the first time I stepped into a formula car to drive. It's something brand new and you have to learn so fast. There's not much time to just drive around slowly. You have to speed things up quite quickly.”
Pressure has also been raised for Zhuravskiy, who also mentions a process of getting used to the results expected of him: “It's not just me that expects good performances, it's also people around me that expect good performances, the ones that contribute to my career.”
One notable contributor to his career so far is head of the S35 Academy, Sergey Sirotkin: “I'm extremely grateful to him. He has helped me out tremendously to grow as a racing driver.”
The former Williams driver founded the academy with the purpose of helping young Russian talents progress through the ranks of motorsport. Sirotkin is also mentoring one of Zhuravskiy’s teammates at Xcel Motorsport, Aleksandr Bolduev.
“From what I know, we've got quite a few very talented drivers coming on board, and to be able to compete against them will be very challenging. However, I'm definitely looking forward to it, since I've watched a lot of Formula 4 races in the offseason and the past few years.
“As much as it will be a challenge, it will also be very good for my learning curve to have very talented drivers around me.”
How quick a driver adapts to single seaters is a telltale sign of their future in similar series. For some, the transition is smoother than others. However, the key differences in machinery apply to everyone.
“I'd say the main difference is obviously the speed. I'd say on the straight, karts don't go that fast. I'd also say that the speed aspect has definitely made it a lot more enjoyable for me. I enjoy Formula cars a lot.
“I think my main expectation is to make sure that I have a steep learning curve and I can progress quite significantly throughout the season. The key word for me this season will be progress.”
The 16-year old has no expectations in terms of on-track results judging by the lack of experience he has competing in Formula 4. It is not the first time Zhuravskiy is competing in single seaters, however. He previously competed in the Moscow Regional Championship driving a Tatuus FA 010. His team, Falcon Racing, was made up of students from the St. Petersburg State University of Civil Aviation.
“These are cars that were basically the previous generation of Formula Four cars. And there's actually a very good model of these cars in the set of Corsa, which is very enjoyable to drive. I had to drive a lot in that car.
“And yet these cars, I'd say they [are] way less safety aspects to them. For example, there's no halo, but the fact that they're more lightweight makes them a bit more fun to drive than the current Formula 4 cars. But I'm all for innovation, for safety. ”
Keen on showing his appreciation for safety, he also mentions that despite the increased weight in current-gen Formula 4 cars, all the safety improvements from previous generations make it “completely worth it.”
If there was a word to describe Zhuravskiy’s mindset going into pre-season testing, it would be down-to-earth.’ The 16-year-old also feels drivers’ goals throughout the field will definitely vary despite the common answers being given when asked about expectations.
“I think every single driver has their own mindset going into this,” he says, adding: “As much as everyone loves to say that they're here to win, I'd say many of us are quite realistic about our goals.
“I'd like [people] to know that at first, perhaps the result won't be amazing. However, throughout the course of the season, I'll be working extremely hard and dedicating myself fully to it, and I'll make sure that the results will come. The question is how soon they will come. And to that question, I'll be able to respond only when the season gets underway.”
Formula 4 is the first taste of car racing for all young drivers aiming to compete in Europe today. But racing in F4 UAE, they are experiencing media appearances on a bigger scale for the first time — some with little to no PR training behind them.
Media training is a common experience for any up-and-coming athlete but, every so often, someone will take on the job of going it alone to separate themselves from the crowd. George Zhuravskiy is only the latest to do so.
Before and after the interview ended, we spoke on what the athlete’s social media feed generally looks like in 2022. He seemed uninterested in building an image which exclusively reflected the highs of competing. The 16-year-old is notably keen on authenticity.
“I'd like the people to know about the fact I'll establish a YouTube channel where I'll be sharing my racing behind the scenes and my racing journey and how it looks like behind the helmet, let's call it that way, where I'll be sharing my personal thoughts and feelings with the audience.
“This has been my dream for a while, and I'm extremely grateful to those that have contributed, either by supporting me or by helping me grow as a racing driver.”
Before concluding the interview, Zhuravskiy asked if it was okay to share a few thank you’s for people who have supported his career so far:
“Big thanks to my friends that are extremely supportive towards what I do. Obviously, whenever you've got supportive people behind you, it feels great. Whenever you achieve results, and even when you fail, they're still going to be there for you, so I'm extremely grateful for them.”
Zhuravskiy especially expressed his gratitude for his family, who “are more supportive than ever right now in my racing adventure.” He concluded by thanking Sergey Sirotkin for “his continued help in growing him as a racing driver,” as well as Xcel Motorsport for the opportunity to compete in F4 UAE.