He’s already gained recognition as one of those who made history in karting, he was brilliant in the Italian formula 3 Championship, and didn’t do badly in Formula 2 either. Now it’s time for Formula 1 and the drive of a two-decade career – for Esquire.
Milos Pavlovic is a flawless guy. That’s your first impression after meeting him, but also the second and third once you get to know him. More precisely, that first impression was not wrong. Well-measured in communication, interested in the people around him, witty, light-hearted. For someone who has achieved such a lot in one of the world’s most elite sports, and who couldn’t therefore avoid those European jet-set circles no matter how fast he was, he is amazingly approachable. Today we like to call that being normal. And at a time when the default mode is fakeness, being normal comes as a shock, a kind of a excess, an epiphany. Milos’s racing story begins in Belgrade’s Ada Ciganlija leisure park during the summer of 1991. Just a year later he becomes a two-time champion of Yugoslavia in karting and then, to test how much his talent is worth on the international scene, in 1993 he goes to Italy, a country where the sport of go-karting is the most developed in the world. It is among such competition that, during his first season, Milos becomes a regional champion of Italy, wins second place in the Winter Cup and drives successfully in a dozen other races. He went on to become European vice-champion in Portugal, while in the World Cup in Italy he came in third. He gains international fame and his greatest success in karting in 1996 when he becomes the youngest winner of the World Cup, the “Ayrton Senna Trophy”. As a world champion, he gets an invitation from the World Automobile Federation (FIA) to take part in the prestigious annual karting race in the Paris-Bercy sports hall, where at the end of each year the best karting drivers race against Formula 1 drivers. The next step was conquering Formula Vauxhall, while then during the 2000 season Milos moves up to Formula 3. Two years later, thanks to his successes in the Italian Formula 3 championship, he wins the right to the FIA Super Licence, i.e. the right to participate in the Formula 1 world championship. There then follow a series of successes, challenges, and prestigious awards such as “Sportbest Man” given to him by the World Automobile Federation (FIA) as the best driver of Central, South-eastern and Eastern Europe for the 2007 season. The jury for that comprised representatives from 15 countries. At the beginning of 2010, Milos signs a contract with the American Formula 1 team “USF1”, believing that he has thereby accomplished his ultimate goal, – but, just before the start of the championship, USF1 pulls out due to financial problems and Milos’s plan to make his debut in Formula 1 is again postponed, as all the other available seats have in the meantime been filled. In 2011 he takes part in the FIA GT1 World Championship, driving the legendary Ford GT40.
What do you find most exciting about your sport?
My sport is by definition very exciting, it doesn’t allow a moment’s relaxation and it’s very difficult to choose which is the most exciting part of a single race. For me personally, the greatest excitement happens when several components come together at the same time, i.e. when you drive on a track you love, when you’ve got an ideal car set-up regardless of whether the track is dry or wet, when everything’s working as it should and when you as a driver are in tip-top shape. This does not happen too often, but when it does, your racing car becomes an extension of your body and vice versa. These moments I call “another dimension”, in which I really feel the magic of the sport.
Racing drivers talk about the amazing adrenaline experience that this sport involves. How would you describe the excitement and tension during a race?
The build-up of a large amount of adrenaline in a sportsman’s body is an integral part of all sports. Maybe it’s more present in my sport than others but, regardless of that, adrenaline is one of our greatest allies, although many don’t know this. Only thanks to this can we successfully control stress and make sure our body reacts properly at all times during the race. The greatest amount of excitement and tension, and therefore the highest level of adrenaline, is definitely reached at the very start of a race and during overtaking. These are also the most delicate moments when you have to be very careful and trust your instinct.
Have you ever experienced fear during a race?
Of course I have. That is an integral part of our sport and I’m no exception. With time and experience, you understand that fear is in fact working for you and helps you not to take risks when that is really not necessary.
You started your career in Italy. It’s a pretty nice place to start a professional life. How did this country influence you?
Italy has influenced me very much, especially if you take into account that there I formed myself as a sportsman and opened the first chapter of my career. I can freely say that my racing fundamentals were built in that country in the days when I drove a go-kart. Those first five years of my career certainly shaped me the most and laid foundations on which I continue to build as a professional driver.
Regardless of your racing, what performance does the car which you use privately have to have?
My passion for fast driving is directly related to racing circuits. That’s my job, and only in those circumstances do I drive fast. When choosing a car for private use, I focus more on practicality and comfort than on pure performance.
Throughout your career you’ve won numerous awards and recognitions. Is there a particular one that you consider the most valuable?
There are several awards I feel proud about. One of those I rate as “special” I was awarded by the FIA in 2003 in Monte Carlo. Together with some true legends of motor-sports, I received a prize called “Karting History Makers”.
Sportsmen today are icons of style regardless of their primary profession. How much you care about this aspect and how much attention you put into your public appearance?
When appearing in public, I not only appear as myself but as a frontman for my sponsors and the various institutions that invest in me and my career. I have a duty to do it in the best possible way, which means that I have to pay attention to every detail.
How have you built your own style and how would you best describe it?
As on the racing circuit, so it is in everyday life. I am slowly but constantly upgrading my style and moulding it in relation to the event at which I have to appear. Generally speaking, my style is sports-casual.
It is always interesting to ask sportsmen how they cope with defeat, as winning is their motto and their imperative.
In order to win and reach the top, you have to face defeat. If you look at defeat rationally and without prejudice, every time you lose you get the chance to learn a lot and make progress as a sportsman and as a person. For example, because defeat is always a possibility, I never think in advance about the trophy, the champagne, the celebrating… This helps me to be aware that your success is just a direct consequence of your personal performance on the track.
Are there any indications of what your professional activities will be in 2014?
I am working intensively on getting things into line for 2014 and my next challenge is to complete this job in the best possible way. If I succeed, 2014 will be a very exciting year not only for me and my fans but also for Serbian motor-sport and sport in general.
Do you enjoy taking risks?
This sport is by definition risky – there is even a certain desire for it. For me it’s a challenge to get as close as possible to the laws of physics and set a new track record. However, I never rush into taking risks. When I decide to go for it, it means that I have previously prepared and become aware that I can most probably move the boundary of so-called calculated risk.
What do you focus on while driving or during a race? Can you describe the experience, the concentration and the excitement?
For me, as a professional racing driver, every lap I spend on the circuit has its own specific aim, during both free practice and qualifications, as well as in the race. It’s extremely important to have a plan to follow precisely and coldbloodedly. Preparation is everything. The most intimate part of a racing weekend is qualifying, more precisely – the famous single quick lap based on which you will get your position for the start of the race. Then you become a bit of a wild beast, cease to be tactical and you dig deep to pull the maximum out of yourself and your car without hesitation or mercy. Races are something completely different because then tactics are the most important. You have at all times to be calm and lucid. You’re aware that you have to attack, but at the same time you have to know your car and take care of it, as well as to recognize the right moment when it’s worth taking a risk and when it’s better to wait.
Who makes up the main part of the spectators at racing events?
The largest part of the spectators are those who sincerely love motor-sports. These are people for whom I have great respect because they follow us regardless of the conditions, bad weather or anything else. Besides them, motor-sport attracts a large number of influential and powerful people in the sphere of business and politics. This is the most elite sport in the world, with the biggest turnover of money, so it’s evidently also in the interest of the permanent spectators to be part of the show.
Have you, as a result of this, had the opportunity to meet members of the European jet-set?
Of course I have: to be in these circles has its charms, but I prefer to spend my time with close friends. Then I can finally be the real me, the Milos only they truly know.
How has the whole iconography that follows motor racing reflected on your lifestyle?
An awful lot if you take into account that I’ve been racing since I was nine years old. My character, behaviour and personality as a whole have been largely formed during this period.
Written by Vanja Ilic
Translatad by John White
Photo: Marko Arsic