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In the Driver's Seat with: Hanna Celsie

Logan Fung
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Meet Hanna, the Irish representative for the Formula Woman Nations Cup - Learn how Hanna balances her work and racing and how what she has coming up for 2024!

Hey everyone, Logan from FanAmp here!

I had the absolute privilege of sitting down with Hanna, the Irish representative for Formula Woman, to hear about how she got into racing, her involvement with the Nations Cup and how she juggles her full time job with her passion for Motorsport.

In honor of International Women’s Month, we wanted to highlight women who are paving their own way in the motorsport industry and Hanna is an amazing example of this!

Keep reading to find out more!

Q: How did you get into racing and how did you find out about Formula Woman?

Hanna: So my dad is a mechanic and I basically grew up around cars. I’m pretty sure as soon as I could start walking, he took advantage of that and was like, ‘you’re going to help me with cars’. So I spent a lot of time around cars, not so much racing, but I did play video games with racing and watch racing on TV. 

For Formula Woman, I actually found out about it towards the end of 2021. I saw an ad on Instagram and I thought it looked so cool. It’s all girls, it’s all cars, I love it, I want it! So I impulsively signed up and thought, whatever happens, happens, but it was honestly one of the best decisions that I could have made!

Q: Had you ever done any racing prior to joining Formula Woman?

Hanna: No, I had my driving license so I was able to drive, and I always love cars and seeing the done up and modified cars, but I had never actually stepped foot into one. I did my first track day with Formula Woman in Cadwell Park with Graeme and I was like, right… that’s it, I’ve gotten a taste for it and I want to do this. My head could be so busy but then I’ll get in the car and be on track and it will just feel like everything is good… like what problems could I possibly have?

Q: How did your Dad react to you telling him you were joining Formula Woman?

Hanna: He was kind of shocked, but I think he understood the fact that I love cars so much. It was one of his dreams when he was younger, but obviously he didn’t have the opportunities in any way, shape or form. And the fact that I did get an opportunity like that, he was kind of shocked that it was a girl that was getting into racing. My whole family is so supportive of my decision to take it further. 

Q: What was the application process like and what did the boot tour consist of?

Hanna: So I completed the online application through their website towards the end of 2021 and the next year I had my first track day. The boot tour was really hands on! We did a track day, a simulator day, and then even a karting day. I was thinking, Oh My God, this is not what I was expecting! It felt so much more professional and we got to go to places like iZone. I had never seen their single seater set up, but it’s like half a car up on the simulator with a massive big screen. I just never seen anything like it before!

Then we did another simulator training session but it was for karting and they had the actual kart up on the move where you could feel the force feedback and everything. It kind of tilts you a little bit and it feels just like when you’re on the track. It definitely helps you push yourself a little bit further because you know you’re not actually in the car. It gets you used to how the car would react on track and it eliminates the feeling of not wanting to push as hard out of fear of something possibly going wrong. You get to really test your own limits before you test the cars limits. 

Q: When did you first get out on track and participate in a competitive event?

Hanna: I didn’t start racing until last year when I did my first competitive season. I did it in Ireland in the Fiesta Zetec Championship, so it was a good year from when I first stepped in the car to when I actually started racing and got myself a race license. 

The way the licenses work in Ireland is a little different than in other places. I did lots of track days and training with Formula Woman. That included boot tours and track days and then over in Ireland, it’s just a one day course. You go in and they give you the theory course and then you have a written exam and practical exam. By the end of it you just find out if you pass or not.

It was very cool because I went in and felt like I knew some of the stuff from all the training with Formula Woman. I knew the flags and the track limits, all that stuff. So I felt okay, but then I got to the actual test and felt nervous because I don’t normally do well in written tests. Then we got to the practical part of the exam and I felt totally fine. The instructor that day was like, ‘You passed! Why were you nervous?’ and I was just nervous for literally no reason at all!

Q: How long was the season for the Fiesta Zetec Championship?

Hanna: I did the full season, so we started in around April and then the last race was around October. It was one race a month but it didn’t feel long enough for me!

Our race day was on Sunday and they had practice days where you would have the opportunity to test the car and practice with the car on the Friday. I work full time so I wasn’t able to always take part, but I would take advantage of the other track days that the racetrack was holding. I would kind of go in on a day and I could be there from 9 in the morning to about 5 at night just testing the car as best I could. It was a lot but to me it was all worth it in the end.

Q: How do you balance your work life and your passion for racing?

Hanna: I think my commitment is one of the things I pride myself on. I work a full-time job and I’m still trying to do my best in making my way into a career in motorsport because it’s something I genuinely just love… it doesn’t feel like a job or work, it just feels fun! Ideally I would love to have fun for the rest of my working life!

I work as a civil servant, so I work for the Department of Business at the moment. It gets a bit much sometimes, my mum has literally caught me falling asleep with my phone in my hand in the middle of writing an email… so it definitely takes a toll when you have a lot of going on at the same time. I just think if you really want to get somewhere, you have to show your dedication and commitment all the time, not just sometimes. I feel like that is the best way for you to get your end result.

Q: Have you ever had a female inspiration in the motorsport world, or somebody that you have looked up to?

Hanna: Not really in the motorsport world. As I said, it always felt like something just for boys when I was growing up, and I didn’t think there was anybody I could look up to. Since I’ve started looking into it more, I’ve definitely found people that I can look up to now, both in Ireland and abroad.

The things these girls get up to, I’m just like, Oh My God, I wish I could do what you are doing! It’s just amazing. When I really think about it, I think my earliest memory of seeing a female in a race car is probably in Fast and Furious, I’m not going to lie. Now I own a pink car too so maybe she was a good inspiration!

Q: What upcoming events / races do you have planned for 2024?

Hanna: I competed in the Formula Woman competition in 2022. That was the only one I had ever really done, competition-wise. Even though it was my first event with them, I did well enough that I was chosen to be an Irish representative for the Nations Cup! So, I think I did pretty well. 

On the day, I was thinking I could have done so much better and I was really mean to myself. I just kept thinking I could have done things differently and done better but then it was announced I was one of the 50 girls going to the Nations Cup and I guess I didn’t do as badly as I thought I did!

I’m so excited, I just cannot wait. I think the fact that we knew about it and it’s just been slowly building our adrenaline up and up the closer the date gets, it's starting to feel more real. When I told my mom, she actually cried. She just couldn’t believe I had never really done anything like this before and now I’m representing my country. It still hasn’t hit me properly yet and it’s an honor to even be considered for this kind of thing. It’s just something I never thought I’d be able to do, but the fact that I’m putting dedication forward to be able to do it makes me very proud of myself. 

Q: what have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced being a female racer?

Hanna: I think my biggest challenge was actually when I started racing in the Fiestas because it’s obviously not just girls, it’s open to everybody and anybody who has a competition license. The men have so much more experience and I was in my very first competition. It just kind of got to me when they would use these defensive moves when you’re still learning and trying to figure it all out.

Other than that, it’s sponsorships. Trying to prove you can do it just as much as a guy, because they’ve been sponsoring guys for years upon years and now that more girls are getting into racing and needing sponsorship, a lot of brands and companies tell you that they’ve already reached their budget for it with the men they sponsor. I think that is definitely my biggest struggle. But surprisingly enough, most of the lads I’ve talked to are actually supportive of girls getting further in racing, which is promising, but it’d be nice if businesses were like that too.

I think a lot of it is the fear of the unknown because obviously there is F1 Academy which is now paving the way for girls, but I think that there could be a lot more done. Even motor factories or companies like that. They should be able to see it as equal potential and base it off your skill on whether or not they should invest in you. I think a lot of companies or brands would be surprised with the girls because there are many who aren’t afraid to push it to the limit. 

I think it’s just a matter of having someone backing you and believing that you can do it. Lots of girls that haven't had the experience before Formula Woman are doing so well. All they needed was one person to believe in them and show them that they could do it.

Q: Do you watch and follow any racing series?

Hanna: Yes I watch Formula One. I missed the Bahrain qualifying because of work, but I got to see the race and was on my toes the whole time! 

Sometimes when I watch, I feel like I’m looking at their defensive moves or corners and I compare what I would have done. Obviously my skills are nowhere near their skills but its just interesting how different brains who race would consider different corners.

I fluctuate a lot with who I support, I don’t really have a favorite. I’m kind of enjoying it all at the same time but I was kind of rooting for Ferrari.

Q: What is your biggest dream or goal moving forward as a female racing driver?

Hanna: I think my goal would be just to take it as far as humanly possible. Whether that be, you know, with Nations Cup, whether that be further on, maybe even just racing at home if that's what it is, it is what it is, but I want to take it as far as possible and do as much training and push my potential to beyond my limits and just see what happens. And I'm just excited for the journey really.

If I have the skill to take it to a huge level, great, amazing. If I don't, I'm not going to be too hard on myself because at the end of the day, if I am, that might take the enjoyment out of it. Like don't get me wrong, I'm still going to push, but just not too far beyond my limits where it's a point of no return. I think a lot of people who are into motorsport love it for the simple fact. It's fun and it's something they enjoy doing. Everything else after that is a bonus.

I think it's a very steep hill for burnout quickly though. If you over-stress yourself about results and overstress yourself about tactics and where you want to go, you'll just end up burning yourself out and then you just don't want to do it anymore. I don't think it should be that way. You should enjoy the whole thing wherever, whatever route it takes you, whatever track it takes you on. Just stick to it.

Q: What has been one of the proudest moments of your career so far?

Hanna: I think one of my proudest moments is actually being able to say that I'm taking part in the Nations Cup to represent my country. If you asked me that a few years ago, I'd be like, no, that's not possible. There's nothing you could possibly do to get to that stage. And now being able to say I'm going to represent my country in the Nations Cup, the first ever Nations Cup, I'm just so proud of myself for being able to push so much to get to that.

I still don't believe it sometimes that I'm actually going to be taking part in such an amazing step forward. But it's my proudest moment so far. I went into Formula Woman to do the competition for the chance at a GT seat and then I came out with something else that was just much more unexpected.

Q: What advice would you give to other women who are looking to get into the racing world?

Hanna: Reaching out, I think is a massive one. Just having the conversation and being able to say hey, I'm really interested in motorsport, how do I get started, and then you can get so much advice.

Personally, if someone was to reach out to me, I would literally tell them everything I've done. How to get your competition license, depending on your age, because if you're under 18, I think you still have to get your parents to sign for you to get your license, but you can race in the mini juniors. So there is always a possibility of getting started. You just have to have enough dedication to put the first foot forward. Other than that, everything else will just come with time.

But it's just having the conversation, how do I get started? If it's joining the Formula Woman community, which is a great step because it's such a, it's become such a big community of women just trying to support each other and help each other in motorsport, that I think it's a great first step to just be able to say, hey, I'm new, what do I do?

I think it's really important because I know when I first started I was afraid to reach out to people because I thought, why would they talk to me? It's not like that at all. It's really friendly and it's so helpful. Literally everybody I've ever met or talked to has been so helpful in the journey and you get some advice that you would never think was even a possibility.

Q: Where and how can people follow you along on your racing journey?

Hanna: Um, I think the easiest place to find me is probably on social media. And my tags a little funny so don't hate on it! It's been there for a long, long time. But you can find me on Instagram and other than that, I guess I'll see everyone on track.

It was amazing learning more about Hanna’s racing story and her dedication to the sport. Make sure to follow along on her socials so you don’t miss out on anything. Be sure to join the Formula Woman base on FanAmp for updates and information on competitions, events, and all things racing!

FanAmp Interview with Hanna Celsie
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