Hinwil (Switzerland): Monisha Kaltenborn, the first female team principal in Formula One, is looking forward to visiting the country of her birth, thanks to the Indian Grand Prix. Though she has been away from India for the major part of her life, the Sauber chief has remained close to her roots.
Dehradun-born Kaltenborn migrated to Austria with her parents when she was eight and has travelled across the world since then. An Austrian citizen now, she still retains her Indian surname, Narang, on the passport.
"I really like my Indian name. My Indian heritage and my parents` family mean a great deal to me, and that is why I never wanted to give up Narang. On the other hand, you have to admit that double-barrelled names aren`t very practical in day-to-day business operations. That`s why I only rarely use my full name," said Kaltenborn, who took charge of Sauber at last week`s Korean Grand Prix, replacing team owner Peter Sauber.
The 41-year-old says she is proud of her Indian roots even though her Hindi-speaking skills have deteriorated.
"I don`t think you ever lose your roots, and anyway you can tell where I am from just by looking at me. I also think I have a certain serenity and openness you might describe as Indian. That includes shrugging off negative experiences and focusing positively on the future - something that is very important in an environment as competitive as Formula One.
"As for my Hindi, it`s no longer as good as I`d like it to be. But I do try to talk Hindi with the children occasionally. Our son is ten years old, our daughter seven, and I`d like them to learn the language. But my parents are better teachers than me," she told her team`s official website.
Kaltenborn`s rise in the male-dominated world of F1 has been remarkable. She earned a master`s degree in Law from the London School of Economics in 1996 and joined Sauber`s legal department in 1998. She became the head of the law department in 2000 and was part of the Board by 2001. In 2010, she was made the CEO before Peter Sauber asked her to fill his shoes.
"Peter Sauber`s withdrawal from the day-to-day running of the business has been on the cards for a long time, so this latest step was well prepared. I am acutely aware of what it means to carry the responsibility for this company, which has been around for over 40 years and involved in Formula One for almost 20 years."
Her team has also had a good year with four podium-finishes out of the first 16 rounds. A fifth one will be welcome at the Buddh International Circuit, says Kalterborn.
"The track layout is very similar to that in Korea. There are slow and fast turns and quite a long straight. The circuit is likely to be neither ideal terrain nor particularly problematic. I am confident that we will manage another decent point hauls."
On the personal side, Kaltenborn rues the hectic season schedule which will stop her from spending much time in India.
"As far as the Sauber F1 Team is concerned, the Indian GP is a race like any other. From a personal point of view, it`s rather different. I am particularly looking forward to this race in my home country. But the fact that I travel to all the race venues as part of my job, I don`t have time for private trips to India.
"During my school and university days I would go there (India) regularly. My husband Jens and I celebrated our marriage in India with a fabulous and very happy Hindu ritual," she said.
Kaltenborn, however, plans to come a day ahead of the Oct 26-28 event.
"I won`t really have time but I`ll be flying out at least a day early to spend some time looking around New Delhi and attending various media events."
Asked about the future of F1 in India, she says: "It`s difficult for any sport to find a place in India next to cricket. But I do think that the interest in Formula One has risen significantly since its debut last year. At least the media interest we are experiencing as a team would strongly indicate that."
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