The Telegraph
Sunday , October 28 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘I find peace within myself’

F1’s ‘first’ lady Monisha decodes her high-profile job
Vijay Mallya and Monisha Kaltenborn, on Saturday. Picture by Prem Singh

Greater Noida: The Dehradun-born Monisha Kaltenborn, who is an Austrian citizen married to a German, oozes charm.

Monisha, 41, also happens to be Sauber’s Team Principal. It’s a first in F1.

On Saturday evening, Monisha spoke to The Telegraph for around 20 minutes in her team’s hospitality area at the Buddh International Circuit.

The following are excerpts

Q Personally, what does it mean to be the first woman Team Principal in F1?

A (Laughs) For me, it’s more important that I’m the Sauber’s Team Principal, rather than the first woman in that position. It’s a fact that I’m a woman... Of course, it feels nice that Peter Sauber has given me this responsibility. He’s confident that I can take the team forward, continuing with the values dear to him.

How did you celebrate your elevation?

There was no time really, as the announcement came during this business end of the season. The succession plan was known, but the timing came as a surprise.

Will all decisions be taken by you?

At the end of the day, yes... But we’re highly specialised and have people to take decisions in critical areas. That’s what they are there for. If there are differences, then they know there’s one person at the top who’ll make the call. I’d like people to take responsibility.

What’s your vision?

It’s simple... Step by step, we should go up the ladder and to remain in the sport... So, it’s about continuity and achieving a target.

But how will Sauber go to the next level?

In the years when BMW held the majority of the shares, we were very close to the top... We used to be extremely competitive and were a big team. Today, what we need is more funding. When we get the funds, it can straightaway be put into development, eventually leading to improved performances. To be able to develop more, we need more means.

Some see you as a role model...

Oh... To be a role model, I need to achieve more. Having said that, if I’m able to encourage more women to take to the sport, then I’ll be happy.

Have you had a role model?

I wouldn’t put it down to one person, but I’ve learnt from a few, largely from within my family.

How would you describe yourself?

(Laughs) A quiet person.

Do you have strong likes and dislikes?

Very strong likes and dislikes... If I set my mind on something, then I won’t change my mind. Some call me stubborn.

What’s your style of functioning?

I like transparency and I ensure communication. It’s important to have transparency and to communicate well.

Like the drivers and the engineers, do you also feel the pressure?

Absolutely... Big pressure when one looks at the big picture. There are challenges.

Being the captain of Team Sauber, how are you like in the ‘dressing room’?

I communicate openly... People know that I give them the chance to speak up, that I listen to them. But they also know that if a decision has to be made, then it will be made. I’m pretty consistent in the way I work.

Is there something about India that you miss a lot?

I have childhood memories... One likes to come back to places which invoke memories big and small. I miss the food... The Indian atmosphere.

Has it been tough balancing your professional and family life?

After my work, that has been the biggest challenge. It is so when you have small children, mine are 10 and 7... Despite the demands of work, I have to create the atmosphere of a family... It gets difficult as I travel a lot... My children have been to only two races, in Monaco, in 2011 and this year.

How do you unwind at the end of a tough day?

I’m fortunate to have the ability, at some point, to just let go... I find peace within myself.

Lastly... Have you ever had a favourite F1 driver?

(Laughs) Always the ones who drive for Sauber. I always have two favourites!