Women's Month Q&A With Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky
RXR is proud to be a part of a series that makes it their mission to use sport to raise awareness for the climate crisis and aims to eradicate existing preconceptions around gender divides in motorsport.
As women's month concludes, we caught up with our female driver Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky to discuss what it’s like to be a woman in the world of motorsports and to celebrate all of the incredible women out there; who prove time and time again that the sky really is the limit…
With March being women's month, which female figures stand out or inspire you the most?
My mother has always been a big inspiration for me. With her also doing motorsport at the very top level back in the 80s, she knows what it´s like and has been a great person to speak to for motivation during tough times and to give me advice. My mum is fierce! She'd never let anyone talk her down.
I'm also inspired by all the women standing up for themselves and other women. And the women who dare to follow their dreams and do what they want, no matter if it’s big or small.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t in motorsports? When I was in High School, I loved math and science, and I did apply to the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and got a spot; however, racing was calling, and I followed that path. If I wasn't racing now, however, I think I’d head more into the marketing area, but this is what I think is exciting about life. You never know where it will take you!
What would you tell your younger self and other young girls out there who want to pursue a career in motorsports? To continue to follow their passion, despite people doubting you and not believing in you. Of course, there will be doubters. There will also be people saying that you can’t do this or that, but follow your heart, and your passion, because that force will always be stronger than the doubters.
Have you ever experienced unfair bias because you’re a female in a male-dominated industry? I have. However, there’s been a significant change in a positive direction in the last few years, which I’m very happy to see. But I have experienced situations in the past where I haven’t received the same material as my other male teammate, or where I wasn't given the same driving opportunities. These situations made me feel as though I wasn’t believed in enough or trusted because I was a woman.
With Extreme E, I see a huge change. We now have ten female drivers competing in the top level of motorsport in top teams. We’re getting the same opportunities as the male drivers. I’ve always said that if you want to become the very best, then you need to work with the best and get the same opportunities. So I’m very grateful for the work that Extreme E, RXR and our partners are doing because it’s making a change.
While there has been progress over the last decades with regard to gender equality, we still have a long way to go. What, in your opinion, can be done to ensure equal opportunities for women? I believe the change needs to be made in many different areas. Media, for one, showcasing more females in motorsport, After all, “If you can see it, you can be it”.
Also, I was introduced to motorsport because of my family, but not everyone has a motorsport family! So just like introducing your daughter to dancing and gymnastics, you should also consider taking her to a gocart track!
What Extreme E and Rosberg X Racing are doing by genuinely believing in female drivers is a great example. They are actively searching for and promoting females to get into the sport. It’s our responsibility to show that this sport is for everyone.
Have you ever had moments where you doubted yourself? I have. Saying that I’ve never doubted myself would be a lie. I believe everyone doubts themselves that from time to time, and I think it lays a strength in being able to admit that. Then, it goes back to what I said before about my passion for the sport, to get my belief back. I then focus on why I do what I do, focusing on my passion and strength.
Can you tell us about the mental and physical preparation that goes into gearing up for a big race? For me, it’s always about trying to have a free mind and being open to the possibility that anything can happen (which it really can in Extreme E!). Being in the moment is so important. It’s easy to think about the finish line at the start- because you want to win, but to finish first, you first have to finish.
So for me, it’s being 100 % focused on being in the moment. I achieve this by doing breathing exercises during the race weekends and between race weekends. A big part of my routine is getting into that right state of mind.
What is the proudest moment of your career thus far? If I can, I’d like to mention two moments here. First when I won a race in STCC (Scandinavian Touring car Championship) as the first female ever in 2018, and then also my first win in Extreme E, the Desert X Prix with RXR. Funny thing, when I said this in an interview, Johan said that he was proud to have been part of both of those events, obviously, in Extreme E, but also in the STCC race where I won, he came 3rd. So, I'm pretty proud of that moment.
What do you want to be remembered for? That I made a change for how people, in general, see women in motorsport, but also that I always walked my path and did it my way.
Are there any women in the industry that you’d love to work with in the future?
Many! For example, I once had a chat with Susie Wolff that really inspired me, so I’d love to work with her. I´m also very impressed by Leena Gade's work, so they are two of many incredible women that I’d like to work with.