Zim's Formula 1 aspirant close to the dream

HARARE - In his dogged pursuit to become a famous Formula One driver, 18-year-old Zimbabwean prodigy Axcil Jefferies had to give up his childhood.

Criss-crossing the globe and driving at high speeds of 300km in a sport that has become a playground for the world’s wealthiest and most influential people, young Axcil is “living the ultimate job”.

His chosen career path however, has not been without its sacrifices, often depriving him of the joys of youth.

The Harare-born teen, Africa’s only Formula Two driver, arrived home last week for the festive season break, but there has not been much merrymaking for the easy-going young fella.

In his short stay in the country, Jefferies has been in and out of meetings with Cabinet ministers at a time boys of his age will be pre-occupied with PlayStation and killing time in the hood during the school holidays.

It seems Jefferies’ life has become interweaved with big plans at a national level.

Currently, the soft-spoken young Zimbabwean is just one step away from the lucrative Formula One, which boasts of some of the highest-earning sportsmen in the world such as Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, all earning in excess of $20 million a year, according to Forbes magazine.

And yet Jefferies remains modest.

“It’s not like I got paparazzi on me all the time,” he quips in an exclusive interview with the Daily News yesterday. “It’s just people I know and those who follow me.”

“I live a very normal life; I know a lot of people would not expect that at first. I have a long way to go until I become famous, maybe when I get to Formula One.”

“I have a huge fan base, seeing that we are putting Zimbabwe and Africa on the map, but I am still a long way from being a superstar.”

Though being paid to do what he loves best, Jefferies — a sports science student at Loughborough University in the UK — says he no longer has a social life.

“My teen years have not been ordinary, travelling around the world and competing,” he says.

“But I’m living the ultimate job. Every teen would want to be a driver. But not saying I have made it. I’m still working hard to be at the top.”

Jefferies says former world champion Hamilton and Alonso, regarded by many as the greatest all-round driver in the sport, are his current role models.

“Lewis is an exciting driver, he is very aggressive but Alonso is the total package when it comes to developing a car. But of course, all the drivers in F1 are of high quality; even the guys you see at the back are classy. It’s like the Olympics, you don’t just get there without having proven your worth.”

Having finished 12th on the overall FIA Formula Two championship standings in his debut season in which he missed four rounds, Jefferies is now eyeing a top three finish to stand a chance of qualifying for F1.

Jefferies is expected to switch teams to one yet to be named F1 junior team beginning next year, a move which brings him closer and closer to his Formula One dream.

“I can’t mention the team at the moment but it’s quite an exciting announcement. In fact, the biggest announcement I have ever made in my career,” he says.

Asked what he will do when he attains an F1 slot as well as the exposure and wealth that may come with it, Jefferies says: “To start with, I will give back to my family; they have supported me through everything. Obviously I will need one supercar. But it’s something we have talked about and at the moment, it’s only one Zimbabwean and one African in Formula Two and no Zimbabwean or African in Formula One. That’s a challenge to me, we need to setup structures for drivers to go all the way and that’s something I will want to assist.”

Axcil will be heading back to England in the New Year, but before that, he has some words of advice to aspiring drivers.

“If you have a dream then there is no reason why you can’t get it as long as you are willing to work at it,” he says.

“It (being a Formula One driver) has been my dream since I was three years old and I have believed in it.”

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