BBC Radio 4 – Desert Island Discs

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4. His decision to dedicate his life to motorsport came out of the blue

“We were invited by a friend to watch him racing in Formula 3, which is a junior series,” says Toto. “I ended up on the track and… walking onto the grid, this is where [I felt] this massive explosion within me and it was clear – this is what I wanted to do.”

And I remember that the driving teacher told me: ‘You and cars, that’s not going to be very good…’

And 30 years later, he thinks he now knows what drew him in so completely:

“It’s controlling the uncontrollable; being able to ride that wild horse and trying to be in control. That is the fascinating thing that caught me in racing.”

5. He didn’t follow the advice of his first driving instructor

Soon after that moment of revelation on the racetrack, Toto failed his driving test.

“[This] was a huge embarrassment because I was still in school and I remember leaving at lunch break to do the driving test, and then I came back and all my friends were standing out of class [saying], ‘And?’ ‘Hmm, no – failed it!’”

“And I remember that the driving teacher told me: ‘You and cars, that’s not going to be very good…’”

Fortunately he passed on his second attempt.

6. His path to Formula 1 success was not straightforward

Toto’s early ambitions to become a racing driver were curtailed in 1994 when his sponsor pulled out of motorsport following a series of deaths and accidents – and he found himself in a very different world:

“It was very difficult because I went into an internship in a bank in Warsaw – my mother’s Polish – and I remember it was so bad. It was a hot summer, and my friends were on holiday or racing cars and I was working in there. Sometimes at lunchtimes I cried my eyes out in the toilet of the office, but I had to push through and it felt right.”

“I started to learn about banking, investment banking and the markets and the next dream started.”

Toto went on to launch his own investment companies, and enjoyed great success in the world of finance, before returning to motorsport.

7. Toto compares his relationship with Lewis Hamilton to his marriage

“Lewis has become a friend and over years we’ve gone through difficult spells and very good moments. We celebrated many championships and we had discussions among ourselves which were not always easy.”

“A key moment was at the end of 2016 where we didn’t speak to each other for a while. So I invited him to come to my kitchen in Oxford and sit down and have a chat.”

“The analogy I gave to him is that also I have arguments with [my wife] Susie. Even if we shout at each other, even if we have this argument, there’s never thought of divorcing, and that’s why I said to him, ‘I don’t want to divorce you and neither do you. Because I want the best racing driver in our cars and you want to have the best cars.’”

“So we came to the conclusion that we can have conflict, we can create an atmosphere where we’re able to be brutally honest with each other, and sometimes we agree to disagree, but we move on.”

8. Toto and Lewis will never agree on one topic

“I think we have a similar music taste,” says Toto. “Obviously his is much more sophisticated – but many years ago I said to him, ‘What would you think if we were to play AC/DC’s Thunderstruck in the garage before going out with the cars, to have all the mechanics listen to this?’ and he said, ‘It would make me puke!’”

And that was the end of that discussion.

9. Toto is now very open about mental health

“The words depression and anxiety – they are twin brothers, all of that is linked together, but nobody speaks about it enough,” says Toto.

“I felt that when I suffered from these episodes in the past that high performers didn’t have that, and it made me suffer even more because I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to be best in what I do because I have those bad moments.’”

“Today I don’t have any insecurity any more about myself. I don’t perceive myself at all as powerless.”

“At the end of the day, what I want to say is, ‘Even strong men and women, people who are successful in the public eye suffer. That’s why you can suffer. It’s allowed and I want to help to take that stigma away because you can achieve anything in the world, even though you have these moments.’”

10. Toto is a very reluctant car passenger

Toto’s second wife Susie was a successful racing driver – so who takes the wheel when they’re on the road together?

“She is much more socially intelligent than me,” says Toto. “She leaves me the driving and lets me have those little successes,” he adds laughing.

“[Susie] said to me that she can live with it since she saw me being full of panic whilst being in the passenger seat with Lewis Hamilton on a race track. If you can’t trust the seven-times world champion, then it’s OK to not trust who is driving. It’s my problem, not the driver’s problem!”

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