Dino Beganovic will make his car racing debut in 2020 after joining Ferrari’s Driver Academy. In the first part of this special interview, we explain the rise of Sweden’s newest F1 hope
The list of Formula 1 drivers from Sweden is short: only seven have started more than one grand prix. That is partly down to the list of Formula 1 team juniors from Sweden being even shorter. In fact, it has always been empty. But now there is a name on it: Dino Beganovic, Ferrari Driver Academy member.
To be named a protege of an F1 team is a fantastic career opportunity for a young driver. To join the most famous team of all is something particularly special.
“It’s very exciting,” Beganovic tells this website. “I’m really happy for this. It’s just a fantastic opportunity for me. To join the FDA it just feels amazing.
“I can’t describe with words how it feels to be the first Swede to get the opportunity from a Formula 1 team. Especially Ferrari. It’s so historic and it’s a really big brand, one of the biggest in the world.”
Beganovic, who only turned 16 this month, will make his single-seater debut in 2020, racing in Italian Formula 4 with Prema Powerteam. Success in karting makes the move into cars seem a natural progression, but this kind of chance does not come autoamtically. Beganovic has had to earn the opportunity.
As the WSK Euro Series runner-up, Italian champion and podium finisher in the FIA European series – all in his first year racing in the senior OK category at just 15 years old – Beganovic established himself as an exciting prospect in grassroots motorsport. This despite not being a works driver, in a category that features professional entries from the likes of Birel, CRG, Tony Kart, Kart Republic (including 2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg’s team) and more.
Instead, Beganovic has raced for the Swedish team Ward Racing, which is headed by Joakim Ward. He and Swedish racing legend Rickard Rydell have played a vital role in Beganovic’s fledgling career. Together, Beganovic and the Tony Kart customer team have beaten the works drivers and impressed the manufacturer itself: Tony Kart acts a scout for Ferrari, and recommended the Driver Academy sign Beganovic.
Ward Racing evidently did a good job to give Beganovic the equipment to impress. But the team founder’s influence goes even further.
“Dino’s parents didn’t really have the finance to afford an international career of karting,” says Rydell, who has slipped into an adviser/manager/driver coach role for Beganovic, setting up meetings, arranging contracts and much more.
“So Joakim Ward was helping him a lot through 2017 and 2018, when he was doing OK Junior. But for the last season he did OK, the senior category, and Joakim couldn’t keep paying for that for him competing.
“I got some sponsors and investors involved for last year. And for this coming season, we have some more investors and sponsors.”
Funding is the key to opportunity in motorsport. And with each opportunity, Beganovic has continued to impress, culminating in the Formula 4 tests in late 2019 that led to him earning his place with the FDA.
“We had a camp in September, where they test a couple drivers,” says Dino. “It was really good. I was really fast in the test and I was very close to the reference time they had, and then they wanted to test me a couple times more with Prema – so I knew they had some interest for me.
“Then the last test of the year, in Vallelunga, I got a message from [FDA Technical Director] Marco Matassa in the morning. He says, ‘Dino, it’s an important day today’. I was like, ‘what do you mean it’s an important day?’ He said, ’Yeah, you’re officially an FDA driver’.
“That morning was unbelievable.”
Beganovic has been impressing people with his speed for some time. Rydell says he was won over early on by Beganovic’s qualifying pace in karting – “he was always able to go out there and just put a lap, to be really, really fast” – and speaks highly of how Beganovic has developed as a driver and a person in the last 18 months or so.
Having someone of Rydell’s prestige involved at all is a good example of why Beganovic should be taken seriously as a prospect. Rydell says he finds it “quite fun to be involved” – “it’s like a new adventure, to try and get everything rolling” – but admits that when the results are good, “it’s easier to find the financing as well”.
Such relationships are a mix of business/pleasure. Beganovic’s performances in karting have helped keep that ratio the right way round. An invitation from Tony Kart to test for the factory team, having defeated its works drivers last season, is indicative of how Beganovic’s stature within karting grew in his rookie OK season, despite his young age.
Now he needs to translate that into car racing, and it’s a challenge his supporters believe he is ready for.
“He’s a very down to earth person,” says Rydell. “Karting was his whole life. It’s all he wanted to do, and all he really has done the last couple of years.
“I think he has the right attitude and talent to succeed.”
// Scott Mitchell