Alex Peroni is one of five Australians competing in this year's Formula Renault Eurocup, a proven development series for aspiring Formula 1 drivers.
Speedcafe.com's Tom Howard recently spoke to Peroni to talk about his season so far and future plans.
QUESTION: Tell us about your season so far. You've stepped up to what is a pretty tough category and you're certainly doing very well in it. How do you feel you've gone so far?
ALEX PERONI: I think it was always going to be really difficult. Looking at the entry list, it was always going to be a good challenge, but I think it's been mostly a positive. The last two rounds put a dampener on it a bit.
I think we've been a bit off and if you're a bit off, just a few tenths, you're out of the points and it turns into a bit of a disaster.
At the same time, I've been a bit unlucky, but I think the first half of the season was mostly positive. I think the win in Pau was incredible; obviously that was a highlight.
Even in Monaco, I think we backed up Pau there with Monaco; I think we did a good job there so it's mostly positive.
QUESTION: You won the Monoplace title last season. Do you feel that's given you a good grounding for stepping up to Formula Renault Eurocup?
PERONI: In a way; it's totally different. Going from a small team last year to Fortec and a huge series this year, it's been as big a step as anything.
I think it was nice last year to race on some of the tracks that we'll race on this year that are coming up, and to get to know the car a bit better, but it's still been quite a big jump, especially with this competition.
QUESTION: How tough is it? I know you're at the start of your career but a lot of people would say that this Formula Renault series is probably one of the toughest out there. Is that how you feel?
PERONI: Yeah, it's so close and it's probably the best young drivers in the world that are in this championship. As I said, the last two rounds now probably tell it worse than it was, but if you're a few tenths off in qualifying then you lose two positions in your qualifying group and that puts you way back when you find out your actual grid spot. It's really tough, but I think that's a positive. All the people watching know it's a really tough championship, so if you do well it makes yourself look that much better.
PERONI: It's pretty cool. I think I've raced with all of them bar Thomas Maxwell since nine years of age and it's cool because I hadn't seen them since 2014 or 2013.
To meet three, four years later on the other side of the world, is pretty cool and they're all really good blokes.
QUESTION: You're racing for Fortec. They're a massive team in the UK and they've got a lot of credentials. What does that feel like to be a part of a team that can clearly take you to a high level in the sport?
PERONI: Fortec's been a really good team to help me develop. They've got really great facilities and I get along with my engineer and my mechanic and manager really well.
It wasn't going to be all smooth but in five months in this series I've already learned way more than I learned last year.
QUESTION: Obviously Formula Renault is a pathway to Formula 1. Is that the ultimate goal for you?
PERONI: Yeah for sure, I think Formula 1 would be incredible. You have to aim high and you have to aim for the top, which is obviously Formula 1, but to be professional at any level would be a great achievement.
QUESTION: What is the target for you this year? What would you be happy with?
PERONI: I think just to regain our form a bit. We've shown what we can do and we've shown our potential, which is comfortably in the top five, so if we can regain what we had at the start of the season then I think we'll be looking good. A championship's now out of reach so we're just going for wins and podiums.
QUESTION: Have you started thinking about where you want to be next season? Do you want to do another season of Formula Renault Eurocup or do you want to try to step up?
PERONI: Personally, I just think day-to-day; I let my team behind me work that out. Obviously, I'd be happy to stay another year here and we'd have a good shot at the championship, but at the same time we want to move up. We'll see what happens.
QUESTION: The pathway you're following is very similar to that of Daniel Ricciardo. Is that fair to say that you're obviously keen to follow in his footsteps?
PERONI: I think Ricciardo is an idol for me, given how he composes himself outside the track, and obviously we all know how talented he is, but I wouldn't say I'm aiming just to follow in his footsteps. I'd love to end up similar to where he is but I just take it day-by-day.
QUESTION: Have you had a chance to mix with other teams in different parts of the ladder? I know you've got the Renault link but does that extend to the Formula 1 team?
PERONI: We had a Renault day which every driver that is part of the Eurocup gets to go to. We went to the factory and met Cyril (Abiteboul, Renault F1 managing director) and talked to the manager of the young driver program (Renault Sport Academy) Mia (Sharizman). It's a tough gig and you win one but then as soon as you have a slump you're forgotten, so I have to keep it up.
QUESTION: What would it mean to try and get into that Renault young driver program? Is that something that you're looking at?
PERONI: I think that's probably a good place to be. The young driver program pushes you forward, being compared to other drivers your age and being with them all the time.
Physically, you go to another level, as I found out on that day. We did the testing that the F1 and junior drivers do, and it was intense. Just having people around you, mentoring you, makes a big difference. That's somewhere I'd like to be, for sure.