Interview with Johnny Cecotto Jr.: From racing prodigy to serial entrepreneur

Johnny Cecotto Jr. has seamlessly transitioned from a record-breaking racing career to becoming a successful entrepreneur in Monaco. In this interview with Monaco Life Features Journalist Celina Lafuente de Lavotha, he explains how he channels his passion for motorsports into his ventures, and the importance of family in achieving a happy work-life balance. 

Johnny Amadeus Cecotto, aka Johnny Cecotto Jr., was born in Augsburg, Germany, in 1989 and has lived in the Principality for a long time. He is a former racing driver, entrepreneur, aviator, and dad who is happily married to Cristina Boeri de Cecotto. They have two children, a son and a daughter, who are the light of their lives. His mother is Monaco resident jewellery designer Martina Wagner, and his father, Johnny Alberto Cecotto Persello, known as Johnny Cecotto, is a Venezuelan former professional Grand Prix motorcycle and auto racer.  

Johnny Cecotto Jr.’s racing career was filled with numerous highlights. He became the youngest driver to win an international Formula 3 race at just 16-years-old, a record that still stands today. He also won the Monaco Formula 2 Grand Prix in 2012, a race that is considered one of the most prestigious in the world. Johnny served as the third driver for Toro Rosso and Force India in Formula 1, a testament to his skill and talent. He also held the record for the most race starts in GP2 history, including several victories, pole positions, and podiums. 

Eventually, Johnny left racing to dedicate fully to his booming entrepreneurial career as the founder of Stars Monte-Carlo, a luxury car dealership in the Principality, where he continues his passion for wheels by selling luxurious and super-sport cars. With Stars Formula, a motorsport management company, Stars Capital, an investment firm, and Stars Real State, he has been expanding his portfolio in various fields since 2012, with no end in sight. This was after successfully building his IT company, which had clients like Vodafone and the Nolan Group. 

Monaco life met with Johnny Cecotto Jr to learn about his passion for racing cars, planes, boats and helicopters, and how he became a serial entrepreneur.

“The love for the sport still burns within me”

Monaco Life: Did your father encourage you to get into racing?

Johnny Cecotto Jr: My father has been a monumental inspiration to me. I’ve always known I wanted to be a race car driver. I have photos of myself before I was even a year old, holding the steering wheel of my dad’s race car. Racing was not just a career for me, it was a passion that fuelled my every move. I eventually stopped racing to focus on my family and our burgeoning businesses, but the love for the sport still burns within me.

Prince Albert II of Monaco and Johnny Cecotto, Directeur de Course, during the Historic Grand Prix 2024. Photo credit: Dorian Gorda 2024

Tell us about your role as Monaco F1 GP and Race Director Clerk. 

Serving as Clerk of the Monaco F1 Grand Prix Course and Race Director for the Monaco Historic Grand Prix is an incredible honour. In this role, I oversee the smooth operation of the race, ensuring the safety of all participants and spectators. It’s a multifaceted and highly responsible role, overseeing over 800 people. My love for Monaco, motorsports, and the Monaco GP, combined with my experience and multilingual skills, makes this role genuinely amazing.

What about you driving a spectator safety car at the Monte-Carlo Rally?

Being called by the Automobile Club of Monaco for the rally was an immense honour. Although it was my first rally experience, I was thrilled to contribute to another world championship round in the Principality. Driving nearly 4,000km in just four days, mostly on mountain roads, was an unforgettable experience. My ability to speak five languages was invaluable in communicating with spectators from all over Europe.

Who inspired you to become an aviator? 

My maternal grandparent inspired my passion for aviation – a passionate aviator who flew across the world in single-engine planes, won the European Rally Aviation Championship, and was runner-up in the World Championship, where he received his trophy from Queen Elizabeth herself. Flying across Europe gives me a sense of freedom and relaxation like nothing else. I’m currently working towards my helicopter license, although my busy schedule makes it challenging.

Johnny Cecotto Jr, Formula One Testing at Abu Dhabi Yas Marina Circuit, UAE, November 16, 2011. Photo credit: Sutton Motorsport Images, 2011

I remember your mom telling me you were the adult in the family. How do you manage a quality family life with your multiple businesses?

It’s amusing to hear that I was considered the adult in the family. I’ve always focused on achieving my goals, setting high standards, and rarely missing them. But beyond my professional ambitions, I prioritise my family life highly. I always try to be home for dinner with my children and spend most weekends with them. It’s crucial to spend quality time together. My youngest received a 50cc motorbike for Christmas, and we love finding places on the weekends where they can ride. These moments are precious, reinforcing the importance of balancing professional success with family time and creating lasting memories together.

What motivated you to embark on your own business? How do you manage all of them?

The decision to start my own business stemmed from a desire to bring innovative solutions to market, control my destiny, and fulfil a passion for building something from the ground up. The entrepreneurial journey promised a blend of freedom, challenge, and the opportunity to make a tangible impact.

Most importantly, the bedrock of my success is having a great team. I am incredibly fortunate to have a fantastic wife who is the best mom in the world and an incredible life partner, business partner, friend, and counsel. Her support allows me to focus wholeheartedly on our businesses. Additionally, my business partners and close administrative team are incredible. Their dedication, insight, and hard work make it possible for us to grow so quickly and efficiently. Their collective contributions are indispensable to our success.

Prince Albert II, Salim Zeghdar and Johnny Cecotto Jr with at Top Marques Monaco 2023. Photo credit: Lucas Scherrer Production

What is the best and the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur and what are the required qualities to become a successful one? 

The best part of being an entrepreneur is the sense of achievement and the ability to bring your vision to life. The hardest bit is the constant uncertainty and the pressure to overcome challenges and make the right decisions.

The main characteristics for a prosperous business person are resilience, adaptability, vision, dedication, and the ability to learn from failure. An entrepreneurial mindset also requires excellent problem-solving skills and emotional intelligence.

What do you look for when outsourcing or hiring?

I look for individuals who share the company’s vision and values, possess the necessary skills, and demonstrate a strong work ethic and adaptability. Cultural fit is as important as technical competence. Additionally, it is essential to be proactive and foresee problems, which means I value foresight and the ability to anticipate and navigate challenges effectively in potential team members.

How do you define success? Where do you see your many businesses in five years?

Success is creating sustainable businesses that positively impact society and the economy. In five years, I envision my businesses expanding globally, leading innovation, and diversifying into new markets.

What advice would you give to someone just starting on their own?

Research your market thoroughly, be prepared for hard work, and remain adaptable. It’s also crucial to network and seek mentorship, as learning from others can accelerate your path to success. Lastly, don’t fear failure; it is an opportunity to learn and grow.

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Main photo: Johnny Cecotto Jr reviewing the Dallara Stradale D50’s befoe taking the track at the Paul Ricard Circuit. Photo source: Stars Monte-Carlo 2023