Patrizia Zernatto (32) operates as a journalist, US correspondent and test driver for the Austrian magazine Motorblock. She has a life-long passion for fast cars. Patrizia commutes between Austria and the US and appreciates the advantages of her life in both worlds.
You represent the dream of many guys – a pretty woman who has gasoline in her veins and loves fast cars. How did that all happen?
I grew up with a dad who was a master car mechanic and as I was his first child, he did not want to miss the chance to pass on his passion for and his knowledge of cars to me. The pretty dresses that my mom put on me were never really clean as I spent most of my time in his garage. Actually, my first memory is that I was cleaning spoke wheels with Q-tips and my dad was really proud of me when everything was shining. Later I studied media management but the passion for cars has always been a constant companion. You cannot really apply for the job I am doing now but somehow it is the industry that finds you. In my case it was my current boss who discovered me and he has never let go of me since then. When I went to the US and actually wanted to take a break, he even created a job for me and I became the US correspondent of Motorblock. This is what I have been doing for four years now. I test all kinds of cars and you can guess there are a lot in the US. It is of course helpful to be able to present a cool car and a great background. California is perfect for that because it is so diverse and beautiful.
We guess that your colleagues are mostly men – is that something you like or would you want to have more women around to exchange views and experiences?
Actually, I am quite happy that there are so many guys in my team because I think I can handle them better. I prefer to work independently and love to take care of things quickly, which is sometimes easier with guys. Still, there are women working in the same industry and if I do need advice or help, I also contact them. The advantage of being a woman in this field is, that you of course stand out. You are a kind of unicorn and some things might be easier but on the other hand you constantly have to prove yourself. Many men just see the girl, the blondie, and at first sight they do not have confidence in you. That does not stop – never. As a woman it is also not enough just to know things, you need to be able to put hands on. It really helped me that I started very young, already before my studies at university. I already look back on many years of experience. Men in this industry are constantly testing you. They just open the hood of the car and ask a lot of questions or want you to exchange something. If you cannot do that, you are screwed.
Still you are a full blooded woman and care about your appearance. How do you experience those two worlds?
Yes, I really am and I like it. Still, I also enjoy those moments where I do not have to wear make-up and I can put my hair up. When you do the test drives, you for sure do not look like a model but more like the female buddy who by chance has got boobs. In the evenings, when we go out, I am of course dresses up and wear high-heels and suddenly the guys realize that I am a woman indeed.
What about your technical know-how? Would be able to repair a car?
Yes – to a certain extent. Of course I cannot do everything as you need quite some equipment nowadays. Still, there is nothing that I would not dare trying. It is also my big dream to one day own a classic American car and then repair and pimp it myself. I think I could do that pretty well. I definitely know all the basics and for the rest, I can learn it.
How fast can you change four tires?
We have tested that a short while ago and I did one tire in just 60 seconds. Still that was at an event. In general, I would say: about 10 minutes for 4 tires.
What would be your absolute dream car?
An old 69 Mustang. I guess that will take a little while but it is my dream to own a car like that. It is also a car I would pass on to my children. Of course you need to clean and maintain a car but if you do that, in theory you can drive it forever. The only thing that will be difficult in the future are environmental requirements. It will be very expensive to drive a gas guzzler on the street.
Who would be your favorite co-driver?
That is a hard one. Of course I could name big names like Walter Roehrl but I choose my photographer, a guy from Poland and one of the most unpleasant people I know. Still, I like him very much (laughs). He only gets along with me and we have great fun together. He even puts his hands on my steering wheel and the gear shift but I do not care. It is always a pleasure to be in the car with him. This is what I like most: people who share my passion.
Have you ever had an accident?
Yes, but just one in my whole life and thank God nobody got seriously injured. The car – my Mustang – was already sold to a guy and registered in his name but still insured in my name. So, he wanted to go for a last final ride with me and we left the city. Suddenly, there was a building site with a sandy street and although I did not go too fast, the Mustang started to skid because of all its power on the rear axle. I could not hold the car anymore. The car was completely damaged and I had to rebuy it afterwards. Luckily, nothing serious happened but I had to immigrate to the US with a bald spot and a large scar on my back of my head a week later.
Do you ever fear to lose control of a car again and have another accident?
No, never. I trust myself and the way I drive. And I never go beyond my limits, which I know – in all respects – quite well.
What was the highest speed you have ever achieved with a car?
I think about 310/320 km/h at the racetrack when doing a speed test. But honestly, this is no fun, especially if you have to go so fast for a long time. You need to fully concentrate und every muscle in your body is tense.
You have lived in the US for a couple of years now – how did you get there?
In 2014 I really wanted to make a break. I planned an educational leave to brush up my English. Still, my boss was not really keen on the idea of me leaving and disagreed with my decision. So, he created a job for me and I became the US correspondent for the magazine. First, we only planned a cool feature for like half a year but then the articles created such a stir that he said,’ Please stay in the US and continue to do that.’ The good thing is that there are not so many magazines that have features like that and this is what makes my work successful.
How important is it for you to stay in touch with your family and friends?
In general, I am in Europe every 2-3 months. Then I stay for two weeks and organize my whole day. I am really good at time management and I also appreciate that all the people I contact take their time to meet me. If you live a life like that you also find out who are the important people – the people who touch your heart. Those stay forever. A lot of friends and family also visit me in the US and I really enjoy that.
What makes a place interesting for you to live there?
I am a very adaptable person and it is more about people. If I love someone, I move to the North Pole for him. I have a pretty big heart (laughs). In terms of San Diego, where I lived for the last couple of years, it was also about the great weather. I did not know anybody over there and moved there for surfing. Now I might go to Florida – again beach and a lot of sun. I like it but it is not a priority. There are so many beautiful places I love without the beach and with seasons – like Austria.
What about love?
Love is always essential. Still, I think, the older I get the more demanding I become. I do not want to make compromises anymore. There are some things in my life that are important to me – like a family and cars – if a partner does not want to share that with me it will not work out. I am important to myself and I know that a separation might hurt in the moment but I do not want to look back in a couple of years feeling sorry for myself because I did not have children. But apart from that, I do everything for my partner. I guess I am typical Aquarius.
You are planning to have children. Where and how would they grow up?
If I could really choose, it would be a 50/50 thing. The kid or the kids should grow up bilingually and also live in both countries – so Austria and the US. I think it is great to have more than one home. When I am in the US, I miss for example dancing the Waltz at New Year’s Eve but then the Americans have other great things that I do not want to deprive my children of.
Which superpower would you like to have?
I have never thought about that. Back in time I would probably have said: to be able to tell the future but now I do not want to know. Maybe, to be able to stop time. I do not sleep a lot because I always fear to miss out. Sometimes I would love to have more time a day to live life to the fullest.
What is still on your bucket list?
See a lot of places. Build my own nest, get my own little family.
Who would you like to interview?
There is an interesting American TV-host and news anchor woman called Tomi Lahren. I love the way she speaks and how she stands up for her country – although I do not necessarily share her political attitude.
Love: The United States.
Risk: Not having a plan B.
Pain: Losing somebody.
Freedom: My life. I am very privileged because my mother gave me every kind of freedom I needed. I have always been able to live my life how I wanted to.
Womanliness: If you love yourself as a woman and if you are not artificial. If you look at yourself and think: Yes, that is good. It takes some time until you can love yourself but once it happens, it is wonderful.