Hitech Grand Prix left Budapest with silverware for the first time this season after Ayumu Iwasa took a maiden victory and Roman Stanek a first podium, and team boss Ollie Oakes believes that we’ll “see what they’re made of” from here on out.
It’s been an up-and-down campaign for the Red Bull-linked outfit, who are 54 points down on this point last season, but with a considerably younger line-up. Last season’s trio of Liam Lawson, Max Fewtrell and Dennis Hauger combined for an average age of 19.6 years, whereas this season’s roster comes in at just 17.3, more than two years younger on average.
Oakes says he was prepared for a lower scoring start to the season, insisting that he always expected “growing pains” when taking on less experienced drivers.
“On the whole, it has been good,” said Oakes. “All three of them have shown pace in the last few rounds. Jak (Crawford) was massively unlucky at the Red Bull Ring when his engine blew up and Ayu (Iwasa) has been a bit of a dark horse, he is constantly in the mix. We knew Roman (Stanek) from last year and he had a bit of a difficult season, but he is doing a lot better this year and improving every weekend.
“That bodes well for the rest of the year. Budapest was the midway point, so it is from now onwards that we will see what they are made of. There is good and bad to the format when you have got young drivers. It is really nice when they are in the top 12 and on the reverse grids, but when you just miss out in Qualifying, it is a long upward battle.
“We knew that with a really young line-up there would be growing pains, but that is the nature of working with Red Bull. Sometimes there will be moments where you are given drivers who have been at another team in (Formula 3) for a year, whereas this season, the two drivers they chose for us were extremely young but full of talent.”
Iwasa and Stanek both enjoyed their strongest rounds in Budapest, while Crawford’s came in Round 3 at Spielberg.
Admittedly, the American has endured a tougher time of things in comparison to his teammates, with just six points on the board, compared to Iwasa’s haul of 39 and Stanek’s tally of 19, but at just 16-years-old Oakes is convinced the Red Bull junior will come good.
Iwasa and Crawford are both long-term projects for Red Bull, who entrusted Hitech with the development of Liam Lawson and Dennis Hauger last season after the team successfully ran Jüri Vips in 2019.
“It’s evolved every year,” said Oakes, who was once a Red Bull junior himself. “Red Bull have high expectations of what the team and the drivers should be doing, and it is never easy. As we are seeing, F3 is a Championship where you cannot just jump in and win straight away, there are 30 cars and a lot of talent.
“What they are looking for is for their drivers to come in and make an impact, and I think so far Jak and Ayu have done that. It is like all things, they need to get some more results on the board, but as a whole, I think that it has been pretty positive.”
The summer break will allow Oakes and his team a much-needed chance to sit down with their trio of drivers and discuss what has gone right and wrong so far. Before that, the team boss will be insisting on some well-deserved rest, allowing them a chance to relax and recover.
“With youngsters, you don’t always need to do anything. You just need to give them time for things to sink in, and then they naturally move forward,” explained Oakes. “We will give them a bit of a break now, and then they will be back in the sim leading up to Spa.
“In our case, it will be sitting down and having a regroup and saying: ‘look, we have made mistakes in these areas, but that is normal, you are all young. Now, let’s try and put everything together and have a strong second half.’
“There is no magic trick. It is about sitting down with them, giving them the time, and helping them to understand things. When you are at the track at a weekend, it is crazy, and you don’t spend time discussing any of that because you are so focused on the weekend.”