CEO Bruno Michel looks back at an eventful fourth round of the 2021 season and picks out his key topics from Budapest.
Michel discusses the relentless form of Dennis Hauger, the new faces on the podium and gives his thoughts on how the remainder of the season will unfold after the summer break.
The Norwegian driver gets more impressive with each passing round… It is hard to believe that he had only scored a total of 14 points in 2020. This season, he has grown to become such a mature, calm, and strong driver, something that Red Bull had more than likely already detected.
In Budapest, Dennis Hauger scored 37 points, including a victory in Race 3 – his third win of the season. In the races and on a track famously known for making overtaking almost impossible, the PREMA Racing ace managed to move up the field, and he produced what’s arguably the best overtaking manoeuvre of the season, on teammate Arthur Leclerc for the win.
He has extended his Championship lead even further and enjoys a 63 point-advantage on Jack Doohan. There are still quite a few points on offer until the final race of the season in Austin, but Hauger has a clear edge on the rest of the grid. Yes, I’m quite impressed and I am sure I’m not the only one!
FRESH FACES ON THE PODIUM
The Saturday races produced some nice results with two new winners, Ayumu Iwasa and Matteo Nannini, but also three new faces on the lower podium steps. In Race 1, Iwasa was gifted the victory after Lorenzo Colombo was penalised post-race. The Japanese from Hitech Grand Prix had been showing flashes of strong pace since the start of the season. He became our eighth race winner in 2021, and the second rookie to claim P1. Also in the first race, Logan Sargeant was promoted to third, which marked Charouz Racing System’s first podium finish in F3. The American had scored a podium finish in Austria, but he was later penalised. So, this was officially their first rostrum, and ironically, it was handed to them after a post-race penalty!
In Race 2, Sargeant’s teammate Enzo Fittipaldi grabbed more silverware for the Czech team with P2. It was the Brazilian’s first F3 podium. He had come so close to this achievement previously, but something always got in the way. I’m sure his huge fanbase were pretty delighted with this result. Ahead of Fittipaldi, Nannini produced a superb race to claim a maiden victory for himself – it was also HWA RACELAB’s first of the year. If you look at the statistics, that’s now nine different race winners in 2021 along with five different teams so far. One more driver added his name to the list of our season’s podium finishers: Roman Stanek. The Czech racer from Hitech took P3 in Race 2, which was his first rostrum in the Championship. We now have 16 different podium finishers in 2021, with nine races to go…
I would like to add a quick note on Colombo and Campos Racing. The Italian finished first in Race 1 to claim a maiden and very emotional victory. He was later given a 5s time penalty for a minor safety car infringement. He and the entire team were heartbroken having worked so hard for this result, but there have been strong improvements in Budapest, and I am sure they will take another trophy soon and make the late Adrian Campos proud.
THE TITLE CHASE
We’ve now reached the halfway point of the season, and we can all agree that Dennis Hauger will be very hard to beat, but that does not mean that his rivals will not try their hardest, starting with Jack Doohan. The Australian from Trident did not score a single point in 2020. He said that it was a season that really shook him, but he spent the time in between last year and this campaign to reset his mind and work even harder to prove to himself and to everyone else that he could be a title challenger. After Budapest, he is second in the Standings. Sure, the gap to Hauger is massive, but I know that Doohan will keep on pushing till the final chequered flag.
The same can be said about Olli Caldwell and Frederik Vesti. Both have had their share of misfortune this season, but they’re both race winners and have the talent to challenge Hauger for the crown. I will also keep an eye on Alex Smolyar and Clément Novalak. The Russian is a double race winner this season but has lacked consistency. The Frenchman, who was one of the most consistent drivers in the first two rounds of the season, lost ground in Austria with a pointless event. In Budapest, both drivers scored in all three races. They could cause a surprise before the season ends.
THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF THE ROOKIES
I always look at the rookies’ performances. At the start of the season, the most talked about one was Victor Martins, who was quite impressive. He adapted extremely quickly to the F3 car and Championship, qualifying in the top three and claiming podiums. He is still the highest placed rookie, in seventh, but since the second race at the Red Bull Ring, he has failed to score a point. Budapest was his worst event to date, but the same can be said about his teammate, Caio Collet. Let’s see if together with MP Motorsport, they can bounce back after the summer break.
Meanwhile, Arthur Leclerc started the season with a lot of pressure on his shoulders: brother of an F1 Grand Prix winner and a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, people were expecting a lot from Arthur. He is currently P8 in the Championship, with a win, a pole position and a podium finish, but looking at the standings, you realise that he scored only three times this season. When he has scored, he’s scored big, but his lack of experience has made his life a bit hard so far. Let’s see if he can be more consistent going forward.