HWA RACELAB’s Jake Hughes battled off illness in Hungary to achieve two podium finishes and continue the German team’s strong start to their first campaign at this level, in a single-make Championship.
The Briton lauded Round 5 as “very successful,” but quickly asserted that it can always be better, as he looks to fight his way towards the top of the drivers’ standings. After another successful round, in which he collected 35 points thanks to two third place finishes, the 25-year-old racer believes that the team are not too far away from where they want to be, going into the summer break.
“We didn’t get a win, but to get a podium finish in both races is an extremely strong weekend in FIA Formula 3. As we know from the old GP3 Series, it is very difficult to get two solid results in both races.
“Coming just before the summer break it is important to have a confidence boost for the whole team - if we needed it at all - and yeah, we will come back fighting in Spa and try and get that little bit more for the win.
“I think that we just need to capitalise on the pace we have in terms of points. I feel like, in terms of potential, we should be in the top three or four in terms of pace. Maybe people wouldn’t think that, but if they looked back and analysed it, then they would probably see that we have been there for four out of the five rounds. I feel like we are a top three or four combination at the moment.”
The Briton has been struggling with illness since Silverstone and despite this, still ran to two podium places, courtesy of slick overtakes on Jüri Vips towards the end of both races. The result brought HWA RACELAB’s point’s tally to 66 with three rounds remaining. While the German outfit have enjoyed success within DTM and Formula E, it is solely Hughes and one engineer who have experience at this level and with the Pirelli rubber.
For a driver who very nearly opted against another drive at this level, it has been a stellar start. “HWA have done a mega job,” he continued. “I think everyone would have to admit that. I didn’t expect, maybe, to be here again this year, but I am really happy that I took the decision and I am really enjoying life at HWA. They are helping me a lot and I feel like I am helping the team a lot.
“No matter how big and successful a team are in other categories, for the first time into a single make championship like Formula 3, it is difficult. It is a different type of skill to be able to beat your competitors in a championship like this. Those who have that knowledge in the team, which is basically full of rookies, need to sort of lead the way.
“They are learning and improving the car all of the time themselves. I think that it is really encouraging and I am not sure of many teams who have done a better job in their first season in a championship with Pirelli tyres. With the little experience that we have in the team, I think that they have done a mega job and I only see it getting better.”
“I try and lead the way, or lead by example at least, but it is a new car, so you can't just take what me and my engineer might know from the previous generation of car. It is not a case of me being placed in the team and just copy and paste. I am having to adapt as well.”
Thanks to Hughes, the team already have their first victory in the category, having started the season in frustrating fashion in Barcelona, when they failed to score a point. The team got off to a better start in Round 2 as the Briton ran to pole in Qualifying, but a crash during Race 1 halted their progress. The 25-year-old goes on to speak of the relief within the garage when they earned the win at Spielberg.
“We got pole in Paul Ricard and I lost the lead mid-race,” he recalls. “I was probably too desperate to get it back and I made a mistake and DNF'd and that left us three races in with no points when we should have arguably been on 30 plus points by then.
“So, we were playing catch-up already and that was frustrating. At the Red Bull Ring, we were able to go and get that win, and by Round 3, to have already gotten the first win and first pole for the team was a positive encouragement. It meant that nobody had to stress about wanting that first one anymore - It was already done, so we could move on.”
Hughes currently lies 6th in the Driver’s standings on 56 points and will now have the opportunity to recover during the weeks leading up to Round 6 in Belgium, when he will look to get back to full health and take stock, ahead of the final part of the season.
“I plan to enjoy the break to be honest,” he concluded “I have been ill for a month, just before Silverstone, up until now, so I have been struggling a bit. On the podium in both races in Budapest, I was a little bit worse for wear. I tried not to show it, but I was struggling a bit. I am just planning to relax and figure out what is wrong with me, do a bit of cycling maybe if the body allows it and just relax and see friends and family.”