Dennis Hauger has been there and achieved it already, but fighting for a Formula 3 Championship is hardly a straight forward task.
The grid is always competitive and 2022 is no different with just 19 points separating the top five in the Drivers' Championship as things stand heading into Silverstone.
We asked the reigning Champion what his thoughts were on the year so far, who the favourites are and which drivers you'll want to keep an eye on.
"Most of the races Formula 2 has had so far this year have been on the same track as them. I’m watching the races, PREMA and the guys I raced last year like Arthur (Leclerc). There’s a lot of fighting and lots happening. I think Arthur has definitely been a strong one. He’s struggling a bit in Qualifying like last year, but in pure race pace and racecraft terms, he’s been strong. I think as soon as he picks his Qualifying up, he's gonna be up there. Jak (Crawford) has been up there too so there’s a lot of contenders this year.
"The racing has been really good. Some drivers obviously had to start further back after not having an optimal Qualifying but, some other drivers have had really good pace in the races and made some exciting fights, especially Bahrain. In Barcelona, (Zane) Maloney started last and managed to get up quite a bit. There are quite a few good contenders and some good racecraft and that's always cool to see."
Victor Martins' lead over Roman Stanek now stands at eight points following the Frenchman's Feature Race win in Barcelona. But there are plenty of contenders to watch out for. Crawford is just six points further back from Stanek in third, with rookie Isack Hadjar in fourth and Leclerc four points back from the Frenchman but in touch, sitting P5 in the Championship.
While there are obvious favourites for Hauger given his PREMA allegiences, the Norwegian says that Trident's speed so far this season is a big reason to be excited heading into the remaining races of the '22 campaign, and an old foe has also caught his eye.
“Arthur and Jak have been the main ones I've watched obviously. But I think outside PREMA, maybe Grégoire Saucy. He was a guy I drove with in F4 in 2019, I think it was his third year in F4 and I was in my second at that time, I didn't really see him as a contender. But he’s obviously grown quite a bit since then and developed quite a bit in his driving. He was always up there in Formula Renault and he’s been up there this year, so he seems to be doing a pretty good job and progressing quite well as a driver it seems.
“Obviously, I want PREMA to be up there, but you can see everyone’s getting more experienced with the cars, with the setups, everything. You can see more teams are finding stuff out and that makes the top guys even closer, fighting for those victories and making the Championship even closer. So that's quite cool. I think Trident were already quite strong as a team and this year they're still there and other teams have also made those steps, so I think that's pretty cool to see how they’re getting tighter and tighter with the experience."
Reflecting on his own experiences in the fight for his Formula 3 title last season, Hauger says that it was an uphill fight until things finally clicked into place for him.
After struggling in the initial races, Hauger says that he didn't have full faith in the car at his disposal at first. The speed only came after gaining that crucial element that sent him on his way to the top spot.
“I lost in 2020 and I struggled a bit, just not feeling really well with the car and I think I didn't really suit the car setup, at least at that time it didn't suit my driving style. I struggled to get my head around it and I feel like at PREMA, I was able to build a lot of confidence in terms of how I can perform the best way with a driving style. They worked with me to figure that out.
"I think that was my biggest step and from then on, I felt really confident and 100% with the car and everything was so under control when I was pushing those limits. That was a really good feeling. Going into that second season where it all clicked from the first round, we led the whole Championship and that was enjoyable, knowing that the pace was always there."
“I think for me, especially in this type of series, there's always ups and downs. And I think learning from those small bounces and trying to just keep moving forward is important. It's easy to lose yourself a bit mentally but to always believe in yourself and never doubt your own skills is something I've learned from then and that’s something I bring into the rest of my career. That's very helpful for me to learn, for me at least, just never doubt yourself always keep pushing forward, even though there's gonna be some bumps in the road."
There have been a fair few bumps already for some of the top names this season. Martins did well to rebound from a DNF in the Barcelona Sprint Race by winning the following day. Jak Crawford experienced a disappointing start but his recent run of podiums and points finishes has thrust him back into contention.
Hauger also believes that Leclerc can still be a contender but has to improve his Saturday performances to be considered amongst the favourites for the Championship.
The most telling factor in the final races will be experience though according to the reigning champion.
“There's definitely some of the rookies that are doing a good job being up there, but I think obviously with the margins, being a third-year driver and having some experience, it's going to help someone be up there consistently. I think you can see that, it's about chipping away and getting those points. Arthur is a strong one for me at the moment. The only thing for him is to get Qualifying right and if he does that, I think he will be pretty good.
"Jak is now a second-year driver and is doing well. He had a bit of a weak start, but he’s getting up there and having quite a few podiums and scoring points now, so it's quite early to say, but there's a few ones with the experience which I think, just in terms of they know how everything works, they will bring those points in. But, I do think a lot of the rookies can surprise as well.”
There's one element above all that will prove critical to any driver's chances of securing the title though according to Hauger.
The PREMA driver says it took time as well as a crash to understand it himself and for things to sink in. From that point though, he says that his performances improved because of it.
“Consistency. Some of the guys are good in Qualifying but not really putting the weekend together. And then some other guys are struggling in Qualifying and making it up in the races sometimes. But it's all about what I learned last year, especially from my crash in the first round in that second race. I lost some valuable points and my first win of that season. It was something that clicked in my head to just keep getting the points and thinking it's gonna be a long season. So you always sort of have to think a bit forward and think twice. I think that helped me a lot to get the Championship.”