Instructive Formula 3 premiere in Portugal

Maximilian Günther: Our risk was in vain

Tricky race weekend for Maximilian Günther in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. The 18-year-old failed to score points on his Formula 3 debut in Portimão, Portugal. Maximilian is placed fifth from a total of 18 drivers in the rookie championship which is the sole preserve of drivers without any prior F3 experience.

Maxi, your Formula 3 debut in Portugal began quite positively. Qualifying was the only thing that did not go as planned. What happened?
There were some rays of hope to begin with, and I was fifth fastest in the official tests just before the race weekend. Practice went well too with seventh place. We wanted to make some improvements to setup before the quali in order to continue to push forwards. Unfortunately, our work was in vain. I really had to struggle with the car’s balance during practice. What’s more, unfortunately, we did not manage to post a clear lap at the right time, which can easily happen in a field of more than 30 cars. Well, I did set one or two hot laps, but my tyres were no longer in the optimum working window by then. If you lose two or three tenths of a second as a result, that can cost quite a few places.

So far this season, your strong overtaking has been outstanding, so what went wrong in Portimão?
That’s hard to say. The starts especially went well, and I managed to gain up to five positions in both races. The bottom line is, though, that I obviously can’t feel too satisfied with two P14 finishes. We decided to take a bit of a risk once it became clear that we would have to fight our way up through the midfield and set the car up for low downforce in order to gain an advantage on the straights. However, that meant I had difficulty staying in touch with the driver in front through the fast turns, especially in the last one. I was losing 20 metres on average on the approach to the main straight. Sure, I made up the deficit on the straights themselves, but it was not enough for an overtaking manoeuvre. The low downforce made me really struggle.

The third race on Sunday ended early for you after a no-fault collision. What happened exactly?
Not finishing was annoying, because I’d just made my best start of the weekend. I’d been in P16 on the grid and gained a lot of ground while running through the very first few turns and was tenth. I was right behind Markus Pommer on an uphill section when he suddenly had a problem and lost all forward motion. It was as if he’d braked hard, as we were accelerating uphill. There was no way that I could avoid him, and we made contact, which led to us both having to retire. Still, there was nothing either of us could do, and even the race organisers regarded it as a normal racing incident.

After achieving a podium in Pau and a win at the Norisring, the team has been experiencing one or two setbacks of late. How do you as a driver deal with that?
The last couple of weekends have obviously not been all that great after making such a good start to my debut season in the Formula 3 European Championship, but such setbacks are part and parcel of motor racing and have helped me to mature as a driver. The most important thing as a rookie is for me to continually develop and make progress. My driving during the initial stages of the races in Portimão, for example, proved that I can still be highly motivated despite a tough quali to achieve the best possible result. There are two more race weekends left in the Formula 3 European Championship, and I’m definitely going to floor the pedal at both these fixtures. I can’t wait to race at the Nürburgring and at Hockenheim in front of a home crowd.

Foto: Alexander Trienitz