Podium treble in rookie class at Hockenheim

Strong debut for champion team Prema

Successful debut on the final weekend of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship for Maximilian Günther: The talented young German formula driver made his first appearance for new champions Prema Powerteam at Hockenheim. The 18-year-old immediately made a big impression with a strong showing for the highly respected Italian outfit. Three rookie podiums were enough to take Maximilian up to fifth in the newcomer classification.

Maximilian, it was the last race weekend of the season and your first outing as a member of the Prema Powerteam squad. How did it go?
First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the team. From the very first minute, I was in my element. I was given a great reception and immediately became part of the setup. But it was a very last-minute affair. It only became clear shortly before the race weekend that I would be driving for Prema. Friday’s practice session was my first opportunity to familiarise myself with the new car. It was quite an adjustment, but I managed OK. Preparation time with the engineers went brilliantly; it helped me a lot.

In qualifying, you took P2 at your very first attempt. Did you surprise yourself with this strong performance despite the extremely short settling-in period?
We were able to improve steadily in free practice and had worked out a good setup for qualifying. As early as the first few laps, I realised how much potential there was in the car. I was obviously very happy about qualifying on the front row. Even so, my lap was by no means perfect. I couldn’t have matched the pole-setting time of my team-mate and series champion Felix Rosenqvist. It was extremely tight behind me. My Prema team-mate Lance Stroll was only six thousandths of a second slower. It was a similar situation in the second qualifying session: although I was fifth, I was just seven hundredths of a second off pole position.

In the two races on Saturday, you scored a lot of points for your two P4 finishes. Are you satisfied with your performance?
Yes, absolutely. Most of all, I’m delighted about the good results for the team as a whole. For two of my team-mates, there was still a lot at stake in the championship. It was therefore important to emerge from the races with a strong team performance at the front. Although I’ve competed in quite a few Formula 3 races, the way the Prema car works is a bit different. Consequently, I had to feel my way into the optimum starting procedure. I was learning more and more with every lap completed. A P2 and a win in the rookie class is a satisfactory outcome from the two races on Saturday.

You scored more points in Sunday’s race after a spectacular charge up the field. Tell us more.
Despite the wet conditions, we started on slick tyres. We expected that the track would dry soon, and it turned out to be the right decision. From fourth on the grid, I was unfortunately spun round by an opponent early on in the first lap. Luckily, my car was not damaged and I was able to mount an attack from the rear of the field. Despite several safety car deployments, I moved up to sixth place. That gave me my third rookie podium of the weekend. In any case, that was the maximum available and a successful conclusion to a great weekend with Prema.

What happens next year?
At Hockenheim, the focus was on delivering my best performance. I think that my debut for Prema Powerteam went well. Obviously, I would like to contest the 2016 Formula 3 European Championship as a Prema driver. A German in a red racing car – very fitting. This is a great team with a proud history in motorsport. I was especially impressed by the professionalism and attention to detail of the Italians. The feedback from the team has been very positive. But nothing has been decided for the coming season. We’ll discuss the situation over the winter months and then take it from there.

Foto: Mario Bartkowiak