Win in season opener at Le Castellet

Battling to the very last turn

Maximilian Günther made a perfect start to the new season of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. The only German driver currently in the field won Sunday’s race at Le Castellet. Günther ultimately won through in an exciting race to the chequered flag, turning pole position into his second overall victory in the world’s strongest junior racing series.

The Prema Powerteam driver had earlier secured his first two pole positions in Formula 3. Günther moved up three places in the opening race at the Circuit Paul Ricard to finish fifth. The 18-year-old retired in the second race after starting on pole, following a no-fault collision on the first lap. Günther finished the first race weekend of the season joint second overall in the championship.

Max, you had to fight to the final turn for your win on Sunday. How did you feel as you drove the car?
First of all, I want to thank Prema for giving me such a fantastic car! The race was really exciting. I got a great start from pole position and was able initially to pull out a lead of just over a second. However, a sidepod flap on my car broke away on the fourth lap, which slowed me down a bit. That enabled team-mate Nick Cassidy to get within a few tenths of me. He tried to make an overtaking manoeuvre stick in the final turn, really pushing hard at that point. I held him off and defended my lead over the final few metres to the finish line. Winning was very important for me this first race weekend, as it puts me in a good position for the rest of the season.

Your start to the new Formula 3 season could hardly have gone better with two pole positions. Did you expect to have the necessary speed so quickly?
Everything has to be perfect for a pole in this closely fought series, for sure! Posting fastest lap twice was just great. I felt very comfortable in the car even in practice where I also set best time. It’s particularly important in Formula 3 to start as far up the field as possible. Overtaking is not easy, because the cars produce so much downforce. Lap times are usually pretty similar at the head of the field, as we saw in the first race where I got a super start and moved up quickly into P5. Whilst I kept pace with the leaders after that, I simply couldn’t pass the guy in front without taking too big a risk.

Can you tell us exactly what happened in the second race, in which you again started on pole?
Unfortunately, I didn’t get off the line well and lost a couple of places. I was hit by another driver on the approach to the first turn and lost control of my car as a result. A number of cars were involved in the collision, and I had no chance to escape the ensuing chaos. And so, my race was over on the first lap, which was obviously frustrating, because a great deal more was possible. We have already analysed what went wrong at the start and will make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

The second race weekend takes place at the Hungaroring in Hungary. What do you expect from the races at this famous Formula 1 circuit?
The Hungaroring has a great motor racing tradition. I can remember as a child watching loads of exciting Formula 1 races on TV. It will feel really great to be the one putting my boot to the floor around the circuit. Budapest will be a fresh challenge for me, since I’ve never driven there before, but I’m certain that we’ll prepare as best we can with the team. The Hungaroring is a very fast circuit with some tight turns. There aren’t all that many opportunities for overtaking, which is why qualifying will be one of the key factors over the weekend. I think we can be among the front-runners again after making such a good start in Le Castellet.

Foto: Mario Bartkowiak