Making history in Hungary
Maximilian Günther claimed a historic success in the second round of the FIA ??Formula 3 European Championship in Hungary. With his victory on Saturday, the 18-year-old took the lead in the championship, which makes him the first German driver since Nico Hülkenberg in 2008 to emerge from a race weekend topping the championship table in the world´s most competitive junior racing series.
The Prema Powerteam driver put himself on course for success with three pole positions in qualifying on the Hungaroring Formula 1 circuit. Günther has now taken five poles in a row, a run only achieved by three previous drivers in the history of the Formula 3 European Championship. Günther won the second race on his debut at the Hungaroring after finishing fifth in Race 1. In Sunday´s race, the German super talent was forced to retire while in the lead.
Maximilian, how does it feel to be the first German leading the European Formula 3 Championship for almost ten years?
It´s a great feeling, no question about that. However, the championship lead is just a snapshot. Nothing is decided until the end of the season, and we have another 24 races ahead of us. Obviously I am delighted that the international press are currently taking such a big interest in me. Statistics are not all that important to me personally, but holding the lead in the championship is the best vantage from which to prepare for the remainder of the season.
On your debut at the Hungaroring, you secured all three pole positions. Were you expecting that when you arrived here?
After my double pole in the season opener in France, I knew that we would have a good chance of competing for the front of the grid. But picking up all three poles was just fantastic. The Hungaroring is a very demanding track, and track limits play an important role. But I coped well with them. At the start of the second qualifying, I was stuck in traffic and blocked by an opponent for a while. Towards the end, it was really tight squeezing in two fast laps, but I managed it.
After fifth place in the first race, you won the second. That was your second win of the season and your third overall in Formula 3…
First of all a big ‘thank you´ to my crew at Prema Powerteam for having set the car up so perfectly. After a good start, I was able to control the pace at the front and to pull out a decent gap. What´s more, I broke the Formula 3 lap record for this track – further evidence of the speed of our car. When I crossed the finish line, I had a lead of more than three seconds on the runner-up. This victory was also a nice gift for my mother who celebrated her birthday on Saturday.
On Sunday you were forced to retire while in the lead from pole position. What happened?
The retirement was extremely frustrating, because I was in with a good chance of another strong points finish. It had been raining and the track was very wet for the start of the race. The stewards decided we should start behind the safety car. After it returned to the pit lane, I got off to a very good start and managed to pull away from my pursuers. Driving in these conditions was extremely tricky. On the sixth lap, an opponent tried to overtake me. He crashed into the right-hand side of my car and I spun off helplessly into the barriers. So unfortunately that was the end of my race. After it was over, the stewards imposed a penalty on the other driver for this incident, but that still leaves me without any points.
The third race weekend of the season takes place from 13th to 15th May. What are your expectations for the prestigious Grand Prix de Pau in France?
I´m really looking forward to the races at Pau. In my rookie year of 2015, I achieved my first Formula 3 podium finish there. I think that street circuits suit me well, as my victory at the Norisring showed last year. It´s a big challenge driving on such narrow tracks, but it´s also a lot of fun. You´re constantly hugging the walls, and the slightest error can end your race immediately. On the basis of our previous success, we think we have a good chance of a top result this year too.