Victory, treble podium, championship lead: a perfect home race at the Norisring

Victory, three podiums and the championship lead: Maximilian Günther enjoyed a perfect weekend in front of his home crowd in what is widely regarded as the highlight of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship at the Norisring. The 2016 championship runner-up won the opening race on the famous street circuit in Nuremberg. Günther followed up his fourth win of the campaign in the world’s most competitive junior series with two more podium appearances. This was enough for Germany’s most promising motorsport talent to move to the top of the championship as the season reaches its halfway point.

But Günther’s first home race of the season was memorable not only for his exploits on the track. On Sunday, the official test and substitute driver to the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM team celebrated his 20th birthday in the paddock. The Norisring was also the scene of two previous milestones in Günther’s racing career. Two years ago, the young man from Bavaria recorded his first victory in Formula 3. The manoeuvre in which he overtook three other drivers to clinch the win was nominated for the 2015 FIA Action of the Year Award.

Günther’s Formula 3 European Championship scoresheet at the halfway point in the 2017 campaign includes four victories and nine podiums from 15 races. The Prema Powerteam driver leads the championship on 236 points, 34 ahead of second-placed Joel Eriksson. The sixth event on the calendar is scheduled for the weekend of 28th – 30th July on the Formula 1 circuit at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

Max, congratulations on your fourth win of the season. How did you manage that from fourth on the grid?
The first race on the Norisring was exceptionally action-packed. I got off to a great start and immediately moved up from fourth to second place. The leading group was fiercely contested, and at one point, I fell back to third. But I never lost contact with the two cars in front of me. They were fighting pretty hard with each other, so my plan was to position myself as advantageously as possible and wait for my chance. A few laps before the end, I took the lead and held it to the end. A home win and 25 points in the bag – that was a mega start to the weekend!

You’ve taken the lead in the championship. What does that mean at this time?
Well, obviously it’s fantastic. I’ve been driving at a consistently high level this season. This is the key to being on top of the championship at the end. We’ve won races, we’ve frequently been up there on the podium, and we’ve scored decent points in every race. We have made use of all the opportunities that have come our way. That is why we are now well positioned in the championship. The points lead sounds good, but we can’t afford to relax our efforts. For the second half of the season, our primary goal is to further improve the performance of the overall package. We will use the coming weeks for this purpose. I am confident that further progress will be made.

Celebrating a birthday on the podium is, of course, quite special…
I couldn’t have written the script better myself. My Prema team surprised me with a birthday cake, and I was incredibly happy to receive all the congratulatory messages from fans at the track and on my Facebook page. On Sunday afternoon, I was also made very welcome in the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Hospitality Suite in the paddock. Our team principal, Uli Fritz, presented me with a cake. I was absolutely delighted! It was the perfect ending to a successful weekend.

The next race weekend will be contested at Spa-Francorchamps. What are your expectations there?
Spa is undoubtedly my favourite track on the race calendar. It’s incredible fun to drive there. You really do feel like you’re on a rollercoaster. The circuit is very long; it has some long straights and twisty sections which make great demands on the drivers in terms of skill. There is always a risk of rain, which of course spices the race up somewhat. I’m very much looking forward to Spa, and I’m optimistic that we can build on our achievements so far.