In a nation where you become famous for going sideways in high powered rally cars on dirt through the thick forests and mountain roads, perhaps trying to become a Formula 1 driver is like winning the lottery. Step forth 18-year-old Norwegian sensation, Dennis Hauger. The young Scandinavian has set Europe alight over the past few years with Formula 4 glory and now FIA Formula 3 championship success, taking the 2021 title in dominant fashion.
Sky’s the limit for the Red Bull backed driver. And with Hauger looking to move into Formula 2 for 2022, it’s no wonder that he’s full of confidence as he reflects on his monumental season with Prema Racing. F1 Feeder Series had a chat with him this past week as he discussed his championship winning season, dealing with title pressure, as well as what he’s looking forward to in the immediate future of his career.
Some seasons can be a tale of two halves. With Hauger managing to score wins and podiums early on in Catalunya, Paul Ricard and Red Bull Ring – it was the second half of the season where he showed his mettle. Racking up consistent points and fending off the late season surge of fellow Red Bull stablemate, Jack Doohan. Hauger explained his personal highs and lows of his epic season.
“Definitely race one in Sochi was a highlight. Getting the championship, going back to the pits and celebrating with the team and family was a really great feeling. In terms of other races, I think Red Bull Ring where I started P12 and ended up winning was a cool moment. And obviously the first weekend in Barcelona, having to put it together in the beginning and starting the season on the right foot. It was nice getting that pole position and the first win, which was a nice relief after the 2020 season.
“In terms of low moments, I would definitely say Spa was an overall struggle for the team all weekend. In the final race we managed to make some changes which helped a bit, but still it wasn’t enough. We still took some points out of it from a bad weekend, so from there on we just kept working as hard as we could.” said Hauger.
All drivers at this level have a strong degree of talent. And even though the categories below Formula 1 are spec based, there’s always nuances within certain teams that can either bring the best or worst from a racer. Coming off the back of an incredible 2019, where Hauger wrapped up the Italian F4 title, he entered FIA F3 in 2020 with Hitech Grand Prix and ultimately struggled. Joining Prema Racing for 2021, he tells us how he was able to finally extract the maximum from himself to challenge for silverware on a more frequent basis.
“I would say 2020 was different factors. It was a tough season, especially mentally. Having to reset every weekend was hard because in the end I never really got the car I could get myself confident in. The team didn’t really want to make any changes to give me more confidence. They didn’t really have that mindset and it didn’t work for me.
“In Prema I could really work with them to find something I like and something I could reach my 100% potential in. I think that was one of the main changes this year. The whole team and the atmosphere is incredible here, so I think everything around it is making a more complete package in the end.” explained Hauger.
2021 really was year of growth for Dennis Hauger. From winning a championship in 2019, to falling back in 2020, the young Norwegian gained some early experience in how to handle the pressures of both ends of the spectrum.
“For sure. In 2019 I think there were some things I could’ve done better. Consistency was something I really brought into 2021 and after that crash in Barcelona race two, something clicked in my head that I really had to go for the points now and never put myself in that position again.
“From then on, I would say my race craft also improved a bit, so I would say there were some experiences I took into this season and overall, I would say we did the job in the first half of the year. We had a few bad weekends like in Spa. But I think everyone has bad weekends, so we just had to make the most out of it. I think we did a good job in preparing and learning from our mistakes.” said Hauger.
The driver market across all feeder series is in flux for 2022, and the rumour mill begins to swirl at an accelerated rate when you’re a champion looking for your next move. Although nothing has been announced formally yet, Hauger is looking to be on the Formula 2 grid next year and he’s under no illusions of what it’ll take to be on the pace. But as he states when asked about next season, he’s here to win from the get-go.
“F2 is the plan. Going into that it would learning as much as possible in the tests and just make myself confident as I have been this year, taking every experience out of it. Going into the season I want to be up there straight away and do the job, but at the same time taking it step by step. I don’t want to put any unnecessary stress on myself.
“Obviously I haven’t driven F2 yet, but I don’t think the leap from F3 to F2 is as big as with F4 to F3. But there’s always stuff you must adapt to and change in your driving style. The team and setup are also another factor, so lots of things come into play. The further you go up the ladder, the more things you must work on. It’s a good learning process, but it depends mainly on the people that are around you and the atmosphere in the team.” said Hauger.
Red Bull and F1
And in the modern-day world of the sport, it’s becoming more and more evident that having junior team backing opens doors that otherwise wouldn’t be available to you. In being part of the Red Bull junior team, Hauger reveals how it’s helped his progression, as well as giving his insight into what it’s like for drivers becoming escalated to Formula 1 at such a young age.
“Obviously it’s a great opportunity to be in a junior team in single seaters. I think it’s really important. But at the end of the day, we still have to perform and focus on delivering results. But if we do well it’s a great opportunity for us, so I just have to keep my head down and focus on what I can control right now and then we’ll see.”
“If the opportunity for F1 comes, I think you have to take it. But I just think it’s dependent on the person and how developed they are, in terms of experience and maturity – this is the most important thing in F1. If I got the opportunity at such a young age, then I would definitely take it. It’s an opportunity you can’t miss.” expressed Hauger.
And finally, of course representing Norway and being the only driver from the sparse nation to be racing on an international level in single seaters, Hauger takes a strong sense of pride in succeeding and boosting the interest for the sport in his homeland.
“It’s really cool! I think I’m the only one in single seaters right now, so it’s obviously very important to me. There’s never really been any interest in Norway up to this point, but I would day after the Netflix series and me doing well – it’s really growing now. It’s cool to see the interest is slowly coming. It just makes it more special to do well and see the country following me.” said Hauger.
Credit header photo: Red Bull Content Pool
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