Hauger snatches victory after Vips crash: ‘You’ve got to keep the focus’

It was another chaotic day in Baku which resulted in a surprise Formula 2 Feature Race victory for Prema’s Dennis Hauger after fellow Red Bull junior Jüri Vips crashed from the lead and handed the win to the Norwegian. After the podium celebrations, F1 Feeder Series and selected media spoke to Hauger and Logan Sargeant, the top two drivers in the race.

By Tyler Foster

It seemed as if Sunday would finally be the day that Hitech’s Vips, starting on pole, would exorcise his demons from previous Feature Race mistakes earlier this year and stand on the top step of the podium for the first time since Baku last year. The Estonian driver has lost out on possible Feature Race victories three times in 2022 prior to Baku, with a slow pit stop in Bahrain, a major mistake in Imola and finally poor race pace in Barcelona all costing Vips big points.

Vips blows another win

Vips got away from the line well and led the field until a safety car was brought out later on the first lap. At the restart, Vips took control and pulled ahead of Liam Lawson in second. On Lap 8, Lawson and Hauger pitted, but a slow stop for the Carlin driver meant that Hauger jumped him. The following lap, Vips, Sargeant and Felipe Drugovich all pitted; Sargeant moved ahead of Hauger, but the Norwegian retook the position with DRS at the end of the lap.

Vips’ Hitech teammate Marcus Armstrong, who was third before the pit stop cycle, came in at the end of Lap 10. The overcut enabled him to take the net lead, but with superior pace on warmer tyres, Vips overtook him a lap later. At the second safety car restart, Armstrong ran into the rear of Vips, damaging his front wing and his chances at victory. The Estonian driver, however, remained the net leader, albeit now under pressure from a rapid Hauger behind.

It seemed the perfect moment for Vips to secure his first victory of the year, but it wasn’t to be. Vips reported on the radio that his car had been moving under braking since the collision with Armstrong, and it got the better of him as he pushed too hard and crashed at the castle section with just under seven minutes remaining in the race. This handed victory to Hauger, with Sargeant and Drugovich joining him on the rostrum.

Dennis Hauger and Felipe Drugovich celebrate on the podium after the F2 Feature Race in Baku | Credit: Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool

Regardless of the effect that the Hitech collision had on the driveability of his car, Vips is clearly feeling the pressure and struggling to find a way to overcome it when in race-winning positions. In such a crucial year, these mistakes become more and more damning for a driver as talented as Vips.

Hauger begins to come good

Hauger’s rookie season has been tougher than many initially expected. He was only 15th in the standings after Round 4, but two victories in the last two rounds have propelled him to fifth. Speaking to Hauger after the race, F1 Feeder Series asked about his approach around such a tough circuit.

“Especially after yesterday, I think especially in the beginning, [I was] being extra cautious on the brakes. And also after not having done any safety car restarts, as I created one yesterday, it was quite tough to just get on with it straight away while the others have had some experiences with it already.

“In the end, I think I was building up, and especially right at the end, I was getting some good confidence. In the end, it’s so fast around here and you’ve really got to … keep the focus and keep resetting all the time to not do those small mistakes.”

Sargeant learning lessons

Williams Driver Academy member Sargeant has been rather consistent in F2 so far. Despite having just two podiums, he currently sits fourth in the standings. We asked the American how he dealt with the pressure from championship leader Drugovich while fighting for a podium in a race of attrition.

“From my side, I wasn’t quite as quick as Jüri and Dennis, so I really had to push pretty much to the maximum for the whole race to try to stay as close I could to them and manage the gap to Felipe behind.

“However, for me, it was more of a mental challenge, just staying as focused as possible. I remember with six laps to go, I started to get a little bit ahead of myself, like the race was almost over, and I just immediately reminded myself to reset, refocus – this isn’t over yet. I learned that lesson in Imola earlier this year.”

Next up…

Meanwhile, with his sixth podium of the season, Drugovich has extended his championship lead to 49 points ahead of Théo Pourchaire, who had a disappointing weekend and scored just two points. Next up for Formula 2 is Round 7 at Silverstone on the first weekend of July.

Header photo credit: Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool

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