Interviews by Sergio Álvarez; photos by Diego Merino.
So what do we think about Zandvoort’s return to the F1 – and consequently F3 – calendar? Yes, it’s a fun track which is completely and totally not suited to F1 agricultural machinery, which in turn makes it kinda perfect, I guess. We saw people running out of talent in both F1 and F3, I like this sort of funky shoot, Gordon Bennett. And let’s be honest, without Max there’d be no Dutch GP – EVER.
I tend to fantasize about Zand’ as F1’s own pocket rocket version of NASCAR’s already pocket-size Martinsville, Liberty should just substitute the enormous grandfather clock with TW Steel Jos Verstappen Kremlin Edition Clock. You catch my drift, innit.
With that one out of the way, let’s proceed with the FIA Formula 3 then.
Our Friday rapid fire qualy featured the usual suspects as of lately, Hauger / Schumacher, David Schumacher / Martins.
You guys seem to love this track, but what would you do differently to improve it even further and make it even more mental?
Hauger: “To be honest, I’m really enjoying this track, it’s really different (from other circuits on the calendar). You really have to maximize everything, it’s a tight circuit and still high speed with some camber corners so it makes it all quite different going into every single corner. I wouldn’t change too much, obviously. Maybe a bit more space to make it easier to overtake for races, but other than that – for a pure qualifying lap, I’m quite happy with it.”
Schumacher: “I mean, I’ve done two sessions here, 45 and 30 minutes so basically I’m brand new to the track, except for the old part when I was here in Formula 4. So I don’t really know anything – what I should change around here. Maybe, as has been already said, some better overtaking spots, maybe some less high-speed corners before the straights. Otherwise, the track is quite cool to drive as well and it’s quite technical.”
Martins: “To be honest, I dunno, maybe to put the DRS before the last banking corner would be a good overtaking spot for Turn 1. It’s just less narrow, for better management of traffic and stuff. The track is just insane, I mean you enjoy it so much and it’s so intense and we all love that. And one lap in qualy, I think, it’s just insane. So no, I wouldn’t change anything on the track. Insane in a good way.”
David, you’re doing a lot better in Formula 3 this year than your family connection, that Mick guy in F1, with the HAAS being on the pace of let’s say F2 Dallara package, but where do you feel you have the edge over your team-mates (Doohan and Novalak) around this track?
Schumacher: “That’s a really hard question! I haven’t looked at the data yet, to be fair. So I don’t really know where I gain and where I don’t. I had a good pace on track and I was in a good position and I got a lap together without two big mistakes. I had two small ones actually towards the end of the lap but the 1st and the 2nd sectors were really clean. So I think I was just getting a good lap together towards the end.”
Race 1 brought some more well-deserved joy for the Leclerc clan, with the Beatles’ haircut bringing it home in P1. Followed by the fastest American on the European soil, none other than Logan Sargeant and Japan’s answer to Yuki Tsunoda, Ayumu Iwasa.
Logan, having spent so much time behind the other Leclerc and trying to perfect your overtaking technique, do you feel it gives you that extra edge in Races 2 and 3 to keep your foot firmly planted and make a couple of moves?
Sargeant: “I think, for sure, if I have the DRS and the guy in front doesn’t it gives me, you know, I know what’s gonna happen going into Turn One and the gap that I need to be to make a move. But unfortunately, as we know, in F3 it can turn into a bit of a DRS train. And at that point it’s practically impossible to do anything.”
Can we expect more diversity in tyre strategy department in Races 2 and 3?
Leclerc: “I think it’s changing a bit after Race 1, it’s obviously the first time we race here so we have a lot to learn about the track, how the race run is going because we never did (race here at Zandvoort). Now we have more feedback done after qualy and Race 1 so for sure we’ll work on it, maybe change, do some little changes to be a bit better in race trim. I expect a bit of change in race strategy.”
Sargeant: “Pretty much exactly what Arthur said.”
Iwasa: “I’m not sure but I think it’s really tough, even though I tried to manage the tyre so I think I have to improve the car set up and driving management as well. I’m looking forward to that in the next race.”
Race 3 went pretty much as planned for the driver of the season, Dennis Hauger: lead from the start, control the pack, collect the winner’s trophy. After his Spa points washout, it was a decent haul of points in Holland for the Flying Norwegian Woodsman. We won’t have to wait too long to find out the identity of our eventual F3 champion in 2021 because Austin may have gotten a tiny bit too weird for Formula 3’s travel/travel restrictions and they went with Sochi instead. I was buzzing about Austin personally but hey, you can’t always get what you want. Kvyat-land of the free and home of the brave will undoubtedly throw us and them an odd curveball or three, based on three races per weekend. Sochi’s 2nd corner is a mind- and carbon-bender.
Dennis, we now know we’re going to Sochi instead of Austin, which of the tracks would you prefer in reality? Will you keep Sochi weird?
Hauger: “I was really looking forward to Austin, it’s a really cool track. I’ve just done some simulator on it. I never raced there or been there before but it looks awesome also from just watching F1. So it’s been one of the tracks I wanted to go for. It’s a shame it didn’t happen but Sochi is a place I did back at F1 Games when I was a kid and always really liked. It’s two new tracks I’ve never experienced before. Anyway, it should be great fun.”
Were you quick on the video game?
Hauger: “I can’t really remember! I was like six! It should be fun anyways, no matter where we are, we just have to push hard and push it, so we’ll see.”
We always wanna know how it’s done so…
Do you have any souvenirs, novelties, party tricks to minimize tyre overheating when you’re in an F3 DRS train?
Novalak: “Tricks? There’s a range that you could sort of say we use as drivers. More or less everybody uses them. The particularity of this track is that you never really get any rest on the tyres because the straights are pretty short, apart from the main straight. So, through like (turns) 7-8-9 you’re always leaning on the rears quite a lot. I definitely think you can regulate it through the high speed and also try and get it into a little bit of clean air by either tightening the corner up a little bit or going a little bit wider to get some free air. Being off the corners trying to straightline the exit, I think it plays a key part in any racing drivers’ F3 race these days to try and keep the tyres up to temperature. It’s something you learn pretty early on and everybody’s using it and that’s why the gaps are also very tight.”
Hauger: “I mean, it’s the first race (this weekend) that I haven’t been in a (DRS) train or behind someone. That’s a lot nicer! I found some tricks along the way, just trying to keep especially the rears a bit down. It’s not easy because there’s a lot of things happening throughout the lap all the time, not a lot of straights (at Zandvoort) so I really had to keep it smooth and clean. The more mistakes you do, the harder it gets for the tyres obviously. It’s about just keeping it clean, basically.”
Smolyar: “For me it depends a lot on which situation you have at the beginning of the race, whether you struggle understeer or oversteer. Different tricks, but here, as everyone said, you struggle a lot with the rear tyres. If you see that you follow the car closely in front and you’re not able to pass it, there’s no reason to stay really close, just have some gap between so the tyres are not getting so hot. Then you can also play with the braking bias, there’s a lot of stuff you can play with. I’m sure everyone has already discovered the car good enough to use all its tricks. With the Pirelli tyre it’s important to manage it when you race against everyone else, but also yourself and the tyres as well.”
There you have it: Hauger – 193 pts; Doohan – 150 pts; Novalak – 122 pts.