In an exclusive interview, 2021 Formula Three champion, Dennis Hauger has spoken about his rise up the motorsport ladder and future plans as he targets F2 next season.
Hailing from Norway, Hauger has enjoyed a stellar rise up the motorsport ladder which recently saw him crowned 2021 F3 Champion after delivering a consistent campaign with four wins.
The 18 year-old now candidly reflects on his karting days, contrasting F4 title fights in 2019, his time in F3 and looks ahead to the future as he seeks to become the first Norwegian F1 driver, having been part of Red Bull Junior Team since 2018.
Who inspired you to become a racing driver?
Hauger: “My father played a big role in that. He has always been racing himself and early on I just loved it.
“We had a lot of days at the track together working on the kart and just enjoyed what we both love.”
Having enjoyed plenty of success in karting with eight titles of which five titles came in 2015 alone, how important do you feel that period was in your development as a racing driver and especially when initially stepping up to single-seater racing?
Hauger: ” Karting plays an important role for a racing driver, learning the basics and being smart in different situations. And of course how you work with the team as a driver.
“Going into single seaters, there are a lot of new things to learn and the dynamics in the car are a bit different but I could definitely bring some things with me. The way you work hard and think, both regarding setup, progress and driving, comes from karting.”
2018 saw you make your single-seater season debut as you finished fourth in British F4. Compared to your initial expectations at start of that season, how surprised were you at how consistent you were throughout your rookie campaign?
Hauger: “The first half of the 2018 season was great, started to catch the leader slightly and had a good rhythm. But then ending up with quite a lot of issues the second half of the season unfortunately.
“I felt there was much more to give and could have been fighting for the title. But there was lessons learnt from it and when things didn´t go because of issues out of my control I kept doing everything I could. All in all, I was not really surprised, because it ended up worse than it could have.”
2019 saw you switch to ADAC and Italian F4 where you dominated the latter series but missed out on ADAC F4 title to Theo Pourchaire by seven points. As a young driver, what was the biggest lesson that you learned from that season with dual campaign and contrasting title fights?
Hauger: “I think having consistency was the most important thing I learned, and what has helped me the most in the F3 championship.
“Managing to reset between race weekends and bringing the positive experiences into a new weekend was maybe the things I learnt the most of.
“I really brought that info the 2021 season and it helped me to the FIA F3 title as well so you always learn different stuff on the way.”
Last season saw you step up to F3 with Hitech GP where form proved difficult after a strong 2019 season of F4 racing. What did you find to be the biggest challenges about making the step up to F3 despite your two only points finishes both taking place in Hungary?
Hauger: “There was different scenarios that season which came into play, but I struggled mainly to find myself fully confident in the car and never really got to change it accordingly to my driving style. Which made it hard to get comfortable. Among with some other things behind the scenes.”
This season saw you stay in F3 but switch to PREMA where you made huge progress to secure a dominant title amidst a new race weekend format. Compared to 2020 season, why were you able to make that huge step forward and win the title and what are your thoughts on the three-race format?
Hauger: “The biggest change this season, was that I could really work with the team and adjust the car to my driving style. And when things work, I become more confident and I´m up there.
“The new format definitely brought some cool fights and racing in general. But it made it more complicated for the drivers as well. Really had to keep calm and be smart for especially race one. But in the end it doesn’t matter, it´s the same for everyone so you just have to play it smart and be consistent.”
With F2 looking set to be your next destination in 2022, how excited are you to make that move up and fight fellow Red Bull juniors – Jehan Daruvala, Liam Lawson and Juri Vips for the title?
Hauger: “That´s the plan at least and I´m looking forward to new challenges, although not everything is ready yet.
“If everything settles, it will be a new and exciting challenge. With a new car, it will be important to prepare and adapt quickly, but should be fun and I´m really looking forward to it.”
You’re a member of Red Bull Junior Team so what is it like to be part of their youth programme and learning from other junior drivers and senior members?
Hauger: “It´s a great opportunity for me to show my potential and I really have to keep pushing obviously.
“Keeping the focus on what I have to do with the team and keep my mind in the right place. We get to train in the Red Bull centre and on the simulator in the UK, so Red Bull helps me getting as ready as possible. Main focus is working together with the team to maximize our season.”
Finally, no Norwegian has ever raced in F1 so what would it mean to become the first Norwegian driver to fully graduate to F1 and perhaps create the F1 debut of Norwegian Grand Prix?
Hauger: “That would be a dream come true, to get Norway their first F1 driver would be a good feeling. But some work to do before that so not thinking too much about it.”