Dennis Hauger is banking on tweaks to his PREMA Racing car ahead of the Feature Race to help him gain some points in Spielberg. The Norwegian finished in 10th position across the line before being promoted to ninth place following a post-race penalty for DAMS’ Ayumu Iwasa.
Speaking after the race, Hauger said that the team was already planning what changes will be made to the car ahead of the Feature to ensure that they maximise the potential of team and driver on Sunday.
“We’ve seen some things balance-wise we could change that will help it but also going into tomorrow, it’s going to be a longer race. It's not easier with the rears but it's not crazy compared to other tracks. Strategy wise, something to look out for tomorrow.”
Hauger spent the majority of the race on the edge of the top 10 fighting with teammate Jehan Daruvala. Both of the PREMA drivers were able to keep things clean whilst going wheel-to-wheel, but the Norwegian admits that it was frustrating to not be fighting for places further up the order.
“I think Jehan is a hard but fair driver so that was right to keep it clean. It was on the straight going into the braking zone to three so it was not like anything spectacular, but it was good that we got it.
“Considering where we started, P10 was not too bad, but obviously that’s not where we want to be anyway. We’re just trying to make the steps we have to. I think Qualifying has been the main issue for us. Races haven’t been too bad, but at least we've got some positions today and hopefully in a longer race tomorrow, we can do a bit more and get some points. A tough day for the team and we're just trying new things to figure out how it can be back up there.”
Hauger is also re-planning how he’ll tackle the opening corners of the race. His attempts to make up places at the start during the Sprint didn’t go according to plan after getting blocked off by those ahead, another symptom of starting further back in the pack.
Hauger also added that the deployment of the Virtual Safety Car to cover Liam Lawson’s stranded Carlin was a race-changing moment for him. Once Lawson had managed to get his car going again, Hauger was unsure as to whether the New Zealander was still in the race or not.
“I went a bit off into Turn 1 but the start itself was quite good. Then I struggled a bit into turn three. I wanted to go outside but then got a bit blocked. Someone else had the same idea, so I lost a bit of time there. I think I had the potential to do a bit more on the first lap, but other than that, I think we can take that speed into tomorrow and try to do a better job.
“We had decent pace before the Virtual Safety Car, but I lost like two seconds on the VSC because I saw Liam (Lawson) in front and I wasn't really sure and I didn't get any info if he was actually in the field or if he wasn't, so going into Turn 4, I just hesitated a bit. That cost me a bit of time. I was with Jehan, he passed me and then I passed him back on exit, so we definitely lost some time there. We gained two seconds back again after that. If that didn't happen, I think we definitely could have been in the mix to maybe at least try something to make a few more spots. We did the most with what we had at that point. We just have to figure out overnight what's going on and then try again tomorrow.”
With a cleaner start, clear air ahead, strategy in the mix and the overnight changes, Hauger is hopeful that he can leave Spielberg with a few more points to add to his 2022 tally. Making progress in the early phase of the race will be crucial to his chances with the PREMA man starting down in 15th again on Sunday.
“Getting to the top 10 as early as possible would be nice. Also, we're not sure about strategy yet but trying to get some clear air and some points would be nice. Just try to keep it clean and try to make a better first lap than today. And after that, just take one by one.”