Six races into the 2023 Formula 2 season, Dennis Hauger sits seventh in the Drivers’ Standings. However, his position doesn’t tell the full story of his campaign so far and the MP Motorsport driver believes a run of Feature Race misfortune has prevented him from maximising his full potential.

Although the Melbourne Sprint Race brought his first victory of the year, the joy was tempered by Sunday’s Feature Race, which ultimately ended in disappointment. He was tagged from behind at the final Safety Car restart, having fought his way up to be in contention for a podium finish.

Acknowledging the sting of missing out a heft points haul, Hauger says that he has to capitalise on his strong pace to make up for lost ground this weekend.

“Definitely in Qualifying I think there was more there. We had good pace on the first set, just didn’t really get a lap in with the traffic and some mistakes on the second set, which cost us the top five a least.

“But anyways, I think we did a good job in the Sprint Race with the weather conditions changing all the time. We managed to have really good pace at the front, which I think we’ve always had in the races. Even in the Feature Race, the pace was mega and I felt really good coming up from P10 to P3. I think it was a really good thing because Melbourne was not the easiest place to get by either, lots of stuff was happening but not so many moves.

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He added: “The pace we had was really good and we were catching the leaders at one point with the fastest lap. It was really frustrating to get that taken away from me before we even got to restart, I got out of the car a bit speechless, not really knowing what just happened. A lot of points went missing and it’s the second out of three Feature Races this year that we’ve DNF’d.

“Some really valuable points have gone missing and could have made the Championship look quite different for me in terms of the pace we’ve had. We really should be up there in the Championship by now. We just have to keep going. Obviously, there’s a lot more races to come, but I think we’ve just got to keep getting those points now because we lost a lot from some unlucky stuff which has been out of my control.”

Fortunately, Hauger’s aim to banish his Feature Race frustration is boosted by a return to his happy hunting ground in Baku. The Azerbaijani circuit was the site of his maiden F2 victory last year and the Norwegian remains optimistic that the wheel of fortune will turn in his favour.

READ MORE: Baku Preview: Running the streets

Eager to bridge the 28-point deficit to Championship leader and fellow Red Bull junior Ayumu Iwasa and with 22 races to go, the MP racer recognises that the season is a marathon not a sprint and playing the long game is the wisest move going forward.

“I hope that it’s balancing out. Iwasa’s not been the quickest, but he’s definitely been consistent, always just grabbing points and staying out of trouble. I feel like I’ve never actually been in a position where I’ve done anything to crash, but it’s just been unlucky situations that have come up out of nowhere.

“Looking ahead, I think we know where we have the pace, especially in the races to be up there winning and getting good points. It’s just about really getting those points and staying up there inside the top five or top three all the time, and at some point, other people are going to have bad weekends as well.

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“With the Feature Races we’ve had this year, we’re still just 28 points from the leader. I know we can easily be up there to fight for the Championship, so it’s just about staying calm, keep going with what we’ve been doing so far, just fix the Qualifying a bit and we’ll be there.”

Having a year’s experience under his belt, Hauger’s acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead in Round 4. With the notoriously unpredictable races leaving the field on guard, he says he’s on high alert to capitalise on events around him – but most importantly, to reach the chequered flag comfortably inside the points.

READ MORE: Crawford: ‘Another street track is one more great opportunity for me’

“In Melbourne we could have got two podiums and I’m sure we can keep the level we had there into this weekend. We had a good race in Baku last year and a good Qualifying, my best-ever Qualifying was here. It’s obviously a bit different with this type of track and the slipstreams, but the pace overall was really good.

“I feel quite confident. There are quite a few new points on the track with walls and asphalt, so it’s going to be interesting to see in FP how we’re getting on. It’s a really cool track with the street circuit being fast and there are some technical parts in the middle which are on the limit with the walls.

“The main thing is being in the right position in Qualifying and also for the races, staying out of trouble and keeping it clean. Last year there was a lot of stuff happening, so it’s always going to be a bit like that there. It’s just about being smart and staying calm throughout the weekend.”