For Dennis Hauger, 2022 was a season of two halves. The 19-year-old has switched to MP Motorsport for the new season but his maiden campaign with PREMA Racing was a learning experience on and off the track.
He says his switch to MP is the right move for him after an educating year in F2. Finishing 10th in his rookie season wasn’t how he envisaged his first year in F2 going. After a difficult beginning to the year, it wasn’t until Round 5 in Monaco where Hauger tasted his first success.
His first Feature Race win came one round later in Baku, but just when his season looked like it had rounded the corner, another barren spell followed with only a single points scoring result in the next four weekends.
“I would say a bit of a rollercoaster. We started the season not in the best way, I struggled a bit to get comfortable with the car. I knew I had to improve things and make that step. I felt like we sort of did that a bit going into Monaco and Baku. I don't know if it was because they were street circuits but we managed to do a few good races there and get a few wins mid-season.
“From then on, both me and Jehan on the traditional tracks in Europe, struggled a bit to find out why and just couldn't really get comfortable. So after four rounds, I was pushing a bit to make some changes and they weren't really made. That many changes are obviously hard to make, big changes in mid-season are tough because of the limited amount of time we have. The philosophy of the set-up, you have to work around it so it was not so easy pushing for changes.”
The Norwegian says that his first season in the Championship took a turn after the summer break, after he gained the confidence in the car and requested changes brought some newfound speed from Spa-Francorchamps onwards.
It was a gratifying moment for the Norwegian who says it was a confidence-boosting moment that carried forward for the remainder of the campaign.
Those final rounds were much more in tune with his expectations of himself, and after a false start at Spa, missed the points only once for the rest of the year. That run of results included four top fives in the final five races and another podium in the Zandvoort Sprint.
“In Spa, we made a few changes and we saw the value in it. So it took a bit of time before we made that step and a bit too long, I would say because we had a few rounds without any points. But when we made that step, I think we got top five finishes in seven of the last eight races so definitely it was a step in the right direction for me.
“Right at the beginning of the season, we sort of had that race pace, but for some reason we both dropped a bit on that mid-season and couldn't quite figure out why. I'd say that we found a bit more time in the last few rounds, but it was still not enough to be up there fighting for the win. Overall, we just managed to perform a bit better later in the season but obviously still not where I wanted to be.
“It was a relief for me that at least I managed to have a decent ending with some points and some top fives. It was a bit of a hard season I would say mentally, but in the end, they’re experiences that I can take with me into the new season. Considering the rounds before, I was happy with the step we made to do a bit better at least.”
In 2023, the level of expectations has risen both from the outside and for Hauger himself. His efforts last year and switch to reigning Champions MP Motorsport mean that he has full confidence that he will have both the equipment and the know how to fight at the front more regularly.
Of course, defending MP’s crown is high on the agenda, but Hauger expects a strong start to the campaign unlike in 2022. With the speed at post-season testing an indicator of what the team should be capable of this year, the Red Bull Junior is confident of improved performances.
“It's going to be important to try and bring all the aspects I can focus into the new season. I don't think there's a general thing that that stood out that I will bring into this season. All the experience I gained with the car and the set-up of the car - what I really want to prove to myself in terms of my driving style is to get everything out of myself as well.
“Testing in Abu Dhabi – we had the quickest lap in the first morning, which is the first time this year I had the fastest lap, so that definitely felt good. It was like a few kilos off my shoulders on that side that I managed to perform when I felt more comfortable. It was a good test and we tried a lot of things and got to know each other within the team and the general feeling was pretty good.
“Coming into a new team with some more experience and knowing what I want is a good feeling. It’s a refresh and I definitely have a good feeling and I'm sure we can be up there. That's the goal - to fight for the Championship. We just have to keep working on that and what I do now to try and prepare as well as we can ahead of the first round.”