Dennis Hauger has been left rueing yet another missed opportunity after being unable convert his front row start for the Zandvoort Feature Race into a victory or a podium. Having had his sights set on more, the MP Motorsport driver had to settle for fifth after finding himself unfortunate to be on the wrong end of the second Safety Car’s timing.

In a frenetic race, Hauger opted to box early to swap out his soft tyres to avoid being left on them too long, as drivers were unable to complete their mandatory stops behind the Safety Car at the Dutch circuit. However, once he pitted on Lap 9, he immediately lost out to a fast-charging Zane Maloney who benefitted from the undercut, having boxed one lap earlier.

Still the Norwegian looked comfortable behind net race leader Jak Crawford and Maloney, until those ahead were able to jump him in the order, pitting moments before the second Safety Car was deployed following Théo Pourchaire’s crash.

Reflecting on a weekend that began positively but ultimately ended in frustrations once again, Hauger admits it’s a difficult pill to swallow, as he believes the pace was there to challenge for the victory.

“It was tough to be honest. Obviously, I was hoping for more and wanting more this weekend. At the start we were sitting quite nicely in P2. It was a bit damp and obviously hard in the beginning with the conditions, but we managed it well. I felt like we were in a good spot to be honest. We wanted to extend the soft stint a bit longer than we did in the end, but it was more because of the rule we had there where we couldn’t do a pitstop under the Safety Car.

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“So, we tried to cover ourselves a bit more by going a bit earlier. Then in the end, it was just a bit of a shame. Everyone ends up being able to do a full lap and then pit whilst there was a crash out there, so basically the same as it would have been. Everyone who pitted earlier or at least that one lap before lost all the advantage they could’ve gained in terms of positioning; it was a real shame.

“Then on top of that, getting hit by (Isack) Hadjar on the same lap, I lost some time there as well. It all just didn’t really come together for us this weekend or in this race, which was a real shame. We really wanted to win and I think we had the pace for that as well. When you’re in a train around there, there’s not much you can do. It is what it is and we couldn’t do much more, but we were hoping for more.”

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There have been worse bad days in the office than finishing fifth, but Hauger believes that the overall result is less important than the one-lap progress he showed in Qualifying. Remaining inside the top 10 in the Drivers’ Championship with only 12 points separating sixth to tenth, he says that luck hasn’t been on his side this season.

“I think Qualifying was a good step for us at least. I was really positive going into this weekend and I think we had the pace for some good lap times. Even though there were quite a few Red Flags, we were up there in terms of sector times and at the end of the day, P2 was good from that first set. So, we did a good job in that sense and that’s something to build from.

“At this stage in terms of the Championship, I’m not there fighting for the title at the moment, so it’s just about getting good positions and some good points. P5 doesn’t change much in the Standings, if I was in the top three, I would have been in the top six now in the Championship instead of 10th. I feel like all of this season has been about ifs and buts of what could have been, a lot of stuff outside our control. It was just a day where we didn’t do anything particularly wrong, I think with Safety Car and everything it just came at the very wrong time of the race for us.”

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Shifting his focus towards Monza this weekend, Hauger is eager to absorb the positives, despite the challenges Zandvoort brought him. Facing a vastly different circuit at the Temple of Speed, he knows that nothing is off the cards, even if things don’t go his way on Friday. Last year, he recovered from a drive-through penalty to finish fourth in last year’s Feature Race.

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“Obviously going to try to keep the pace we have now. It’s a very different track, we’re coming from Zandvoort which is a tight and technical track, where you just have to really manhandle it and drive around the problems. In Monza, there are quite a few straights, so Qualifying is going to be a bit about tactics and being smart on that one lap.

“Last year, I was struggling in Qualifying there as well, but the race was really good. So, I think for the race anything can happen. I think I went from P19 to fourth last year, so it’s wide open in the races. It’s definitely going to be important to try to keep the Quali pace we have now. Even though it’s completely different, we’ve got to keep the momentum we’re having at least.”