Securing the final point on offer with a last lap move, Dennis Hauger was satisfied to have something to show for his efforts in the Sprint Race. Having been languishing down in P14 after an unlucky Qualifying, the MP Motorsport driver fought back to take eighth.
The fight for points was highly contested after two Safety Car periods and Hauger found himself situated in the middle of a DRS convoy of cars for much of the race. Just over four and a half seconds separated all the top eight by the chequered flag.
While the Red Bull junior would have liked to have achieved more, Hauger was pleased to have turned his Saturday around - particularly given how physically demanding the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is.
“Obviously from our starting point, it's not easy. Qualifying was tough and not optimal, but I felt like I maximised what I could today at least. I think the pace was pretty good, but it's just really tough physically out there and due to the train, it was extra hard to gain some ground on the guys in front. It was sort of just waiting for mistakes or someone to struggle a bit more.
“Overall, it was good I think compared to where we started, but obviously wish we could have moved forward a bit earlier because we came up quite a bit at the end. Tomorrow it’s going to be a longer race, so hopefully we can do a bit more there.”
Luck was not on the Norwegian driver’s side in Friday’s Qualifying session. Running his first flying lap on his second set of supersofts, Hauger had set personal bests in the first two sectors. Unfortunately for him, the Red Flag was shown before he was able to complete the attempt and the session was not resumed, denying him a chance to improve.
Although he’s not certain where that lap would have put him, Hauger believes the potential was there for a top 10 start, despite not being completely in tune with the supersoft Pirelli rubber.
“It’s hard to say (where we would have qualified), obviously not everyone, but a few guys were improving. I’m pretty sure we would have at least been up in the top 10, which could have changed a lot for today. I still struggled a bit really find the grip in Qualifying with the supersofts and couldn’t quite be up there to fight for the top three, but least we could have been up in the top 10 to do something more this weekend.
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He added: “I think I was a bit unlucky, some people were more lucky with the Red Flag just going over the line. I think I was a few hundred metres from crossing it, so that was a bit of a shame. In the end, it is how it is, and we just have to try and make the most out of it. It was obviously a tough day yesterday, but I think a positive day today considering where we started.”
Turning his attention to the Feature Race, while he’ll be lining up P14 again, there’ll be eight more laps and a pit stop to play with. Tyre degradation is significantly less of an issue than in the previous Feature Race in Bahrain, leaving Hauger to suspect that those ahead of him will opt for the supersofts over the mediums to begin with.
Opting to start on the softer tyre paid off at the start last year, with those running them getting better traction off the line, whilst Hauger gambled on the alternative strategy instead. However, with the supersofts being one step softer than 2022’s option tyres, they’ll fade quickly and open the door for the likes of Hauger to put himself back into points contention.
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“First of all, I’m probably going to try to have a good start and get a few positions there, but I think after that on the supersoft, depending on what other people are going to be starting on. I think the guys in front will probably start on the supersoft and I don’t think they will last forever, so it’s going to be dependent on when people are pitting.
“I think the supersoft tyres are degging quite quickly compared to the mediums, the mediums are quite good. Other than that, for me in terms of the race itself, I think just do the same as I did today. I think the pace was decent, so just got to try and optimise what I can on track, then hopefully, we can get a few more positions with the strategy. But it’s all going to depend on what others are doing, just got to try and make the most of it.”