Lawson, Fraga, Doohan and Hauger charge into F3 at the Red Bull Ring

The long awaited FIA F3 season explodes into action this weekend in Spielberg with four Red Bull Juniors thrilled to be behind the wheel at last. 17-year-old Australian Jack Doohan and 18-year-old New Zealander Liam Lawson have already won races this year as Doohan took 6 victories and almost won the 2019–20 F3 Asian Championship while Lawson grabbed 5 wins, finishing a very close second in New Zealand’s Toyota Racing Series.

Winner of the TRS with 4 victories was Igor Fraga and the 21-year-old Brazilian has now joined the Junior Team. All three have F3 experience but for 17-year-old Norwegian Dennis Hauger it is an important step up after his incredible 18 victory 2019 season in ADAC and Italian F4.

Getting to Europe was half the battle for Fraga

“I came to the Czech Republic, where the Charouz team is based. It was quite difficult to get to Europe because of the travel restrictions. As I hold only a Brazilian passport I was only able to get the visa last week, I just arrived on Thursday and I went straight to the team, we needed to do a new seat fit and quite a lot of other things before the race weekend.”

“Then I started to focus on the simulator and training as they have their own sim here in Czech. Doing all this preparation, discussing things with the engineers to make sure that we are ready for the first race weekend.”

“The Red Bull Ring is a track that I like a lot. It is the track that gave me the first win in Europe so I am quite excited to go there again, to be back on that track,” enthused Fraga who scored the first of his 4 wins in the 2019 Formula Regional European Championship there.

“In Brasil, the lockdown was pretty strict. I tried just to go karting but even the kart track was closed so it just wasn’t possible. I stayed on the sim most of the time and also I focused on my physical training, I wanted to come back in the better shape than I was in when I tested in Bahrain back in March.”

“I am pretty happy with the result and I just can’t wait to get return to a race car. It was good that I already had some experience in the car from the test because during three days in Bahrain you can feel a lot of things so based on my experience I tried to extract as much value as possible from the sim time. To make sure my reflexes are OK and everything is in place.”

Not too tough at home for Doohan

“I’m fortunate enough to have somewhere at home at my house in Australia to run my kart so I’ve been able to do that. Keep sharp, keep up to speed mentally and stay in the groove as much as possible. Of course it’s not the same but it was good and luckily in Australia the circumstances weren’t as bad as just about anywhere else in the world, we were lucky to have the low virus numbers and restrictions that we did.”

“Luckily we have a little home gym so I was able to maximise that as I do when I am in Australia, there’s no real point in going out to a gym, I have al the equipment that I need. Happy not to be stuck in an apartment. But now I’m in Monaco and we’ll drive to the Red Bull Ring from here on Wednesday morning.”

“Back in March we did the official F3 test in Bahrain and that went pretty well, by the end of it I had quite a good one lap pace. So that was positive, over the three days we had quite a lot of time to gather data and get a feel for things. At that stage we were expecting to go almost straight into the first round there.”

“That was our main focus at the time and obviously the surface is quite abrasive with all the sand so the tyres definitely react a lot differently to the way they will at the Red Bull Ring where we are now starting the season. There (at the Red Bull Ring) it is quite low abrasiveness and tyre wear isn’t as bad as you’d say Bahrain would be.”

“It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure. Now we’ll be starting with 45 minutes of practice and straight into Qualis. Nevertheless I am really looking forward to it and getting back in a race car is well overdue,” he laughs.

“I haven’t been to the HWA team yet, the travel restrictions, social distancing. It would have been good to get together but we had team meetings over Skype so that we could prepare and discuss everything we needed to. I did go up to the sim which we use in Amsterdam and work with my engineer so that was great, it went very well and I got back into the groove and got my head around the circuit.”

“It would have been good to go to Red Bull Racing and use the sim there but the two weeks quarantine makes that impossible.”

“I am looking forward to the circuit, it’s one of my favourites, hopefully everything comes together and we will have a good weekend.”

Hauger happy to start somewhere familiar

“I’ve driven there in F4 and I really enjoy the track,” enthuses the Hitech driver. “It’s a lot of fun and it has some good overtaking opportunities especially with the DRS which of course is something new for me so I think it’s going to be really interesting and a great place to start the season.”

“We’ve had very good preparation I think, going over the data with my engineer and working in the sim both at Hitech and Red Bull. I’ve been in the UK for the last few weeks so just concentrating completely on the prep for season.”

“I’m one of the youngest in the field and we still haven’t had too much time in the car, just Valencia last year and Bahrain in March so I am just doing all the work I can to be ready going into the weekend. But obviously when you get into the car you still have to do it and be learning every time you go out. It’s a long time since we’ve been in the car so it’s going to be different.”

“The track is not the same as Bahrain, the grip, the Bahrain track is really rough on the tyres and the Red Bull Ring is probably not but we are using the medium this year and last year they used the soft and there was not that much deg. Back in Bahrain, going into the race runs we really felt the deg and that helped me learn about it so going to a track where there is less deg should not be too much of a problem. But it is my first race with an FIA F3 car and those tyres so you’ve still got to keep the learning face on.”

Back in a familiar car and a step into the unknown for Lawson

Happy to be back in the same spec F2 as 2019 but now in the Hitech Grand Prix team, Lawson feels he is as ready as possible. “I’ve had a couple of days in Red Bull Racing now which have been really really good, I’ve also just finished preparing with Hitech. It’s been pretty good, done everything we can so now it’s just getting excited to go racing.”

“I do really like the track, the first time I drove there was in German F4 and really enjoyed it. Last year I was sick for the F3 round so it wasn’t such a great weekend but I am very much looking forward to it this time. Hitech have had good success there, they are strong so I think we have a good opportunity to start the championship well.”

“It’s a really weird feeling not knowing what to expect. It’s normal starting a championship to have this feeling, you don’t know where everyone stands but for sure this time that feeling is stronger than ever, not knowing how fast we are going to be compared with everyone else and how the weekend is going to play out. It’s a weird feeling and not one that I particularly like. I’m keen to get started so that we can find out.”

Red Bull Ring weekend schedule – all times CEST

Friday 3rd July
09:35 – Practice (45 minutes)
14:05 – Qualifying (30 minutes)

Saturday 4th July
10:25 – Race 1 (24 laps) – 8:25pm NZ time

Sunday 5th July
09:45 – Race 2 (24 laps) – 7:45pm NZ time

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