MP Motorsport driver Dennis Hauger will start from pole position in Saturday’s Sprint Race at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Australia, after finishing 10th in a rain-affected qualifying session for Round 3 of the 2023 FIA Formula 2 Championship.
The Albert Park round marks the first F2 round in Australia and the first visit to the southern hemisphere for any second-tier single-seater series since GP2 Asia’s visit to the Sentul International Circuit in Indonesia in February 2008.
Albert Park is believed to be the easternmost and southernmost race venue to have hosted an international second-tier single-seater series.
Speaking to InsideF2 ahead of the weekend, Hauger said, “It’s a really cool track in general – really fast, especially the mid[dle] sector, and then we’ve got some more slow-speed corners in the first and third sectors, so it’s got a bit of everything, which is cool.
“It’s quite similar to Jeddah, I would say, in some parts, and obviously no teams or rivers have been here before as I’m aware of, so it’s going to be quite new for everyone.
“I think [Free Practice] is going to be important to figure out stuff. Strategically, we’ll see in FP how the medium tyres are working and also how the weekend develops in terms of track grip, so [there are] going to be quite a few factors that’s going to depend on how the track evolves and how it’s going to change throughout the weekend.”
Hauger finished 12th in Free Practice, with his best time of a 1:30.231 putting him 1.242 seconds behind session leader and home hero Jack Doohan. During a session that had three red flags, Hauger banked 16 laps – his only on-track mileage at the circuit prior to Qualifying.
To compensate for the lack of prior track experience, Hauger relied heavily on time in the simulator.
“I think obviously the simulator is the main thing for us, and also watching data and analysing everything with the team to prepare as well as possible,” he told InsideF2.
“With one FP, with a limited amount of laps, you’ve really got to try to adapt and bring as much information as you can from that session into the rest of the weekend.
“It’s obviously a challenge, but it’s always good to get out on a new track and try to maximise everything as quickly as you can. In the end you’ve just got to make the most of it.”
Between the Jeddah and Melbourne rounds, Hauger was admitted to hospital in England after experiencing suspected appendicitis, according to his manager, Harald Huysman.
Examinations revealed that Hauger did not need surgery, though Huysman revealed that the MP driver had to return home to Norway following the episode instead of travelling to the team base in the Netherlands for simulator work and preparations with his engineers.
That disruption, in addition to the roughly 10,000-mile distance between mainland Europe and Australia and the nine-hour difference in time zones, meant Hauger has had a turbulent fortnight since the Jeddah weekend. Nevertheless, Hauger said he felt prepared for the round.
“We came down a bit earlier to obviously get the sleeping rhythm and everything right, so for me I’m feeling good and looking forward to get on the track,” he told InsideF2.
“I mean with the weather this weekend and everything, it can be up and down, but overall, I really enjoy new tracks and I think we’re quick to adapt.”
At the time of writing, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology predicts a 50 percent chance of rain in Melbourne on Saturday and a high temperature of 16 degrees Celsius, though the rain, if it arrives, is expected to fall in the morning. The Sprint Race will kick off at 14:20 local time (4:20 BST).
Image: Dutch Photo Agency