Niklas Krütten’s strong pace in season opener of Formula 4 Italian Championship goes unrewarded
Niklas Krütten’s start to the season in the Formula 4 Italian Championship at Vallelunga last weekend was turbulent. The Van Amersfoort Racing driver showed strong pace and produced some great overtaking manoeuvres in difficult wet conditions but ultimately went unrewarded apart from P8 in the second race.
Krütten secured pole position for the second and third race with top times in qualifying. However, the joy at his success was short-lived, as the stewards disqualified Krütten and team-mate Dennis Hauger. Both drivers had their lap times excluded from the records and had to tackle all three races from the back of the grid.
The reason for their disqualification was that fuel samples taken by the stewards from the tanks of the two Van Amersfoort Racing cars after the qualifying sessions were found to be contaminated. In a statement to the press, the team denied any error on their part and sent samples to the lab for testing.
Krütten refused to allow the setback to put a dampener on his performance. On the contrary, the ADAC Sports Foundation protégé reached the Top Ten in all three races from grid slot 32 after mounting a strong charge. His reward was eighth place and four points in the second round. He overtook no less than 65 drivers in the three races.
Krütten came away empty-handed in Race 1 and 3 despite going all-out on a charge up the field. He received a 30-second penalty after the first race for overtaking during a safety car period and dropped back down to P27 after receiving the penalty. He had to retire from the third race through no fault of his own following a contact with another competitor who had lost control of his vehicle.
He will be back racing in the Italian Formula 4 in two weeks’ time (17th – 19th May), aiming for victory on Misano’s MotoGP track.
Three questions for Niklas Krütten
The two qualifyings were a real roller-coaster of emotions for you…
The first qualifying session was a bit annoying. I came into the pits to change something on the car. Unfortunately, there were two red flag periods in the time remaining for qualifying, so my lap wasn’t the best, which is why I only finished ninth. The car was great again in second qualifying. Everything went really well. I posted best time which I defended to the end. Unfortunately, we then got the news that all our laps, mine and those of my team-mate, Dennis Hauger, had been excluded from the records, because there was a problem with our fuel which did not fully comply with the rules, apparently. We’re still awaiting the results of lab testing. Everyone in the team was obviously gutted, because we were unaware of any mistake on our part, and with 40 years of racing experience, always pay meticulous attention to petrol quality, as it is regularly subjected to checks. However, for Dennis and me, it meant starting all the races from the back of the field.
You turned in some superb racing despite handicap. Why did your performance in two of the three races ultimately go unrewarded?
Well, I felt really great in the car in the first race and gained over 20 positions. I was so focused on the cars in front of me in the extremely poor visibility that, unfortunately, I missed a safety car warning signal and overtook against the rules. The penalty was just, and I immediately realised my mistake. In the second race, Dennis and I carved our way up through the field. Our pace was excellent, and we gained over 20 places with more great overtaking. My reward was P8 in the end. We ploughed our way forwards once again in the last race, but then, there was a contact with a fellow competitor, who lost control of his car briefly and I spun off track.
Still, there are quite a few positives you can take away from Vallelunga…
For sure! We clearly had the pace to win this weekend. Racing up through the field was fun and clearly demonstrated our potential. I felt very comfortable in the car and love working with the team. We will draw a line under the weekend at Vallelunga and look to the future. Our goal is to mount an all-out attack on the podium at Misano!