Red Bull Ring: Niklas Krütten leads championship after podium finish
Last weekend, Niklas Krütten and the Van Amersfoort Racing team were at the Red Bull Ring for the second race weekend of the 2019 ADAC Formula 4. The 16-year-old followed up on his victory in the season opener at Oschersleben with further top results on the track that he likes best of all. The teenager from Trier finished eighth in both of the first two races. For most of the third race on Sunday afternoon, he looked to have victory sewn up but ultimately had to settle for the runner-up spot after being locked in an intense late battle with a team-mate. Taken together, the three results put Krütten on level pegging with another driver at the top of the championship table.
The grid positions for the first two races of an ADAC Formula 4 weekend are decided in two qualifying sessions on Friday. On this occasion, Krütten was out of luck. The first quali was red-flagged twice, and the track position for a fast lap was not ideal. Despite that, he still managed to secure a decent P6 on the grid for the first race. In the second session, the Van Amersfoort Racing driver spun off the track and damaged his steering. Because of resulting understeer, the best he could manage for Race 2 was 13th.
In the races themselves, Krütten once again impressed by virtue of excellent starts, which have so far been the hallmark of the youngster’s motorsport career. The outcome of the three races could not have been more different. In the first, he was struggling with worn tyres due to the steering problem of the previous day, and an opponent pushed him off the track. In the second race he had a temporary gearbox problem right after the start. It was only in the last race that everything went mainly according to plan.
On the weekend of 5th – 7th July, Krütten will be entering uncharted territory, as the Hungaroring on the outskirts of Budapest hosts the third fixture of the 2019 Italian Formula 4 race calendar.
Five questions for Niklas Krütten
Niklas, after your win in the season opener, you almost did it again on your favourite track, but ultimately had to settle for second. Tell us what happened.
The start went smoothly, and I comfortably defended the lead for some time. As the race developed, I saw that my team-mate Dennis Hauger was getting closer and closer. I knew that this would turn out to be a battle for supremacy within the team. Towards the end, he attempted an overtaking manoeuvre. Neither of us was prepared to give ground, and there was a brief moment of contact. I emerged victorious from the duel, and sadly for Dennis, he had to retire with a flat front tyre. That was unfortunate from a team points perspective. A similar situation caught me out at Misano. Ultimately, the one who benefited from our scrap was the third-placed driver who slipped past and went on to win the race.
The safety car deployments didn’t exactly help, did they?
No, they didn’t help me much, though they did assist my team-mate. Any gap that I’d pulled out in the meantime disappeared, and Dennis kept closing up. I think I would have won the race by some considerable distance if it hadn’t been for those safety cars. But anyway, it was still an incredible feeling to be up there on the podium at this brilliant track.
P6 on the grid for the first race was actually quite a promising starting position…
Yes, it was. I got off to a mega start. In the first corner, though, I made a small mistake, and the driver behind me pushed me off the track, causing me to lose one position. After that, I was struggling on badly worn front tyres due to the steering failure in the second quali on the day before. That’s why the only option I had was to defend as resolutely as possible, which actually worked really well in the circumstances. In the end, I was effectively competing with one hand tied behind my back and had to content myself with P8.
In the second race too, you managed a fantastic start, but immediately after that, you had a fright. What happened?
The start was once again superb. Unfortunately, I then had a problem with the transmission which temporarily refused to change up from second to third gear. As a result, I lost some positions. After that, from 18th place, it was a matter of making progress through the field as efficiently and speedily as possible. I was involved in some excellent wheel-to-wheel action, and the overtaking was a lot of fun. The lap times were also competitive. I eventually crossed the line in ninth place. After a penalty imposed on another driver, I then moved up to eighth place, which also meant pole position for the third race.
Next up is the Italian Formula 4 series at the Hungaroring…
I’m really looking forward to it. The track is really cool and is obviously well known from Formula 1. It is technically very demanding, with a mix of fast and slow corners, and should actually suit me quite well.