Tina Hausmann claims podium finish at formula debut
Have we just witnessed something really promising?
Tina Hausmann made her single seater debut last weekend - and she did so by claiming her first podium in Formula 4. Here's what happened at Jerez in the inaugural round of the Formula Winter Series.
The brand-new Formula Winter Series - supporting the established GT Winter Series - kicked off last weekend at Jerez, Spain, with the first two races of a 4-race event schedule. Single seaters' winter series are not a new concept, as traditionally teams head to the Middle East to prepare their summer seasons. For European-based teams, though, the new Gedlich-organized championship could be a further chance to get their young talents up to speed on a more-cost effective platform. The series, which will race on some of the most popular racing venues in Spain, features the new Tatuus T-421 Formula 4 cars, equipped with Autotecnica engines and Pirelli tyres - making the series a very attractive testing scenario for drivers that will move on to championships such as the Italian or Spanish one. Among the first announced drivers for the inaugural weekend was Tina Hausmann, 16 year-old Swiss up and coming talent set to make her single-seater debut. Hausmann had a few testing days in Italy before, but at Jerez she would tackle her first real racing experience since stepping up from karting. Tina had carved her way up the ranks by competing in the Swiss Rotax Max Challenge in the Mini and Junior categories, before contesting the highly competitive ADAC Kart Masters with CRG Holland. The young driver from Switzerland is now ready to make the next step: Formula 4 - and entered Formula Winter Series with San Marino-based team AKM. The weekend included several testing sessions, followed by a two-part qualifying and two 30-minute races plus one lap. Three days of testing preceded the official track action, where Hausmann focused on learning the new track. "It's a really nice track, I really liked it." – she told us. "There were tricky conditions because of the wind - the wind changed every lap, at every corner, which was difficult to manage with the braking points." All part of her learning process, Hausmann learned to adapt quickly to the changing conditions – a valuable skill for the future. After Saturday's practice, qualifying took place early on Sunday morning; Kacper Sztuka (US Racing), one of the most experienced drivers on the field and already a race winner in the Italian championship, claimed both pole positions for the opening races. His teammates Ruiqi Liu and Frederik Lund finished second and third, in the exact same order in both sessions. "The field is very good, the other drivers have been doing some races before, even in the Italian championship – but this was another push for us to do even better" – said Tina, who nevertheless set the seventh and fifth fastest laps at the end of the two qualifying sessions.
Sztuka, who started on pole, controlled the pace during the 30 minutes plus one lap first race, scoring victory with a comfortable gap of 1.476 seconds ahead of Lund and Gianmarco Pradel (US Racing), who had a hard time to defend against the charging Tina Hausmann.
Tina set fast lap times and had a particularly strong first sector; she charged from seventh on the grid and was protagonist of an exciting recovery in the final stages, when she overtook Juan Cota Alonso (Drivex) for fourth and then hunted down Pradel, just missing out on a podium finish in race 1.
Liu, who started second, stalled on the grid and dropped down the field, before he could start a spectacular chase that secured him sixth with the fastest lap of the race.
"Starting from seventh, I had some very good battles" – Hausmann recalled. "I managed to reach P4 and at the end it came very close for third. We were super close at the finish line."
With a few more laps, Hausmann would have probably got another overtake done, but fourth was impressive enough to attract the attention.
"After the race me and my team were very happy already with P4, but of course I wanted more. I told myself that I wanted more than P4."
The weekend of Sztuka continued with the right foot, as the Polish driver was able to repeat the lights to flag victory and swept the weekend. From pole position, Sztuka made no mistakes and crossed the finish line with a gap of 1.7 seconds ahead of US Racing teammate Liu.
But there was also another driver turning heads on track: with an outstanding performance, Tina Hausmann made her way from fifth to third in spectacular fashion and, thanks to her steady pace, broke through the US Racing team line-up, finishing on the podium at her first ever racing weekend in F4.
Hausmann soon surprised Pradel with an overtaking maneuver at the hairpin. "After that pass, I tried to move forward to break away from him and I caught up with the third driver" – Hausmann recalled. After a battle that lasted one full sector, Tina moved ahead of Lund as well, pulling away from the more experienced Danish driver.
At one point the fastest on track, Hausmann caught the two front runners, but ultimately there was no time left to climb even further up the order.
"Finishing in third felt really good because it's my first ever race weekend in the F4 car", she explained. "Reaching the podium for us was very good and we were really happy with that."
"It was a special moment for me and for the team. You know, you get out of the car and…the highlight of my week was definitely thanking the people who supported me and believed in me, by hugging, hand clapping, giving high fives or exchanging messages. I was really overwhelmed by the positive feedback of all my supporters" – she added after a seriously impressive debut.
The young driver thanked the whole AKM team and her family: "I’d like to make them proud by keeping working and pushing. It's a great team accomplishment by AKM, and a great kick-off to the season."
The youngsters of Formula Winter Series will be back on track from 17 to 19 February in Valencia, Spain, for the second of the four scheduled rounds. For Tina Hausmann, it will be another all-new track to learn, but she has certainly proved that she might be one to watch.