The ADAC Formula 4 weekend at the Red Bull Ring was another major milestone in the career of 17 year old Marcel Lenerz. In the second of three races on the home track for his Lechner Racing team, he finished eleventh, just outside the points. More than 10,000 fans came through the turnstiles to watch Marcel’s race, while viewers in their hundreds of thousands followed the action live on free-to-air TV channel SPORT1.
The weekend got off to a promising start, but qualifying didn’t go well. What happened there?
I went into the weekend fully motivated, and I was firmly convinced that a good result was achievable. But the moment I had got my tyres up to temperature, I had to return to the pits due to a technical problem. My team did a really fantastic job, and I was able to go back out shortly before the end of the session. While the other drivers had time to find their rhythm, I had just three laps to acclimatise myself. Ultimately, I qualified seventh in my group. Under normal circumstances, not the sort of result to get me jumping for joy, but after all the problems, I was really pleased with this performance.
On Sunday, though, you almost did have cause to jump for joy. Finishing eleventh, you were just a hair’s breadth away from scoring a championship point.
Yes, indeed! That was frustrating. We were in really good form and even matching the lap times of the front-runners at one point. We have made a really a big step forward over the weekend as a team and done a great job. Compared to some of our opponents, we are now doing much better and keeping up really well. We’ve also taken an important step forward in terms of the setup.
Despite this improvement in performance, the other races didn’t go so well for you. Was there any special reason for that?
Obviously it all started with the fact that the grid position in Race 1 wasn’t as good after qualifying as it could have been. But it was reasonable, and after the start, I was already up to twelfth. Despite some setbacks, I didn’t give up and kept working my way up towards the front until the technology finally let me down and I had to park the car. So both literally and figuratively, a great opportunity ended in the run-off area. The result of the first race determines where you are placed on the grid for the third race. So as you can imagine, the situation was pretty dire after my retirement. This race was disrupted by so many incidents and safety car phases that, even with a better grid position, I was never going to do any better than I did. So in the end, I came away with a disappointing 22nd place. But the straight-line speed was there, and we can build on that in the future.
During the weekend, all three races were shown live on the free-to-air TV channel SPORT1. That has to be a good thing for you as a young rookie…
Absolutely! People can now watch my races on television. That makes them much more aware of us young drivers. All sorts of people approached me after the first race weekend. My friends and acquaintances saw the race. There was a lot of activity on my Facebook page, and the response at school was also very positive. Some said it was really cool to watch me on TV. I’m quite proud of that, and of course, I’m really pleased with the growing level of support.
The third race weekend of the season is in less than two weeks’ time at Spa-Francorchamps, a track that you already know from the past.
I’m really looking forward to Spa. It’s my favourite track. Formula 1 has been staged there for so many years now, and every corner has its own stories to tell. The track has a unique legendary status. Racing there is an intense experience. Each corner has its peculiarities and they are all beautiful in their own way. The highlight is definitely Eau Rouge. I can’t wait to be doing that ascent again.