Following a brace of successful seasons in British F3, Sebastian Hohenthal has taken the leap up to the new FIA Formula Two Championship in 2009 – and is already making clear that he is 'not in motorsport just because I don't have anything else to do at the weekends'.
The young Swedish star achieved two victories, eight rostrum finishes, two fastest laps and a lap record over the course of his time spent in British F3 with Fortec Motorsport in 2007 and 2008, but for all those highs, there were also, he acknowledges, the inevitable lows that conspired to torpedo a hoped-for title charge.
“I had some good races,” he reflected, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
, “but I came late into the championship [in 2007] after signing a contract just days before we went out testing at Pembrey, and overall the two seasons I had in Formula 3 were tough.
“When we got everything alright we were able to win races in both wet and dry and were on the podium, and last year up until halfway through the season we were quite well up there and looking good. After that, though, the Carlin guys found something that we didn't and just went away.”
Indeed, seventh place – despite missing the final six races last year due to budgetary restrictions – was far from what the runaway 2006 Formula Renault UK Champion had anticipated of his time in F3, and he admits that his mixed fortunes over the past two seasons were what set him to musing that somewhere out there lay something better. And then Jonathan Palmer appeared on the horizon.
“I thought 'why stay here and use up more money to finish no better than maybe fifth or sixth?'” he continued. “That's why I thought it was better to stop then, gather together all my sponsors in Sweden and sit down with them and say 'look, we're going to find something that will take us even higher'.
“Then people started talking about the new Formula Two Championship, and I think this is the place to be. Early on I was in contact with Jonathan, he sent me an invitation to the Williams launch and after that I thought 'this is really going to be something we should look at doing'.
“For me it sounded surprisingly cheap, and I think the timing is even more perfect than they had believed at the beginning, because just after the launch we saw that the credit crisis arrived. Then I saw the car and understood how much Williams and Patrick Head are involved in designing it, so I knew that would be really good too.
“After that I saw the circuits which are really good, and finally I saw the prize that you will get if you are quick – and especially if you win the championship, which is the main thing. For me everything looked really good – not only the price. I think it is going to be something extraordinary.”
'Extraordinary' is a word Hohenthal is hoping will similarly be used to describe his maiden campaign in Formula Two come season's end, even if he is well aware that the progression will signify 'a big step' for him. Insisting that he is not in the sport merely to make up the numbers, the 24-year-old asserts that he is ready for the challenge that lies ahead – and concentrating firmly on the task in-hand.
“Formula 1 is always a dream for a young driver,” he confessed. “Right from when you start out go-karting, Formula 1 is the top spot. There are currently only 18 drivers able to race there, though, and they are all very, very quick and have done a fantastic job to get themselves there. It's very tough.
“I'm not thinking about F1 just yet, though. It's just Formula Two for me; I have no manager and I do everything for myself, so I hope we can make this season a good one.
“Jonathan said at the launch that the performance of the Formula Two car will be similar to that of the World Series by Renault in terms of lap times and speed, and I've been in a World Series car for a test. I know it will be quite a big step-up speed-wise, but then again I have done two long seasons in Formula 3.
“I have tested a lot and I have been in the car a lot. I have learned a lot from my time in Formula 3, even though I didn't win the championship, and we proved that we could be quick when things were right.
“I think every time you go into a new year or a new championship, you don't know much about the new drivers – you don't know much more than what you have seen on the internet and what they have done before. There are maybe some guys you have raced against before, but the guys that have already signed up look quick. There are two good Red Bull-backed drivers in the championship and we have two ex-Formula 1 drivers putting their sons into the championship – and they are going to be quick as well.
“I'm not in motorsport just because I don't have anything else to do at the weekends. Hopefully we can have a good season and hopefully we can carry on from Formula Two to something even higher. I always keep my targets to myself, but I know what I have to do and I'm going to prepare a lot for this championship.
“It will be tough, with new cars and not much testing compared to what you do in F3, and there will be for me five new circuits and so on. It will be a challenge, but it's the same for everyone.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE