Two-time French karting champion and 2002 Fran-Am North American title winner Bruno Spengler last month completed his maiden season of Formula Three racing in the new-for-2003 Euroseries, and admitted that he was pleased with progress despite a slow start to the year.

The 20-year Canadian - one of the seven members of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Team - broke his back in a pre-season testing crash at Dijon and missed the first three rounds of the year in addition to ten vital days of testing. Without much pre-season preparation, Spengler eventually began his season at the end of June, overcoming his setbacks to notch up three podium finishes by the final round.

Q:
Bruno, are you satisfied with your first year in Formula Three?

Bruno Spengler:
Well, I did not contest the entire season due to my broken back. My goal was to win at least one race this year but, because I only started racing in June, I am not too disappointed with my overall results and for not having won a race. In fact, I am quite satisfied to have finished three times on the podium despite the limited track time I enjoyed. With so little seat time, I had some trouble finding the limits this car.

Q:
Did your injury cause you much problem?

BS:
It made me lose a great deal of time. I missed ten full days of testing and the first three race meetings, which translated into six rounds. When I finally took the wheel, I was way behind the other drivers. That forced me to work extremely hard during the race weekends to catch up the track time I lost. I gave everything I had, and sometimes it paid off and some other times it did not.

Q:
After the crash, were you worried that Mercedes-Benz would let you down?

BS:
Yes, immediately after the crash, I thought about that - I was worried they would exclude me from their programme. But, four days after the accident, Norbert Haug called me up at the hospital from the Malaysian Grand Prix. He assured me they would keep me in the team and they would take good care of me. That really reassured me. It was good to hear that.

Q:
Did the level of competition of the F3 Euroseries impress you?

BS:
Before the start of the season, I expected the level of competition to be extremely high - and I was right. For me, the Euroseries is the most competitive category of all. There are drivers from France, Germany, Italy, Austria and other countries and the top 20-25 competitors are separated by just one second in qualifying. I made huge progress this year when fighting against the best drivers in the world.

Q:
What was the best moment for you during your first season in Formula Three?

BS:
Without a doubt, I would say it was my podium finish at Le Mans in July. I was not expecting it at all, not that early in the season. That was just my fourth race in F3 and I was already fighting at the front of the pack against the best drivers in the category.

Q:
Who were the most competitive drivers in the series?

BS:
Undoubtedly Ryan Briscoe and Christian Klein, who finished in the top two positions. These two guys are very aggressive and incredibly determined to succeed. Fights with Briscoe can almost be unsportsmanlike at times, but Klein is irreproachable. Both are quick and make very few mistakes. I really enjoyed fighting with them.

Q:
Are you happy with the format of the Euroseries?

BS:
It was a fantastic idea to bring together the French and German F3 series. We now race at high profile events, in front of very large crowds. Sometimes, there are more than 50,000 spectators in the grandstands! The Euroseries attracted many good drivers and good teams, and that generated strong media attention. When you run in the top three in the Euro Series, you know you have the potential to do very well in the faster categories.

Q:
You are one of the seven drivers of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Team in F3. Do you feel the pressure Mercedes-Benz put on you?

BS:
We are the ones putting intense pressure on our shoulders! Each driver puts pressure on himself to be at the front of the pack and to beat the other competitors. I know I put a lot of pressure on myself. However, having a car manufacturer such as Mercedes-Benz behind us is a very powerful source of motivation. The people at Mercedes-Benz expect us to perform well but they do not put excessive pressure on us.

Q:
Were there talks about a test aboard a McLaren-Mercedes Formula One car?

BS:
The managers of Mercedes-Benz mentioned that possibility, but they never talked about a date or some sort of requirement. The idea was thrown but nothing has been defined yet. My objective remains to win in F3.

Q:
You won six of eight races as well as the title last year in the North American Fran-Am Series. Do you think you were a better driver this season in F3?

BS:
I make progress every year. In motorsport, I learn things every day. I do not think I was a better driver this year compared to last, but I gained a lot of experience. I know better how to manage a racing weekend and how to react on the race track. My technical background has also immensely improved. The debriefing sessions in Formula Three are much more intense and complicated than they were in Fran-Am. The Fran-Am and F3 series are very different. Everything is extremely professional in F3, especially because of the involvement of Mercedes-Benz. I now speak three languages and I feel very comfortable in all circumstances. The driver development programme set up by Mercedes-Benz forces me to make progress in every aspect of my job as a race car driver.

 

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