Klien: Auto GP prepares drivers for F1
Christian Klien has been the second former Formula 1 driver to enter the 2013 Auto GP. The Austrian-based racer joined Narain Karthikeyan, although in the previous seasons, many stars from F.1 had joined the series. The first one was Romain Grosjean, who cruised to win the 2010 Auto GP title, joined during the same season by Giorgio Pantano and followed by Antonio Pizzonia in 2012.
Why did you decide to take part to Auto GP race in Mugello?
"I was approached by fellow Austrian countryman Michael Zele, who I have known for quite a while. He asked if I could be available to race for his team in AutoGP at Mugello. As I was free for that weekend I agreed to race. Racing is my passion so I jumped into the Auto GP car without any preparation or experience with the Auto GP car, with the tires, and with the famous Mugello race circuit. This is not too easy".
How do you judge the Auto GP car?
"The car is quite powerful with a high grip level. Without prior practice time it was difficult to find the balance of the car, especially as soft and medium compound tires have to be used. The main difficulty is the car has no power steering, last time I was driving a racecar without power steering was back in 2003 in F3 Euro Series. You get a very different feedback from the car as everything just feels very heavy and its harder to control the car precisely. The car creates a lot of fun to drive. I would like to test the Auto GP car properly, to set up the car in close conjunction with the race engineer, to suit the style in which I drive. The fun in racing the car would then increase which, in turn, would allow me to drive the car in a more competitive way".
Which was the hardest thing for you in your debut in Auto GP?
"In my opinion experienced drivers can deal with every race car they are in. The question is how to get 100% out of the particular car you are driving. This is just a matter of working closely with the team engineers to adjust the car accordingly. In the last 12 months I have raced in various GT and Touring cars. For example the International Superstars, winning at Hungaroring in a Maserati, in the Australian V8 Supercars I finished in the top 10 at my maiden Bathurst 1000 in a Holden, in Adelaide I had pole position and podium finish in a Mercedes GT-SLS, followed by German Touring car race in SPA achieving a victory in a BMW. Racing in a single seater car like Auto GP without testing the car beforehand is not too easy. Again missing the power steering was a big issue because I was not comfortable in feeling the car properly. During a race weekend it is not possible to do too much changing on the setup if you do not know the behavior of the car and especially if there is not much running time before the races start".
In which way the format of the race weekend could help a driver in their growing-up to F1?
"Auto GP definitely helps to prepare drivers for F1, as you could see testing Auto GP frontrunner Kimiya Sato did well in the F1 young drivers test with Sauber at Silverstone. I think the races should be longer, that’s the main difference. When you race in a F1 car, you have to keep your concentration for much longer and it’s physically much harder".
How is the level of the championship in your idea?
"Auto GP has a competitive level of racing. I have not explored the full picture of the championship yet. I think that it is important for the championship to race overseas as well to become a true worldwide championship. The drivers will then gain even more track experience. Racing overseas as well could attract partners, media and drivers from all over the world. Which then creates more attention for AutoGP generally worldwide. I think that the organization and drivers of Auto GP should deserve this".