Home Formula 4ADAC F4 The question that has led Mucke Motorsport to leave single-seaters

The question that has led Mucke Motorsport to leave single-seaters

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: Mucke Motorsport

Mucke Motorsport is leaving junior single-seater racing after 24 years, moving into the GT4-spec DTM Trophy to support its now-sportscar-based DTM attacks. Team owner Peter Mucke explains to Formula Scout why

Peter Mucke is quite frank: the chances for drivers to progress up single-seaters are so remote it makes more sense now to go straight into sportscar racing.

The DTM created answer to that last year with its Trophy support series, which Mucke will now race in rather than Formula 4.

“The DTM Trophy is a promising answer to the question from many drivers where they should drive in future. The step to it is a logical one because eventually, 90% of the single-seater drivers end up in GT racing anyway,” he reasons.

In having only one driver per car rather than shared driving as in most other series, the DTM Trophy is, in Mucke’s view “the ideal entry into GT racing”.

The DTM leads the way in single-driver sportscars, and Mucke Motorsport spent 12 years there as one of Mercedes-Benz’s teams during the series’ prototype touring car era. It returned there this year for its switch to GT3 regulations, and from 155 races in the series the team has scored 335 points, won one race and claimed five other podiums.

It familiarised itself with GT3 in the gap between its DTM spells in ADAC GT Masters, and won three of its 56 races there.

But the Berlin-based outfit is better known as being one of the frontrunning teams of ADAC and Italian F4 since 2015. It was established back in 1998 for Mucke to run his son Stefan in the Formula BMW ADAC championship, which they won at their first attempt, and then expanded into Formula 3 as his son’s career progressed. It continued to rack up FBMW success with new drivers, before that category was succeeded in Germany by ADAC Formel Masters and then F4.

Photo: ACI Sport

The team focused on Italian F4 this year with a line-up led by Paraguay’s Joshua Duerksen, who won twice at Mugello.

Formula Scout spoke to Mucke to understand why a team still capable of winning in ultra-competitive single-seater series is turning its back on that success as it expands its sportscar involvement, rather than continuing to run them in parallel.

“I am not a particular devotee of GT cars as such. I am still a great fan of single-seaters and of the F4 category,” admits Mucke.

“F4 is still a perfect training ground for young drivers,” he says, in agreement with fellow F4 team boss Gerhard Ungar of US Racing. “I do not want to put single-seaters down; on the contrary, it is single-seaters that are closest to my heart.”

It is the lack of opportunity thereafter that concerns him.

“What should I tell them to do after F4? I can’t really advise them to go to Formula 3 unless they have millionaire or, better, billionaire fathers. Very, very few drivers can make it to the top without having rich parents these days.

“When we started out, a driver could find the budget for a junior programme of around €120,000 from two or three small sponsors. For the most successful, the step up to F3 with a budget of around €350,000 was still achievable. Today young drivers need around €2 million to run for two years in F3 and Formula 2 costs that amount just for a single season.”

Mucke points to two German drivers, David Beckmann and Lirim Zendeli, who reached F2 this year but didn’t have the budget to contest the full season.

“Both ran with us, spent one or two years in F3, but what do they do now?” Mucke asks.

Photo: DTM

Illustrating his earlier point, both drivers have recently participated in the DTM’s young drivers test – along with FIA F3 race-winners Jake Hughes and David Schumacher – and seem likely to drop off the single-seater ladder for financial reasons.

Mucke has seen a ‘massive increase in the costs of running a F4 programme’ in recent years, despite the ‘costs being relatively stable’ for the hardware required to race. Instead, the price hike has come “because of the vast amount of test kilometres that are involved”.

“This can be two to five days of testing per event. But no driver wants to miss a test if the competitors are there – ‘we need to go too’.

“In addition, many drivers do the UAE F4 championship, the Italian series and then make a few guest starts in Germany. That’s the reason that we decided to miss the ADAC championship this year; the amount of testing involved in running two programmes was just too much.”

Testing costs are brought down in F2 and F3 by restrictions, except, as Mucke notes, “even there the drivers will still get the kilometres in GP2 or GP3 cars”.

With all the testing, he puts costs now at “€350,000 – €450,000 for a season in F4, and that’s just for a single championship”.

“But the level of testing is not my main problem with F4. We could put together a programme for a season but the question remains, what does the driver do afterwards? The youngsters can forget about dreams of Formula 1 – the chances are just too remote. What then are their perspectives?

“The only chance for these drivers to build a professional career in motorsport which can actually be financed is in GT cars.

Photo: ADAC GT Masters

“You just have to look around at the number of works teams and works drivers in GTs. There are 1000s of opportunities for a young driver to build a career in motor racing; silver and bronze-graded drivers are always in demand. Of course, it might be much nicer to go into F3 and F2 but, if the goal is to be a professional racing driver, then the chances are simply much better there.”

After Mucke’s own son, the team’s next FBMW champion was Maximilian Gotz in 2003, and he is now DTM champion. While the team moved into the DTM itself in 2005, it does have a history of sending drivers to the pinnacle of single-seaters too.

The 2004 FBMW ADAC season belonged to Mucke, with a young Sebastian Vettel winning 18 times on the way to a dominant title in his first year single-seaters, while team-mate Atila Abreu won the other two races of the season.

“With somebody like Vettel it was clear that he paid great attention to his physical fitness even without a trainer pushing him,” says Mucke. “As a kid of 15, he was already in the paddock waiting by the car at 7:30 in the morning, ready for qualifying.”

In ADAC FMasters there were two more titles with Pascal Wehrlein, another future DTM champion, and Alessio Picariello.

However, it was in F3 that Mucke achieved its most notable successes. Mucke Jr was the 2001 German F3 runner-up, and following the merger of that series with the French one to create the F3 Euro Series in 2003, Mucke was a constant. It ran Christian Klien (2003), Sebastien Buemi (2007), Christian Vietoris (2009) and Wehrlein (2012) all to title runner-up spots.

After Mercedes promoted Wehrlein to the DTM, future Indycar race-winner Felix Rosenqvist took over as team leader for 2013. He took his second (and the team’s third) victory in the prestigious Masters of F3 event at Zandvoort, as well as taking another runner-up spot for the team in the FIA European F3 Championship, the F3 Euro Series’ successor.

Though Rosenqvist was unable to deliver the expected successes the following season, against the likes of Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen, he did go on to take Mucke’s sole victory in the Macau Grand Prix at the end of the year.

Photo: Roger Gascoigne

Mucke himself rates this as the highlight of his 22 years in the business.

“It’s a difficult race, and one that cannot so easily be forgetten. There are so many good drivers on the grid there.

“We have had around 200 drivers in the 22 years that we’ve run a team. We’ve seen a number go on to F1, but most of those were in the early years, when it was still possible to make it [without big budgets].”

The Mucke alumni that have reached F1 include Klien, Buemi, Wehrlein, Roberto Merhi, Sergio Perez and of course Vettel.

In addition to four-time F1 world champion Vettel, Mucke picks out one other driver who really made an impression in his team, and made it to F1: Lando Norris.

“Even so young, he was already so old mentally. He was always ready to put in the effort, to put pressure on himself. You can already see in the junior categories who has the right attitude, the work ethic, the mental approach.”

Norris raced part-time for Mucke in ADAC and Italian F4 in 2015, winning at Spa-Francorchamps but ending his time at the team with a horror crash at Hockenheim.

Could the entry of Porsche and/or Audi into F1 open more opportunities for young drivers, particularly in Germany?

“Hope dies last,” Mucke laughs. “But such investment is not so common anymore. Red Bull is the last which consistently plans and pushes a driver’s career path. Helmut Marko is without doubt very single-minded but he can always bring on a very good driver. It may be expensive but at the end they have the best drivers.”

Mucke is clearly still in love with the junior formulas – “it is my way of life”, and he passionately hopes that warnings such as his will be listened to, if junior single-seaters are not to “become a dead end”.

Mucke Motorsport in single-seaters
Series Years Wins Driver titles Team titles
GP3 2010-’11 1 1x3rd (’11) 1x4th (’11)
F3 EU Series 2003-’12 30 4x2nd (’03, ’07, ’09, ’12) 2x2nd (’09, ’12)
FIA EU F3 Ch. 2012-’16 21 1x2nd (’13) 1x2nd (’13)
German F3 1999-’02 8 1x2nd (’01) 1x2nd (’01)
Macau GP 2011-’16 1 1 (’14) N/A
Masters of F3 1999, ’01, ’03-’13, ’16 3 3 (’03, ’11, ’13) N/A
FBMW ADAC 1998-’07 62 3 (’98, ’03, ’04) 2 (’98, ’03, ’04)
FBMW World Final 2005-’07 3 1 (’07) N/A
FBMW EU 2008-’10 5 1x3rd (’10) 1x3rd (’09)
ADAC FMasters 2008-’14 38 2 (’11, ’13) 1 (’13)
ADAC F4 2015-’20 11 1x3rd (’16) 2x3rd (’16, ’17)
Italian F4 2015-’21 14 1x3rd (’15) 1x2nd (’15)
F4 UAE 2018-’21 15 1x2nd (’19) 1x2nd (’20)