Liberty Lake, WA – Max Mällinen continued to get acclimated to his No. 10 Swan Motorsports Spectrum/Honda race car during the opening rounds of the 2014 F1600 Formula F Championship Series at Road Atlanta. His professional racing debut, Mällinen was part of a highly-competitive, 25-car strong field with some of the best up and coming talent in the country, turning in a lap for fifth fastest during Saturday qualifying.
“It was my first opportunity to compare myself to the other competitors and I found that I have the speed to be a real contender in the series,” said Mällinen, who estimated he had less than eight sessions in the car when the team unloaded in Georgia on Thursday. “I also came away with a great feeling about the series. It has incredible talent and tight racing. Just one tenth separated the top five in qualifying. To me that indicates the year to come will be hard fought, but highly enjoyable.”
With just a handful of sessions in the Formula F car, Mällinen was quick out of the box, running the fifth best time during Friday practice at 1:30.508, and backing that up with a solid qualifying effort for race one, fifth on the grid, at 1:29.475. Unfortunately, bad luck would strike and a qualifying incident left the 15-year-old sidelined for the first race of the weekend.
“The team and I worked through each issue. Mirl (Swan) gave me great advice, the team worked hard on the car and I became a better driver because of it,” continued Mällinen. “The challenges began with me in second and one tenth out of pole about mid-way through Saturday’s qualifying session. I knew I had a great opportunity and wanted to really push. I just tried to carry too much speed into turn one and ran out of room at the exit. The gearbox case and a couple corners were damaged. We needed about 30 more minutes to complete the repair, and therefore unfortunately, did not make the race. It was a shame as we qualified fifth and would have probably had a very good finish.”
A day later the No. 10 Spectrum rolled back out onto the track, with Mällinen logging all-important laps around the 12-turn course and settling for an 18th place result with some issues, but with 16 more laps of Formula F seat time.
Mällinen explained: “On Sunday, we had a couple more issues. We had a push and I lost first gear midway through the race. I had to fight to keep my position. I was just glad to finish and collect championship points.”
The battle rolls on, as the Series continues its North America tour with rounds three and four at the famed Watkins Glen International, May 16-18.
“I’m really looking forward to the Glen,” Mällinen added. “My goal is to be fast early in the weekend, capitalize on a good qualifying position and come away with as many championship points as possible.”
View the complete 14-race, seven-weekend 2014 schedule and follow live online at www.F1600Series.com.
About Max: Max Mallinen is a 15-year-old professional race car driver competing in the 2014 F1600 Championship Series, featuring open-wheel race cars that promote race craft and driver development. Mällinen has competed in international and national karting series and has won three Championships over the past two years. Last season, he had 30 starts with 17 wins, 15 poles and 23 podiums leading to two Championship titles. Mällinen is driving the black No. 10 Swan Motorsports Spectrum/Honda. He is the son of former SCCA National Champion and IMSA Pro Atlantic C2 Champion Michael Mällinen.