Focus - the rise and rise of Christian Klien 02 Dec 2003
It's an unlikely sounding story. You're 20 years old and you have just completed your first season of Formula 3, in which you were crowned rookie of the year and finished second in the Championship.
Then, suddenly your name is being touted for the much sought after 2004 race seat at Jaguar. A two-day test with the team is promptly forthcoming and a few days later the job is yours - you're Mark Webber's new team mate. Your name? Christian Klien.
Austrian Klien (pronounced 'clean') is backed by energy drink firm Red Bull (also Austrian), one of the few companies to have increased their motor racing sponsorship portfolio during the recent global recession. In 2002 Klien was the only Red Bull Junior Team driver to win a Championship and not surprisingly his backers were keen to see him progress into Formula One quickly.
Few could have imagined just how quickly, though. That Klien is still young and comparatively inexperienced was not in question, but this did not stop Jaguar Racing from setting up a 'Talent Test' for him and US rising star Townsend Bell last week and then awarding him the drive barely five days later.
Klien's short career boasts impressive statistics. He was 2002 German Formula Renault champion and this season he made a sensational debut in the Euro F3 series, taking the Championship almost down to the wire with eventual winner, Ryan Briscoe. He also won this season's coveted Marlboro Masters race at Zandvoort.
Speaking prior to Klien's signing for Jaguar, Peter Fluckiger, Director of Engineering at Mucke Motorsport, the team which ran him in Euro F3, agreed that his driver has great potential: "He's certainly ready to go further up. He is very quick, and a very good talent. He likes to joke and to party. But once he gets in the car he is incredibly focussed. He has everything a driver needs to move up in the sport."
And it would appear that Jaguar agree. While Klien's association with Red Bull is undoubtedly a major factor in his rapid rise to Formula One racing, it should take nothing away from his clearly abundant talent.
(The above is an edited extract from a longer feature on Christian Klien, available exclusively in the January 2004 issue of Formula 1 Magazine , which goes on sale later this week.)