Gustav Malja has moved up to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2015 with Strakka Racing after two years with Josef Kaufmann Racing in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0.
The Swede has shown good speed and progress over the past few seasons, and now steps up into the 3.5 litre cars for the first time with high hopes for the approaching season.
Talking to The Checkered Flag ahead of the season opener in Spain, Malja revealed it was a go-kart as a present that got him started on the motorsport ladder, that has seen him progress through Formula Masters and Formula Renault 2.0 into Formula Renault 3.5.
“My father bought me a kart when I was about five/six years old as a Christmas present,” revealed Malja. “Then it took us a while before I started to compete as the first years was only practice – I was nine when I got completely hooked in it! I loved the competition part, and I have always loved competing in everything.
“In Karting I had good results nationally and internationally; I won the Swedish Championship for instance and in my last race of karting I finished 5th in the Monaco Kart Cup. Then I moved on to single seaters and I nearly won the championship in my second year.
“I finished as Vice-Champion in ADAC Formula Masters with Neuhauser Racing, with three wins and sixteen podiums in total so it was a very good start of my racing career. Then I moved on to Josef Kaufmann Racing in Eurocup/NEC for two years and I did not get the success I wanted with them, however I managed to win two races and six podiums, finished fifth in NEC despite a lot of DNFs + had good highligths in Eurocup as well.
“After the time with Kaufmann I got the chance with ISR in testing and it went well, I got a new chance with Zeta Corse in testing and it went even better and now I get the full chance with Strakka Racing and it feels very very good.”
Malja has been impressed by the professional nature of the Strakka Racing team, and immediately felt happy working alongside the mechanics and engineers of the team. He feels his way of working fits naturally alongside theirs.
“They had seen me in testing and I had seen them as well and we had mutual interest of joining together for 2015,” said Malja about joining Strakka Racing.
“They are extremely focused both at home in the workshop and out on the race tracks. In the workshop they are very committed to have everything 100 % and ready and on the race tracks they really work together as a team – connected as mechanics and engineers.
“It is very professional. What has impressed me most is how they work with me, we are constantly looking for improvements in both me and the car, and this is the way I want to work.”
Making the step up to Formula Renault 3.5 from 2.0 was the natural choice for Malja, and despite a couple of tough seasons with Josef Kaufmann Racing in 2.0, he feels the series is a good place to prepare yourself for the future, and as a result feels ready to make the move up to the bigger cars this season.
“The FR2.0 is a good school if you want to compete in the higher competitive levels,” continued Malja. “It is a very good championship and there is always fast drivers, so you always have to push to your maximum to reach results.
“I had a lot of tough times in the championship over the two years with Kaufmann, but I believe it made me stronger, both as a driver and as a person. I felt good in the FR3.5 almost instantly and this is of course connected to the years in FR2.0.”
Malja revealed that he expects a difficult change in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2015, and feels he has the potential to fight for both the rookie and main championship titles this season.
“I always have high expectations on myself,” said the Swede. “There is a lot of experienced drivers in the field this year so it will be a great challenge.
“I would say compete to win the rookie championship is a good goal as I will face drivers with around the same amount of experience, but my focus is on the main championship, and as it is my rookie year there is a lot to learn and a lot to experience, so I will take it race per race and to do my best and after we’ll see.
“Every year in a career is important. This is the highest level of my career so far, so now I want to show myself.”