A follow-up season for 2023 represents an intriguing prospect for Van Amersfoort Racing. The Dutch team’s maiden campaign included plenty of high points and a few successes along the way, but what next?
The team has retained Rafael Villagómez for 2023 and he is joined by rookie Tommy Smith plus Formula 3 race winner, Caio Collet. With a season of experience under their belts and pre-season testing in the books, how is the ’23 season shaping up for VAR?
Villagómez was making positive noises after stepping out of the car on Day 3 of the test in Sakhir. The Mexican driver has been busy over the winter break, racing in Formula Regional in the Middle East ahead of F3 testing last week.
His time in the car across each of the days has given a decent baseline from which to build from, and allowed the team to zero in on areas to improve. Extracting the best from the tyres is a target for VAR heading into the first race of the season. Three days-worth of data on the hard compound Pirelli tyre will be crucial, with the same compound set to be used in the opening weekend of the year.
“It was pretty good to be back on track,” he said reflecting on the test. “We've been doing a lot of work in the offseason. I think we've had some pretty positive stuff. Still some work to do, especially on the tyres, but with the team we have, I think we can do a pretty good job a year.
“For the first race, we can do a step. Maybe not a full step but a good step in the right direction and then going into Qualifying after Qualifying, trying to improve that last little bit with the team.”
For Collet, the test wasn’t solely about collecting data and getting used to the car. The Brazilian was building up his understanding and working relationship with the team. After another three-day spell in the car, Collet says both he and the team are feeling much more confident in each other heading into the first race of the year.
“I think we’ve improved the strong points and the weak points of both myself and in terms of the team and car performance too. On day one, we started a little bit off but then we worked our way up to the top, that was quite nice. We feel prepared now.”
The building up of trust and understanding translated into a busy final day in Bahrain for Collet and Van Amersfoort. Topping the lap charts in the final session, the Brazilian racked up 61 laps of the Bahrain International Circuit. With multiple race distances under his belt and a Qualifying sim tagged on for good measure, Collet says he and the team now have some confidence to take into Round 1 of 2023.
“The final day, we were planning to do the most amount of laps. We did two complete race distances in the first morning as well as a Qualifying simulation. It was a busy day in the car for me, a few laps done! All of that though is really important for the data we collected. If something changes on the race weekend, we know which direction to go so now we feel prepared.”
Finishing in the top 10 in at least one session on each day is a solid foundation to build from for Collet. For rookie teammate Tommy Smith, 151 laps across the three days represented a strong haul as he got up to speed with the team in his first opportunity to drive the VAR F3 machine.
After finishing sixth in the Teams’ Standings last year, there is plenty of potential in VAR to make another step forward in 2023. Early noises are that there should be some more strong performances across the coming season.