The 2023 Formula 3 season kicked off in Sakhir and, as expected, the battling was frenetic from the word go. With no shortage of young chargers looking to stamp their authority on the Championship, the races were full of action. But who got their year off to the best start?
Here is a run through the paddock on how every team is feeling after the first round, who is confident and who will be looking to bounce back down under.
The team had threatened that the pieces were in place for a strong start to the new season, but a 1-2 in the opening Feature Race of the season might have caught a few by surprise. Trident rookie Gabriel Bortoleto and teammate Oliver Goethe stood on the podium on Sunday, but Leonardo Fornaroli’s performance was also strong until a puncture ended his hopes of points late on.
Otherwise, Trident would have scored with all three cars and its early lead in the Teams’ Standings would have stood even higher than the 24-point advantage it currently has. Heading to Melbourne, the Italian outfit will be looking to consolidate such a strong start and ensure all three drivers are fighting for the top positions in the points once again.
It wasn’t the cleanest of weekends for PREMA Racing. Teammates Zak O’Sullivan and Paul Aron came together in the Feature Race though both saw the chequered flag. What is most important for the team however is that all three of its young chargers are quick.
READ MORE: Beganovic’s Sakhir weekend in his words
Dino Beganovic in particular has impressed the Italian team with how quickly he has adapted to life in Formula 3. O’Sullivan is looking every bit as quick as his 2022 season suggested and Aron has the talent but will be working with PREMA to dial in his approach to Round 2. All three will be looking to prove just how quick PREMA feels it is in Qualifying in Melbourne. The team says its potential in 2023 is much higher than Sakhir suggests.
Grégoire Saucy’s pre-season pace promised much when the paddock reconvened for Round 1 at the Bahrain International Circuit, but the results weren’t quite what the team was hoping for. That’s not to say his consistent and clean drives to points scoring finishes in both races was a bad result. Saucy’s efforts put him in the top five and in touching distance of the top spot, the highlight being P4 in the Feature Race.
Teammates Kaylen Frederick and Nikola Tsolov were involved in their own incidents that took them out of contention for better results. The American rebounded on Sunday to take 7th while rookie Tsolov will be hoping for a cleaner run next time out in Melbourne. Interestingly, the team opted not to save a set of tyres for the Feature Race compared to close rivals at Hitech Pulse-Eight and PREMA, perhaps explaining a lack of pace compared to prior expectations ahead of the race, though Trident may well have just been out of reach on the day. Remaining out of trouble will go a long way in helping all three drivers show the true potential of the team next time out in Melbourne
Year two for Josep María Martí at Campos Racing got off to the best possible start. The Spaniard took victory for the team in the Sprint Race, much to the delight of Fernando Alonso watching his A14-affiliated talent from below the podium.
Christian Mansell, Hugh Barter and Martí each showed Campos looks quick, but is Martí shaping for a run at the front this year? The team feels so, with the 17-year-old remaining at the Spanish outfit for a second year. An issue facing the team has been drivers moving elsewhere after a foundation-building year, but with Martí they have consistency. Alongside the Aussie ensemble, team chemistry is strong, and Campos looks set for a strong 2023 on first showing.
Yes, Gabriele Minì lost the Sakhir Feature Race due to his incorrect positioning on the grid, but the Italian was mighty from the first second the track went green in Free Practice. His pace was only echoed by his teammates, with Sebastián Montoya fighting his way into the points on Sunday and Luke Browning putting plenty of moves on to reach P5 from 17th on the grid.
READ MORE: Browning: Comeback drive to points a satisfying bonus on learning weekend
The team was happy with Qualifying and race pace, with both proving to be a strength. Making sure they’re immediately on the pace for the next round will be critical according to the team. With a visit to Australia and the Albert Park circuit coming up, it will level the playing field and whoever adapts quickest could be in prime position. That is the focus at Hitech for the next few weeks.
Franco Colapinto couldn’t quite convert Sprint Race pole into victory on Saturday, losing out to Josep María Martí after a hard-fought race with the Spaniard. His P2 finish and 10th in the Feature Race on first showing for new team MP was promising though.
Though the Argentine would have hoped for more, his two points-scoring results leaves him sixth and just 16 points off the top spot with room for improvement. His and Jonny Edgar’s experience will be useful for Mari Boya as the Spanish driver adapts to F3 in the early phase of the year.
Caio Collet showed that Van Amersfoort Racing has the pace to contend in Qualifying but the team will be targeting improvements ahead of Melbourne. Neither of the three drivers managed to maximise the team’s strengths on one-lap pace, with Collet on provisional pole until the final runs. No improvement when the track was at its best left the Brazilian with work to do, though he was able to salvage a hard-earned P3 in the Sprint.
Operationally, the team is already seeing the improvements it has made from last year and was very satisfied after the opening weekend of the season. With stronger race pace giving the drivers the ability to fight on Saturday and Sunday, ensuring Qualifying goes smoothly going forward will aid its chances of reaching the targeted top 12 on the grid.
Jenzer Motorsport has cause to be excited about its chances in 2023. The results from the opening weekend in Sakhir might reflect harshly on the team, but underlying speed cannot be denied. Ensuring their Qualifying goes smoothly and there are no cancelled laptimes going forward will be a great help for the team. Points are the realistic target for Jenzer’s drivers going forward.
The team’s trio of rookies each showed bursts of pace and arguably should have started higher up the order. Such is the case with FIA Formula 3, the tiniest of margins can make the biggest of differences. Taylor Barnard, Nikita Bedrin and Alejandro Garcia each showcased their racecraft as they battled away in the Feature Race. Barnard’s rise through the order in the Sprint from 30th to 15th was evidence of the promise the team possesses.
It was a tough start to 2023 for Rodin Carlin but there are positives stemming from the opening weekend of the season. The British outfit has understood where it can improve for Qualifying in Melbourne that should provide all three of its drivers with a better chance at strong results.
Ido Cohen, Hunter Yeany and rookie Oliver Gray were each in the thick of the action, battling away in the mid-pack. Their race craft looked strong as the team’s race pace ensured they had a car at their disposal capable of fighting their closest rivals.
A new team joining the grid for 2023, PHM Racing by Charouz says it was happy to learn across the opening weekend of the season. Its three drivers in Sophia Flörsch, Piotr Wisnicki and Roberto Faria accumulated valuable mileage and will have a baseline to work with moving forward. The team says it will be improving step by step and expects to be fighting up the order over the course of the season.