Although they lost out to their rivals ART Grand Prix and Victor Martins in their quest for the 2022 F3 Drivers’ crown, René Rosin reckons there are plenty of positives to be drawn from PREMA Racing’s 2022 campaign.
Their line-up of returnees Arthur Leclerc and Jak Crawford alongside rookie Oliver Bearman became a force to be reckoned with, and the Italian team claimed the honours of having the only trio to all finish inside the top seven in the Drivers’ Standings.
Crucially, this allowed PREMA to recapture the Teams’ Championship title, after narrowly losing out to Trident by four points last season, something which Rosin admits he was insistent on taking back.
“We missed out on the Drivers’ Championship, but overall, we’ve been quite close,” he said. “I think we had a chance to grab the title, but from a team point of view, we put all the drivers on the top step of the podium, and we won the Teams’ Championship once more. We demonstrated a solid run of results throughout the year. We missed a few points here and there, but overall, it has been a very positive season.”
“I’m a fan of the Teams’ Championship, it’s something that I would always like to achieve. In our history in Formula 3 and European F3 before that, we’ve always won - except for last year. Of course, it depends on how you build up your team, but we always try to have three drivers capable of fighting for the Championship. On one side that’s an extra challenge to make them work together and achieve the best results.
“For me, it’s something important because winning the Teams’ Championship means there’s cohesion between every team member and between the drivers to work together. It’s a great task, so I’m really happy about the result as it was important to take it back after last year.”
Despite being the youngest and least experienced of the trio, Bearman steadily found his feet across the season. After a track limits penalty denied him a maiden victory on his debut in Sakhir, the 17-year-old endured two tough rounds in Imola and Barcelona.
Needing to regroup with his team before heading to his home round, the Brit began to come into his own and carve a place for himself in the title fight – finishing third in four consecutive Feature Races from Silverstone to Spa-Francorchamps, and finally claimed his first win in the Sprint Race at the Belgian circuit.
Putting the pressure on Martins and Zane Maloney right until the end, with back-to-back P2 finishes in Monza, Bearman closed his 2022 campaign just seven points shy of the top spot – a feat that highly impressed his Team Principal.
“Ollie grew up quite a lot,” Rosin remarked. “He already started well in Bahrain, but he got the penalty for track limits. Then we arrived in Imola and he was leading the race, but he was struggling with tyre degradation, which is quite normal for a rookie, especially coming up from Formula 4 to F3 as it’s quite a huge step.
“After that, we sat down together and we made sure things were working better between us and him, so from there he started to score important points and brought home all the results. Before Spa, he was in a good position, but was still a rookie. After Spa, he was fighting for the Championship and in Monza, he demonstrated, together with Zane, that they were the two fastest drivers.
“He had two smart races, staying out of trouble and being able to attack in a good way for points. Meanwhile, the Feature Race in Monza was stopped early, so that’s something to take into consideration. I can’t say anything bad – he did an amazing season!”
For his teammates Leclerc and Crawford, who finished sixth and seventh in the Standings, Rosin reckons that a combination of bad luck and errors held them in the title fight, but they undoubtedly have the potential to be fighting up front.
“Arthur struggled a bit in Qualifying, but his race pace has always been mega, being able to overtake when others can’t and doing some great recovering. I think it’s more of a mental state and feeling the pressure in Qualifying. As soon as he feels confident that he can do the lap, he can show some very good stuff because he’s a very good talent.
“There was a certain frustration from the crash at the Hungaroring in the Sprint Race, but this is part of the game. When you have three drivers fighting for the win or the overall Championship, you need to have in mind that this kind of thing is possible. I don’t want to put any blame onto any drivers, because all the drivers are free to race and to do their own thing. It was a pity because we lost quite a lot of points and especially for Arthur, I would say that accident compromised his season.
“With Jak, the raw speed was absolutely there. I would have expected some more results because he has the capabilities, but there were factors that didn’t fall his way. In the end, when you have seven drivers in the fight for the title, it means the level was really high, so everybody was battling for every single point over the season – that was something remarkable for the entire Championship.”
Whilst the highly competitive nature of the third tier has been great news for fans, Rosin understands that their battle to remain the team to beat gets even tougher each season and knows that PREMA will have a target on their back when the field hit the track in 2023 – a challenge that he wants to make sure the team are more than ready for.
“When we started in 2019 with this new generation of F3 cars, we had quite a big gap versus the other teams and had a 1-2-3 in the Championship. As time goes on, with the competition there is in F3, it is more difficult to achieve all the results that you did the previous year.
“Every year is even more difficult because everybody is trying to challenge you and is pushing really hard. You have to keep the momentum going all the time, even when things aren’t looking great and be able to bounce back to show that we are there do to the best job possible to win races.
“At the beginning of the season, I want to win the Championship, both the Drivers’ and the Teams’ titles, but the best thing to do is help the drivers develop to achieve the best results possible. We look race by race and then at the end of the season, we have an understanding of what we’ve done wrong. Even this year, we showed ourselves to be the team to beat. We were in the fight for the Drivers’ Championship with all three drivers to the last round, so I think I cannot ask my guys for more than that.”
He added: “We want to get back to winning the Drivers’ Championship next year. The competition will be tight, all the other competitors will be wanting to beat us, so we’ll need to raise our level to do everything perfect. Even with the small mistakes that we made this year, we need to learn from that, improve and continue working race by race, Qualifying by Qualifying to make sure that at the end of the Championship next year, we’re still fighting for both the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships.”