Oliver Goethe entered the 2023 Formula 3 season intent on carving out a spot for himself as a leading title contender. Ultimately, things didn’t pan out the way the Trident driver had hoped as he had to settle for eighth in the Standings but remained determined to fight with everything he had until the very end.
After impressing with a two-round appearance for Campos Racing in 2022, he was imbued with a sense of confidence behind the wheel. With the support of then reigning Teams’ Champions Trident, it’s unsurprising that Goethe had set his targets high.
“I expected to fight towards the top. I was in a top team with Trident and I knew I was capable of fighting towards the top. The pace was really, really, really strong at moments, so I was expecting to be there. Ideally, I would have liked to be up there a bit more in order to fight for the Championship. In the end, it was a very positive season, many ups and downs but good positives to take.”
Initially after pre-season testing in Sakhir, he admitted he felt less optimistic about his chances as he hadn’t unlocked the #6 car’s full potential. However, his outlook brightened up considerably during the opening round. Earning P6 in the Sprint Race and second in the Feature, Goethe sat just three points behind teammate Gabriel Bortoleto in the Standings and believed a shot at the title was there for the taking.
“It was strange because I was struggling quite a lot at testing in Bahrain, so I did a lot of sim in between that and worked really hard. Then the weekend in the end went very well. I was one of the quickest drivers and I was P2 in the Championship at that point, so it gave me a huge boost as it was a strong start to the season.”
He added: “At that point, I thought I would be in the title fight I’m not going to lie, but the next few rounds after that I struggled a bit. There were a few mistakes from my side, a few unlucky moments and just not putting it all together. Ideally, I should have been fighting towards the top end for the whole season, but it is what it is.”
Fortunes rapidly shifted for the German driver, as a run of nine point-less races severely hampered his chances and eventually left him with too big of a deficit to close. Trying to overcome the frustrations, Goethe’s self-belief remained unshakeable.
“It was definitely a struggle. I think I went four entire rounds without getting a single point and that put me down quite a lot. I knew I was still able to fight towards the top, the pace was always very strong, but it just wasn’t going my way. In the end, I’m glad I managed to mentally step up to bounce back from that and have an amazing second half to the season.”
There are few better ways to turn around a challenging time than with a victory and that’s exactly what Goethe did on his debut at Silverstone. Banishing his Friday woes with second, he overtook teammate Leonardo Fornaroli and held his nerve during a late rain shower to bring home his maiden F3 win.
“I felt amazing! I’ve never felt better to be honest,” he reminisced. “It was just a mixture of excitement and relief after many bad rounds. To get a Feature Race win was the best feeling possible to come back with.
“The race pace was really strong all season. I knew Leo would struggle a bit more, I was always a bit quicker than him in the races. As soon as he started to struggle with the tyres, I could overtake him. He didn’t put on much of a fight, which was quite intelligent because otherwise it probably would have meant both of us would’ve struggled a lot more with our tyres if we’d have fought. It was a tricky end to the race as well with the rain, so that was really stressful, but in the end, it was very good.”
From there on, positives came by more easily with two top five finishes in Budapest but was dampened by a double DNF in Spa-Francorchamps and the Monza Feature Race. After securing pole at the Italian circuit, Goethe didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of his labour as a broken pedal forced him into retirement, leaving him with a bittersweet end to the season.
“Silverstone was a big turning point for me, it gave me a boost of confidence again. Also, Qualifying was very good, the first really good Qualifying since the first round in Bahrain. That’s the main thing in this Championship, you need to qualify towards the top and then that makes the weekend a lot easier, but that’s the tricky part. I managed to turn that around and the last few rounds were strong as the pace was unbelievable to be honest.
“I couldn’t even start the race and starting from pole that’s like the worst feeling possible, especially because I knew the pace was really strong. I definitely could have won that race, which would have put me a couple of positions higher in the Championship. It would have meant I finished the season extremely strong, so that’s a shame.”
Nevertheless, Goethe’s assessment of the season remains upbeat as he sees encouraging signs in his evolution throughout the campaign. Working alongside eventual Champion Bortoleto and Fornaroli, he believes their dynamic not only spurred the trio forward but taught him that the margin for error in F3 is too small to afford any mistakes.
“I’m still really happy with how the second half of the season went. I improved a lot, and the pace was consistent in both Qualifying and the races. I learnt a lot throughout the entire season with Trident. I think everyone improved of course, but I definitely felt like I made big steps, especially in Qualifying. In terms of pure pace, the second half of the season was really strong compared to my teammates.
“We definitely pushed each other, there was a healthy relationship between us three. Gabriel was very, very quick in the first few rounds and stayed consistent throughout the entire Championship, which made him win in the end. In the second half of the year, Leo and I were right there with him, but he was just able to be more consistent. We pushed each other a lot in the sim and in real life, so it was helpful to have two strong teammates.”
Goethe summarised: “The biggest thing is that if you want to win the Championship, you need to be consistent throughout the year. There are many quick drivers in the Championship and a couple of them will not drop any points. So, if you drop points, it already puts you back many steps.”