There were points on the board eventually but 2023 was not the year Rodin Carlin were hoping for in FIA Formula 3. The British outfit finished 10th, with just two points to their name and a lot of work to do over the winter break.
Ido Cohen, Oliver Gray and Francesco Simonazzi completed the campaign for the team, with Cohen the sole points-scorer this year, but there were several races that could have gone in their favour more.
After a difficult 2021 and subsequent step-forward of 2022, 2023 represents the team’s toughest campaign in FIA Formula 3 to date. Rodin Carlin accumulated its lowest points total in any of the five seasons so far. It was not meant to be like this.
“I think after a year of making progress in 2022, in some ways 2023 was a bit of a disappointment that we didn't continue that progress and moving further up the Teams’ Standings,” says Team Principal Stephanie Carlin. “F3 is an incredibly competitive Championship, and the depth of talent is huge. As I've often said, you can have a good day in FIA F3 and still be 15th and not score points.”
A revamped programme back at base ahead of 2022 should have meant the momentum generated last year was further built upon. Instead, it feels like it’s back to square one for the team, but the only way is up from here.
Losing the consistency it was beginning to put together in 2022 will be a huge source of frustration, as will ending the year without more points on the board. A team like Rodin Carlin are more than capable of making a turnaround though. The British outfit’s pedigree can attest to it. Carlin says it’s the lack of a consistent performances that represents the toughest aspect of the season.
“Consistency is really what we lacked this year. I think we showed some flashes of potential, but we just didn't really capitalise on those enough. I think Oliver Gray in particular did a good job but as a rookie, it was always going to be a tall order for him.
“Generally speaking, 2023 had its moments where we were relatively happy with the progress we were making, but as an overall season, I think it was a little bit disappointing based on the progress we made in 2022.”
For Gray, his best race might have been the Budapest Sprint and a redemption drive that included a gain of 16 positions in his recovery from a Qualifying crash in treacherous conditions. His mechanics’ efforts were paid back in what was a measured drive by the Briton as he kept himself out of trouble and made each chance count to rise up to 14th, taking just shy of one position per lap.
Cohen’s Silverstone Feature Race gamble on tyre strategy was the payoff Rodin Carlin needed, securing their sole scoring result on home turf. Local knowledge and driver ambition played key roles on that day, as Cohen explains.
“I think it was a great effort for me and from the team. We called the strategy right which made a huge difference at the end. It was really important to be on the right tyres at the end and that's what made it all work out.
“I think at the start, I was always going to start on the slick tyres. I think it was a really close decision when the Safety Car came out. We had to basically take a gamble and decide if we came into the pits and switch tyres or not. During that lap approaching the pitlane, we changed our minds a couple of times, so it was it was a close decision. But in the end, we got it right and that's what was important.
“I was quite worried that we made the wrong decision. But when we restarted, most of the track wasn’t too bad apart from sector two, which was still fully wet. But it dried up really quick and towards the last few laps, the track was very close to being completely dry.”
Another bright spot the team will be hope is the sign of the page turning stems from its late season form and results of Francesco Simonazzi. Parachuted into the car prior to the weekend, his debut performance brought a P14 result in treacherous conditions at Spa-Francorchamps, an encouraging sign to say the least.
The Italian driver went on to secure a further two top 20 results and was unfortunate to miss out on a maiden point scoring result at his home race. He finished 11th in the Monza Feature to end the year in what was just his fourth F3 race, an impressive performance and potentially a sign that there’s more in the pipeline for Rodin Carlin.
Post-season testing will be the first opportunity to diagnose some of the issues faced throughout the previous campaign and kick-off the preparations for what the team will hope is a much more successful year next time out.
“There are lessons in every season and it's obviously important to keep growing as a team and add every experience to your portfolio of knowledge. That's going to help you be stronger for the following year.
“Maybe in particular looking back at 2023, I think we need to just emphasise once again how important Qualifying is and that qualifying performance is so key because on some of the circuits it may be hard to overtake, or you may put yourself in a position or area of the field that is more prone to incidents the further down you are. So qualifying is extremely important, and I think that's something that we weren't quite strong enough on this year. We probably need to focus on it again with extra attention for 2024.”
With five months to reassess and plan, Rodin Carlin has the experience, expertise and time to bring about a positive change for next season. Ensuring they maximise their time between now and lights out in Sakhir will go a long way in determining whether ’24 is successful.