There was no new silverware to take back to Italy for Gabriel Bortoleto, but the Brazilian has a bigger Championship lead than when he arrived in Barcelona, and that will suit him just fine.
Trident’s driver will be satisfied with that, but the team watched PREMA Racing usurp them in the Teams’ Standings. Will the two Italian outfits duke it out one on one in 2023, or can a new emerging challenger disrupt things at the top? With three weeks to reflect and prepare for Round 6, who has the most work to do and who will be eager to get racing once again?
PREMA Racing now tops the Teams’ Championship and that is a worrying thing for rival teams. The Italian squad is yet to take a Feature Race win but has been at the front and threatening the podium in every Round so far this year. The latest Sprint Race victory for Zak O’Sullivan and a podium for Dino Beganovic in the Feature, along with Paul Aron’s back-to-back P5 finishes, were welcome results.
The team has matched its tally for podium finishes after four Rounds from last year (seven), but that first Feature victory of the season is still missing. It will surely come soon though, with Beganovic finding his feet in F3 and Aron delivering great consistency, in the points in every race since the Sakhir Feature Race. O’Sullivan’s second year in F3 has not been what he’d have imagined but he is the only one of the trio with race wins on his 2023 record.
Gabriel Bortoleto is building his season on a solid foundation, yet to finish inside the points below sixth position. He hasn’t failed to score since his opening lap contact in the first race of the year in the Sakhir Sprint Race, an unparalleled level of consistency. While other drivers are peaking and dipping in form, Bortoleto has been a constant at the front of the pack, and he has been richly rewarded so far. With a 24-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship heading to Spielberg, the Trident driver is in cruise control at the moment.
Leonardo Fornaroli had a great Saturday, but his Sunday race was all but over quickly after contact with Luke Browning, a consequence of the typical Lap 1 scrapping in the middle of the pack. He has shown competitive pace this year but has been lacking in Feature Race points finishes, failing to score since Melbourne on a Sunday. Teammate Oliver Goethe likewise needs to register a points’ finish to arrest a poor patch of form, something he is more than capable of doing. Keeping out of trouble and inside the top 12 in Qualifying will do him a world of good come Spielberg. Now five points behind PREMA in the Teams’ Standings, all three will need to be consistently in the points to take back the top spot as PREMA’s drivers find their rhythm.
Each Hitech Pulse-Eight driver had their moments across the weekend but fell down due to various points or mistake, much of their own making. For Gabriele Minì, the weekend took a huge hit after he fell foul of track limits in Qualifying, dropping him out of the top 12 and leaving him with a fightback from 18th on the grid. In the Sprint, his eagerness ended up costing him. Contact with Christian Mansell earned him a 10-second time penalty while Sunday’s Feature resulted in a non-score after another time penalty, for exceeding track limits. It has allowed Bortoleto to escape further up the road in the Drivers’ Championship, with Minì now falling to third.
Browning’s first F3 podium has been a long time coming. He hustled O’Sullivan for victory in the Sprint but couldn’t quite find a way through. Opening lap contact with Fornaroli ended his Sunday early. His obvious speed in 2023 has to be paired with consistency going forward, though he is only 16 points back from breaking into the top five. Sebastián Montoya endured a tough Sprint Race after contact with Aron left him with a puncture having been shaping up a move for fourth. It was the second race in a row that contact took him out of a strong points position. Again, the Colombian has been fast in ’23, but he’s missing the points he should have earned.
The sentiment after Josep María Martí’s home victory in Barcelona was Campos Racing are in this fight for the 2023 Championship. While he could be forgiven for getting a little ahead of himself, the Spanish squad has more race wins than any other team so far this season, each courtesy of Martí. He was surefooted when he said that he was in contention to fight for this title. Looking at the points and it’s hard to argue against that. The Spaniard is now the closest driver to leader Botoleto in the table, 24 points back from the Trident driver.
Teammates Hugh Barter and Christian Mansell will need to be in the points more often than has been the case so far, but both have shown flashes of that potential. Barter is yet to get off the mark in F3 with a points finish, but being able to replicate his P5 Qualifying performance from Sakhir will go a long way to helping him rectify that. Mansell had a great scrap with Minì across the Barcelona weekend. He was unfortunate to only come away with a point to show for his efforts, but it was an improvement from Monaco for the Australian.
Barcelona was much more like it for MP Motorsport, with Mari Boya enjoying his home race weekend with a double points finish, while Franco Colapinto spearheaded the team with P2 in the Feature. The Argentine has been a little below his own expectations so far this year, but he has been no lower than sixth in the past four races. They are results that have brought him back up the order to sixth in the Drivers’ Championship. The blip and non-score in Melbourne are proving to be very much an outlier in terms of results and Colapinto is slowly but surely rebuilding his season one round at a time.
Boya was pleased to have fought in the points and shown race pace that he’s felt capable of for much of the year but not had the results to prove it. His Feature Race performance was a mature drive to sixth and there’s more potential for points in Spielberg if he can replicate his form there. Jonny Edgar has struggled to match his teammates’ speed. Barcelona was another non-scoring round for the Briton. He will be aiming to break into the top 12 in Qualifying around the Red Bull Ring to give himself the best platform possible to prevent a repeat in Austria.
Two points finishes out of a possible twelve in the past two rounds has hurt ART Grand Prix in the Team’s Standings. Grégoire Saucy’s nine points in Monte Carlo kept the team in touching distance of the top three teams, but not adding to that in Barcelona was a hammer blow. The team has fallen to sixth in the standings, while Saucy has dropped out of the top five in the Drivers’ Championship too. Things haven’t quite clicked into place yet for Nikola Tsolov and the Bulgarian will be visiting circuits he hasn’t raced around before over the coming months once again, Spa-Francorchamps notwithstanding. Kaylen Frederick will need to use his F3 experience to pull out some improved results and repeat his points finish from Sakhir to help the team add to its tally.
He has threatened to show more speed all year, but a front row start for Taylor Barnard was a great effort to give Jenzer Motorsport its best ever Qualifying result. The Briton couldn’t hold on for a podium finish in the Feature Race, but he did gain vital experience fighting at the front in F3 to take into the rest of the year. Teammate Nikita Bedrin was in the points on Saturday with P10 in the Sprint Race, moving forward from P14 on the grid. If he can crack the top 12 in Qualifying, he could join Barnard as a regular points scorer for the remainder of the year. Alejandro Garcia kept himself out of trouble for back-to-back P22 finishes as others around him fell off the road or hit trouble.
Another team that expected more in 2023, Van Amersfoort Racing’s promising start to life in Formula 3 last year hasn’t propelled the team on to better things this season. So far at least. Caio Collet’s Sakhir Sprint podium is a distant memory now, with the Brazilian in the points just once since then (P9, Monte Carlo Sprint Race). Tommy Smith has been making improvements as a rookie but can’t break into the top 10 for points just yet. Likewise, Rafael Villagómez hasn’t opened his account yet in 2023, and there is work to do for the team ahead of Spielberg.
While there has been little to shout about for Rodin Carlin so far in Formula 3 this year, it was a season best average for Oliver Gray across the weekend. The Briton achieved an average finishing position of 16.5 across the Barcelona Sprint and Feature Races as he gets to grips with the F3 car more and more. More experienced teammates in Hunter Yeany and Ido Cohen both endured a retirement each in Spain and will be hoping for a better weekend in Spielberg next time out.
Sophia Floersch can take some solace with the progress she made in the Barcelona races, taking 13 places from her 27th place grid slot across both the Sprint and Feature Races. PHM Racing by Charouz teammates Roberto Faria and Piotri Wisnicki also both moved forward but are still looking to build up confidence in the F3 car after tough results this weekend. Heading to a venue he has prior experience around before, Wisnicki will have a foundation to build from, while Faria goes from zero again.