Gabriel Bortoleto made a strong start to the 2023 season, immediately heading up the field during the first Free Practice of the year. The Trident driver kept the rest at bay throughout the first session of the season and is hopeful of carrying that into the all-important Qualifying session later.

The Brazilian was also fastest in testing around the Bahrain International Circuit and that form appears to have been maintained into the competitive race weekend. While it’s all too easy to get carried away following such a promising start to the opening weekend, Bortoleto remains focused. He believes that while the team has made a good start, track evolution means it will be difficult to predict just where everyone will be come Qualifying.

“I think it's a very good start for the season for sure. Free Practice is just for practice for now, we cannot create expectations for Qualifying but for sure we showed that we have a strong base. I think track evolution is big and there's a lot of things that change for Qualifying. I will keep working now with the team, looking at data so I can do a better job in Qualifying, but for sure it's a very good start and I'm happy.

"At the end of the third day in pre-season testing, I topped the session so for sure we knew that we’d have strong pace for Qualifying and the rest of the race weekend. But you never know who had more fuel in the car and who was sandbagging or not. We don’t know for certain until we go into Qualifying, but I feel good in this car.

“There are many things to improve still, but I'm already happy with the performance that I am doing and how I improved myself during testing, but there is still margin for sure.”

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Highlighting the potential for a shake-up between Practice and Qualifying due to track evolution, Bortoleto pointed out how important it would be to get a gauge on conditions immediately.

Pinpointing when the tyres are at their peak will be key to unlocking a fast time from the hard compound Pirelli tyres, something he says he’s adapted to well so far.

“I think after F1 drives, the track will change massively because of the rubber they put down, but I think the key is to adapt quickly. I would say this is the main thing because whoever is the one that adapts better, they will get pole or be in the top three. It will be important to understand the track as soon as you are on the out lap, nailing the warm up lap and then you already know where to go or how much you can push.”

READ MORE: PRACTICE: Bortoleto heads Minì in opening Sakhir session

Despite his strong form around the Sakhir circuit in his limited time in the Formula 3 car so far, Bortoleto believes he will be in the fight for pole.

Whether he can go three F3 sessions in a row if you count pre-season testing as the fastest driver in the field remains a big question even he doesn’t know the answer to.

“In my mind, I know that after FP, we can do good things. But as I said, I don't like to create expectations based on these things because we don't know what is going to happen until the real moment.

“I think we have the pace to be there. I would like to be in the front three or five because it would be very good. I want my that pole position, but everyone else does too! That's my target, to be in the front and to score points in both races.”