Enjoying three productive days of pre-season testing in Sakhir, Campos Racing have a laser eyed focus on the task that awaits them. Eagerly soaking up the data from their running, their trio have been broadening their understanding of the Formula 3 machinery.
Josep María Martí got reacquainted with his car and sought to apply the lessons he took from his rookie campaign - earning himself four top seven times across the five sessions. Meanwhile, Christian Mansell and rookie Hugh Barter are still navigating the early stages of mastering their new wheels.
Yet even for the most experienced of their drivers, the opportunity to test at the track they’ll be racing on for the opening round is extremely constructive. The Spanish squad took full advantage of every opportunity to run, putting a solid total of 466 laps on the board by the end of Day 3.
With a more specific focus on addressing any weaknesses identified from the previous season, Martí says that whilst his times are a positive indication of Campos’ potential, there are still gains to be found – particularly when it comes to one-lap pace.
“We were quite competitive across the three days. I felt really, really comfortable in the car and had really good pace. I’m really looking forward to getting started with the season. Obviously, the week and a half break gave us time to work on the areas we know we were lacking and to prepare well for the first round.
“We focused a lot on setup. Not being a rookie meant that we could focus on the car a lot more with the knowledge from the track and having a year of experience with it. From the first afternoon we were already testing a lot of stuff in the car. There were things we wanted to try across the winter, but we’re not allowed to use the car, so there were a lot of things we wanted to work on. Personally, I learnt quite a lot about the tyres and the car.
"Obviously, being a second-year driver is an advantage for me, but I’m still learning. After not having driven it across the whole winter means I had to get back into the groove a little bit and get used to things.
“From my side, I have to work a lot on Qualifying, a little bit like last year. I’ve made a really big step up from last year to this year in terms of the quality of driving. I think there’s still a little bit more to gain and I definitely have to work on that a lot. We also have to work a little bit on the car, we’ve got a little bit more to extract from it and if we do, we’ll be quite competitive.”
These positive sentiments carried over into the other sides of the garage. After making the step up from Spanish F4, Barter relished the chance to get more mileage under his belt and build on what he had learnt during post-season testing in Jerez last year.
“I feel pretty good after the pre-season test. Obviously ended the test on a high with the P5, so I was really happy with that. It was a good step from the previous two days. I think the main focus across the three days was just to learn the track and get a good feel with the car. Obviously, I only had two days in the car at Jerez before this test, so I was mainly focusing on getting to grips with the car, the track and the tyres especially.
“The format as well because I’m coming straight from F4, in F3 you can do a push, then relax and push then relax – there's no consecutive pushes, especially at tracks like Bahrain. For me, it was a big focus and a bit of a learning curve to really just go out and do a lap straightaway. You couldn’t really build up to it, but I think I’ve got a good grip on it, as you can see with the P5 at the end.” Preparing for the season is as much a mental task as a physical one and the Australian admits that coping under pressure will be vital to maximising his performances in the third tier.
“Now the key areas to focus on are the same, keeping sharp, trying to be on my game at all times because you can do it in Practice, but when it comes down to the race day and when it counts, nerves and pressure can get to you. For me, it’s just going to be focusing on those key elements of putting a clean lap together, especially first out and we’ll see how we go.
Unlike teammate Barter who awaits his F3 debut, Mansell already has a two-round stint to his name – driving for Charouz Racing System during 2022’s trips to Budapest and Spa-Francorchamps – and there’s no doubt the Australian-born driver is impatient at the thought of getting back behind the wheel.
Working on adapting and adjusting his driving style away from how he’s driven in other Championships, Mansell says that while there’s no major areas to change in order to extract the most out the car, it’ll be the littlest of details that make the real difference.
“I’m feeling pretty good! Looking forward to actually racing in F3 again because obviously it’s quite an adrenaline-filled experience no matter what, so I’m looking forward to that. The biggest thing I learnt was overall car technique, the way to drive these cars to make them go fast.
“It’s very different to Euroformula, but it’s also quite similar. So, it’s hard to kind of master a few different techniques because a lot of them are the same, but then there’s a few little ones that Euroformula just don’t do. I’m going to be working on more of that car technique, getting the tyres in and all that fun stuff.”
An upbeat energy radiating from the Campos garage throughout testing, not least from the positive relationship between their three racers. Already well acquainted with one another, their familiarity and competitive streaks could be the extra ingredient needed to propel the team forward to fighting out front on a more consistent basis.