A season that promised a lot but never quite delivered on the obvious potential for Hitech Pulse-Eight, 2023 was not what the team had hoped for.
Three exciting rookies in the forms of Gabriele Minì, Luke Browning and Sebastián Montoya meant the team entered the year with a great deal of intrigue over how each of the Formula 1 junior team drivers would do, and buckets of potential.
For Browning and Montoya, there were definitely peaks and valleys throughout 2023 while the early title threat for Minì quickly fell apart. What cannot be argued though is that the trio along with the team showed great speed in ’23, a point of satisfaction for the British outfit says F3 Team Manager, Paul Bellringer.
“I think that we showed all three cars to be competitive at most of the circuits we went to, but in all honesty, we had a few small mistakes which cost us quite heavily in terms of race results.
“The team worked well as a unit and the relationships between the team and the drivers was good, with everybody pushing for a common goal.”
While Minì was quick of the gate, it’s how he lined up in his box in Round 1 that became the first of several crucial errors that ultimately denied him a chance at the F3 Drivers’ title. A stellar performance in Qualifying around Sakhir was undone as he was handed a time penalty for incorrectly lining up in his starting position.
Deemed to be outside of his grid box, a five-second time penalty meant that although he held the chasing pack at bay and crossed the line P1, he fell to eighth in the end.
Having kept himself in striking distance of eventual Champion Gabriel Bortoleto heading back to Europe, a mistake and track limits violation in Qualifying left Minì down the order in Barcelona. Unable to fight his way back into the higher point-scoring positions, his campaign never quite recovered despite two further victories during the season.
Opening lap contact in Barcelona, Spielberg and Silverstone dented Browning’s hopes on a Sunday more than once while Montoya’s own late-race collisions in the Principality and Red Bull Ring denied him better results also.
It’s a point that must be improved next season for Hitech Pulse-Eight says Bellringer, who admits that the team fell short of what it is truly capable of as a result of errors.
“The team is only as strong as its weakest link on the day – that may be the driver, the team operationally or a myriad of other factors.
“Given the competitiveness of F3 you can’t afford to have an off day, so I think to achieve a better result we need to be on top of everything consistently and we need to try and limit even the smallest of issues.”
While things didn’t go completely according to plan for the British team, the work behind the scenes was a particular point of pride for Bellringer.
Though both team and the drivers missed out on a Championship in 2023, the undoubted high point of the campaign came at the crown jewel event: Monte Carlo. A venue that remains one of the biggest challenges in motorsport, Minì’s victory around the streets was a hugely impressive moment for both the Italian and Hitech Pulse-Eight overall.
“I’m happy with the way the complete Hitech team operated as a unit, not only trackside but all of the behind the scenes work that goes on back at base to allow us to go racing,” Bellringer reflected.
“Also, I know that a race win is the same at all events, but to win the Feature Race in Monaco was pleasing as it is a special race that every driver wants to win.”
Though the team did not win the prizes it targeted in 2023, the hope is that a strong winter of recovery will set them on the right path for better things in 2024.
Work is already well underway in their efforts to rebound from the ’23 campaign, with post-season testing finishing up earlier this week.
Browning showed further glimpses of his speed having ended Day 1 in the second of the three tests quickest overall, and Hitech Pulse-Eight ended the final post-season test comfortably fastest, finishing the afternoon session over a second clear of the pack at Imola courtesy of Alex Dunne.
It’s clear pace like the tests evidenced that will need to be converted into stronger point-scoring results next year if Hitech Pulse-Eight are to fully demonstrate what they are capable of in FIA Formula 3.
Having had two title contenders in the previous two seasons (Isack Hadjar 2022, Minì 2023), Bellringer and the team are hoping that 2024 will be the season in which they will finally celebrate as Formula 3 Teams’ and Drivers’ Champions.
“We’re looking forward to ’24. I hope that the F3 Championship is strong with a good grid of talented drivers. That competitiveness drives all the teams forward and keeps us on top of our game. Obviously, I want our results to improve and for us to finish 2024 in P1.”