The 2022 Formula 3 Drivers’ Championship is headed up by a French one-two, but the exact identity of the winner remains in the balance. For Victor Martins, he enters Monza as the one with it all to lose.
Heading up the standings by five points over Isack Hadjar ahead of the final round, the ART Grand Prix driver is the one they are all targeting. His start to the season was electric, securing two P2 podium finishes along with two victories in the opening six races of the campaign.
But following his most recent victory all the way back in May in Barcelona, Martins has failed to return to the top step. And yet he is the one who leads the rest arriving for the final round of the ’22 season. It doesn’t worry the Alpine Academy junior though, who says that while he knows there have been missed opportunities this year, it brings confidence rather than a crisis of conscience.
“I think it has been a big journey. We’ve had highs and lows. We were struggling a bit, some mistakes cost me a lot of points. At Spa for example, we had much, much more than what we showed there. Now is the moment to put it all together. I have been winless since the Feature Race at Barcelona, but we’ve had the car and I’ve had the pace.
“Sometimes, because of a mistake from my side or I would say bad luck at some points in Quali, it put us into a difficult situation. In races like Budapest, I didn't do the job. Even if we were not the fastest on the track, I could’ve scored a few points there. We always had the pace, but we haven’t maximised it to score big points.”
When Martins has made it to the chequered flag, he has failed to score points on only one occasion. The Sprint Race at Spa-Francorchamps was undone by a pit lane speeding penalty, but otherwise, his record is unmatched in this regard.
A huge part of that has been down to his and the ART team’s pace all year long. Identifying the route to go with car set-up is a major strength of the team. Their ability to pivot in a different direction after identifying an issue with its approach has been invaluable though according to Martins.
“I think being straight on the pace from Practice has been a key point during the season, to build the confidence from there. Also, if Free Practice wasn’t as good as we were expecting, to be able to point out the issue whether it was the driving or the car, to resolve it for Qualifying. I think that has been the key point for us this year.”
The other aspect that Martins is eager to improve on is more personal. For a driver that started the season so strongly, but then fell away as rivals began to pick up poles and wins, it was a problem that was solved by looking in the mirror.
Rather than continuing his approach that had been rewarded with multiple podium finishes in the early phases of the year, Martins admits he began to overdrive which ultimately cost him. An honest appraisal from the man himself has resulted a driver with an incredible focus on the task at hand, and one at peace with past errors. It might just all combine to deliver when it counts most.
“I know what I need to do to work on myself, which is forget everything, drive naturally, and go for it without thinking too much. I will say I have much more pace to show but I need to manage my emotions more. Not take too many risks. It was good that I did it at the start and the middle of the season, but maybe too much for Budapest and Spa onwards.
“When I'm trying to do too good, I become I’d say 30% less good in the car. I don't do things naturally. I start to think too much, and I start to think about two or more options and that’s when I do a mistake, or I don’t use my full potential in the car. So, I really want to be in a good mindset at Monza to not think about anything to do with the Championship. I don’t want to think, I just want to do. Just to do things naturally, with my experience from the past. Even in racecraft, driving instinctively to do the job, to place myself in the right place on track, to do the lap in Qualifying, to deliver without thinking like I was at the beginning of the season. That’s the thing I need to work on for the end of the Championship and the future in my career.”
While Martins has the five-point advantage over his closest rival and a greater buffer to those behind, ‘pointing’ his way to the title is not the target this weekend. Instead, the Frenchman says he will be going back to his roots, sticking to the basics and driving to the best of his ability. For him, the rest will come naturally.
“If I win it, it will be because of me doing the job and doing what I know to do, driving naturally, driving fast, having the confidence and also the car to do it.”