It’s something of a counterintuitive statement that a race weekend in which Gabriel Bortoleto failed to secure victory won him the title.

There were no Pole Position or fastest lap points, neither Sprint or Feature Race victory and yet the Brazilian points to that weekend in the Principality as the key moment from his title-winning campaign.

Arriving in Monaco for the third race weekend of the 2023 season, Bortoleto had just won the first two Feature Races to kick off his rookie campaign in Formula 3. He held a 20-point advantage over next-best in ART Grand Prix’s Grégoire Saucy, and, aside from a P19 finish in Sakhir, was yet to finish outside the top six in of the following three races.

That trend continued in Monte Carlo, but he would not make an appearance on the rostrum across the entire weekend. So why was this race weekend so important to Bortoleto?

“I think after Melbourne, I realised that we really had the chance to win it,” Bortoleto reflected after last season’s conclusion. “Trident were always quick in Bahrain and in Melbourne I managed to adapt my driving style quickly to the track, so I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go to Europe and see.”

The weekend got off to an ok start, with a top five result in Qualifying, though he was almost a full second down on session-topping Gabriele Minì, who finished on top and 0.8s ahead of the Championship leader.

Bortoletos consistency was a hallmark of his 2023 campaign and Monte Carlo was the pivotal weekend
Bortoleto's consistency was a hallmark of his 2023 campaign, and Monte Carlo was the pivotal weekend

A lot of time to find then over a flying lap though with just one Practice session to get into a rhythm around one of the most demanding venues on the calendar.

Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t quite manage the feat. The then-Trident driver wound up finishing fourth in his Qualifying group, which included Pole sitter Minì, and so he started from seventh in the Feature.

“That’s when I said, if this is the worst moment, I can have some amazing ones this year”

Pivotally though, he made forward progress in both races, securing P6 in the Sprint Race before going one better in Sunday’s Feature to earn a top five result, adding a nice 15 points to his tally despite it being a tough weekend.

Pace-wise, Bortoleto admitted afterwards that Trident had been off the boil compared to others, but it was his ability to limit the damage to his closest rival, dropping just three points to his closest challenger leaving the Principality in Minì, that provided the epiphanic moment.

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“In Monaco, I would say the car was at its worst all season and I was able to be P5 in the Feature Race,” Bortoleto admitted. “That’s when I said, if this is the worst moment, I can have some amazing ones this year.”

That confidence laid the foundations for the remaining rounds, setting the tone in his approach and ultimately, put him on course for a comfortable Championship win, earning the honours mathematically during Qualifying for Monza.

Going back to that weekend in Monte Carlo though, it was here that Bortoleto formed the confidence that carried him to greater heights. Earning another eight consecutive points results along with three runner-up finishes in that stint, he was all but uncatchable in the closing rounds of the campaign.

Can 2023 teammate and 2024 Championship leader Fornaroli follow in the Brazilians footsteps?
Can 2023 teammate and 2024 Championship leader Fornaroli follow in the Brazilian's footsteps?

“I always wanted to win. I’m never happy finishing P5 or P6. But sometimes, I just couldn’t. Maybe I didn’t have the pace to do it, or I wasn’t driving perfectly. But I was always able to score. I feel like I was always able to get something out of the car.

“You do the best that you can do and get the results you can get. When I had the opportunity to be P1, I was P1. When I had the opportunity to be P6 or P5 in Monaco, I was P6 and P5. I think that was my season, I was always finishing the races and trying to extract the most out of the car.”

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With the 2024 Championship still just taking shape, there are a few contenders that have made their intentions known so far. Trident’s Leonardo Fornaroli agonisingly missed out on a maiden F3 win on home soil last weekend, while Luke Browning limited the damage after a non-score in the Sprint, losing just three points to the Italian driver who now leads the Drivers’ Championship.

PREMA Racing teammates Dino Beganovic and Gabriele Minì follow just behind them in third and fourth, level on 45 points apiece, while Campos Racing’s Oliver Goethe is riding high after his impressive Imola outings.

Will any of the early contenders find their feet at the right moment a la Bortoleto and take more than just points away from Monte Carlo? Or can someone outside the top five burst onto the Championship scene?

We will find out soon enough.