The postponement of the 2020 Formula 3 campaign brought about a host of challenges for the teams and drivers, but Trident Team Manager Giacomo Ricci actually highlighted their productivity during this period as key to their improvements last year.
Trident were a strong midfield force in 2019, taking a win and a podium, but fell short of challenging eventual champions PREMA Racing for the title, with Hitech Grand Prix and ART Grand Prix proving their biggest threats.
But the team’s tireless work during the off-season, part of which took place during a countrywide lockdown in Italy, helped them to emerge above both the British and the French outfit as PREMA’s strongest challengers.
The improvements Trident made both on-and-off the track during the off-season resulted in greater pace, more consistency, and a stronger overall package. This was evident from the very first weekend with two of their drivers, Lirim Zendeli and David Beckmann, both scoring points’ finishes – a feat that wasn’t achieved until the season finale in 2019.
The duo went on to take three wins, a podium and two poles between them as they helped the team to a second-place finish, 172.5 points better off than in 2019, while rookie Ollie Caldwell played his own part with four points finishes in his first year at this level.
“The most important thing was to keep everyone motivated during lockdown,” explained Ricci. “The team, the drivers, the investors, everyone. We used this period to keep going ahead with remote simulations.
“We also had many online meetings to work on and improve the car. Me and my boss, Maurizio Salvadori, made the decision to keep everyone in the team fully paid, even during the lockdown period, in order to allow them to keep working.
The most important thing was to keep everyone motivated during lockdown. The team, the drivers, the investors, everyone.
“Maybe we were not on track, but given the technology that we have available to us today and the software that we have in place, it meant that we were able to keep working. That made us stronger when the season did start.”
A new simulator was amongst the financial outlays the team were able to make during the off-season, which considerably improved the data they provided to their trio of drivers. They were entering each weekend better prepared than they would have been in 2019. Ricci pinpointed this as a target of theirs ahead of the season.
“Inside of the team, I think we improved a lot,” he continued. “We invested a big amount of money in the development and the preparation. We made an effort to improve the information that we give our drivers.
“We have been able to improve everything really. The entire picture was better for me and I think our drivers saw the benefit of this. We have been able to perform pretty much in all conditions and at any circuit.”
The proof of this can be seen in their results. The team failed to score at Silverstone in 2019, but they won there in 2020. They also scored a top five finish at Budapest; another track they had struggled on in 2019.
The focus wasn’t solely on improving at the tracks where they lacked performance either, they also wanted to see an increase at their strongest tracks too.
“My favourite memory of 2020 was at Spa. We have won Race 1 there three years in a row at this level now, staring with David Beckmann in the 2018 GP3 season. We then won there in 2019 with Pedro Piquet in F3, while Lirim Zendeli took first in 2020, with Beckmann third - that was an unbelievable race.”
A UNIQUE SEASON
Trident’s achievements are all the more impressive given the challenges of the 2020 season, with nine rounds taking place during an 11-week period, after a longer than normal break from racing.
“It was difficult to manage so many races together,” Ricci continued. “Having so many in a row, you do not have much time to react if something goes wrong and you have such a short period of time to prepare. You have to arrive with a clear picture of what you want and a clear mind. You need a target of car setup and you need to ensure your drivers are prepared.
I need to thank the engineers at Trident and all of the mechanics and everyone. We had a great car throughout the season.
“Me and my boss, Salvadori, we’re extremely pleased with the results that we achieved in the 2020 season. We finished second many times in the former GP3 series, but this result in F3 is amazing and we would say that it is our best achievement at this level so far. It’s something special.
“I need to thank the engineers at Trident and all of the mechanics and everyone. We had a great car throughout the season and didn’t suffer from mechanical failures, which was very important.”
Ricci says himself that “in a single-spec championship like F3, the driver can make a big difference,” so a late change to their line-up was never going to be ideal. Yet, it didn’t appear to faze them.
The team were initially set to line-up with Devlin DeFrancesco alongside Zendeli and Caldwell, before the Canadian racer was forced to pull-out ahead of the campaign. The team acted swiftly to draft in Beckmann, who was already known to them after a successful period with the team in 2018. This proved to be an inspired decision.
“It was a shame because Devlin did a great job at the pre-season tests in Bahrain, and for me, he would have been a frontrunner,” Ricci explained. “Thankfully, we were able to sign Beckmann, whom we had great memories from his time with us in GP3 when it was like the magic package.
“For us, David was back in the family, and alongside Lirim, we had two German drivers who spoke the same language and it created a nice environment. Ollie as well, who came up to F3 and considering he was a rookie, did a good job.
“I was extremely pleased with our line-up. There was a nice atmosphere in the team, and they all worked well together. Having the chance to run Beckman, Zendeli and Caldwell was a pleasure for us, and it is thanks to them that we have been able to achieve this fantastic result.”
So how do you improve on such a successful season? And just how do you go about toppling a team who have been as dominating in F3 as PREMA? Trident drastically sliced the gap between them in 2020, but the reigning Champions still finished more than 200 points better off than their Italian counterparts.
Ricci says that he and the team are already back to work, taking very little time off over Christmas as they bid to improve once more. The Italian says they’ll once again be looking to improve their structure but believes that learning from their mistakes will be the key factor.
“PREMA did a great job, no doubt,” he continued. “On our side, we are fully focused on the 2021 season. It will be a great challenge, but we are putting in a lot of effort in every area. The simulation, the motivation, the data and the information that we provide our drivers with.
That is what I love about racing: you win nothing on paper. Yes, we finished second in 2020, but that doesn’t mean we will be in the same position in 2021.
“My boss is doing the same. We want the structure to be even better and we need to learn from the mistakes that we have made in the past. Not only our mistakes, but we want to learn from the mistakes that other teams made. We will need to make even fewer mistakes next year and be as consistent as possible. For me, that is the way to be a title contender in 2021.
“At the same time, I think that it is important to keep our feet on the ground. We have to work extremely hard in order to compete for the title because the level of the teams and the competition in F3 is extremely high.
“That is what I love about racing: you win nothing on paper. Yes, we finished second in 2020, but that doesn’t mean we will be in the same position in 2021 and that goes for every single team. You have to always improve and extract the best from what you have around you.”