There were high peaks for Carlin throughout the 2022 season, with highlight moments coming at Silverstone, Budapest and Spa-Francorchamps. The team is satisfied they have made tangible progress from 2021.
A post-season assessment from Trevor Carlin following ’21 brought with it a plan of action for how the team was going to move itself back up the order. That appears to have worked as Carlin rose from 10th in the Teams’ Championship in 2021 to 7th in 2022. There were several key improvements along the way, something that Deputy Team Principal Stephanie Carlin put down to hard work and preparation from the entire team.
“We had set up some directions at the end of ‘21 that we felt were positive and we definitely moved forward with those over the winter and into the ‘22 season, and they were beneficial.
“The Formula 3 car is quite a unique one and it has its own challenges. I think we just went into ‘22 understanding the car a little bit better, but also understanding what the drivers needed to do to get the most out of it, which is absolutely key in a single-make Championship like F3. Driver input is something that we understood better and something that we worked on over the winter period.
“Absolutely we felt that we were consistently above where we were in 2021. Internally, the team is running really well, the atmosphere is good and we've got a great bunch of people. Right from the start we were in a better place than we had been and there were flashes throughout the season.
“But Formula 3 is 30 cars, it's a massive field and the challenge is huge. As the only kind of international Formula 3 Championship, it just attracts the best drivers from around the world. You can have an OK day and be 15th. You could’ve had an alright race and you don't even score points. It is hard to consistently be up there.”
The team’s 2022 driver line-up was built with three rookies in the FIA F3 Championship. Enzo Trulli was the youngest of the trio and set out to learn as much as possible from his maiden campaign. Carlin credits the Italian for his hard work and dedication despite the challenges facing him throughout the year.
“Enzo’s programme was always hugely ambitious. He is so young and if you look at his CV, he'd only done one full season of car racing before coming into one of the most difficult Championships in the world.
“This season was always going to be about learning. It was always a learning experience for him and the approach that we took was every session, every Qualifying, every Practice was to move forward from an experience and knowledge point of view. But that's very hard throughout a year of racing. To stay motivated and to hold up mentally because it's a big challenge to turn up and try your best and you might leave knowing that you've improved and that you understood something better. But if you're still 23rd on the timing screen, that's really tough.
“He did an incredible job to keep motivated and to keep going at such a young age and he deals so well with that. He's so lovely to work with and he has the added expectation that maybe his name brings and he's such a mature young man. So I think he'll use the experiences from the 2022 season and it'll make him a better and stronger driver moving forwards.”
Teammate Brad Benavides was another to make solid progress across the year. After getting his feet under the table at Carlin and understanding the car more, the American drove down his average finishing position and achieved a points finish with P8 in the Spa Sprint Race. Like Trulli, Benavides found his footing and made steps forward that helped the team progress.
“Brad is a really good guy to have in a team. He's a really positive influence. He's always very positive, his feedback is always very thorough. He can talk a lot about what he’s feeling in the car and he's great to have around.
“He also made some really, really big steps and big jumps forward. He was able to see that and enjoy that and I think we saw that, when he had a good result, it often led to another one because the confidence boost that it gave him was really kind of pivotal moving forward and helped him just get keep getting better.”
Carlin’s strongest results came courtesy of Zak O’Sullivan, who stood on the podium twice in what was an impressive rookie year for the Brit. His pole position at Silverstone turned plenty of heads as the team nailed its performance on home soil, a hugely satisfying moment says Carlin.
Despite his inexperience in the F3 machinery, O’Sullivan was a key factor in what was a promising season for the team, and his results showed Carlin what they were capable of. Whether it was strategy from the team or decisions in the cockpit by the driver, the O’Sullivan/Carlin combination came up with plenty of highlight moments throughout 2022. Perhaps his strongest race came in Budapest where he profited from a difficult call to swap wet tyres for slicks with just a handful of laps, a move that turned out to be a masterstroke.
“Zak had a massive step up. He went from a programme where he wasn't even racing on European circuits to F3. Every circuit he went to was a new experience and you can't underestimate the impact that has on a really tight schedule in terms of track time. He coped with that brilliantly.
“We saw real flashes of pace and he was definitely a driving force in the team for the improvements that were happening. At Silverstone, that was a real kind of team effort. The car was strong and it was so great to see it at our home Grand Prix, but in Budapest, that was very much all Zak. We gave him the freedom to make that decision and he has a great feel for what the car is doing and what the conditions allow, the amount of grip, and that's all credit to Zak. He made that call of when to switch and had the confidence in that decision. Feeling it and knowing it is one thing without really having a commitment and confidence to stand by it and make that shout is a credit to him.”
With the 2022 season in the books, attention has already shifted to 2023 and beyond for Carlin as they hope to continue on an upward trajectory.
After putting together a stronger year, Carlin says that the missing ingredient the team will be looking to add in 2023 is what every team up and down the pitlane is chasing: consistency.
“Success breeds success and progress breeds more progress. Getting the podiums last year was really positive and we're aiming for the same if not more, again. The aim is always unchanging. The aim is the same every season, every race weekend.
“You have to go out there wanting to do it and be on the podium and score points. That doesn't really change. That's always the goal for any race team. So for us, more consistency would be good. We showed real flashes last season and we just need to make that more consistent.”