Lining up alongside Mercedes’ newest recruit Frederik Vesti and the returning Juan Manuel Correa, Alex Smolyar’s own pre-season preparations have gone slightly under the radar at ART Grand Prix, but the Russian was amongst those to break the Formula 3 track record at the test at Spielberg and looks in sterling shape ahead of the opener.

Finishing ninth fastest overall, Smolyar is excited to compete with Correa and Vesti, and he says he’s been unaffected by the increased media attention on the duo.

“As soon as I close my visor and start the engine, nothing that has happened before matters to me,” said Smolyar. “These types of things don’t affect me to be honest.

“I really respect Correa for what he has been through and how he has managed to come back. I am really happy for him. As much as I want to beat him on track, I hope he does really, really well this season.”

Smolyar is excited to compete with Correa and Vesti

ART were one of the most impressive teams in Austria earlier this month, finishing the test as the only team with two drivers in the top 10 for fastest lap times, and three in the top 10 for most laps completed.

Ending 2020 with two wins and eight podiums overall, the French outfit are looking to go from frontrunners to serious title contenders, and Smolyar feels that they have the foundations to do so.

“We were a frontrunner last year and I think that we already had a strong base,” he continued. “We still have this strong base, but we have adapted little things about the set-up to help us to fight for pole positions and to be the quickest guys on track.

“You need to find these little things because when you run in the top five, it is the little things that matter and make a difference. I feel like we have improved on the small details and believe we can be much better than last season.”