Roman Stanek was one of seven drivers contending for the 2022 Drivers’ Championship at Monza, but things could have been very different for the Czech driver this year.
Following his second season in Formula 3, Stanek was hoping a change in team could revitalise his F3 career, and it certainly had the desired effect. A seat at Trident though was far from assured, with plenty of competition for a seat with the reigning Teams’ Champions.
Thankfully for Stanek, a positive test opened the door to a title-contending team and with it, a positive atmosphere he so desperately needed.
“I didn't know if I was going to Trident because 15 drivers wanted to go there, and it was very hard to get there. But they chose me because we did a test, and they liked my performance. So, this opportunity is amazing and I'm so happy that I could be with them this season.
“Before Bahrain, my expectations after the tests and after feeling the car, I felt quite confident in the car, and I knew we could fight for wins and for the title. We were very strong on the preparation side. We were really focused. Our car was very, very good, and the team has experienced engineers. I have a very good relationship with my engineer, and he has the experience to build a car to go fast, but you have to be prepared for the weekend. You cannot just arrive, do a couple of laps on the sim, and say ‘ok, now I race.’ It’s all about the small details you can find. All the small details can be one-tenth, but the one-tenth can put you from P3 to P1, and the guys they really taught me that working hard is the way.”
That hard work bore early results as Stanek claimed the lead of the Championship in the opening phase of the season. A solid opener in Bahrain was followed up with Feature Race victory at Imola.
“We came to Bahrain, I had great speed in Free Practice and in Qualifying, but then suddenly, I had two punctures, which was unfortunate but sometimes you cannot avoid. Then we went to Imola. We were prepared as we are for every round, and I managed to do P2 in Qualifying and to win the Feature Race. That gave me the boost and I could really see myself as a Championship contender. Then Barcelona was another good round. We had the speed, we made my first pole position but, in Barcelona it's very tough to take pole because everyone is fast there. The gap between positions is almost nothing.”
His strong start to the season began to fade however, and he slipped down the order to fifth in the standings by the halfway stage, 31 points off leader Victor Martins. According to the man himself, that was down to a run of overthinking before a reset got Stanek back into the title picture.
“Silverstone is not my favourite track but still we did P8 which is quite reasonable in Qualifying, we could still score some points. I grabbed some in the Sprint but got taken out in the Feature. In the middle stage of the season, I got lost a bit. It’s not the main thing but I was unlucky with Red Flags for example. I was not mentally down but I was a bit sad, thinking what if it suddenly goes wrong? So, I was not really focusing on the driving. But we kept working hard with the team, we did so many days on the sim and on race preparation, mental things as well.
“We came into Red Bull Ring, I got a penalty, and I didn't score good points and then in Budapest I did a mistake in Qualifying and on that track, you cannot overtake so I made things hard. But then something inside of me was telling me to not stop and to maximise because this season could change my life. We came into Spa, and we knew the car was good. We were prepared and I would say I felt myself more prepared than anyone else, and we did a great job in Spa. In the Sprint Race, we got P2 and in the Feature Race we got P2 again, so I scored very good points. This gave me the boost and I said, ‘Fine, I can do it. Let's go.’
“In Zandvoort, I was in the right mindset after Spa because it’s always better if you do the first round of a double or triple-header well, then you are in the right mindset. We had quite an okay Qualifying before the Red Flag, I ended up P4 where you can still fight for points. I managed to score 13 points overall from the weekend, which was good enough to send me into Monza as a title contender.”
His title-contending status was far from assured and a prospect that he himself could not have imagined after the previous year. P16 in the Standings and just two podiums to celebrate meant that the only way was up, but the difficulties he faced had taken their toll.
Following such a disappointing season, a bit of soul searching during the break plus a move to Trident allowed the Czech driver to flourish this year. His rebound from ’21 was a case of hard work and Stanek himself admits that picking himself up and dusting himself down for this year was a challenge.
By working on mental coaching, his mentality heading into 2022 was far improved, and Stanek believes it was crucial to his recovery as a driver this season.
“Coming back for 2021, I really tried my best but somehow it was not working with Hitech Grand Prix, but I kept working on myself and it gave me the boost for this season. If you only experience good things and everything always goes your way, then you don't fight for it, but because of last year I was really at the bottom.
“Last season when things were not going right, I was working hard on my mental side with a mental coach, which helped me. Also, I prepared during the winter on my physicality, and I came into the year very happy. To be a title contender and to stay at the front, I'm not surprised because I was ready.
“There are ups and downs that are part of the job and part of my journey. Every win and every loss are part of the job, but I’m growing with every one.
“A Championship like this is very tough and I think this Championship deserves more support. It's very tough and it means a lot. As I said, every win or loss, it’s part of my journey. You see it in top athletes, they always wear down and they always wear out, but they always learn from when they were down and that makes them stronger.”
While the 2022 season didn’t culminate in his crowning as F3 Champion, Stanek says he looks back on it with a lot of fond memories. His relationship with the Trident team gave way to some impressive performances across the season. Reflecting on his campaign, two moments stand out to him above all of the others.
“I have a lot of favourite moments because the atmosphere in the team is just amazing. But of course, winning at Imola, on my favourite track, or the pole position in Barcelona where I put everything together in that one lap. These two moments were probably my favourite.”