Gabriel Bortoleto grasped the lead of the 2023 Drivers’ Championship at the opening round and refused to relinquish it for a second.
Stating from the beginning that hard work would breed success, an early advantage did not make the Trident driver complacent. Fighting hard to extract the most out of each race, Bortoleto’s remarkable consistency paid off as he was crowned Champion and earned himself a spot on the McLaren Driver Development Programme.
Let’s take a look back at a campaign to savour, charting his results as the points tallied up and put him on the path to the ultimate prize…
The rookies made a splash in the first Qualifying session of the season. Bortoleto ended up second, just 0.057s adrift of Gabriele Minì’s pole-worthy time.
Unfortunately, an opening lap battle with Rafael Villagómez in the Sprint ended in contact, which Bortoleto was penalised for.
Back with a vengeance on Sunday, Bortoleto snatched the lead from Minì and held it until an early Safety Car bunched the pack up. The Hitech Pulse-Eight driver took advantage on the restart to regain the lead, but things shifted once more as the Italian was awarded a five-second time penalty for being out of position in his grid box.
A late Safety Car ensured Bortoleto was promoted to victory ahead of teammate Oliver Goethe, giving him a three-point lead in the Standings.
Navigating uncharted territory proved to be no issue for Bortoleto. Rapid from the outset in Qualifying, he snatched pole by over a tenth.
Saturday’s Sprint Race was a steady climb up the order from 12th on the grid to be classified in sixth. The Feature Race was a mature and measured drive. Covering off Grégoire Saucy off the line, he seemed unfazed by two restarts and a late push by the ART Grand Prix driver secure the win by half a second at the chequered flag.
With his second consecutive Sunday victory, Bortoleto approached the European phase of the campaign with a 20-point lead over Saucy.
Bortoleto got back to work on his return to Monte Carlo, achieving fourth in his Qualifying group. An error-free performance in the Sprint enabled him to fend off Sebastián Montoya’s advances to finish where he started in P6.
Keenly aware that overtaking opportunities were few and far between, the now-McLaren junior pounced when the door was opened for him. As Franco Colapinto suffered a snap of oversteer at Turn 6, Bortoleto showed no hesitation to slide past the Argentian.
Another top five finish boosted his Championship tally to 73 points, but his lead was slightly reduced to 17 points courtesy of Minì’s triumphant Sunday.
His ability to bring home points showed no signs of stopping. Missing out on a top five time on Friday, Bortoleto avoided the drama around him in the Sprint Race, capitalising on his rival’s mistakes and incidents to move up into fourth by the chequered flag.
Sunday’s race played out much in the same way. The Trident driver cleared a fading Taylor Barnard for fourth but was unable to make up ground to Dino Beganovic for a shot at the podium. Crucially, the 19-point haul strengthened his advantage once more, moving him 24 points ahead of Campos Racing’s Josep María Martí.
A nail-biting Qualifying resulted in Bortoleto’s return to the top three, but even more could have been possible with just 0.017s separating him from pole.
A poor opening phase of the Sprint Race left the Brazilian with a fightback on his hands. Slipping down from ninth to 14th on Lap 2, he made light work of dispatching Mari Boya and Beganovic in quick succession, eventually earning the final point on offer in 10th.
Running in the leading pack in the early stages, an incident between Saucy and Paul Aron cleared the path for him to slipstream his way past leader Beganovic for the lead in the Feature Race. A resurgent Zak O’Sullivan ultimately came out on top in the end, diving down the inside of Bortoleto for the lead and keeping the chasing pack behind him.
P2 meant Bortoleto became the first driver to break the 100-point barrier, and he seemed to have the measure of his rivals, with Martí and Beganovic playing catch up to close the 36-point deficit.
Trident were the team to beat at the demanding British circuit as his teammates Leonardo Fornaroli and Goethe secured a 1-2 in Qualifying, with Bortoleto fifth.
Lining up in eighth, Bortoleto made moves left, right and centre. After dispatching Jonny Edgar at the start of Lap 2, he tactically positioned his car into the Vale Chicane, forcing Minì into a lock-up to slip past the Alpine junior. As heavy rain began to fall, he gambled on staying out on slicks, kept himself out of trouble and added a fourth podium finish to his name.
Immediate progress was made in the Feature Race, swooping around the outside of Christian Mansell into Turn 3 for fourth. Sadly for him, he couldn’t make it stick and dropped to fifth by the chequered flag. It remained a 36-point gap to his closest challenger Martí leaving Silverstone.
His visit to the Hungaroring didn’t get off to the strongest of starts. An error on his penultimate attempt and only a slight improvement on his final run left him ninth.
Starting from fourth in the Sprint Race, Bortoleto looked punchy from the get-go, taking his chances as and when they arrived. The Trident driver pounced on Christian Mansell on Lap 7, maximising the benefit of DRS to swoop past the Australian down into Turn 1.
A late Safety Car restart played to his advantage, having kept his tyres in check as Bedrin ahead struggled with rear degradation. A poor run out of the final corner opened the door for Bortoleto to snatch second from the Jenzer Motorsport driver on the final lap.
Bortoleto squared off with Martí in Sunday’s Feature Race but eventually lost out to the Spaniard in their fight for sixth. With his title advantage sitting at 43 points, there was still plenty of competition, with O’Sullivan’s Budapest victory meaning he was now Bortoleto’s nearest Championship rival.
All good things must come to an end and Bortoleto’s 13-race points-scoring run was finally broken in Belgium. Qualifying a disappointing P15, he’d managed to climb back inside the top 10 in the Sprint before getting caught up in contact whilst overtaking Beganovic. It left him with damage that forced the #5 Trident into an early retirement.
Bortoleto stood on the cusp on Championship glory however a pre-race downpour blew Sunday’s Feature Race wide open. He made steady progress but there weren’t enough laps to get by Colapinto for 10th, leaving him two points short of taking the title.
His first and only non-point scoring weekend of the season was a bitter pill to swallow going into the summer break. Yet Bortoleto’s gap out front remained strong on 38 points, as his nearest rivals struggled to make up lost ground and Aron moved up into second.
Where better to seal the Drivers’ Championship than at your team’s home event. With 39 points left to play for, Aron or Martí needed a perfect weekend to deny him the title.
Celebrations swiftly arrived on Friday afternoon, as Goethe claimed his first pole position of the season, denying his teammate’s rivals the all-important two points on offer. Jubilation erupted at the Trident pit wall and garage for their first Champion.
He wasn’t finished quite yet. In the Sprint, he climbed from eighth and bided his time as the MP Motorsport duo of Boya and Colapinto exchange the lead back and forth. On the last lap, Bortoleto seized his chance to snatch second away from Boya to return to the podium.
Throwing caution to the wind for his final Formula 3 race, Bortoleto gave it everything he had in the Feature. Whilst mistakes during his three-wide battle with Aron and O’Sullivan dropped him back to ninth, he fought back valiantly to end the day in fifth.
Becoming the first rookie Champion since Oscar Piastri in 2020, he closed this chapter with an impressive record: one pole, two wins, six podiums and 15 points-scoring finishes out of a possible 18 to his name.