He might not have gotten to fight for the Drivers’ Championship, but Caio Collet views his 2022 season as a vital one in his career. The MP Motorsport driver finished the season P8 in the standings with two Sprint Race victories and a memorable pole position at Spa-Francorchamps to his name.
Despite his lack of involvement in the title fight this season, the Brazilian has taken many lessons from a tough year and a result that he was not expecting pre-Bahrain. Having had time to reflect on the campaign and assess where things went well and where they didn’t, Collet says that it was a character-building year that has given him plenty to think about heading into 2023.
“In the end, this year was not what we expected it to be,” he summarised. “The first rounds we missed quite a few opportunities and we were a bit too far off the pace, especially in the first two weekends, scoring almost zero points. It was not the perfect way to start, but I think at some point, things turned around a little bit and we could honestly win a few races and be in contention for podiums and stuff like that. It was just the beginning of the year that really was not as expected.”
Collet opened his account for 2022 with a points-scoring P7 finish in the Sakhir Sprint Race at Round 1. The Brazilian was victim of a Lap 1 tangle in the Feature Race which set him back immediately in the points.
Round 2 at Imola was another case of promise that fell by the wayside. He led almost the entirety of the Sprint until the final lap, when Franco Colapinto struck to steal the win away and then subsequent contact with Isack Hadjar left Collet out of the points once more. In the Feature, a gamble to start on wet tyres didn’t pay off after having to switch to slicks, it resulted in another non-points finish.
Desperation to make up for the gap starting to build between himself and the leaders brought more mistakes from both team and driver. Those early errors proved costly for the remainder of the year.
“At the beginning of the season, I think the team and me especially, we tried too hard to be in the front, and when I didn't have the car to qualify on pole or in the best positions, instead of doing what I could, I was just trying to push a little bit more. I was often making a few mistakes and trying things that didn't really work, which wasn't ideal from my side. So, I think cutting those out, that was the main difference from the beginning of the season.”
There were more positive results though they came too infrequently for Collet’s liking. A first podium of the year in the Barcelona Sprint was followed up with P2 in the Spielberg Sprint, but it wasn’t until Budapest where the Brazilian got to stand on the top step.
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A sense of redemption was in the air as he got his revenge on Hadjar and Colapinto, passing both through the spray to win around a damp Hungaroring in style. His winning advantage was just shy of nine seconds, a huge margin that underlined how strong a drive it was.
It sparked a change in his approach for the remainder of the season, and in the second half of the campaign, he put together a much-improved run of results. Only one non-points score followed in the remaining races, that coming at the final Feature Race of the year at Monza. Collet puts his improved form down to a more settled approach and the MP team looking to maximise points rather than chase headline results.
“I think we were just putting together a weekend better in general in the second half of the year. It was a bit from the whole team. Me, together with the team and the people around me. I think we just calmed down a little bit more and just focused on what we could do on the track and without letting the other stuff get into our heads.
“For example, in Imola, because of the crash in the Sprint Race, we took an emotional decision in Race 2, and we managed to destroy the whole weekend. So, I think the team and I were just a little bit too anxious to be at the front and recover what we lost in Bahrain. So just mistakes like that, that we were doing caused us to lose quite a lot of points.
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“To come back after a difficult round, to come back to fight together with the team was one of our main strengths and things that we did well. I think we did have a lot of good rounds throughout the year, but we were always pushing from my side, from the team side, this was really nice, and I'm really thankful for that.”
Though his race victories stand out on paper as the highest points of the season, Collet says it was his pole position lap at Spa-Francorchamps that sticks out in his memory as his finest moment in 2022.
The MP Motorsport driver made his last lap count on a greasy circuit to claim pole position by a quarter of a second from his closest challenger in Zane Maloney.
“I think the pole position was probably my favourite moment of the season. Obviously the first race win was really nice, but I think pole position was something that me and the team really enjoyed. Especially because the conditions in Spa were really not easy. Because all the decisions we took in that session were right, it was very satisfying. I mean Sprint Races still count as a win but it's the reverse grid, whereas pole position is just you being better than everyone else. So I think my pole was really nice.”
A further Sprint Race victory at Zandvoort followed in impressive fashion. From fourth, his Turn 1 around-the-outside double pass on Zak O’Sullivan and Grégoire Saucy set the tone. He repeated the move on lap five on Juan Manuel Correa, sealing P1 at the banked Turn 3 and never looked back.
Turning his attentions to next season, Collet says that the tough lessons learned in 2022 have already focused him on where to improve for next year. Off days and poor results as a consequence of mistakes will need to be eliminated for his improved consistency to count.
Collet believes that had he approached his second F3 campaign in that manner, he may well have been in the title hunt come Monza.
“I just need to improve on what I know I can, like the beginning of the season where I wasn’t doing really well in the early part of the year. If I have the potential to qualify P1, yes, I will try to do it but if not, I just want to do the best I can without trying too many different things and trying to risk something. I think if I just did that this year, my season would have gone a little bit different. So I would say that is the main thing that I’ll take from the season that I didn't really do well. Taking my experience that I had from my two years in F3, I think I’ve learned a lot and grown as a person and as a driver as well.”