Gabriel Bortoleto has scored points in every single race following his day one contact with Rafael Villagómez in the Sakhir Sprint Race. It was the first collision of the season and so far, the only blemish on an otherwise impeccable record. His reliable results have formed the foundations to an impressive rookie pursuit of the Formula 3 Drivers’ Championship.
While rivals have ebbed and flowed in form, the Trident driver has been the one constant all year long. No other driver on the grid can beat him in top 10s, top 5s or Feature Race wins. So just how has the Brazilian managed to perform at such a consistently high level in what is his rookie campaign?
HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING
With what precious track time drivers have on a race weekend, starting on the front foot is paramount and something Bortoleto has made a habit of all year. In every single Free Practice session so far in 2023, the Trident driver has finished seventh or higher at every Round.
His ‘worst’ Practice results came in Barcelona and Monte Carlo where he finished P7 and P5 respectively. In Spain, he ended up 0.5s off the top time in the opening session of the weekend, while in Monte Carlo he finished fifth in a hectic session. He was 0.8s off rival Gabriele Minì there who, by all accounts, was putting together a stellar weekend himself in the Principality that no one could quite match up to.
A fast start in every Practice session has allowed him and the Trident team to become laser focused on picking out the areas that will bring those last vital improvements for Qualifying. By always hitting the ground running, there has been little sign of panic in the Trident camp going into the Qualifying half hour. Instead, the Championship leader is often seen with headphones on, eyes closed and fully prepared for the next part, another area he has excelled in this season.
FAST WHEN IT COUNTS
Of course, Qualifying is important but as the saying goes, ‘you have to be in it to win it’ and in this case, the top 10 is crucial on a Friday. Capturing a starting spot inside the points-scoring positions has been a huge strength for Bortoleto all year long. He has qualified no lower than eighth all season long, a run that results in an average grid position of 4.2.
His nearest Championship rivals cannot get close to that, with Josep María Martí posting a 7.6 average, Minì a 6.8, Paul Aron 5.7 and Dino Beganovic a 7. Discounting the Swede’s P30 starting position at Silverstone, his average goes up to 4.8 which still can’t trump Bortoleto’s efforts.
Discounting the anomalous 1.4s deficit to Minì’s Monte Carlo pole time, on average the Brazilian driver has been just two-tenths off the top spot all season. So, while he may have missed out on pole positions, he has always been there or there abouts on the starting grid, well in contention for points in both Sprint and Feature Races.
KEEPING IT CLEAN
There is one area where Bortoleto has been unmatchable all year long and that is a lack of mistakes. After he ended the Sakhir Sprint P19 following mid-race contact with Villagómez, he has hardly put a foot wrong. There have been no lapses in judgement in wheel-to-wheel racing, no lost Qualifying laps due to track limits, no unnecessary risks taken, just consistent point-scoring form.
During a busy Spielberg Feature Race, there were several drivers who missed out on better finishes following contact in the fight for a top 10 position. Bortoleto had even led at one point but was content to bring home vital points and P2 after losing the top spot to eventual race winner, Zak O’Sullivan.
Bortoleto has not had to chase results after establishing himself as the early Championship leader with two consecutive Feature Race wins. While that has allowed him a greater degree of freedom from pressure, it hasn’t led to a dialling back of performance levels. Instead, he has been calculating, playing percentages at times but never allowing for a dip in form. He has scored the most points he could have at almost every time of asking this year, that is the key difference compared to rivals who might not have maximised their weekends and are now playing catch up.