A visit to the Southern Hemisphere was packed full of drama as FIA Formula 3 made its bow down under in Melbourne, Australia. Gabriel Bortoleto and Trident return to base the happiest, extending their respective leads in the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships but who will be hoping for more next time out in Imola?
Here is a team-by-team round-up following the second round of the 2023 F3 season.
Two Feature Races and two victories for the Bortoleto/Trident combination and teammates Leonardo Fornaroli and Oliver Goethe have been quick too. The Italian outfit kept its 100% record so far this year on Sundays and broke into triple digits with 100 points. With Bortoleto controlling things from pole position around Albert Park as rivals battled away behind him, his tally jumped to 58 points. It gives the Brazilian a 20-point lead in the Championship over next-best, Grégoire Saucy.
Fornaroli was happy with the progress the team made from an already strong position in Round 1, building on what was an impressive opening round already. The Italian rose to ninth in the Drivers’ Standings with P7 and P4 in Melbourne. Goethe was unfortunate to be caught up in a Lap 1 incident in the Sprint and sustained an early puncture in the Feature. Despite his non-score across both races, he remains sixth in the Drivers’ Championship on 23 points. A return to home soil at Imola awaits, the scene of another victory for the team last year with Roman Stanek.
PREMA Racing left Sakhir with three points-scoring finishes on their record in what was a stuttering start to the year. Fast forward to Melbourne and it was much closer to business as usual for the team. Zak O’Sullivan’s Sprint Race victory came in the hours post-race following MP Motorsport’s disqualification for a technical infringement. Paul Aron was promoted to P3 also, which unfortunately meant the Estonian was deprived of a visit the rostrum for his maiden F3 podium result. Dino Beganovic was relegated to a P13 finish in the Feature after being handed a time penalty post-race, otherwise PREMA will be very pleased with results compared to Round 1.
The difference? Qualifying inside the top 12. All three drivers made it inside the first 12 qualifiers this time around and, as O’Sullivan acknowledged on Friday after Qualifying, “the pace was there in Bahrain, (it was) just a bit of a scruffy weekend.” Another team set for the first of two home events this season, PREMA heads to Imola with some important momentum and as Trident’s closest challengers in the Teams’ Standings, now on 70 points.
The Hitech Pulse-Eight trio once again showed strong pace all weekend in Melbourne but, for the second time this season, left the race weekend without a victory. That will surely change sooner rather than later with the potential within the team and the three rookies. Sebastián Montoya secured his maiden F3 podium in the Sprint Race, finishing P2 and showing his defensive prowess along the way. Gabriele Minì made it two podiums in two races for Hitech, earning a P3 finish in the Feature Race but was unable to close down the leading pair and fight for victory. Luke Browning endured a tricky weekend, clearly very quick but came away with P8 in the Feature Race only.
At different points of the weekend, each of the trio looked to have the measure of their rivals but came away without a win. A cleaner weekend at Imola will go a long way to ensuring a larger points haul but the team has been a contender in every race this season.
Grégoire Saucy is the only driver in F3 that has a perfect points-scoring record heading back to Europe. The Swiss driver has made it inside the points-paying positions in all four races so far this season, and is Bortoleto’s closest challenger in the Drivers’ Championship. Teammates Nikola Tsolov and Kaylen Frederick were in the wars, but both will take heart in the team’s performance levels so far this season.
ART Grand Prix will be keen to put a score in the win column, but will have to do so around a track it has never tasted victory in Formula 3. Last season, Saucy lost a potential podium finish after contact with Oliver Bearman at the final corner. He will need to avoid any form of repeat to close the gap to Bortoleto back down. Tsolov and Frederick will also bee seeking to put together a clean weekend, with ART looking quick enough to battle at the front.
It looked like a very tough weekend in the offing for Campos Racing post-Qualifying. P13 for home favourite Christian Mansell was as good as it got, agonisingly close to reverse grid pole. Teammates Hugh Barter and Josep María Martí endured tougher afternoons, 22nd for the hometown hero Barter and an early crash for Martí left him 30th and last. A stuttering Sprint Race with Safety Car interventions limited their abilities to fight through, but each made progress in the green flag laps.
Come Sunday though and it was the Campos show. Mansell made it two points-scoring finishes on home soil with P10. Barter came through to 15th but teammate Martí put on a masterclass. From 30th and last on the grid, the Spaniard was clinical. 21st by the end of the first lap, he didn’t stop until the chequered flag brought the race to an end with him in seventh. If Campos can fix Qualifying and find a little extra speed, all three could build on such strong race pace that the team clearly possesses at the moment.
A difficult weekend for MP Motorsport culminated with two crashes and no points but the Dutch squad has to rebound for Imola. Franco Colapinto’s victory on track was well earned, keeping his closest pursuers behind him after fighting through for the lead but losing it to post-race disqualification for a technical infringement will sting. Mari Boya was much happier in the car than in Round 1, pointing to set-up tweaks the team made between races that gave him more confidence. Jonny Edgar ended up with the best finish for MP of the weekend, narrowly missing out on points in the Feature Race with P11.
There would be no better way to bounce back from Melbourne than with victory in Imola, a circuit that Colapinto achieved his first F3 win at last season.
Contrasting fortunes for Van Amersfoort Racing defined the team’s weekend. Caio Collet had a great chance of a podium result in the Sprint, but his chances fell by the wayside early on. Tommy Smith rebounded from a difficult Saturday with his best finish of the season on Sunday, narrowly missing out on points on home soil. Rafael Villagómez kept himself relatively out of trouble, scoring P14 and P19 results in the Sprint and Feature Races respectively.
Heading back to Europe, VAR has work to do to improve Qualifying speed but around Imola, F3 reconvenes at a venue it was victorious around last year.
Taylor Barnard scored Jenzer Motorsport’s first points of the 2023 F3 season, but it has been a result the team expected. The Briton pointed out that his and Jenzer’s maiden points came after hard work and maximising their opportunities and making clear steps forward from Sakhir.
Heading back to European soil and circuits where the majority of drivers have experience of in their careers thus far, Barnard expects Jenzer to continue on this upward trajectory. All three Jenzer drivers scored top 10s last season in F4 competition around the Imola circuit in 2022. Using that prior experience will be vital to continue their Melbourne form.
An action packed weekend in Melbourne had some highs and lows for every team, Rodin Carlin being no exception. While a tough Sprint Race included a retirement for Ido Cohen, spin for Oliver Gray and Hunter Yeany had to settle for 20th, Sunday brought improved performances.
The Briton scored the team’s best result this year with P14, hard-earned in a difficult race that had plenty make errors. Yeany was another that improved from their Sprint performance, taking his best finish of the year in P17. The team will need to improve Qualifying form, an area for improvement identified in Sakhir. Do that and there should be some better results coming for Rodin Carlin.
There were improved results across the board for all three PHM Racing by Charouz drivers. Sophie Floersch, Roberto Faria and Piotr Wisnicki each scored their best results of the season in Melbourne. Keeping out of trouble in both the Sprint and Feature events, Floersch was the best finisher of the trio in Melbourne, using experience to navigate the potential pitfalls of a tough weekend around a fast circuit.
Faria and Wisnicki had their moments too, but the team will do well with improved performances on Friday. Achieving a stronger starting position could help net all three better results as F3 heads back to Europe for the next phase of the campaign.