The Championship sweep looked to be on for Trident right up until it wasn’t. A stellar campaign from the Italian outfit and driver Gabriel Bortoleto had put them on course for their first title double, but it all came unravelled at home.
Otherwise, 2023 was a hugely successful year for the Milanese squad as they proved to be an F3 force once again, taking three race wins, two pole positions and 11 podiums across the season.
For Team Manager Giacomo Ricci, their form throughout the campaign was a huge point of pride as they once again vied with compatriots PREMA Racing for the biggest prizes in the Championship.
“Overall, 2023 was an extremely positive season. I feel proud as we’ve been able to fight for the title once again, finally getting the Drivers’ Championship, the first one for us so it’s a fantastic achievement,” Ricci reflected.
“At the same time on the opposite end - I think we did an excellent job on the team side and had a great battle with PREMA until the last race. We were very optimistic on the Sunday in Monza, unfortunately we had the failure on one car and the chance was gone.
“If we were competing with three cars versus PREMA, all in the top 10, I think the chances were very, very high for us to win the Teams’ title. But we had the mechanical problem on Oliver Goethe’s car on Sunday at the end of the formation lap and I knew immediately at that point it would be a lot tougher.
“It’s a shame because it’s a mixed feeling. We were delighted to win our first Drivers’ title but at the same time, we’re disappointed to come so close again to winning the Teams’ Championship.”
The line-up was one of the aspects that Ricci says worked best, with the trio coming together to create a hugely positive environment at Trident HQ, along with all of the team members working hard behind the scenes.
Those details mattered according to the Team Manager, who says it elevated performance levels at the track, with competitive nature set aside for the betterment of the team.
“I think we showed good consistency with the Trident car and package. Even at tracks that might not be our favourites, we were able to compete most of the time and to be up there, so I'm happy about that overall.
“The drivers didn't make many crazy mistakes. Gabriel especially was extremely consistent. Oliver started the season very well, dropped a bit in the middle of the season but he was very unlucky also. But in the end, he finished strongly.
“There was also a great chemistry between the three drivers, and everyone was pushing to help each other but that’s something unique. In this aspect, it was one of the best seasons ever. They were really friends, pushing each other to improve but at the same time, sharing the information even if they felt a little bit jealous to be sharing their strongest points.”
The starring role of course went to Bortoleto, who became the first Brazilian driver to win the F3 Drivers’ Championship, becoming Trident’s first driver to win the title in the process. While he caught plenty of people by surprise in 2023, Ricci says he was confident Bortoleto was set for a competitive year almost immediately.
The Brazilian ace was eager to cultivate a strong working relationship with everyone at the Trident factory, moving closer to be nearer the team’s Milan base and working hard with engineers to ensure his early points advantage never slipped.
“Since he jumped in the car going back to the 2022 post-season testing in Jerez, since that moment, he has always been on top and for me this is one of the strongest points of Gabriel. He is extremely complete as a driver.
“He never took crazy risks during the season. For me, his only negative race is maybe the Sprint in Bahrain where he didn’t optimise. But the other races I have to say he has always been up there. What made the big difference in his mind was the relationship that he had with the team with the mechanics and the engineers, everyone.
“Gabriel in my opinion was the most complete driver in the season, strong in damp, wet or fully grippy conditions, slippery, strange conditions, windy, he was always there. Even on the bad weekends, he always found a way to recover.
“He started the season extremely strong with two victories. That put him in a good position and mindset because after Melbourne, he had a points advantage and from then on, he didn't take silly risks. He always focused on scoring points every week, and to make as few mistakes as possible. That's why he kept an advantage all the way until the last race in Monza. That weekend, he was extremely relaxed because it was almost impossible to miss out on the Championship at that point.”
Attentions at Trident have now switched to next year and a season they hope will finally be the year they secure a Championship double. If post-season testing is any indication as to what we can expect from 2024, Ricci says that it could be another year in which the competition goes up a level.
“I want to thank the team, the engineers and everyone that has been involved during the season because, for me anyway, when you arrive at the last race and you're fighting for the Teams’ Championship, that means you did a good job.
“Of course, it would be better to be to finish first in both in both Championships, but at the end, it is what it is. It was not our day on Sunday. Looking back, it was an extremely positive season for us. We’re working very hard in order to be in the same position once again next year, hopefully to fight once again for both titles.
“The level gets higher and higher every year. The competition this season was a lot stronger. I have the feeling that next season it will be the tightest Championship ever in F3 history. There will be plenty of teams in the position to fight for the title, and again the key point will be to score strong points with all three cars every weekend.
“Looking at the 2023 post-season test, there are several teams that will be in that position to fight for both Championships next year.”